Glossary

Project terms Standard terms
Process impact: This file as a dictionary of standard terms defined as they are used across projects. Individual projects should not need to edit this file. Writing out the definitions of terms and acronyms here helps keep other documents more concise and easy to edit. Check the ReadySET glossary for updates.
Jump to: General | Computer science & technology | Process | Software development tools | Requirements | Design | Design goals | QA terms | QA goals | Additional terms

General Terms

Chipping away
The process of removing sample text from templates when that text does not apply to the current project. Often some of the sample text will be kept or revised to fit the current project. Even if the sample text does not fit the current project, it provides a reusable example of how to phrase that type of description. The term "chipping away" comes from an old joke: when a sculptor is asked how he carved a marble statue of a horse, he replies "It was easy, I just started with a big block of marble and chipped away everything that did not look like a horse."
Attached worksheet
The idea is similar to filling in an IRS form and using worksheets to calculate subtotals or make specific decisions. That is to say, there is a hierarchy to the templates: there are the main templates, and then worksheets for specific topics. We have divided the information into several files so that each file is focused on one topic, and so that each file can be worked on by one person in a reasonable amount of time.
Process impact
The process impact box on each template explains where the current template fits into the software development process. It usually includes a brief comment on who should create the document, and who would be expected to make use of it. You can change the process impact box, but you should not need to.
Checklist
There are two kinds of checklists:
  • Many of the templates have a section with questions that help you check your work in that template. Often the sample answers to the questions prompt you to take some corrective action.
  • For design and code review meetings, there are links to guidelines and checklists that help you identify common errors in those artifacts.
Sticky note
The idea is similar to a post-it note attached to a document that tells you do "sign here" or fill in a certain part. There are two types of sticky notes:
  • TODO: Instructs you on how to fill in the template. This is the minimum that you need to do. One of the main goals of ReadySET is to help your team quickly carry out basic software engineering activities. The TODO sticky notes make that easy by making the templates more self-explanatory.
  • TIP: Helps you think of better ways to fill in the template. One of the other main goals of ReadySET is to help your team make better decisions that can make your whole project more successful. The TIP sticky notes help with that.
After you have done what the sticky note says, you can delete the sticky note. In the HTML file, they are marked with class="todo" or class="tip".

Computer Science and Technology Terms

API (Application Program Interface)
An API is a set of functions that one software component makes available to other software components. That allows other programs to "call" this program via direct function calls, or more indirect communications such as SOAP messages.
SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)
SOAP is the message format used by standard web services. It entails sending an XML document to a server in order to invoke an operation on the server-side. More information on SOAP.

Process Terms

Change Control Board (CCB)
A group of people who review proposed changes to the project requirements and/or source code to accept or reject changes in each particular release. Proposed changes are usually rejected if they introduce too much risk or would trigger additional effort (e.g., the need to redo a lot of testing on new code). A CCB is usually composed of managers and representatives of other stakeholders such as the QA group and key customers.
Feature Complete
A release is called "feature complete" when the development team agrees that no new features will be added to this release. New features may still be suggested for later releases. More development work needs to be done to implement all the features and repair defects.
Code Complete
A release is called "code complete" when the development team agrees that no entirely new source code will be added to this release. There may still be source code changes to fix defects. There may still be changes to documentation and data files, and to the code for test cases or utilities. New code may be added in a future release.
Internal Release Number
An internal release number is the number that the development team gives each release. Internal release numbers typically count up logically, i.e., they do not skip numbers. They may have many parts: e.g., major, minor, patch-level, build number, RC number.
External Release Number
External release numbers are the numbers that users see. Often, they will be the same as the internal release number. That is especially true if the product being built is a component intended to be reused by another engineering group in the same development organization. External release numbers can be different for products that face competition. External release number are simpler, and may not count up logically. E.g., a certain major ISP jumped up to version 8 of their client software because their competition had released version 8. Later, the competition used version "10 Optimized" rather than "10.1" or "11".
Release Number
The term "release number" by itself refers to an external release number. Users normally are not aware of the existence of any internal release numbers.

