Friday, 15 August 2014

CAST2014 - An experience report by a first time CAST attendee

An experience report by a first time CAST attendee.

A year ago, when I was introduced to the software testing committee I made a list of things to do. CAST conference was on my wishlist, a Mecca for the software testers. And I am glad to have made it to the 9th annual Conference by the Association of Software Testing organization this year held at the Kimmel Center in the picturesque city of New York.

I witnessed the ongoings first hand, thanks to the AST BOD and I have here made an attempt to present the learnings to you.

My journey began with the volunteers meet on August 10th Sunday evening.
The volunteers and the board of directors of the Association of Software Testing(AST) met to discuss about the volunteering work. The proceedings are an after effect of this meeting.
Thanks Anna for leading the way.

Volunteer’s at CAST:
Anna Royzman (BOD)
Keith Klain (BOD)
Richard Robinson
Smita Mishra
Paul Holland
Bernie Berger
Paul Holland (BOD)
Mike Lyles
Helena Jeret Mae

Registration Desk
The busy registration desk catered to the registrants by providing them with adequate information and directions from day 1 - day 3. Thanks to Pete Walen, Dee Ann Pizzica, Markus Gartner and the AST Board members for making it an event to cherish and who helped facilitate the learning.

AST Board of Directors in action.

Keynotes at CAST2014
  • James Marcus Bach
  • Trish Khoo
  • Carol Strohecker
  • Ben Simo
  • Matt Heusser

James Bach - Testcases are not testing - Towards a performance culture
If you have read about and followed the context driven testing community and have been an active member of the context driven testing talks online and offline, then you would already know that test cases are not testing.
James was found emphasizing the fact and the need to not consider test cases as testing, providing hilarious analogies of the crab and the booby-trap to testing and checking.
James delivering the keynote

I learnt this from James’s keynote.
  • How to be a strong advocate of what you believe in despite the oppositions and arguments.
  • Online mentoring can help in sharing tacit knowledge.

Many mentors have taken it upon themselves to illuminate the software testing world and eliminate the darkness that exists in non-sensical definitions, terms and processes. James Marcus Bach, Michael Bolton, Anne Marie Charrett, Huib Schoots are a few among the many other testers who coach online (via Skype) and I was glad to meet them all in person.

Douglas Hoffman and James Bach continued to debate on the automation in testing, even after the *open season. And amen to this: Arguments are common among people with passion for the craft.

*Open Season is when the audience gets to ask questions to a speaker by using one of the K-cards which is provided to all the participants.
The facilitators Paul Holland and Richard Robinson narrated to a room full of audience about the usage of K-Cards. Paul and Richard were great at facilitating throughout the event and kept the audience educated and entertained. Kudos to the both of you.

Trish Khoo - Scaling up with Embedded Testing
A passionate tester, presented about the cross-over from software development to software testing. An experiential report gathered by her talks with various testers / test teams across the industry and the need / lack of developers in testing and  viceversa. Abstract from the talk:
Trish shed light upon testers and non-testers involvement in shortening the feedback loop between creation and verification of any product. An excellent contribution by her towards understanding the delay in responses across various teams in the software development lifecycle.

Carol Strohecker - STEM to STEAM Advocacy to Cirrucula
Carol, from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) presented about her experiments with design. She struck a chord with the audiences with interesting insights to design in everyday life and stuck to the theme of the conference. I agree that design though sounds too artsy. References to innovation by design put the science back into the theme of CAST “The art and science of testing”.

Ben Simo - There Was Not a Breach; There Was a Blog
Focus of Ben’s keynote was Security Testing. The talk engaged the audiences and provided guidelines for securing an online web application and about using HTML Injection, browser add-ons like Developer Toolbar to capture secure information leaks. It did seem like a lot of the issues in could have been fixed if the team had had tested the application, also from a web security perspective. The testing community and the testers sat up and took notice of the security aspect of testing. It was a well articulated and well presented talk. Commendable job by Ben.

Matt Heusser - Software Testing State of the Practice (And Art! And Science!)
Highlights from Matt’s talk included:
  • State and longevity of the software testing practice
  • Teaching testing

The aforementioned topics require to get spoken about more widely as the testing community around me (in India) is still naive and is not yet so much exposed to the context driven school of testing.
Matt’s message was clear → There is no difference between Development and Testing teams or rather we are all on the same level. And I feel that level is “Everyone in the team being responsible for delivering a quality product”.

I’d agree with what Jean Ann Harrison and later Matt echoed - *Weekend testing sessions  requires less commitment, one Saturday in a month and this is where the participants also get to learn from many other testers across the globe.

