I’m really excited today. 

I find test conferences amazingly inspirational.  What I find to be the best part of many conferences are the converstions that presentations can inspire. 

One way to get a lot of ideas out there is by lightning talks – quick presentations on a topic.  Sometimes, that’s it.  Somebody talks for a few minutes and the next person gets up and talks on a totally different topic. 

Some conferences, like CAST, are different.  Any time someone presents an idea (gives a talk) there is scheduled time for discussion.  If the participants in the discussion want to continue their chat after the alloted period of time they can grab a corner or a hallway and carry on.  The next person gets up and gives their presentation and the cycle repeats itself. 

Now, the CAST version of “lightning talks” has often been an “emerging trends” session track.  This year the take is a little bit different.  The idea is that you can check out the conference schedule and see what is being presented, what topics are being discussed.  If there is one that you believe should be discussed and you want to present it, you can submit a proposal for the Emerging Topics track. 

This track will feature 20 minute time slots which include 5 to 10 minutes of discussion, for the topic that people want to speak on and believe would be important. 

Here’s the cool part.

Instead of signing up on a paper stuck to a wall, you, the person with the idea, can enter a proposal at a WIKI set up specifically for this.  (The good folks at Socialtext are contributing the wiki space, thanks folks!)

If you would like to speak at CAST 2011, you can propose a topic for the Emerging Topics session.

Now, each topic is slated for 20 minutes with at least five minutes for discussion. If you think that you would need more time to “do justice” to the topic, please make your case and reasons clear.  The deal is, the more topics that get more time, the fewer the number of people who will have the chance to speak.  So, the organizers would really like to make that the exception than the rule. 

To propose a session, you need to join the CAST 2011 Socialtext group and create a wiki page using the proposal template.

Once you have created your proposal, other folks will be able to vote and comment on your proposal and others as well.  You can read the notes, change your porposal – and evaluators can return and comment repeatedly as well, and change their scores!  

Voting will be cut off a little early – right now the plan is July 15th.  That way we can create and post a coherent program before the conference so folks can see what may be of interest to them in advance.  The idea is to take the feedback from votes in serious consideration, along with conference theme and reputation of the speakers.

Now for the part that I am personally excited about…

In order to apply email either Matt Heusser (matt.heusser@gmail.com) or ME (peterwalen@msn.com) and ask to be invited to the CAST 2011 Emerging Topics Group on Socialtext. One of us will send you an email about the group and a link to follow.  From there you can follow the instructions to add a talk or comment on a talk or whatever. 

We also may need some help – one or two people to manage the rooms. Depending on how things go, that role might be expanded to include some wiki gardening and possibly help creating the schedule. You could be an ombudsman, sergeant-at-arms, or whatever other title you’d like.

We can not offer any compensation for helping out, nor for giving a talk. If you give a talk or help out, I would be personally in your debt.  I can tell you from my previous experience that the conference will have greater value for you in that you can build deeper relationships, be more engaged and generally have a ton of fun while learning.

Matt says “One thing I can promise if you give a talk or help out with emerging topics: At CAST two thousand and eleven, at least … you’ll never have to eat a bagel alone.”

My take is “If you give a talk or help out with the emerging topics at CAST2011, I’ll think you’re way cool.”