I say obligatory, but I don’t mean it’s a chore. I also don’t mean to be dismissive of the posts that many of my colleagues attending CAST 2013 are sharing. There are some very good ones out there:
Go ahead and read those. It’s good stuff.
Are you back? OK. The conference will inspire more posts. These a just some of the first few. You might find more the same way I did, using the hash tag #CAST2013 on Twitter.
My First Testing Conference in Twelve Years
At the start of my career, I was fortunate enough to be at a company that valued training and had a budget to support it. I went to two STAR (they didn’t have east/west back then) conferences, two Software Quality Weeks, and two Rational Users Conferences. It was great. It was also repetitive. After a while, I sort of knew what to expect. Sure, there were some great sessions, such as the Low Tech Testing Dashboard being presented by James Bach, or keynotes by Cem Kaner. But ultimately, I stopped pushing and the budget dried up with the post Y2K recession, and the conferences all looked the same.
So when the opportunity to go to a conference this year came up, I looked at my options. Truth is, CAST was my first choice, but when I looked at the other conferences, well, I saw a lot of the same stuff as when I went in the late nineties. Sure, there are new topics, such as agile testing, but it felt the same. So I chose CAST, and I don’t regret it.
CAST 2013 - Three Things
Rather than recount the conference, I will talk about what I plan to do now. Others took better notes and are doing a great job of capturing highlights, so I will focus on the three things that I want to change as a result of going to this conference. Why three things? Well, that was the suggestion Justin Hunter  made in his presentation on Exploratory Combinatorial Testing (he would point out that it wasn’t his suggestion originally, but Pete Whalen’s). And three is the magic number.
First Thing - Debrief Better
This wasn’t the topic of anyone’s presentation, but the concept of debriefs came up a few times as part of good Exploratory Testing. I realized that while my team has been communicating pretty well, I feel like the feedback loop for testing is depending too much on JIRA. Some more proactive discussion on what I tested, how I tested it and what I found will only help improve quality. It isn’t magic, but it would be better discipline and can help improve our outcomes.
Second Thing - Use Mindmaps More
I really do like Mindmapping. I’ve been doing it on and off for years, but I am not consistent about it. When I have used it to good effect, it has been very helpful in communicating what I am thinking and how I understand the relationships of things. The response from my coworkers has generally been positive. And at CAST, I saw examples from multiple sources including Aaron Hodder  and Clair Moss  and others using Mindmaps at the conference. Aaron showed an example from his work and Claire used one in the tutorial I went to on Monday. Both tracked progress in the maps nicely. No, neither of them invented that idea, but they demonstrated it well.
I have already started. The timing is right for me to use a mindmap as my own personal status tool for the iteration. I will plan out what I have to do and track the status of it all there. I will use the Product Coverage Outline concepts from the tutorial while building and expanding on this mindmap.
Third Thing - Find a Way to Participate in the Conversation
I saw a number of people put themselves out there. Some of them for the first time. I don’t have better or more important things to say, but I have a voice and an opinion. I have experiences to share. During the lightning talks, I even realized that I had a talk I could have given. But it was too late. It was ok; there were plenty of great lightning talks.
So I’ve been writing here on and off for a while. Now I need to do it more and do it better. I will share more here, even if it is just a tiny FitNesse tip. Additionally, I will put together a proposal to speak at a conference next year, hopefully at CAST.
1. Justin Hunter: https://twitter.com/hexawise ↩
2. Aaron Hodder: https://twitter.com/AWGHodder ↩
3. Claire Moss: https://twitter.com/aclairefication ↩