Don’t make my mistake

I ashamedly admit that I never really paid attention to the AST Board of Directors election until now… because I’m in the running. If you are a current member of AST and want to have a say in the future and direction of the organization, do not make the same mistake. There is a great group of seven people running for the four open seats.

Electronic voting runs from August 11th at 12:00 (GMT) – August 13th at 12:o0 (GMT). Please see the AST BOD elections page for more details.

What the hell am I thinking, OR, Why I’m running for the AST board

As you probably deduced from the title, I am running for the board of directors of AST. If you already think I am a worthy candidate, feel free to go about your day–assuming you remember to vote for me when the election gets under way in a few weeks. Otherwise, please keep reading.

I suppose you can take this as a kind of stump speech.

In short, I want to see AST do more.

That enough for you? No? OK then.

In… long(?), I attribute much of what I am today to the CAST conference, the BBST courses offered by AST and the people I met from both. I appreciate what AST has accomplished so far, but I want more.

  • Only getting to have the CAST experience once a year is a real drag. I would like to see AST host smaller, regional conferences in addition to CAST.
  • I have so far taken part in one of the BBST courses, and it was one of the most intense learning experiences I have been through. I want more people to learn what this material has to offer.
  • The AST grant program has helped with a number of special events and meetups. But the number is so small it’s frustrating.

Do I have a five point plan to carry out any of these? No. So why do I think you should vote for me? Why do I think I should be on the board?

  • I have worked with a number of current board members in different capacities over the past few years and have yet to find anyone in the group that I cannot get along with.
  • I have been told that I have built a reputation as someone who can get things done. When I didn’t like the direction of my local professional tester organization, I joined its board and helped change it. When I didn’t like the lack of tester meetups in my area, I started NOTiCE. When my company needed to stop talking about redesigning our internally built bug tracking system and start doing, I got the project started.

So Erik, you’re saying you did all of these things, and because of YOU they all succeeded? Well.. no. But I will say that all of these things are where they are today because I gave a shit and got involved. Did I know how I was going to be involved when I jumped in? No. But that’s not a bad thing (imo). For NOSQAA, I am the lead of the programs committee, I’m not the programs committee. I have a team of people that I work with. When I started NOTiCE… OK I went it alone. I found out after a while that I needed some help with various parts so I found co-organizers. As for that internal project, I ended up handing it off after almost a year. In the end, I wasn’t the right person to keep the project going, and I realized that.  But, I was in the right state of mind at the right time to get the thing rolling.

My point is I feel that I can work with the current board, get along with any newly elected board members, and help get things done for AST.

Whether or not I am elected, I plan on continuing to work with AST on a number of initiatives. If I am elected, it will be that much easier to get things done.

The full list of nominees for the AST board is available here.

A night of games x 3

This month, I’m on a mini tour or sorts revolving around testing games. If you happen to not be aware of these, and can make it out, I would love to see you.

If you work at Hyland, join me on June 10th for the Tech Touch Tuesday event on Testing Games.

If you’re in the Cleveland, OH area on 6/18, join the NOTiCE meetup for a night of games.

If you’re in the Columbus, OH area on 6/24, I’m guest hosting at Matt Hutchison’s  Software QA & Testing meetup discussing, yep, games.

Missed Opportunity

I want to say I’m sorry to all of you. I’m sorry that I didn’t research better. I’m sorry I didn’t trust a group of people I knew would pull it off. I’m sorry that I didn’t try to drag any of you within driving distance with me.

A few weeks ago, I went to a testing conference in Columbus, OH. The conference is QA or the Highway. There were over 280 attendees (only 20 no-shows due to the weather). This is only the second iteration of this conference (the first was back in 2010), and the first time it was in a full day format. There were four tracks, two keynotes, ample time between sessions for an unofficial “hallway track” and no forced vendor sessions.

