I presented a workshop “Developing Neural Networks using C#” at the Visual Studio Live conference, March 16-20, 2015. Visual Studio Live is a conference for software developers who use Microsoft technologies. VS Live has been around for many years and currently offers conferences in several cities. The March 2015 event was in Las Vegas, at Bally’s Hotel.
I estimate that Visual Studio Live had somewhere between 1,200 to 2,000 attendees. Most of the attendees I talked to were senior software developers who primarily program using Microsoft technologies, but frequently use non-Microsoft technologies too. Most attendees worked at mid and large size companies like banks, insurance companies, and Web focused companies like Expedia. But there were attendees from small companies too.
Visual Studio Live had about 100 sessions. Talk topics included ASP.NET, SQL Server, Azure, and so on. I think most of the talks were related to Web development, reflecting the technology chaos in that field.
Visual Studio Live is a good conference. What do I mean by that? Several things. First, attendees get good value. All the attendees I talked to said that most, or all, of the talks they heard were very good. Also, about 50% of the attendees in my workshop, had been to a Visual Studio Live conference before. This tells me that they felt they had gotten good value in the past. Finally, I enjoy Visual Studio Live myself — I had a good time, and went back to work with new knowledge and renewed energy.
There are a handful of what I consider good software developer conferences. Compared to these similar conferences, Visual Studio Live is slightly more serious in tone and slightly more homogeneous. Other events sometimes have more peripheral events than Visual Studio Live, and cover things like IT technologies and management. Don’t get me wrong — VS Live is serious, but there are plenty of fun events too. Especially when the venue is Las Vegas.
My all-day neural networks workshop was on Friday and had about 40 attendees. This was a lot more people than I had expected there’d be, and this suggests to me that interest in neural networks is increasing. And this in turn suggests to me that in the coming year or two, there will likely be an increase in interest in other machine learning techniques (such as data clustering) and data science topics (such as the R language).
Conferences like VS Live are too pricey (usually between about $1000 and $3000) for most people to pay for by themselves, so most attendees fees are paid for by their companies. In effect, VS Live is their annual training. I believe that VS Live training is, in the long run, far more effective than having a training company come to an employer’s place of work and deliver training there.