Today's post has a local flavor, and it's something I've been mulling over since I got back from the CAST conference in Grand Rapids. Conferences are often expensive, they require travel, time commitment off work and away from family, and a need to negotiate flights, hotels, transportation, etc. These are indeed headaches, but the return on that hassle is often great interactions, learning new things and getting answers to questions I have from sources I might not have initially considered. Plus, I managed to make a new set of great friends each time I go.
For the past few years, we have also had a Saturday event happen before CAST, which has gone by a couple of different names (Test Retreat, Test Coach Camp, etc.) and this has been a much smaller affair. The costs are nominal, usually just enough to cover rental of a space and some snack foods during the day (attendees are encouraged to get breakfast before arriving and go as small groups for lunch). What I find great about the process is the model used for facilitation. Test Retreat/Test Coach Camp is run as an "un-conference"or an Open Space Conference. The topics are voted for democratically, and those people who want to be part of a particular topic participate, and those who don't, don't. Some sessions may have nearly all of the attendees, and some sessions may have two or three people. In both cases that is perfect, because the person speaking is sharing their experience and the people in need of hearing that message get to do so.
One of the challenges I have faced with being one of the leaders of the Bay Area Software Testers meetup is that we want to encourage more people to speak, but there are often limits to opportunities for those potential speakers to get in that space. We have done lightning talks and we are embarking on quarterly Lean Coffee events, but my personal goal is to do something that will help encourage more software testers, and in particular those in the Bay Area to come together, develop talks, practice speaking, conduct workshops, and engage with the broader testing community that's right here.
This is why I'm proposing that we do our own Open Space Conference, the Bay Area Software Testers Un-Conference (BASTUC) . One day, one place, and as many software testers as want to participate. Agenda? You set it! Topics? You decide! Speakers? In this case, I encourage everyone who would attend to come with at least one topic they would like to talk about, even if it's formative or just to say "I have so many thoughts going on in my head about THIS THING, and if I don't get together with some other people and discuss it, my head's going to explode!" Well, OK, we hope not literally, but we want to encourage testers to feel comfortable coming out and discussing the things that matter to them. Chances are, they matter to other people too.
For the record, I have not told Josh and Curtis about this. This is a blind side, and frankly, it's just an idea. I want to see if there would be support for it, and who would participate. If you want to play along, please leave a reply, and we'll take the next steps if this is something that appeals to enough people (and seriously, in my mind, if we get ten people interested, that's enough to move forward on this).
Also, the name is open to discussion, but I had to call it something ;).