Joe Ours was the conference organizer, speaker, and opening keynote speaker (when Keith Klain had to back out last-minute… yeah he originally had Keith as his opener). There were a number of great speakers as well. Though I didn’t get to see it, I heard Raj Subramarian’s (a Cleveland local) talk on Mobile Web Testing went over really well. David Hoppe did a talk on Disintegration Testing that I missed since it was at the same time as my talk on how I (try to) motivate testers (that I did in a kilt). JeanAnn Harrison did a talk on Mobile Software Test Automation with so much information in it she had to skip over slides to fit as much into her one hour block. I also really enjoyed Hilary Weaver’s  talk on getting along with your developers “I don’t like you. He doesn’t like you either!”. It was funny, informative, and she managed to keep it within her own PG-13 rating. Matt Heusser did the closing keynote titled “Cool new ideas… and some old ones, too”. Most of the presentations are available here. Since I used Prezi and it doesn’t play nice with SlideShare, my presentation is available here.

The single coolest thing about this conference was it’s location. I don’t mean the building, I mean the fact that it took place in Ohio. This conference was a little over two hours south of Hyland. Every attendee got a real conference name badge and a conference branded backpack. I’m not all about the gifts, but it shows a level of maturity that I would not have expected for such a new conference. Put on in Columbus. By a guy who basically decided he wanted a good, local conference in the Midwest.

Next year, I will be promoting this conference heavily; including asking for Hyland presenters to represent (come on, it’s not that scary). We were out done by companies like Progressive and Nationwide who sent groups. More people attended from the Kitchener-Waterloo Software Quality Association (Waterloo, Ontario) than we had from Hyland. I won’t let that happen again.

Manager of Testing – That’s one way to get the QA out of your title.

Some of you were aware that I have been investigating a potential new role at Hyland (*gasp* I just said where I worked!!1!1!!! more on that later). I asked for, and received a flood of ideas, concerns and contacts to reach out to. As best as I can tell, there are too many positions exactly like the one I ended up in. Not that I’m claiming a world first or something, but the role focuses on things that a lot of people (imho) already do, just not as their primary role.

So as of this week, I am officially the first ever Manager of Testing at Hyland Software. No, that isn’t what I was before; that was the Quality Assurance Manager of Workflow. Previously, I managed a team of testers responsible for a portion of the product. Now, well, now I have a giant list of responsibilities that I created. Oh, and instead of testers reporting to me, I have our two awesome internal QA Education team. (I will give you a dollar if either of you see and read this). Luckily, when I wrote my position plan, I didn’t attach time frames to most of these, so I don’t /have/ to get them all done this year.

Here are some of the responsibilities I will be focusing on:

– Study serious issues that make it into production to look for patterns that are correctable or reducible, on the Dev and Test side of things
– Promote testing internally – make our testers aware of the opportunities they have to improve their skills and help them become better testers
– Promote testing externally – continue to build a network of testers locally (and not), by promoting testing in my community, and by working to make Hyland a destination for career minded testers
– Attend conferences and training (at least four a year) – I booked 2014 out before I got this written into my position plan, but having it be “work time” will definitely help
– Review conferences and conference sessions and help choose who gets to go to what, and what they have to do with the things they learn when they get back
– Bring new testing ideas in to the company from conferences,  meet ups, blogs, articles, books, and external training
– Create and run internal training on testing techniques and other needed skills
– Shadow new testers in the department to review their abilities and supply feedback to them and their manager
– Shadow teams in the department to offer feedback on their strengths and weaknesses and suggest or build specialized training for them
– Oh, and did I mention I wrote in 20% time to test?

As of right now, I am super overwhelmed. I haven’t even started yet and I already have a ton of ideas running through my head. First up, I need to create a short talk based on the results of two issues we found recently. Second I need to finish my talk for QA or the Highway (I promise Joe, I’ll have something). After that, it’s full on doing the awesome stuff.

Oh, and with this position change, I will be able to pay a little better attention to Twitter. I really do see that as one of my primary avenues for learning (about) new ideas.

Thank you again to everyone that helped me over the past couple of months. And thank you in advance to everyone that I will be asking for help in the future.

