It's that time in this series! Day 4, Monday morning. Time for the keynote! I set off bright and early for WSCC in the hope of making the front row. Being 'vertically challenged' as they say means if I am too far back I always have heads in the way.
I arrived and was surprised to find that there were about 20 people ahead of me. But I was still OK with that. It would be fine. A few moments later they actually let us all in to the next stage of queueing which was a much bigger area with the usual rope system to keep us out of the door. I was about two rows back from the front as I lost out in the run for a good position.
On the way though I spotted the Lounge area which became famous at Build (more on that later in the post) which was somewhere I really wanted to find so that was awesome! I also met some guys in front of me who had been queueing since 4am, before the building even opened! As you can imagine that led to a few famous people coming out to snap selfies and talk to them including Scott Hanselman and Seth Juarez which was kinda cool!
After a long wait just before the keynote began, a bunch of people started going in from the far left outside our little area. I quickly learned these were MVP's and Regional Director's so asbsolutely deserved a slot at the front. After a while the rest of us were allowed in however I felt the organisers made a huge mistake at this point.
How? You may be wondering. The answer is which section of the barrier they lifted first. You would expect the men who had queued since 4am would go straight in first. First in, first out but no, they opened a different section. I thought that was really unfair. So if anyone happens to read this who is involved in next year, I would suggest you justly reward people who queue super early.
Once inside the hype was real! I was sat on the right hand side of the auditorium so my best view was one of the large screens rather than the actual stage but I could still see it so I still got goosebumps when it started and the amazing Charlotte Yarkoni came on stage to kick things off. If you don't know who Charlotte is, she is the Corporate Vice President for Microsoft and a fantastic example of a smart and talented woman in a position of power.
What followed was just amazing. It had it all! Amazing uses of AI including in-time captions of meetings (more later). This is an excellent example of what Microsoft is about these days when it comes to AI. What you should do with AI instead of just what you can do. It shouldn't just be about making phone calls and booking an appointment, AI and ML should be about changing lives, including everybody.
There is a summary of the announcements here so you can review them at your own convenience but I will list some of my personal favourite announcements:
- A partnership with the drone company DJI to bring a Windows SDK and Azure Sphere to their commercial drones. Just think of the uses of this in the developing world and sectors such as security and agriculture! They even had a professional drone pilot on stage to demo scanning pipework for abnormalities and applying AI techniques to report back with this information immediately.
- Introduction of ML.Net into preview, allowing developers to bring the power of Azure Cognitive Services into any .Net project.
- One of my personal favourite announcements was future support for Alexa + Cortana together. There was a super cool demo showing how the two can be 'friends' and allow you to do simple but helpful things like send an email from Alexa using Outlook/Microsoft 365. Not only is this quite cool if you work in a private office and can speak your requests, or have a car with Alexa in but the delivery on stage was 'on point'. Alexa even made a joke about both of them having a ring of light but Cortana's is more like a Halo. Who says all commercial software has to be boring!
- An enhancement of meetings using AI and other IoT technology gave me goosebumps. They had a meeting room on stage where people were in a meeting. The meeting room knew who everyone was and greeted them as they entered as a kind of automatic register. But what really got me was the live translation into text of all audio between different languages. This meant the meeting was instantly accessible not only to those who maybe don't speak the same language as the others natively but also those with hearing impairments. It was completely in real-time so it means not one single person there would have been at any kind of disadvantage when it comes to taking part. This is EXACTLY what technology should be doing. Levelling the playing field for eveyrone.
Part 2 of Day 1 keynotes next but between that we had the amazing Allison come on stage and get about 4000 people in the audience and maybe at home doing some stretching. Just simple exercises for the wrists, shoulders and neck but very important when you are sendantry for as long as we were that day.
Next up to host part 2 then was the amazing Scott Gu! Still crazy to think I was so close to him.
