When I look at conference programs, one thing I always look at are the “extras” – the things that are not part of the conference proper, but the add-ons that bring specific, useful ideas I can bring back to the office the next week and apply THEN.

When I look at those items, I look at a couple of main tests:
1. No deep thought is needed to answer “How do I apply this at my company?”
2. No fretting over “This stuff sounds great but the boss will never go for it.”

If there are sessions that meet those tests, I’m willing to pay out extra money to attend. Plain and simple. Sometimes, it is the technique I am looking to learn and apply better. Sometimes, it is the consideration and thought provoking ideas I need to weigh – and other people’s insight on that or related topics are appreciated.

When looking at the extra-cost “Specials” this year’s CAST, the Conference of the Association for Software Testing, I looked for sessions that had something to offer that I, as an attendee, would be willing to pay my money to go learn.

I think the four we have lined up this year meet those simple tests – and offer significant insight to how software professionals at the top of their craft do their work, and their lessons can be applied specifically to testers.

Mobile App Coverage Using Mind Maps. 

Dhanasekar Subramaniam is offering what looks to be an interesting session on Mobile Testing, and using Mind Maps to help guide coverage. I met Dhanasekar in passing at CAST last year. He seemed very intelligent and had some very good ideas. Alas, my schedule last year was far too hectic to permit more than a simple chat. However, the session he presented got rave reviews from people I respect. Want to know more about him? Check out his “About this blog” page which explains a fair amount about his thought processes and ideas.

There are a lot of people who tell people how and what to do when testing Mobile Apps. In looking at this session, what strikes me is that it is based on real experience, with lessons learned and applied successfully. The core of the issue in many instances, is people have ideas that they have not examined deeply, not explored adequately. This session contains much that can be applied to people considering testing Mobile apps.

Frankly, I expect people who are interested in test coverage in general would get good ideas from this session.

Speaking Truth to Power.

Fiona Charles is reprising this session she did at CAST 2010, with a new twist and ideas. I’m intrigued by the idea that most of the time, testers who are truly experimenting and testing software will find information that is of great value to the team. Sometimes the information found is not the type that managers or “key players” want to hear. No one likes it when their pet project goes pear-shaped, do they?

Fiona does a deep dive on how we can deliver the difficult (perhaps, unpopular) messages we sometimes need to deliver.

Why Fiona? I find her to have information people can act on, or think deeply on and then act on. People tend to seek out those they agree with, all the time, maybe to reaffirm their biases? I’m not sure if that is wise. Fiona has the ability to question the presumptions and statements people make, either gently or directly, and drive to a crucial point. I find Fiona to be someone I learn something from even when we disagree.

Follow Your Nose Testing.

Christin Weidemann is presenting what looks to be an interesting take on testing. Not writing scripts or test plans or making bar charts to show progress, but testing. She is looking into “overturning convention” and considering the reinvention of testing practices.

The challenge I see so many people have with testing is they get wrapped in the rituals around it they forget that one major portion of testing is curiosity. So many forget the most important question I can think of in testing – “What happens?” Christin seems to be looking at how to focus on that very question.

I met Christin at CAST 2011 in Seattle. We were both in Michael Bolton’s tutorial on mind mapping. Our paths have rarely crossed since, but she struck me as an intelligent, thoughtful tester.

Testing Fundamentals for Experienced Testers

Robert Sabourin looks at what it is to reinvent and develop yourself, even with years of experience.  Rob looks at how we can transfer skills from one environment or system to another. Simply put, fundamentals.

He challenges concepts others take for granted by looking at the characteristics, the areas of those fundamentals.

I met Rob in person a couple of years ago. I found the conversations with him to be interesting and intriguing. Like conversations with Fiona, I always learned something from them. 

These are merely the start of this year’s CAST. Technically, they are not part of the conference itself. CAST contains many sessions. Some folks might find greater value in some sessions than in others. That is often the way at conferences, I guess.

There is a wide selection of track sessions and workshops that look at a variety of topics around testing and leadership and personal development. Check out the program here.

Early Bird Registration ends on June 5.  You can find information on Pricing and Registration here and information on the host hotel and venue here

I look forward to seeing you in Grand Rapids this August.