So I went to CAST 2010 in Michigan. It was a blast. Although, not so many people this year.
You never heard of CAST ?
Why - it is a wonderful conference, with a huge emphasis on CONFERring. So it's sold, and so it is also. I've been going three years in a row now and I keep learning from this conference.
One of the special things is that all the sessions are about half presentation, and half discussion. And discussions run far and deep too. In comparison to other conferences, you could actually attend them and not really speak a lot, except in the hasty breaks in between sessions. One or two guys would get to ask questions. Maybe they are not even good questions, but there's no more time. Then there's lunch, where you usually sit among total strangers, and you first need to find rapport and common grounds - usually small talk about the weather and the subway is the only conversation.
I mean, there's nothing particular bad in this. You hopefully get to listen to great presentations by smart people. Only - at CAST you get to participate.
I know this is described in different places, but I repeat it here: At CAST discussions are facilitated. That means that everybody (yeah - EVERYbody) get's a red, a yellow and a green card. One for commenting on the current thread. One for signalling that I've got a new thread. And the red card for: I really, really need to speak right now!
And you probably think: ...a forest of red cards.. Oh no. You forget - CAST is facilitated. The facilitator (and they are pretty good at this) keeps track of who wants to speak (and will take away your red card if it is abused). If you've got something to say you get your place in the queue. It works. Threads are followed as long as there's energy and if you raise a card, you get to speak.
Again: this works. People talk. A lot. Even for long. Questions are never: yes/no. It's always a looong story. Seems like all have something to say. And the conference is truly trying to support this.
Lunch is pretty interesting too. You probably met people before. Maybe even argued with them. Makes talking to them much more interesting and fun.
This year I was lucky to present myself. Twice, even (which is a bit more stressful than I expected). We got pretty good reviews (I wasn't alone on either talk). One talk - Dealing with passionless testers (with Henrik Andersson) - ended with a great discussion. We didn't get through all the stuff we planned, and I was kinda sorry for that - then. Now when I think about it - we did trigger a very deep, valuable, sometimes very personal, debate. We used a small film to kickstart it. It's on youtube. Find it! If you're a good tester, you can! :-)
The other talk - Nice words are not enough (with Louise Perold) - about introducing session-based testing and exploratory testing in projects, went great, but I think it suffered a bit by being the last thing on the schedule - apart from the ending session. People was just a bit tired - or maybe exhausted ? But we still had a good, long discussion.
I do hope I can make it to CAST next year again. I don't know if it's possible but I hope. Because I am anxious to learn more and meet more cool people.
Meanwhile I will have to settle for EuroSTAR - in Copenhagen this year. I hope you signed up! I'm talking there too! "Session-based testing in practice". A sort of SBTM 101. I'm excited. It's just about my favorite subject in testing.