Let us begin with the definition of “community” in the Oxford Dictionary.

Community: com·mu·ni·ty /kəˈmyo͞onədē/ noun
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common;
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals;

There are many, many people who talk about community in one form or other. When they talk about a community of testers, I tilt my head a bit and listen (or read) perhaps a bit more carefully than I do other times. I suspect it is because I am curious about what they mean and how they intend to use the phrase.

I admit that sometimes, particularly when it is someone with whom I have fundamental disagreement in areas of testing, I listen because I am suspicious of their motives. That may be a failing on my part. Or, it may be that I tend to think carefully and critically about certain things.  Among those things are words and how they are used.

My education included teachers from Catholic Religious Orders, Dominican, Franciscan and one Jesuit. Thinking carefully and how words get used was a hallmark of my education. Perhaps that is why when the first time I read There are good practices in context, but there are no best practices.” my reaction was something of “Of course. Why is this revolutionary to some people?”

It seems that idea, perhaps more than any other single idea, is rather off-putting to some people. I understand the retort that such terms as “best practices” are misleading and lazy and disingenuous. I also understand the charges that people are selling snake oil as solutions to testing problems without actually understanding what those testing problems are.

I’ve written before about the idea of “best practices” and shall not repeat my argument here.

When I first read that idea, which is one of the Principles of the Context-Driven School of testing, it seemed I found a group of people with whom I join in that part of a community of testers. For some time, I have been working closer and closer with people. Some of them I agree with. Some I disagree with. The vast majority of them, I respect greatly.
In 2010 I went to my first CAST conference.  I found a large number of people who had inquisitive minds who were willing to talk and debate and discuss well into the early hours.

Every CAST I have attended and participated in since have born that out.

The fact is, some people do not like having their ideas challenged. Others thrive on it. Some people look at direct questions as an attack, sometimes personal ones intended for them them. (I expect that happens when people wrap so much of their own self identity with their work and ideas.) Some folks look at it as an opportunity to better understand something.

Some people, when their ideas are challenged, crumple up in a ball. Others attack the challenger. Others attack the right of the challenger to have a contrary opinion and voice them – IN PUBLIC.

If you have never attended or participated in CAST before. This might be a good opportunity to find out what it can be like hanging out with thinking people who are not willing to take everything, or anything, said from a podium at face value. A significant portion of each session – including keynotes – is dedicated to “open season” – where people in the audience can ask questions in a moderated, facilitated format.

I’ve been working with some really talented and dedicated people on this year’s CAST. I think it will be worth your while to check it out. You can see more information on the conference here. There is a link to register from the same page.

The schedule is being announced later this week. It is going to be good, if I do say so myself.