CAST 2011 is coming. If you are serious about testing, you want to be a part of it. It’s not your ordinary conference. This is a gathering of people with a true passion for testing. People who focus on skills, not just words.

CAST is the annual conference of the Association for Software Testing. It’s happening August 8-10, in Lynnwood, Washington, just North of Seattle. The theme is “Context-Driven Testing”. I’m the Program Chair. My brother Jonathan (a Director of QA at eBay) is Conference Chair.

Our goal is to create the ultimate conference to express and discuss the issues of the Context-Driven testing (i.e. testing as a sapient process, involving skill, judgment, and collaboration). This makes sense, given that the Association for Software Testing now officially avows the principles of the Context-Driven School. After more than a decade of small meetings and online discussion, this will be the largest gathering of Context-Driven leaders ever.

I used an unusual method to create the official program: I selected people by reputation, not by proposal. As a founding member of the Context-Driven movement, I know who the leaders are, and I wanted to bring as many of them together as possible. I thought I would put out a public call for presentations once I had done my personal recruiting. Turned out I didn’t need to, because the speaking slots were quickly taken.

Ah, well, we received several complaints about that. I didn’t realize anyone would care how I put the program together, but it turns out some do. Some members of the AST wanted to see a more open process. I was pretty annoyed at these complaints, at first, but I came to agree that I made a mistake. It’s not that I think a public process would have been more fair. Whoever runs the conference gets to do it how they like, as long as they have the support of the board of directors. We had that. And making a public call for presentations doesn’t actually make the process more fair, because we can’t tell who would be good speakers based on reading little text proposals, anyway. Reputation in the community is a way better guide.

However… As Cem Kaner pointed out, a public call for presentations would have given me the opportunity to encounter interesting people whom I don’t yet know. Yes, good point. So, to compensate, Jon and I and the Board came up with the idea for an open track of mini-talks that would parallel the invited talks. This is called the Emerging Topics track, and Matt Heusser and Peter Whalen are running it.

Jon and I also made this informative and also cheesy promo video

(And in case you are wondering whether the ISTQB will be sponsoring CAST this year. The answer is hell no. That should tell you all you need to know.)

Come to CAST if you want to live… as an excellent tester!