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CAST 2022 Recap


Tl;dr: it was brilliant being at CAST 2022, the conference of the Association for Software Testing, in San Diego last week.

Even if I didn't get out on the water like Tina, it was brilliant to be at an in-person conference again, with the time and space and atmosphere and context to really talk to people about the presentations, about themselves, about their work, and about all the software testing things.

It was also brilliant to be at a conference with the theme hands-on, set up to actually be hands-on. We wanted attendees to leave with a set of tools that they'd at least held in their own hands and felt the weight and balance of.

Day one kicked off with three extended tutorials from experienced practitioners. Dawn Haynes gave us A Survey of Test Design Ideas which covered test design, heuristics, sampling, checklists, and other aids to generating possible areas to test.

For those in a rush to get going with automation against web sites, Boris Wrubel had Test Automation 101 for Coders. His abstract said that he would "set up a test automation framework with Selenium and Cucumber in less than one hour" but when I spoke to him just beforehand he reckoned he could actually do it inside 30 minutes (!) using downloadable project archetypes.

The third tutorial, and the one I attended (I'll link to more detailed notes for all the sessions I was in), was Usability for Everyone from Cordellia Yokum. In five hours we covered an enormous amount of ground, motivating the consideration of accessibility concerns (which includes search engine optimisation if you're looking for a business case), talking about the various standards that exist in the space, and looking at tooling for helping to assess accessibility.

The learning was given time to sink in at the conference reception where, over finger food and drinks, everybody got a chance to chat and build relationships. I love that the speakers were there enjoying the relaxed atmosphere too.  

Then, as the late afternoon blurred into the evening, we had dinner follwed by a testathon. 

A testathon? Yes, a testathon! 

Groups formed into teams to explore a website for an hour or so and then present their findings. Reports were judged by the tutorial presenters and the conference chair and credit was given for how well the report described the state of the product, risk analysis, test coverage, and presentation style.

Some great reports were given, $1000 prize money was shared out, including $500 to the winning team Twan's Swans (pictured), and then it was on to games night.

The second day was a mixture of workshops and track talks bookended by keynotes, again all tied together by the hands-on theme and all interesting. There's something to be said for single-track conferences: you don't have the difficult decisions to make!

Before proceedings started officially, if you were up early, you could have Lean Coffee over breakfast. I was (thank you transatlantic travel) and I did (and it was great fun)!

First of the talks was Cindy Lawless who had a whole room ensemble testing the classic buggy triangle before talking us through how to (and how not to) write a test report about the work we'd just done. No artefact counts and no dumb charts. Instead, include a high-level summary, description of coverage, the strategy used, and risks found and remaining! Making Test Cases Suck Less, indeed!

The first of the day's workshops were next. In one room, we had It's All About the Money, Performance Testing and Infrastructure Costs with Twan Koot. In the other, Ben Simo on Testing Without Requirements

Twan asked participants to think harder about costs as they build and run their tests. The tests monitor performance, why not also monitor how much you're paying and take action to save money? He gave some lessons in how that can be accomplished.

Meanwhile, Ben described how his thinking on on requirements has evolved over the years. From expecting requirements up front he'll now test first help understand what the constraints for possible requirements could be. After the tour through his backstory we explored an application using FEW HICCUPPS as a guide, and then discussed what we'd found.

After lunch, Sergio Riveros used exercises to illustrate why we should be building accessible, inclusive applications, and also why compromises will always need to be made. At the same time, Amber Vanderburg, Innovation Ninja, was describing strategies she uses to help boost creativity and collaboration in her teams: keep people informed and create safe spaces to have constructive conversations about how everyone feels, and why.

Another pair of workshops next, and another tricky choice. I picked Tariq King's Hands-On with AI for Testing and Testing AI but I could easily have gone for Breadth, Depth, and Prioritization: Planning and Presenting Test Coverage with Eric Proegler and Stephanie Dukes.

Eric and Stephanie asked the participants to model test coverage of an application and then split people into groups to prioritise their testing according to different criteria such as regression, exploration, maintenance, documentation, automation, time, and cost. In parallel, Tariq had his session training ML models and then applying testing thinking to try to understand and fool them.  Tons of energy and humour too, as you'd expect from him.

If it sounds like a long day, it didn't feel like it. There was still plenty of energy around the conference for the last two track talks from Curtis Pettit and Dawn Haynes.

It's important to know your role at work and Curtis helped the testers in his session to score ourselves on tester-relevant characteristics with Critical Role: Filling Out Your Character Sheet. At the same time, Dawn was euthenising an old campaginer in Death to Test Cases! She asked if we used them, when, how, and why. Then we each wrote a case, came back to the group to talked about weaknesses and potential value, and then wrote a better version. 

Last but not least, Eric Proegler stepped up for his second stint of the day, and the closing keynote, Anyone Can Performance Test?!? Hands-on to the end, with a few clicks, and using public tools, Eric got the whole conference runing and interpreting basic performance tests on his site as he told the story of the performance testing profession.

And that was it. We had a brilliant time and now Tina can move all her tickets to Done. 

See you there next year?
Images: Chris Kenst, Tariq King, Tariq King, Tristan Lombard, Joel Montvelisky, Joel Montvelisky, Tina Toucan, Tina Toucan.


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