Microsoft 2014 Build Conference – Recap

I spoke at the 2014 Microsoft Build Conference. Build is Microsoft’s conference for software developers. Build used to be called “PDC”, which stood for the Professional Developers Conference. Build 2014 was in San Francisco and ran from Wednesday, April 2 through Friday, April 4. Build had a total of about 8,000 people, which includes attendees, speakers, vendors, and press.

I talked about recent and future trends in neural networks. Here’s an image of the video recording of my talk which you can watch at:


Overall, I’d give this Build conference a rating of “good but not great”. On the plus side, I liked the overall messaging of a vision of unifying software development across many platforms including the desktop, Web, phone, Xbox, and everything else. On the negative side, I felt there were too many talks about phone devices, but that’s just my preference and doesn’t reflect the importance of integrating phone with server systems (as opposed to lightweight phone apps).

Also, the logistics of the keynotes were strange to say the least. Normally at Build, there’d be three keynote talks. Each would be about one hour long. The first keynote would be the morning of the first day, where the CEO would give a vision statement and a few important business or technology announcements. The other two keynotes would be on the mornings of the second and third days, and be delivered by senior VPs. This approach is standard because it works well.

At this year’s Build, the first keynote was three hours long and was delivered by five or six different people, including the CEO who spoke last. After the first two hours of keynote, I was completely fatigued and had little interest in the CEO’s or anyone else’s comments. Common sense tells anyone (except apparently whoever set up the keynotes at Build this year) that three hours of key announcements is an oxymoron. The second keynote was like the first, a punishing three hour marathon on the second day. The keynote structure was incomprehensible.

But of course, developers go to Build to hear about software development. The talks I heard at Build ranged from great to weak. Many of the attendees I talked to said they felt that too many of the talks were aimed at managers instead of at developers. I’d tend to agree. I also heard lots of complaints about the food (breakfast and lunch) at Build. I’d agree — the food at Build 2014 was by far the worst food at any conference I’ve ever spoken at — I’m not exaggerating, the food was not good at all. I’ve got news for the Build organizers: attendees really, really care about the food at a conference.

Anyway, I enjoyed Build a lot. I learned a lot, talked to a lot of interesting people, and more than anything else, got my developer batteries recharged. Build 2014 was good, but could have been great.

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