CAST2011 (The Conference for the Association of Software Testing) was amazing this year. Having that many massive testing brains in the one place for three days though, I wonder how it could have been anything but.
What I love about CAST is that there is a very collegial feel to the event. It feels like a safe place to air new thoughts and ideas (or old ones) and discuss them – even have them shot down, in an environment that promotes and supports learning and cooperation.
There were a number of firsts for me personally. I hadn’t presented at CAST before. My presentation went well, I thought. I had a much fuller room than I was expecting. People seemed to find it interesting and useful and there were a lot of good questions asked. It wasn’t perfect. The room’s air con was LOUD, so the set of speakers I brought to play a snippet of video were woefully inadequate. Along the same lines, I wasn’t using the mic to speak and a few people let me know I could have projected a little more. Strange. I don’t have a problem projecting in the dojo. Probably because I’m barking instructions at people. Presenting to a room of testers is a little different it seems. Something for me to work on, then.
Louise Perold and I entered the CAST testing competition – a 4 hour event to test the abilities and skills of the testers that entered. Louise and I walked back to the hotel lamenting what else we could have done if we’d just had a little longer. We had some awesome competition. People that I know by reputation if not personally and all of them excellent testers. When on the following day James Bach announced we’d won the award for best tester/programmer relations we were happy. That was something we thought we had done well. When he went on to tell us we’d won the overall competition, we were stunned and delighted in equal parts. Louise and I will blog more about this at some point soon.
Lastly, I got chatting to Michael Bolton about my thoughts on test framing and how I thought it related to audience framing (I have another post coming on this topic too). He invited me to present my point of view at his tutorial on Test Framing, which I did. I was grateful for the opportunity and a number of people said they got something out of it, so that was something else I was happy about.
The thing I love most about CAST is the interaction between people. Because I’m somewhat geographically challenged, I get to one testing conference per year. I choose CAST because of the people who attend. Because they challenge me and make me think and remind me of the power of diversity and having skilled, free-thinking people working together.
I was super happy to spend time with the Usual Suspects (the people I generally hang out with at CAST) – Henrik Andersson, Chris Blain, Tim Coulter, Carsten Feilberg, Johan Jonasson, and Lou Perold. I also met and got to know a bunch of other cool people (most of them Swedes – it was a real invasion on their part) Robert Bergqvist, Maria Kedomo, Mattius Gustavsson, Sigge Birgisson.
As always seems to happen, there were a great number of people I would love to have spent more time with. I met in person a number of people I’d only previously interacted with online. There are a number of people that I’d met before, but haven’t spent nearly as much time chatting to as I’d like and a few I wanted to meet, but didn’t get to. If I try and name everyone, I will undoubtedly forget someone. Suffice it to say there were a massive number of testers I’d have loved to spend more time with. I suspect that number will only be bigger this time next year.
I didn’t get to see all of the presentations I wanted to see. Some of them were captured on video (the emerging topics tracks and lightning talks among them, I believe). I plan on taking my camera next year to capture stuff I can’t make it to. If you didn’t make it to cast, I highly recommend you check them out.
The organizers are to be commended. Jon and James Bach were the most conspicuous of the organizers, but Paul Holland and his crew of facilitators and all the volunteers who ran around doing stuff behind the scenes are to be commended on a job well done. Volunteers are the unsung heroes of events like this. When things go well, you tend not to notice them. Without them though, this event would be near impossible.
There are a few improvements that could be made. I’d like to echo some of Michael Hunter’s sentiments. A lot of people are okay with a high-carb diet. I’m not one of them.
The distance between hotels made meeting people who weren’t at my hotel kinda difficult (though we managed to find pubs here and there that did the job).
As far as content goes, I got new ideas from the vast majority of the talks I attended. I must admit to being a little disappointed by the debate between James Bach and Doug Hoffman. I was hoping the format would be more of a formal debate arguing for and against a specific statement, but it turned out to be more of an argument/discussion with the interjections and interplay that tend to go hand-in-hand. I also thought Doug was more gentle with James than he deserved. I think this sort of event has potential. I’d like to see a change to a formal debating format, but having a relevant topic debated by some heavyweights in the industry would be very interesting.
I could create a list of questions and great quotes as Michael Hunter has done, but I think those people tweeting to the #CAST2011 hashtag took care of that most effectively (try searching on it). I’m glad they did, because I barely had time to tweet a thing for the whole event.
I’m hoping very much that I’ll be able to attend (and perhaps even present) at next year’s CAST, but that depends on a number of variables that are somewhat beyond my control. If you are considering attending next year, I recommend that you do in the strongest terms possible.