By Pete Walen,
Conference Chair, CAST 2015

I recently received an email extolling the virtues of a conference that “delivered proven results” in place of theory. I smiled at the email, partly because what they offered was more of what I have come to look at as commercial content, aimed at making fancy glossy fliers and not helping testers test, or their managers actually manage testers or testing.

When looking at keynotes and objectives for the program for CAST, I had one simple goal: Provide testers and their managers with ideas on how they can do better work.

This is not uncommon, at least for this conference. Different aspects get looked at from different perspectives. Presenters and delegates/participants don’t always agree. Sometimes to foster understanding some discussion is needed. At CAST, we do this with a facilitated discussion period for every session, including keynotes that encourages everyone to participate: ask questions and dive for clarity, challenge statements and assertions made by speakers and participants.

Encouraging conversation on how ideas can be used in specific organizations or contexts is one way that we try to make sure that concepts and approaches presented are not merely nice ideas, but are something tangible that can be applied when staff return to their office. At CAST this year, we have made arrangements for participants to be able to continue conversations on topics from presentations and workshops comfortably, in private or in areas inviting broader discussion.

What can be said about CAST this year and each of the previous 9 years, is that the conference is about thinking, discussing, challenging assumptions and beliefs and searching for understanding around testing as a craft and profession.  We strive to provide insight to common questions and problems around testing. We look for specific ideas that can lead to insight on how testers can do better testing and provide greater service to the people we serve by testing and evaluating software.

The result of the effort to create the program for CAST 2015 is a pool of speakers who are able to speak from what they have done and how they did it. The Keynote speakers, the pre-conference tutorial instructors and the track session and workshop presenters are presenting information based on what they have experienced and what they have seen work.

The speakers have seen “best practices” come and go and are focused on helping testers and their managers test and exercise software in ways that make sense for the organization and the project.

When staff members ask if they can go to CAST this year, most managers will ask “Why CAST?” The short answer is that the program content and speaker mix are unlike other conferences. The message is unlike other conferences or training events.  This conference is put on by testers for testers and test managers. We do not have a “Vendor Track.” We try hard to filter talks to avoid sales pitches or veiled marketing promotions during sessions.

We are here helping people get better at the skills needed to do good testing.