10 years in

Note: Tonight I found this post sitting in my drafts folder. I wrote this back in January, and for some reason I never published it. I’m not sure what made me want to write it back then, but I definitely know that I feel this strongly right now.

Eight and a half years ago, my solitary goal in my career was to be able to write two years on my resume next to a job. Yes back then I thought of it as a job. I had also only lasted 18 or 19 months at my two previous employers before getting downsized (remember when that was all the rage?).

Eight and a half years later, and I am now celebrating 10 years with one company. I like where I work, I like the people and the product, and I can see room for growth and change in the way we do things. Much of the time in the middle, I spent without setting any real goals. Sure, I filled out my S.M.A.R.T. goals on my review each year, but I didn’t have a vision for where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. I didn’t see what value I could add to the organization or the people in it beyond accomplishing the tasks defined for me in the goals that were passed down from multiple levels of management.

Today, I stand at the beginning of a new decade. I find myself awakened to what I can and still need to learn, and find myself coming up with ideas of ways I can help educate others. I spent far too much of my past heads down completing tasks, or managing processes. I lost sight of my career; I was fumbling around with no real direction. Now I have it back, and I can see here I want to go.

If you feel lost, or directionless, WAKE UP! Sitting in a chair just to collect a check sucks. Going to work because you are excited to accomplish something is awesome. Basically, DO something. DO something that excites you, that fits with your passions. If you are out of ideas, there are lots of people out there who can give you some (like Pete or Huib or Michael or James or Twitter)

What a Year

Sooo…. yeah. It’s December. I realized this week as the year-in-review posts started popping up on Twitter that I hadn’t even thought about my year yet.

Though I’ve turned into a rather sporadic blogger, I have managed to write about some of the things I did this year that meant something to me.

For anyone who read last year’s post, I felt 2012 was an awesome year. It really was, don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t compare to 2013.

I started NOTiCE. I setup and hosted Matt and Pete for some on site training at Hyland. I helped (I think) convince Paul to come to Westlake, Ohio of all places to run RST. I attended a couple of MMTMD events. I got published in Tea-time with Testers. I SPOKE AT CAST! I participated in TestRetreat, and the AST Leadership SIG TLC event. I put together and submitted 2 collaborative proposals for Let’s Test, which got turned down by Rob Sabourin (not hard feelings Rob). I managed to turn one of those into a collaborative workshop proposal for CAST 2014 and am trying to turn the other into something too. I successfully completed BBST Foundations 2.0. I joined the program committee for NOSQAA (get ready speakers, I’ll be looking for 2014-2015 season spots soon). I hosted and participated in the WHOSE workshop. I met a TON of awesome people, from all over the world. Some from right around the corner; some from far off lands.

The biggest problem I have with this year is it still doesn’t feel like enough. Especially when I compare it to 2014. Next year is gonna be huge for me, and I hope it’s just the start of a trend. QA or the Highway selected me to speak in Columbus next February. It’ll be my first talk in a kilt (it’s a long story, for the short version, just blame Keith and Hilary). I’m going to Agile and Beyond that same week. In March I’m attending PSL, which has been a goal for me since I first learned of it at CAST 2012. I’m going to Let’s Test in Sweden, and meeting Maria, my soon-to-be CAST co-presenter (I’m counting on you Paul, I’m gonna sound like a real ass if we don’t get in). Speaking of CAST, there’s that. Speaking gig or not, I am so going. I know there will be some pre and post stuff wrapped around CAST and I will definitely be attending. I may have some things with the guy about the stuff going on throughout the year, and who knows what else. I hope to stay connected with all sorts of people, and I hope to help out anyone I can. I really love having people come to me for help or advice, or just a sounding board for ideas. I like feeling like I can contribute something to help someone else.

Well, I know about one other thing. I hope I can write about it soon, but just know that it could be a big deal for me. Let’s stay in touch on that one.

So on to what one friend said was my end-of-year-post thing (I suppose now that I’m doing it twice, it is a thing huh?)

