[tpm] CAST 2008: Last week for Early Bird Registration PLUS An Interview with Jerry Weinberg

Michael Bolton michael.a.bolton at gmail.com
Wed May 28 08:30:29 PDT 2008

Hi, all...

This is Michael Bolton, the Conference Chair for the Conference for the
Association for Software Testing 2008.

It's the last week to register at the Early Bird Rate for the CAST
conference!  The Conference will be held here in Toronto, July 14-16 2008,
at the University of Toronto's 89 Chestnut Street hotel and conference
facility--right in the heart of downtown.

If you've already registered, scroll below for an interview with Jerry
Weinberg, who'll be presenting a tutorial and a keynote address at the
conference.  If you haven't already registered, keep reading to find out why
you'll want to.

Start with the keynotes:

* Jerry Weinberg on Lessons from the Past to Carry into the Future;
* Cem Kaner on The Value of Checklists and the Danger of Scripts: What
  Legal Training Suggests for Testers
* Robert Sabourin (with Anne Sabourin) on Applied Testing Lessons
  from Delivery Room Labor Triage (there's a related article in this
  month's Better Software magazine)
* Brian Fisher on The New Science of Visual Analytics.

There are four one-day tutorials--

The Tester's Communication Clinic, from Jerry Weinberg Testing Mobile
Applications, from Julian Harty Performance Testing Software Systems:
Analyzing Performance Test Data, with Scott Barber From Craftsmanship to
Leadership, with Hung Nguyen

Track sessions include talks relating testing to

- improv theatre (Adam White), to music (Michael Bolton and Jonathan
- finance and accounting (Doug Hoffman)
- wargaming and Darwinian evolution (Bart Brokeman, author of
  /Testing Embedded Software/ and one of the co-authors of the /TMap
  Next/ book)
- civil engineering (Scott Barber)
- scientific software (Diane Kelly and Rebecca Sanders),
- magic (Jeremy Kominar),
- file systems (Morven Gentleman),
- data warehousing (Steve Richardson and Adam Geras), and
- data visualization (Martin Taylor), AND
- four-year-olds playing lacrosse (Adam Goucher).

There will also be lightning talks and a tester competition.

Yet another feature of the conference is that Jerry is launching his book on
testing, /Perfect Software and Other Testing Myths/.  I read an early
version of it, and I'm waiting for it with bated breath. It's a book that
we'll all want to read, and after we're done, we'll want to hand to people
who are customers of testing.  For some, we'll want to tie them to a chair
and /read it to them/.

The conference hotel is inexpensive, the food in Toronto is great, the
nightlife is wonderful, the music is excellent...

More Information
You can find details on the program at

You can find information on the venue and logistics at

Those from outside Canada should look at

You can get registration information at

An Interview with Gerald M. (Jerry) Weinberg
Being a conference chair has its advantages.  Recently I was privileged to
chat with Jerry Weinberg on why he's favouring CAST with his only conference
appearance of the year, other than the Amplifying Your Effectiveness
conference, of which he's a co-founder and host.

Michael: You've been involved with computers for 50 years, and with giving
people advice for almost that long.  What do you suggest my first question
should be, and how would you answer it?

Jerry: Ask me why I chose this conference as my one of the year.  And other

Michael: Sounds good.  So:  why did you choose this conference as your one
of the year?

Jerry: Errors have been the principal issue in computing right from the
beginning, as John von Neumann pointed out even before I got into the field
(and that's really a long time ago). I wrote about testing as the opening
topic in my first book, "Computer Programming Fundamentals" way back in
1960--and way back then, I already took flack from some reviewers who didn't
think errors was a suitable topic for politically correct people. You'd
think I had written about human excrement.

And you'd also think that as our field matured,  we would have outgrown that
prudish attitude about error--but we haven't. Back then, we had no
professional testers. Testing was every developer's job (though they weren't
called "developers" back then, or even "programmers"). We fought hard to
have testing recognized as a profession of its own, and though we have
people called "testers"
today, we still have the prudes. In many organizations, testers are, sadly,
considered lower-class citizens.