Development Tool Terms

Version Control System
DEFINITION1
Commit Log Message
DEFINITION1
Issue Tracker
DEFINITION1
Unit Testing Automation
DEFINITION1
Automated Build System
DEFINITION1
Source Code Analysis Tool
DEFINITION1
Style Checker
DEFINITION1
Source Code Formatter (Pretty Printer)
DEFINITION1
System Test Automation
DEFINITION1

Requirements Terms

Feature specification
A feature specification focuses on one feature of a software product and completely describes how that feature can be used. It includes a brief description of the purpose of the feature, the input and output, and any constraints. Individual bullet items give precise details on all aspects of the feature. One feature may be used in many different ways as part of many different use cases.
Use case
The main part of a use case is a set of steps that give an example of how an actor can use the product to succeed at a goal. These steps are called the "Main success scenario", and they include both user intentions and system responses. One use case may show how the actor uses several features to accomplish a goal.
Actor
A user or an external system that uses the system being built.

Design Terms

TERM2
DEFINITION2

Design Goals

Correctness
This design correctly matches the given requirements.
Feasibility
This design can be implemented and tested with the planned amount of time and effort.
Understandability
Developers can understand this design and correctly implement it.
Implementation phase guidance
This design divides the implementation into components or aspects that can correspond to reasonable implementation tasks.
Modularity
Concerns are clearly separated so that the impact of most design changes would be limited to only one or a few modules.
Extensibility
New features or components can be easily added later.
Testability
It is easy to test components of this design independently, and information is available to help diagnose defects.
Efficiency
The design enables the system to perform functions with an acceptable amount of time, storage space, bandwidth, and other resources.
Ease of integration
The components will work together.
Capacity matching
The architecture deploys components onto machines that provide needed resources with reasonable total expense.
Expressiveness
It allows for storage of all valid values and relationships
Ease of access
Application code to access stored data is simple
Reliability
Stored data cannot easily be corrupted by defective code, concurrent access, or unexpected process termination
Data capacity
The system can store the amount of data needed.
Data security
Protection of sensitive user and corporate data from unauthorized access or modification
Performance
Data can be accessed quickly
Interoperability
The database or data files can be accessed and updated by other applications
Intrusion prevention
Prevent, e.g., hackers opening a command shell on our server.
Abuse prevention
Prevention of abuse (e.g., using our system to send spam).
Auditability
All changes can be accounted for later.
Understandability and learnability
Users can reasonably be expected to understand the UI at first sight. Users will be able to discover additional features without aid from other users or documentation, and they will be able to recall what they have learned.
Task support and efficiency
The UI is well matched to the users' tasks and it can be used with a reasonable number of clicks and keystrokes.
Safety
Users are not likely to accidentally produce an undesired result (e.g., delete data, or send a half-finished email).
Consistency and familiarity
Users can apply their knowledge of similar UIs or UI standards to this system.

QA Terms

Bug
n. Deprecated since 1991. See defect.
Error
v. A mistaken thought in the developer's mind. Often caused by miscommunication or bad assumptions. Errors can create defects. E.g., a developer might erroneously think that the square root of -4 is -2.
Defect
n. The result of the developer's error embodied in the product source code, initial data, or documents. E.g., a square root function which allows negative numbers as arguments is defective. Defects can be removed by changing the source code, initial data, or document.
Fault
n. The execution of defective code. E.g., if a certain input is provided to defective code, it may cause an exception, or go into an infinite loop, or store an incorrect value in an internal variable. A fault is not normally visible to users, only the failure is visible.
Failure
n. The user-visible result of a fault. E.g., an error message or an incorrect result. This is evidence that can be reported in a defect report. Developers use failure evidence during debugging to eventually find and remove defects.

