Grand Rapids Testers (GRTesters), a testing meetup group in Grand Rapids, Michigan, received a grant in 2013 to help cover the costs of  In 2015, GRTesters received another grant to help with those costs. An average of 12 to 25 testers, developers and others involved in software meet monthly to discuss topics in and around software testing.

No fewer than 12 members of GRTesters attended CAST this past August. The first meetup session after CAST was a retrospective on what members experienced at CAST 2015.  This meeting was an informal round table discussion of what people experienced, lessons and observations. Those who were unable to attend asked questions and offered observations on topics in general, based on their experience in software and at other conferences.

The first observation was how surprised people were at the diversity at the conference – both speakers and participants. The methods used to evaluate what that diversity means seemed to impress the people who attended. One person observed that “at developer conferences,” he had attended, “most people looked like me – white, male, young.” This led to a conversation around what diversity looked like, including gender, race, or any other factor one might consider, as well as a history of contributions made by people often over looked or forgotten.

One lesson that was mentioned was encouraging people to try something, even if it might not work. Included in this was paired work, which can be challenging in some organizations. Other aspects of this include, based on the conversation thread, anything that might suffer from being labelled “new” or “radical” at some companies, along with “untried.” Sometimes it makes sense to do this informally – to “see what happens.” If the results are less than optimal, then you can at least look at why it did not work and what might help in the future. If it does show promise, then again, you can look to how it can be done better.

In either case, share the results of what you tried – what you did, what happened and how you think you might try it differently in other circumstances. It is entirely possible you can inspire someone else to try something similar. Or totally different, but maybe they’ll learn something and pass it on.

The next takeaway started as an off-hand comment which one of the participants picked up from an open-season discussion: start testing before it is too late. What “too late” means seemed to vary. However, it might simply be restated as using testing and testing related activities, to help manage expectations and define behavior for everyone and help make sure project participants understand the implications of decisions before any code is written.

The next two points were related and touched on the debate on testers needing to code. The question of teaching people to code and the necessity of testers coding mixed together for a fair amount of time. A couple of people commented that the ideas expressed in the “debate” showed less a significant difference in ideology than a recognition that sometimes, in some situations,  testers knowing how to write and understand code could enhance their testing. The discussion at GRTesters focused on learning to code, but not the language syntax question, which varies by the language in use, but the general concepts of software development. The general idea that people can learn the fundamentals of logic and software construction, then apply those lessons to writing code.

The flip side of people learning to code is, how do we teach people to test?

There was also discussion around developing Charters for Testing, and how to exercise software by functions, user stories and other approaches to outline testing (which prompted the October GRTesters meeting to be on this topic specifically.)

The final point discussed was the idea of testing – not a focus on User Experience Testing, nothing on QA, simply, Testing. The members of GRTesters who attended CAST and were at the meetup, found that to be refreshing and uplifting. The idea of testing software, and allowing people to take the ideas presented and apply it at their organization was appealing and appreciated.

The AST Grant Program is here to help you energize your local testing community.