Be careful with that cast2011 kool-aid

After three days at CAST2011, I finally caught up on the #CAST2011 Twitter feed. It was filled with great thoughts and moments from the conference, which reflects most of what I experienced. There was only one thing missing; critical reaction.

In Michael Bolton’s thought provoking keynote, I was reminded of Jerry Weinberg’s famous tester definition, “A tester is someone who knows that things can be different”. Well, before posting on what I learned at CAST2011, I’ll take a moment to document four things that could have been different.

Here are some things I got tired of hearing at CAST2011.

Commercial test automation tools are the root of all evil. Quick Test Pro (QTP) was the one that took the most heat (it always is). Speakers liked to rattle off all the commercial test automation tools they could think of and throw them into a big book-burning-fire. The reason I’m tired of this is I’ve had great success using QTP as a test automation tool and I didn’t use any of its record/playback features. I’ve been using my QTP tests to run some 600 checks for the last 24 iterations and it has worked great. I think any tool can suck when used in the wrong context. These tools can also be effective in the right context.
Physical things are shiny and cool and new all over again. One presentation was about different colored stickies on a white board instead of organizing work items on a computer (you’ve heard that before). One was about writing tests on different colored index cards. Someone suggested using giant Lego blocks to track progress. In each of these cases, one can see the complexity grow (e. g., let’s stick red things on blue things to indicate the blue things are blocked, one guy entered his index card tests into a spreadsheet so he could sort them). Apparently Einstein used to leave piles of index cards all over his house to write his ideas down on. I’m thinking maybe

that was because Einstein didn’t have an iphone. IMO, this obsession with using office supplies to organize complex work is silly. This is why we invented computers after all. Use software!
Down with PowerPoint! It’s popular these days to be anti-PowerPoint and CAST2011 speakers jumped on that too. Half the speakers I saw did not bother to use PowerPoint. I think this is silly. There is a reason PowerPoint grew to such popularity. It works! I would much rather see an organized presentation that someone took the time to prepare, rather than watching speakers fumble around through their file structure looking for pictures or videos to show, which is what I saw 3 or 4 times. One speaker actually opened PowerPoint, mumbled something about hating it, then didn’t bother to use slideshow mode. So we looked at his slides in design view. PowerPoint presentations can suck, don’t get me wrong, but they can also be brilliant with a little creativity. Just watch some TED talks.
Traditional scripting testers are wrong. You know the ones, those testers who write exhaustive test details so a guy off the street can execute their tests. Oh wait…maybe you don’t know the ones. Much time was spent criticizing that approach. I’m tired of it because I don’t really think those people are much of a threat these days. I’ve never worked with one and they certainly don’t attend CAST. Why spend time bashing them?
I’m not bitter. I learned from and loved all the speakers. Jon Bach and his brother, James, put on an excellent tester conference that I was extremely grateful to attend.

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Be careful with that cast2011 kool-aid