*Weekend testing - Online testing sessions where testers are taught skill based testing on one weekend every month.
Learn more about weekend testing chapters here:

As I gathered, the essence of Matt’s talk was “Don’t just rely on your company trainings. Make your own opportunities - take help from the mentors and learn from each other”.
He wrapped up his talk with these three words → Honesty, capability and reach as the futuristic mantra for the software testing world.

Live and Recorded Keynotes and tracks
Thanks to Benjamin and Paul Yaroch for livestreaming CAST and Dee Ann Pizzica for co-hosting “CAST Live” with Ben this year. All recorded sessions and interviews are now available online.

How did CAST help my learning?
  • I need an introduction to the subject / sciences.
  • I need for myself to gather, interact and interpret the knowledge sources.
  • Be actively present to know what’s in it for me.
  • Then will I be equipped to either advocate or think is it for me or not.
And CAST did help me to learn just this. The conference indeed was a fast track ticket for me to help learn how I learn.

How I learnt at this conference?
  • Absorbed as much information as possible generated at the conference.
  • For the rest of the learning, I made notes, talked to the people to later re-collect from, got on to the *social sharing mediums to learn about the references I noted down.
*Quantifiable amounts of information is shared on the social sharing mediums, like on twitter you can follow the leads of CAST with the hashtag CAST2014.
Link to the search results for #CAST2014 →


What did I learn / unlearn about testing at CAST?
  • The scope and out of scope of testing.
  • How to and how not to test at all.
  • Is there a school of testing that I belong / subscribe to?
  • Do I belong / subscribe to the existing schools of testing at all?
  • How to change and quickly adapt to the evolving world of software testing.
  • Solving problems and sharing solutions with other community members via conferring, blogging and / or interacting by other communication mediums.
  • This list is incomplete, as I am still learning as I jot down these points.

Per Scholas
If you need an honest opinion about CAST, I would say head straight to the Per Scholas participants.
Wowness in a word. Per Scholites knew what was being talked about at this conference and how relevant it is to the current trends in the software testing world, as the education provided to them via the STEP program is first hand and undiluted.
There was an active participation from this group.
  • Harrison C Lovell
  • J. Winston Tokuhisa
  • Jessica Nickel

Humans of New York - And how these people helped me learn.

Keith Klain and Anna Royzman
As enthusiastic as ever Keith and Anna, helped me answer a lot of questions throughout my journey to CAST2014. I was glad to meet and spend time with both these AST board members. Thank you for sharing your time. You both made this conference happening via the event promotion prior, during and post the event.
Harrison C. Lovell a Per Scholas graduate, whose thirst for questioning is unquenchable. As he puts it: “I came, I saw, I conquered”.
He found automation, philosophy and gaming well paired off with each other at the conference.
There were other talks that emphasized on ‘Questioning’ as an integral part of testing including the one which Harrison and Michael Larsen delivered - Coyote Teaching.
More about the talk here in Michael Larsen’s words:

Geordie Keitt from Doran Jones Inc
His views on the conference:
  • Very well run and logistically smooth. Kudos to all the past and present AST Board members.
  • About the number of participants, many including Geordie echoed that the number of participants was / is the right number as compared to the other large conferences.

Ryan Arsenault, a Community Management Associate at uTest
  • Introduced me to the ways of working at uTest.
  • uTest’s vision, mission and focus at uTest?
  • What do they do and how they are getting the testers to be socially informed and be active on their discussion forums.
Ryan, for the major part of it spoke about how to get projects at uTest and if you are new to testing and need more information login to

Conferences are a place to meet and learn from testers who are quiet not accessible otherwise and elsewhere. I was glad to interact with Maria Kademo, Claire Moss, JeanAnn Harrison, Pradeepa Narayanaswamy, Lanessa Hunter among others with whom I shared practical problems, discussed solutions, approaches used to solve testing problems and gather their take away from this conference. Thank you all for your involvement. Oh and did I mention Mike Lyles, Michael Larsen who shed light upon other testing conferences happening and live blogging respectively.
A Testing Troupe at CAST2014

Election and results - BOD
The results are announced and we have the new and re-elected BOD’s for AST.
President:  Michael Larsen
Executive Vice President:  Keith Klain
Treasurer:  Alessandra Moreira
Secretary:  Markus Gartner
Vice President of Education:  Justin Rohrman
Executive at Large: Erik Davis and Peter Walen

Congratulations AST BOD’s. I personally look forward to all that this team can collectively do for the betterment of the testing community. We already have a great start in the form of STOP 29119 Movement.

I spoke to a few of the BOD’s and their vision for CAST2015 and here is an excerpt from the same.