Highlights from this announcement for me:
- Visual Studio Live Share which allows people running Visual Studio and/or Visual Studio Code to pair program in real time. Including cursor following, shared server instances and access to a partner's code without having it cloned yourself. In a world where remote work is becoming more and more common, this is a real game changer.
- Visual Studio Intellicode. This feature uses AI to prioritise the most commonly used methods so they appear at the top of the list when you type . instead of always being alphabetical. Some out of the box examples include substring when you . on a string object as this is always one of the most used. But the more you use it, the more it will learn what you use most often and customise your intellisense to reflect that.
- The now infamous "Let me add some value" "Hi I'm Scott, I'm new here" interaction when Scott Hanselman's microphone died and he had to somehow manage typing while holding a temporary microphone and Scott Gu came to his rescue.
There were quite a few other announcements of interest, but the above ones were what got me the most excited as a hobbyist that doesn't have the requirements or budget to use all these cool new/enhanced things announced for Azure such as Kubernets (AKS).
I am sure I COULD find ways to use all of these things but sadly time is finite and I can't fit all these ideas in my head or schedule.
As soon as the keynote was over we all left. It was lunch now so there was a large crowd of people all heading in that direction. Jim Bennett had given me the heads up that I wanted to head to the Xamarin Univeristy booth first as there was some swag worth getting my hands on so I tried to do that but I was forced to go in the river of lunch people and the crowds were just too overwhelming so I bailed until later and headed to the Lounge area.
This Lounge area had the infamous Cuddle Corner. Yes it's as cute as it sounds. They had brought in three minature ponies, a goldren retriever and 3 bunnies from a specialist centre for therapy animals. Even Satya visited at one point I heard.
As I walked down the Lounge area I spotted Jim which was nice as it meant a friendly face and some breathing room but as I got closer I got a little excited because stood chatting to him was Miguel. THE Miguel, founder of Mono/Xamarin and OSS legend for his other work. We got introductions which was awesome. I will of course write another post about the other days but one thing I will say is I saw Miguel twice more while at Build. He remembered me both times including where I lived and on the latter occasion he was actually leaving Seattle when we bumped into each other on the street and he recognised me and hugged me goodbye. Miguel really is as lovely as the rumours say!
The rest of the day at the actual conference was spent with a mixture of sessions and meeting people in the Lounge area who I have followed for a long time. Some I already called friends like Matt Soucoup, some I had talked to in the past like Laurent Bugnion and some who probably didn't even know who I was until Build like Brandon Minnick. Matt, Laurent and Brandon are in the Cloud Developer Advocate team specialising in Xamarin like Jim .
I also got to meet so many other amazing CDA's over the course of the week and one common theme meeting all of them was how each and every one of them was just absolutely lovely. They all made conversation, took an interest in what I do and why I was there and 'talked shop' with me about anything I wanted. Some examples include Burke Holland, Maxime Rouiller, Assim Hussain, Simona Cotin (who I was lucky enough to meet last December actually at the UK MVP and Community Leader 2-day event I attended), Shane Boyer and Christina Warren (yes she is just as amazing and lovely off camera as she is on it!).
This team Jeff Sandquist has put together is like no team I have ever come across before in any organisation. Fun, passionate, generous in spirit and time, knowledgable and with an unrivaled talent for making you feel at ease!
Later that evening, I was signed up to a private dinner for the CDA Build guests and some of the CDA team. We had a delicious 3-course dinner and listened to Brianna Wu discuss her experiences with gamergate and why she is running for politics. It was so inspirational to hear how she is using her harrowing experiene to make a real difference. What a brave and incredible woman, thank you Brianna!
Wow what a day! I tried to slim the content down as much as I could without it losing too much value as there was a lot going on so I hope you enjoyed reading it.
I look as you would expect when jetlagged and having spent all day in crowds but I got a selfie with Christina holding the logo for the .Net user group here in Manchester! They are good friends of mine and actually have a logo I happened to have a sticker of so I flew it transatlantic to pose with inspirational people hehe.