The people:

Thank you Matt Heusser and Pete Walen for spending so much time with me in and around the training opportunity I brought them in for. I really appreciated all of the time you afforded me, on and off the clock. I just wish I was closer for the GR Testers events. TestRetreat and WHOSE were awesome. You two have some great ideas and I hope I can tag a long for some of the adventures. You both have been there to help me work through things and I hope someday I can return the favor.

Paul Holland, you gave me a shot on this blog simply because I knew Eric and he didn’t say I was a douche. I got to spend a ton of time hanging out and learning from you in and around RST. I also loved your tutorial at CAST, and getting to hang out some more. The interview was great, even if you did forget to turn on your mic. You kind of got busy what with the whole Per Scholas thing and all, but you still managed to help me out a few times when I needed it. Thanks.

Keith Klain, you are the most personable, hipster, boss to hundreds of testers, I know. I still get a little intimidated by you at times, and then I remember you’ve made time for me to call you up on several occasions to ask inane questions. I am honored that you put me on the list of mentors for the next class of Per Scholas students (even if you didn’t tell me). Oh, and then there’s the bit on my talk that you dropped into your CAST post (come on man, I already have a hard time finding hats that fit). You rock, and I can’t wait to see you in February and at CAST.

Simon Peter Schrijver, I first learned of you when you Five Blogged some post of mine. I got to finally meet you at TestRetreat and then all during CAST (thanks to you and Ray for the ride to hibachi). I feel like I really got to know you preparing for, and then during WHOSE. You are an awesome facilitator and man are you ever dedicated to your craft.

Wow, this is getting long… OK let’s see.

Eric Proegler, we didn’t get to hang out at all this year, but next year will be better. A little time in Malmo (finger’s crossed) and at CAST (come one man… NYC). You helped me ton this year, whether you know it or not.

Martin Hynie, you pain in the ass Ottawanian you. You just love to poke at things to make stuff happen, which is what I love about you. I had an awesome time hanging out and getting to know you at CAST this year. Thanks to you, and our shared flight to Detroit, I now have a submitted workshop proposal for CAST 2014 with Maria Kedemo and, if we can get out shit together, a second collaborative proposal with you, also for CAST 2014. Yeah, I just wrote that. Is that enough of a push?

Maria Kedemo, the fact that you bothered to listen to me when I first sent you messages along the lines of “Hi, I know Martin, and he said you are awesome and we are similar and we should proposal a talk together, do ya wanna?” still sort of amazes me. It’s been an interesting exercise so far working on both iterations of our proposal, and I am super excited to run this thing at CAST (yes I know, I am crazy optimistic, but it’s going to be awesome, they HAVE to select it). I am really looking forward to meeting you before Let’s Test. How often will I get to say I did work while riding a train in Sweden?

Phil Kirkham, how could I forget you. Despite your threats, you failed to heckle me too much during my talk at CAST (work on that, will ya?). You’ve managed to keep me on a better-than-it-would-have-been-otherwise pace with my blog (which is sad to say). I hope to get to see you again at some more MMTMD events, and hopefully at CAST again.

Claire Moss, I am still dumbfounded at the rate at which you can tweet. You are the only person I know who runs tweet macros (for lack of a better term) to speed up your tweeting.

Ben Yaroch, you ran an awesome conference this year. I loved the tweet printer (even if others didn’t). Thanks for understanding when I utilized some of the down time during interviews to offer the interviewers beers. Somebody hire this dude already. Come on now.

Eric Brickarp, your CAST talk still sticks with me today. I’ve managed to complete everything on my list for this year. I am behind a bit on pulling from the backlog for next year, but it’ll happen soon.

Hilary, I’m so glad I got to see you come out of your shell a bit at the MMTMD events. YOU NEED TO RUN MORE OF THEM. You have an awesome, no-nonsense personality. I still don’t remember how exactly we got there, but knowing you’re doing your QA or the Highway talk in a corset while I’m in my kilt makes me smile. (do we need smoking jackets for this?)

