If there was one overriding theme to the comments that I heard, and made, about Microsoft’s Build 2013 Conference, it was about the lack of session details available to attendees prior to the event. At registration, the only information provided were the titles, times, presenters and the notoriously subjective and ambiguous “level.” Detailed descriptions were not available until an update to the Channel 9 Events app that occurred late on the first day. Deciding between “New Platform Capabilities for Advancing Web Development” and “Improving Developer Productivity and Software Quality and Software Quality with Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Tools” is a Rorschach’s test in nerd perception.

So that you, dear reader, will not be similarly left in the dark, I thought it might be helpful to have a guide to the stand-out session recordings you might want to check out over at the Channel 9 site. A quick check of my notes tells me that I managed to make it to 11 sessions and only walked out on two. I think this qualifies me to inaugurate “Newman’s Own Totally Subjective and Unofficial Build 2013 Awards.”

The “My Colleague is Really Glad I Went to This Session” Award

“Scaling the Real-time Web with SignalR,” presented by Damian Edwards

I haven’t had a chance to use SignalR yet, but a colleague of mine recently deployed a natural gas monitoring app that makes use of it. Being a bit jealous and not wanting to be left behind, I chose this session instead of standing at the cookie/cheese pretzel table and boy I am glad I did. This one was chock full of helpful performance testing suggestions and proper use of implementation patterns. So much so, that in telling my colleague about it, I was able to point him in the direction of a fix for a particularly troublesome load balancing bug they’ve been experiencing.

The “Most Ridiculous Queue” Award

“What’s New in ASP.NET and Visual Studio 2013,” presented by Scott Hanselman

Scott is becoming the odds-on favorite for packing the house at any presentation. Living in Oregon has provided me a goodly number of chances to see his standup programming performance. His presentation skills are truly remarkable and he packs a ton of good info into his demos. But when the day two keynote ran long and I left to go to Scott’s session, the line waiting to get in might have rivaled the one across town waiting to get into Bieber’s concert. I had to pass, but it is definitely on my list of recordings to watch online.

The “Look at the Big Brain on Bill” Award

“Designing for Ubiquitous Computing,” presented by Bill Buxton

This was another title so vague that I was planning on skipping this session. That is until I saw the line to get into Hanselman’s session and ran into a colleague who reminded me that Bill Buxton was from Microsoft Research and those guys always bring the goods. We walked out of this session feeling like our brains had been stretched in new and interesting ways. This session has nothing to do with any particular platform initiatives or even anything Microsoft specific, but I still find myself harkening back to Bill’s truth bombs. Do yourself a favor and watch this one.

The “Can We Have This Released Now?” Award

“TypeScript: Application-Scale JavaScript,” presented by Anders Hejlsberg and Steve Lucco

There have been a number of great client-side programming advances recently, but we still find ourselves struggling with JavaScript, a language that was designed, according to Anders, to support programs hundreds of lines long, not thousands. Anders, et al have developed a solution to provide us design time type checking and all the wonders that come with it (intellisense, debugging, etc.) that is so elegant it has me chomping at the bit for them to go ahead and release it already!

The “Most Hilariously Unintentional Interactive Demo” Award

“Building REST Services with JavaScript,” presented by Nathan Totten

This was the final session of Build 2013 for me and while the topic was interesting and the presentation top notch, this turned out to be the most unintentionally entertaining demo of the three days. When Nathan demonstrated how easy it was to publish his Node.js application to Azure complete with Socket.io and provide SignalR-like pub/sub between browsers, that was the queue for the audience to start “beta testing” his new application. Especially fun was the moment when Nathan’s demo browser announced that it wanted beer. He was a very good sport and his reaction when he realized the trap he’d set up for himself was priceless.