QA Goals

Functionality > Correctness
Correctness is the most basic quality goal. It means that, when valid inputs are given and the system is in a valid state and under reasonable load, the system's behavior and results will be correct.
Functionality > Robustness
Robustness is the system's ability to gracefully handle invalid inputs. It should never be possible for any user input to crash the system or corrupt data, even if that user input is abnormal, unexpected, or malicious.
Functionality > Accuracy
Accuracy refers to the mathematical precision of calculations done by the system. Any system that does numeric calculations must consider accuracy, e.g., financial or scientific applications.
Functionality > Compatibility
Systems that claim to follow standards or claim compatibility with existing systems must adhere to the relevant file formats, protocols, and APIs. The relevant standards are linked at the top of this document.
Functionality > Factual correctness
Is the data in the system a true representation of the real world? Any system that contains initial data or gathers data about the real world should be sure that the data is factually correct. E.g., a tax preparation program should embody correct and up-to-date facts about tax law.
Usability > Understandability and Readability
Users need to understand the system to use it. The basic metaphor should be understandable and appropriate to user tasks. Some defects in understandability include unclear metaphors, poor or hard-to-see labels, lack of feedback to confirm the effects of user actions, and missing or inadequate on-line help.
Usability > Learnability and Memorability
Every user interface contains some details that users will need to learn and remember. E.g., Alt-F to open the "File" menu. UI cues and rules can make these details easier to learn and remember. E.g., the "F" is underlined and, as a rule, the first letter is usually the accelerator key.
Usability > Task support
This is the quality of match between user tasks and the system's UI. Task support defects are cases where the system forces the user to take unnatural steps to accomplish a task or where the user is given no support for a difficult step in a task. E.g., must the user invent an 8-character filename for their "Christmas card list"? E.g., must users total their own tax deductions?
Usability > Efficiency
Users should be able to accomplish common tasks with reasonable effort. Common tasks should be possible with only one or two steps. The difficulty of each step should also be considered. E.g., does the user have to remember a long code number or click on a very small button?
Usability > Safety
Humans are error-prone, but the negative effects of common errors should be limited. E.g., users should realize that a given command will delete data, and be asked to confirm their intent or have the option to undo.
Usability > Consistency and Familiarity
Users should be able to apply their past experience from other similar systems. This means that user interface standards should be followed, and common conventions should be used whenever possible. Also, UI elements that appear in several parts of the UI should be used consistently, unless another UI quality takes priority. E.g., if most currency entry fields do not require a dollar-sign, then one that does demand it is a consistency defect, unless there is a real chance that the user is dealing with another currency on that step in his/her task.
Usability > Subjective satisfaction
Users should feel generally satisfied with the UI. This is a subjective quality that sums up the other user interface qualities as well as aesthetics.
Security
The system should allow usage only by authorized users, and restrict usage based on permissions. The system should not allow users to side-step security rule or exploit security holes. E.g., all user input should be validated and any malicious input should be rejected.
Reliability > Consistency under load
Every system has some capacity limits. What happens when those limits are exceeded? The system should never lose or corrupt data.
Reliability > Consistency under concurrency
Systems that allow concurrent access by multiple users, or that use concurrency internally, should be free of race conditions and deadlock.
Reliability > Availability under load
Every system has some capacity limits. What happens when those limits are exceeded? The system should continue to service those requests that it is capable of handling. It should not crash or stop processing all requests.
Reliability > Longevity
The system should continue to operate as long as it is needed. It should not gradually use up a limited resource. Example longevity defects include memory leaks or filling the disk with log files.
Efficiency
The system's operations should execute quickly, with reasonable use of machine and network resources. E.g., if one user does one operation, it should execute efficiently.
Scalability
Scalability is a general quality that holds when the system continues to satisfy its requirements when various usage parameters are increased. E.g., a file server might be scalable to a high number of users, or to very large files or very high capacity disks. Several specific scalability goals are listed below.
Scalability > Performance under load
This is a specific type of scalability goal dealing with the performance of the system at times when it is servicing many requests from many users.
Scalability > Large data volume
This is a specific type of scalability goal dealing with the ability for the system to handle large data sets. Operations should continue to be correct and efficient as data set size increases. Furthermore, the user interface should still be usable as the data presented to users increases in length.
Operability
The long-term needs of system administrators should be reliably supported. E.g., is the system easy to install? Can the administrator recover from a crash? Is there sufficient log output to diagnose problems in the field? Can the system's data be backed up without downtime? Can the system be upgraded practically?
Maintainability > Understandability
Will it be easy for (future) developers to understand how the system works?
Maintainability > Evolvability
Can the system easily be modified and extended over time?
Maintainability > Testability
Can the system easily be tested? Do the requirements precisely specify possible inputs and the desired results? Can the system be tested in parts? When failures are observed, can they be traced back to defects in specific components (i.e., debugging)? Is testing practical with the available testing tools?
Company Proprietary
Copyright © 2003-2004 Jason Robbins. All rights reserved. License terms. Retain this copyright statement whenever this file is used as a template.