Ahhh! OK It’s getting late and I want to submit this before I go to bed or else it won’t come out until 2014. Let’s do the lightening round:

Marcus Gärtner, I was honored to meet you at TestRetreat and CAST and I was very excited to learn that you were the lead instructor for my BBST Foundations course. Ilari, I’m still not sure what I may have done to make you interested in meeting me, but it was a pleasure. Nimesh, it was awesome finally meeting you in person. I wish we could have collaborated on BBST group work, but it was still awesome having you in my session. Julie, you are awesome, and you need to speak at events more. I am so glad you ended up having to do you CAST lightening talk in the big room (I promise I didn’t cheat too much in the voting). Nick, you really should get your ass on Twitter man. There’s a lot going on out here that isn’t just the same old same old going in inside our four walls at work. Keep at it. Anna, it was great getting to see you again at CAST and to work with you at the TLC event. I promise I will get going on the AST Leadership SIG video project soon (I finally have a camera). Meike, I couldn’t forget you. From the instant I met you, you seemed like an old friend. A very huggy friend that is good at hugging and enjoys giving hugs.

I know there are a ton of people I am missing here. If you are one of them, please know I really appreciated the stuff you did, but know that I am getting tired and I haven’t yet pasted all the links in this post yet. I’m kind of regretting name dropping so many people. This part is gonna suck.

Have a great New Year everyone, and an awesome 2014!

Taking a Break – What taking time off from pretty much everything can do for/to you/me

Wow.  I haven’t been on here since … August? Oh wait! I replied to a comment on September 5.

How fitting of a discovery for my first post since taking a break from… well.. pretty much everything testing related (other than work).

So what led me toward taking a break from things? I’m glad I asked. Let’s see:

  • Took and successfully completed the BBST Foundations 2.0 course hosted by AST – Yay!
  • Narrowly avoided a breakdown three weeks into the course – <>Yay!
  • Found out I was not accepted to speak at Let’s Test 2014 –  !=Yay!

So yeah, that kind of sucked a little. The BBST course almost broke me (I’ll write about that in detail, including some advice for future attendees in a separate post soon). The Let’s Test rejection, even if it was well founded in the end, didn’t feel all that good either. I lost interest in all of this. I felt defeated and disinterested. So I decided to take a break. I most of my momentum on pretty much everything “extra” I was doing professionally, and I really felt like I just needed to get away from everything.

I spent most of that extra time working through some family things going on, getting a shed delivered and setup, winterizing the yard, etc. I went to work. I came home. I hung out with my family. I played some games. That was it.

So where did it get me? Well.. all that time off showed me a few things. It first showed me that taking a break from things was OK. Sure I had waves of “but.. but if I stop blogging/tweeting/reading/collaborating/other ings bad thing X will happen”. In the end though, nothing bad happened. Well, other than Phil gently harassing me about some promised blog posts. Mentally, I needed the break so I took a break.

In the end, I also learned that I really missed all of it. I missed the community. I missed being engaged in something bigger than me. That feeling started to trickle back in two or three weeks ago. Now, I feel like I’m totally here again. I’ve got a ton going on, I’m excited about all of it and I think it shows.

Was it OK for me to take a break? Absolutely. It helped me get over my funk. It helped me recharge. I see it sort of like that thing the Amish do when they send their kids off to the non-Amish world to get on a television show about how much they drink so see if they will return to the farm. I decided I liked … sorry, I can’t keep that analogy going any further, it’s insane. In the end, I came back. YMMV, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, or stretched too thin, take some time off. If you blog constantly, and it’s wearing on you, stop for a while. It’s OK. If you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions, take a breather from the non-critical things.

Everyone needs time to stop and relax and sometimes, just be.

