By Doug Hoffman, Conference Chair

CAST 2012 was another critical success based on feedback from attendees, speakers, conference staff, outside observers, and leaders. “The Thinking Tester” theme was reflected not only in the speakers’ topics but during meals, in the hallway chatter, and the after-hours activities. It seemed that people were switched on to thinking and sharing about testing from arrival to departure.

The weekend prior to CAST we experimented with a new format for a Test Coach Camp workshop. Although oversubscribed, Matt Heusser led and Matt Barcomb facilitated an excellent two-day program that delved into topics ranging from recruiting and coaching new testers to the relative value of regression and exploratory tests. It had a strong underlying theme of how to coach, teach, or mentor people professionally. Much of the material developed there is being shared in blogs, tweets, podcasts, papers, and more.

Formal program activities, the keynotes, track sessions, emerging topics, and lightening talks all had lively participation and made people think. The halls were nearly empty during the sessions, with very little traffic switching between them. The consistent complaint was that there were too many excellent sessions to choose from that attendees missed topics while thoroughly engaged in the sessions they attended. The CAST format, ½ the time for presentations and ½ for facilitated discussion went without a hitch once again.

The real-time online streaming and evening reports were another outstanding success, bringing selected CAST sessions and reports to several times as many people as were in attendance. This year we have made nearly all the recordings available from 2011 and 2012. These include emerging topics, interviews, keynotes, reflections, and short presentations on topics of interest to the testing community.

Once again the after-hours activities were extremely popular and an integral part of the value for attendees. Networking is a big part of it, but the topical discussions and ad-hoc debates among attendees make these activities a major part of the learning about testing. Attendance at the informal (and last minute) Pre-CAST Evening Reception was outstanding with an estimated 100 people overflowing the hospitality suite for hours. Monday night’s Reception was outstanding in spite of the incident with the wind and the chocolate fountain. The Tester Competition, Test Labs, and Tester Games were extremely well attended, with over half the attendees still present and participating at 10 PM and the last of the gamers closing down around 1:30 AM. The visit to the Agilistry Studio was a hit and even the Education SIG and newly formed Leadership SIG meetings were well-attended and very productive.

Around 60% of the attendees stuck around to participate in the Tutorial sessions, which were also universally successful. This is where the biggest technical glitch occurred because nearly all the Tutorials required power distribution for laptops. I ended up on my hands and knees for the first hour laying out and taping down extension cords and power strips. Time well invested because the feedback about the sessions was outstanding.

Overall, CAST 2012 improved on the successes of the previous six CASTs; creating a conference with true conferring. More than talking heads with valuable messages, all attendees contributed both during the sessions and in the extra-curricular activities. Planning for CAST 2013 is well underway (and preliminary planning for CAST 2014 has begun), ensuring that the superb content, forums, and innovative techniques will continue to improve.