Justin Rohrman
Biggest focus will be on:
  • Applicable knowledge (Know it → Use it). So that the participants can help themselves with the practical and applicable knowledge gained.
  • Authentic problem solving and that CAST would continue to encourage open debate.

Alessandra Moreira
Being a newly elected BOD of the AST: Ale, wishes to get CAST to reach out to more of it’s international audiences.
She shared that CAST2014 was different this year because of the buzz and the excitement it generated pre-conference and that CAST is diverse and she was glad to see the testing community maturing. And the part that I liked much about her vision is “Bringing CAST to Asia” which would make CAST affordable to many Asians participants who look forward to be a part of the conference in the near future. I know that Ilari Henrik Aegerter is so recommending for Portland as the next CAST venue ;)

For a detailed report on the AST election results, please follow the link below:

Indian participation
From a land of over a billion people, there were a few (countable on fingers) participants.
I wish the participants spread the word and get the community to participate often and in good numbers. (good numbers = fairly enough to spread the word about the context driven testing community). Many including myself, were unaware of the ongoings in the Software Testing world until very recently. So I urge the participants to go out and get the word spread about this friendly testing community who are willing to learn and share their knowledge with you. I am doing my bit.

Speakers and Volunteers:
Parimala Hariprasad
Dhanasekar Subramaniam
Smita Mishra
Lalit Bhamare
Jyothi Rangaiah

Test Lab - an extension of CAST
An exhibition of testing products and services like TestComplete and SoapUI Pro by SmartBear were on display at the Test Lab.

At the Test Lab, I found Mike Lyles encouraging the testers to test the and applications.
  • We spoke about a host of ideas mostly about the testing community, the participation and the talks at CAST. The relevance of the abstracts prepared with the talk.
  • K - cards and it’s usage.
  • Traditional versus what new lessons we learnt at CAST.
  • The relevance of the talks to the current trends in Software Testing.

Mike shared that he could meet great testers here, who come only to CAST.
Testers took time out of the scheduled talks to come over and log bugs at the Test Lab and win goodies from SmartBear. Thanks SmartBear team for sponsoring and getting involved with CAST in this scale. Spotted Claire Moss enthusiastically participating, I felt she is omnipresent who also was live tweeting the entire event.

This happened at CAST2014
Standard 29119 and a petition against it
Standard  29119 non-compliance and what’s in it for me?
Go ahead and read this 28 page document if you wish to.

Guess now you are pretty sure and get to decide for yourself, if this is how you wish to introduce software testing to the future generations? Answer for yourself.

1,127 signatures are registered as of 4th October. If you are a software tester or not yet, you could be a part of this historic moment too. Sign the petition if you choose to by following this link below: Thanks to Karen Nicole Johnson, Iain McCowatt and the ISST team for their enthusiasm in being the pre-cursors to this movement.

One conference many lessons - whether you subscribe to a particular school of testing or not. This conference appeals to you because of its diversity, the learning it has to offer and the enthusiastic and ever growing community. I urge the people in it to actively participate. The community needs you as much as you need it.

Reading material and Related articles
Humongous amounts of information was generated at CAST and a lot of it can be read on participants blogs and the event itself was live telecasted ( which can now be watched online by subscribing to the AST news channel on Youtube.

Some references are as follows:
Below is a link to the four page reference reading, book recommendations and related articles collated at CAST.

Here’s a Test Engineer’s Skills map that I chanced upon while preparing this article and I thought you might want to take a look at:

About AST and the Involvement in Testing Community
AST’s Grant Program
Read about it here:
Many volunteers (including myself), Per Scholas graduates and the local testing community meetups benefit from this Grant Program. Thank you AST and team for making my wish come true to meet and learn with the world class software testers. I continue to add value and give back to this community in my capacity.

Here’s a mind map version of the above write-up.


Cheers and enjoy the online version of CAST2014 on a computer near you.

Thank you AST Board of Directors, facilitators, sponsors and participants for making CAST2014 a grand success and an event that I look forward to for the coming years.

Thank you Keith Klain and BOD’s for introducing me to CAST. I have enjoyed my time at CAST meeting people, learning from them and sharing my learning via this write-up.
I look forward to actively participate in the future CAST conferences (live or otherwise) and do my best to get the community grow and I would love to see people share new learnings year after year at CAST and other conferences for software testing.

AST - Association of Software Testing

ISST -  International Society for Software Testing

Read the comments too - Making K-Cards accessible to the color blind facilitators, speakers and audiences.

Per Scholas


Software Testing Education Program (STEP) is a free 8-week course written in collaboration with several industry partners and led by Paul Holland.

Originally published at:

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