What now? Well, since everything I just finished describing, I started looking at Twitter with a little more regularity. After a few good conversations there, I ended up with a small group of people who wanted me to blog about various things (I think this is the first of four I need to write soon-ish). This then is my rough timeline of things I’ve done since my pause:

  • Hey, Twitter!
  • The CAST Live interviews went up, including mine
  • Elected to the program committee of NOSQAA
  • Accepted to speak at QA or the Highway (2 for 8 is better than 1 for 6!)
    • Did I mention I have to wear a kilt? Thanks Hilary
  • Started working on a bitchin’ proposal for CAST 2014 with a cross-Atlantic co-presenter
  • Finagled a way to attend Let’s Test 2014 as.. well… an attendee
  • Asked to write some stuff for the thing (can you tell I talk to Matt a lot?)
  • Began some secret research.. hopefully I can write about this in the future
  • Discovered Paul didn’t wipe my blog off his server (thank’s Paul)
  • Figured out how to log back in to my blog
  • Started writing this post

I really think I’m back now. I took some time off, my brain got better, and now I’m here again. Hell, I told someone today I should try to take a sabbatical from work to bank some family time next summer so I can attend /another/ conference. Who does that? Seriously?

Editor’s Note: (yeah, it’s just me still) I get this isn’t the best post, but come on, I have to restart somewhere. I’m rusty at this writing thing. Hopefully the BBST, AST grant sponsored NOTiCE meetup, and testers to follow on Twitter posts will be better.

Twitter for Testers

It’s only in the past year that I discovered the benefits of Twitter beyond knowing what random celebrities are doing when they’re drunk. Technically, I set up my Twitter account years ago, only to use it to follow some radio show for a now unknown purpose. My account sat dormant until last summer. That’s when I went to CAST 2012. Over the past year, I’ve learned a fair amount about using Twitter to further my connections in the community and aid in my professional development.

Let’s start at the beginning…


Should you be on Twitter?

I feel silly writing this since if you are reading my blog, and you are, I would imagine the vast majority of you found it via Twitter. But, just in case you didn’t, here you go.

The short answer? Yes.

For the long answer, see the remainder of this post.


I see Twitter as the primary means of communication between a large number of professional testers, test managers, leaders and those looking to join our ranks. Though many discussions and debates happen elsewhere, Twitter is the easiest place to find information /about/ them.

The Pros

Networking – If you aren’t trying to build a professional network, You can probably close the tab on this post and move on. I spent many years not caring about having a network. The only purpose I saw was for trying to find a job. After attending CAST, I saw the real value in building a professional network. You gain easy access to so many people and resources and ideas that you can’t get to as easily anywhere else.

Camaraderie – Similar to what /normal/ people do with Twitter, you can build friendships with others. If you do this with the people in your network, it helps to build even stronger relationships. Personally, the vast majority of the people I follow are either testers, test leaders, or thinkers of some flavor that I feel are beneficial for me to follow. Finding interesting people and following them is one thing, but communicating with them makes things like meetups and conferences all the better since you can know people before walk through the door.

Access – The vast majority of people in the testing community that I have found on Twitter are accessible. I don’t mean the post-a-blog-entry-once-a-month-then-enter-radio-silence type, I mean the you-can-send-them-a-question-and-they-answer-it type. You can have conversations (or whatever you call the back-and-forth of Twitter) with “big name” testers. The kind of testers whose names appear on books. The kind of testers that run full day tutorials, or multi-day training programs. Where else can you get that? Oh sure, you can go to each of their blogs, and post comments on relevant entries and wait for them to get to reviewing and responding. OR, you could send them something on Twitter and watch the magic happen.

Discourse and Debate – So many (in my mind) great discussions and debates either take place on Twitter, start on Twitter and move elsewhere, or get mentioned on Twitter that it seems foolish to me that more people aren’t playing along.

Learning – Oh the learning. If you are not on Twitter, how do you learn about any of the following?

  • New or existing meetups in your area
  • New or existing testing organizations
  • Events being put on for testers in your area
  • Conferences (big and small)
  • LeanCoffee/Beer/Wings
  • Public training opportunities
  • Blog posts
  • E-books (or the paper kind)
  • Petitions that further the ideal that testers should have brains?

