Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CAST 2012: The Meta Stuff

If you follow my twitter stream, you probably know that I was at CAST earlier this week. You probably also noticed that I sprained my ankle a couple weeks ago, and am very whiny about it. More likely, you stopped following me when I whined too much about the ankle.

Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. 6 of the 7 Software Test Pilots at the Omni Group attended this year, so it was not only a great learning experience, but also an opportunity for team-building. This is a new priority at Omni (to try to always send people to conferences in groups), and I think it's working. I also got to renew friendships and acquaintances from past testing conferences. (I've been to PNSQC twice and CAST once before, if I've kept proper count.)

This year I felt more like a peer and less like a child in a room full of adults. I didn't just sit at the feet of gurus, soaking up knowledge. I listened, but I also questioned. Some threads I started generated several yellow cards, so I think they were interesting, perhaps even valuable. The main thing that made me feel like I was a respected participant, though, was when the facilitators called on me by name rather than number. (Or maybe they just found it easy to recognize my scooter?)

Attending the conference with "alternate mobility" was an interesting experience. I've got an ankle boot that I wear almost all the time -- a plastic and velcro contraption. Then I've got a knee scooter that I use most of the time. I learned a bit about what it might be like to live with a permanent disability.*

I had just gotten comfortable maneuvering at home and work, where I know my way around and feel comfortable asking almost everyone for help. Traveling to an unfamiliar place, surrounded by strangers, was kind of exhausting. Every phase of the trip took extra attention. Help the van driver fit my scooter in the van. Climb into the van without hurting my foot. Check with airline personnel that I could take my scooter all the way to the gate. Go through security with my scooter and brace. Get my scooter carried up an escalator because the elevator was broken. And that was all before I left Seattle.

My traveling companions offered a lot of help, and even politely carried my bags when I voluntold them to. The hotel and conference staff made reasonable efforts to help me, but aisles were narrow, hallways were crowded, and my scooter wheels sank into the carpet making it harder to get anywhere. I became very self-conscious and caught myself saying "Sorry" just about every other sentence at some points.

My obvious injury proved to be great at starting conversations. Unfortunately, all those conversations were pretty much the same: "What happened?" "Is it broken?" "How long will you be stuck in that boot?" I know everyone meant well, but I was about ready to start making up answers: "I scored the winning goal in a soccer game while rescuing a baby from a burning building." "It's not broken, but if I remove the brace, my whole foot will just fall off." "Oh, I plan to keep wearing it indefinitely. I've asked for a green one for Christmas."

I aim to follow this up with some posts about the actual content of CAST over the next few days.

*Please forgive and correct me if I'm not using the currently preferred term here.