Conference of the Association for Software Testing

CAST (Conference of the Association for Software Testing) early bird
registration ends this week. Register at

I just got back from ICSE (the International Conference on Software
Engineering). ICSE is the premier conference for academic software
engineers–the conference acceptance standards are so high (only 5% of
submitted papers are accepted) that a paper at ICSE is ranked by
academic bean counters on a par with most computer science journals.

Many (20%?) of the ICSE sessions involved software testing. It was
frustrating to sit through them because the speaker would talk for a
while, say some outrageous things, some interesting things and some
confusing things–and then at the end of the talk, we got 3 minutes to
ask questions and argue with the speaker and the other participants.
Some talks (such as an invited address on the Future of Software
Testing) were clearly designed to be thought-provoking but with only 5
minutes for discussion, their impact evaporated quickly.

In AST, we think that testers, of all people, should critically evaluate
the ideas that are presented to them and we think that testers’
conferences should encourage testers to be testers.

We designed CAST to foster discussion. Every talk–every keynote, every
track talk, every tutorial–has plenty of time for discussion. If a talk
provokes a strong discussion, we delay the next talk. If it looks as
though the discussion will go for a long time, we move the next talk to
another room, so people can choose to stay with the discussion or go to
the next talk. I haven’t seen this at any other conference. It
contributes tremendously to the overall quality of the sessions.

By the way, if you want to come to the meeting to challenge what one of
the speakers is saying, you can prepare some remarks in advance. It is
important that your response be courteous and appreciative of the effort
the speaker has put into her presentation. If you have that, give Jon
Bach some notice and you will almost certainly get floor time right
after that speaker.

Another interesting event at CAST will be the full-day “tutorial” /
workshop / debate on certification. We had a keynote last year on
certification that stirred up so much discussion it nearly took over the
rest of the day. This time, it looks like we’ll have representatives of
all the main groups who certify software testers, plus an academic
curmudgeon (might be me) who is skeptical of the value of all of them.
If you have ever considered favoring certified software testers in your
hiring practices or taking a certification exam to improve your
marketability or credibility, this day will provide a six-way discussion
that compares and contrasts the different approaches to credentialing
software testers. I don’t think there has ever been a session like this
at any other testing conference.

Before CAST, the Workshop on Heuristic & Exploratory Techniques will
explore boundary analysis (domain testing), how we actually decide what
boundaries to consider and what values to use. This might sound
straightforward, but in doing task analyses at some other meetings, we
discovered that this is a remarkably complex problem. For more
information, contact Jon Bach.

After CAST, the Workshop on Open Certification will meet to develop
certification questions and work out the logistics of developing the
Exam Server (we already have a Question Server running for the project).
If you want to contribute to this project, contact Mike Kelly or Cem
Kaner. For more info, see

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