Recap of the 2020 Visual Studio Live Conference

I spoke at the 2020 Visual Studio Live Conference. The event ran from March 1–6, in Las Vegas at Bally’s Hotel. VS Live is a conference for software developers and technical managers who use Microsoft technologies. It’s one of my three favorite technical conferences.

I estimate there were about 250-350 attendees, speakers, and staff. A typical attendee was a senior developer at a large company or a state or federal agency. For example, I talked to people who worked at insurance companies, energy companies, and banks, and several different kinds of government agencies. Attendees were overwhelmingly male, which is normal for developer conferences, but it seemed to me that the number of women attending is slowly increasing at VS Live and other events.

Left: The main lobby area at VS Live. Right: I had a short but interesting conversation with one of the vendors at VS Live.

The was the 27th year for the VS Live event. The fact that VS Live has been around for so many years is a testament to its quality and its adaptability. The event organizers, Danielle, Brent, Sara, and the rest, do a great job with regards to logistics and keeping the topics up to date and relevant.

Unlike most developer conferences which happen once a year, there are several VS Live events every year in different cities. The conference Web site lists Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Denver, Redmond, New York, San Diego, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Orlando, and San Francisco. See for details.

I presented an all day workshop, two technical talks, and one informal talk.

My workshop was “Implementing Machine Learning Using C# and Visual Studio”. I showed attendees how to code machine learning systems from scratch, without using any code libraries. We spent most of our time looking at logistic regression and k-nearest neighbor classification.

One of my technical talks was “Introduction to Azure Machine Learning Studio”. I spent several minutes explaining single hidden layer neural networks and then demonstrated how to create a NN prediction system for the well-known Fisher’s Iris Dataset.

Left: My talk on ML.NET and AutoML was well-attended. Right: My all-day hands-on workshop was exhausting but a lot of fun.

My second technical talk was “Introduction to ML.NET and AutoML”. I explained that ML.NET is a C# code library but that it’s very difficult to use directly, but that AutoML can automatically generate ML.NET code. I presented a demo using a dummy dataset where the goal was to predict the sex of a person based on their age, income, job type, and job satisfaction.

I can recommend the Visual Studio Live event. It’s smaller than many other developer conferences, but the speakers are excellent and there was at least one talk I wanted to sit in on in every time slot. Of course, the main problem related to attending a conference is usually cost. You can’t really afford to pay for yourself so you want to get your company to send you. All the attendees I talked to said that they felt that their company was getting good value by sending them to the event.

I know I get huge value by speaking at the VS Live conference. It keeps me informed and up to date with trends in the software development community, I learn a lot of good tech stuff, and I return to my workplace with renewed energy which makes me more productive.

Two signs I noticed while in Las Vegas. Left: Less than one cent – that is a really low price for a souvenir. Right: “Choose your style”, repeat. Copy-paste errors are not limited to coding.

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