It is possible to learn about many of these things without using Twitter, but I think it is much more difficult. 

The Cons

Time – Yeah so… sometimes you have to get work done. If you are the type who dives headlong into rabbit holes when you see something shiny and new, be careful with the Twitter. My recommendation would be to set your refresh rate to something high (like an hour or two), or if you have the willpower (anyone who follows me can tell I don’t), only look at it during a time you allot each day.

Bitching/Complaining/Shouting – Sometimes, people get poked a little too hard, or had an especially bad day, or in general are not good at debate so they resort to bitching, complaining, shouting, personal attacks, etc. I just ignore those when they pop up. If they bother you, or if you see one person doing it a lot, it’s super easy to unfollow them.

The Format – 140 characters is not a lot. When people try to convey a lot of information, or when a conversation grows beyond four or five people, Twitter falls part. Don’t use it for dissertations. That’s not the point. If you want to write a lot, start a blog. It would have taken three tweets just to get this paragraph out.


Do your own math, but I would highly recommend anyone interested in developing their professional network, advancing their skills, meeting new people and engaging in thought-provoking debates (especially with regards to testing and test leadership) get on Twitter. Decide for yourself, but I say you should do it. Come on. Join already. No one will make fun of you for waiting until 2013 to join Twitter. Seriously.


Next up, I will post my own X Testers to Follow on Twitter list, where X is a yet undefined quantity. I have a feeling I will go beyond Matt’s two-year old 29 count, but I have to start assembling it to see how far I end up going. Oh, and I am mentioning it here so people will pester me to finally do it.

A First-Timers Guide to CAST (from a soon to be second-timer)

Today @bennet_nj asked if I had any advice for a first time CAST attendee. After trying to condense this all down into Tweetable size pieces, I decided it better covered here. Please feel free to add your own items, or question mine, in the comments.

Here’s what I came up with based on my attendance of CAST, for the first time, last year.

  • Review the schedule information for sessions ahead of time (that means before you get there).
    • This will give you an idea of what topics are covered and which speakers are attending.
    • Come up with a rough list of what session you want to attend.
    • BUT, be prepared to switch at the last-minute. You are bound to bump into someone you know, or end up in a conversation that sways you towards a talk you originally weren’t interested in.
    • If possible, bring friends (I am) so you can cover more sessions that one human could.
  • There is a lot going on; if you don’t like a session early on, move to another one, or to a lightning talk, or to a side conversation, or to a game, or … It happens, and the speakers are OK with it.
  • Try to get to, or better yet present at, the lightning talks.
  • Go to the keynotes.
    • The topics are good, but the facilitated discussion at the end is awesome.
  • “Big name” testers are people too. They will likely talk to you, play tester games with you, share their scotch or get frustrated that you are not drinking their beer. (all true for me last year)
  • Go to all of the events you can.
  • Sign up for a tutorial.
  • Attend sessions/lightning talks all day.
  • Eat with the attendees, conversations are bound to flourish. This includes dinners off site. Find some testers, introduce yourself, and go out with them.
  • All of the “networking” events are good places to meet people you only know online. They also let you spend time with people whose names you see on books.
  • Find out where informal things are going on and go to them.
  • There are pre and post CAST events, look into them and go if they sound interesting.
  • Despite what the schedule says, there will always be games at night. Somewhere. Find them.
    • You can get Set yourself and start now, this is the go to game for many.
    • Zendo also pops up, but requires some investment. Better to wait and try it out at CAST with those who already have it.
    • Don’t try and prep for anything else, that ruins the experience.
  • Confer between sessions!
    • There’s a reason the breaks are so big.
  • If the ongoing discussion in an already ended session interests you, follow it to it’s offline location and continue.
  • You will get cards (K-Cards) to allow for facilitated participation at the end of each talk and keynote, USE THEM.
  • If something bothers you, bring it up to the AST people running the show.
    • They too are just people and will talk to you, and rectify things that are wrong.

What else can you think of? What did I miss? I look forward to your additions below.