Testing holds a special place in my vision of the future of the computing
profession as a whole. Why? Because testing is the first place where we
generally get an independent and realistic view of what we are doing right
and what we are doing wrong when we build new systems. We do get this view
from Support (another area that's considered low-class), but by the time
information arrives from Support, the people who put the errors in a product
are often long gone and immune to learning from their mistakes.

Quite simply, if we don't learn to learn from our mistakes, we won't improve
as a profession. And if we don't improve, we limit whatever good this
amazing new (still) technology offers to humanity.

That's why I've made the status of testing and testers my first priority for
some years, and why I'm debuting my book on testing fallacies and myths at
CAST, the one conference that I feel is a creation of testers, by testers,
and for testers.

Michael: Recently you launched a new Web site, and your banner is "Helping
smart people to be happy."  Why did you choose that?

Jerry: Most of the people in the computing professions are pretty smart, at
least as measured by tests and the kind of technical work they accomplish.
But so many of them haven't learned how to use their smarts on themselves.
They can create wonderful systems, but when they use their brains to think
about themselves, they often think themselves into depression.

I was like that, for a long time, until I began to figure out what I was
doing to myself. I set myself the task of learning how to be happy, and as I
began to succeed, I realized that one of the things that makes me happy is
working with other happy people. So, selfishly, I decided I would devote
myself to helping my colleagues and students learn to share my happiness.
Like most things I do, it's completely selfish--but has side effects that
others may enjoy.

Michael: Why not "Helping happy people be smart?"

Jerry: If you're happy, you don't need to be smart. Smart isn't the only
road to happiness. It's not that I mind helping people be smart, or smarter,
but it's just not my primary goal. Nevertheless, I guess there are thousands
of people out there who would say I've helped them grow smarter in some way.
I think that's true of you, Michael, at least from what you tell me. I hope
I've helped you be happier, too.

Michael: Happier for sure, and smarter I hope.  I've learned about both from
conversations that I've had with you and other smart people.
I remember once that Joshua Kerievsky asked you about why and how you tested
in the old days--and I remember you telling Josh that you were compelled to
test because the equipment was so unreliable.  Computers don't break down as
they used to, so what's the motivation for unit testing and test-first
programming today?

Jerry: We didn't call those things by those names back then, but if you look
at my first book, and many others since, you'll see that was always the way
we thought was the only logical way to do things. I learned it from Bernie
Dimsdale, who learned it from von Neumann.

When I started in computing, I had nobody to teach me programming, so I read
the manuals and taught myself. I thought I was pretty good, then I ran into
Bernie (in 1957), who showed me how the really smart people did things. My
ego was a bit shocked at first, but then I figured out that if von Neumann
did things this way, I should.

John von Neumann was a lot smarter than I'll ever be, or than most people
will ever be, but all that means is that we should learn from him. And
that's why I go to a select number of conferences, like CAST and AYE,
because there are lots of smart people there to learn from. I recommend my
tactic to any smart person who wants to be happy.


Paying the Way
If you need help persuading your company to send you to the conference,
check out this:

And if all that fails, you can likely write off the cost of the conference
against your taxes, even if you're an employee. (I am not a tax
professional, but INC magazine reports that you can write off expenses to
"maintain or improve skills required in your present employment".  Americans
should see IRS Publication 970 (
http://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch12.html), Section 12, and ask your

Come Along and Spread The Word!
So (if necessary) get your passports in order, take advantage of early bird
registration (if you register this week), and come join us.  In addition
(and I'm asking a favour here), please please /please/ tell your colleagues,
both in your company and outside, about CAST.  We want to share some great
ideas on testing and other disciplines, and we want to make this the best
CAST ever.  And the event will only be improved by your presence.

So again, please spread the word, and come if you can.

---Michael B.

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