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Reflections on Microsoft Build 2014

Posted by Ben Lucas on Apr 28, 2014 3:14:09 PM

I’ve attended many Microsoft conferences in the past, but this is the first conference where I can honestly say I didn’t attend a single disappointing session. After attending the conference, I thought it would make sense to distill some of the highlights.

Open Source

Day 2 Keynote – “Roslyn,” presented by Anders Hejlsberg (starting 1 hour 10 minutes into video)

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/KEY02

One of the big highlights of the conference was how Microsoft is more fully embracing Open Source. This struck home for me during the second keynote in which Anders Hejlsberg, the creator of C#, announced that the next generation compiler (codenamed “Roslyn”) was going to be placed under the Apache 2.0 open source license. During the keynote, Anders then proceeded to go to the codeplex project for Roslyn and made the project public. A few years ago, I would never have thought that Microsoft would ever consider open-sourcing something as key as the C# and VB.NET compilers. Yet, we now are in an era in which Microsoft is embracing the open-source community in ways we would have previously thought not possible. Microsoft took this a step further with the announcement of the .NET Foundation, a collection of open source projects on the .NET stack that have become foundational to modern applications built on the Microsoft stack. These projects are on the list, to name just a few: ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Web API, Entity Framework, Managed Extensibility Framework, and many more.

New (to me) Technology That I Want to use on my Next Project

Building a Single Page Application with ASP.NET and AngularJS, presented by David Catuhe and Jon Galloway

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/3-644

Prior to the conference, I attended a group architecture discussion about the merits of AngularJS vs. Knockout in which a colleague ardently advocated for the benefits of AngularJS. When I found out that there were several sessions at Build on AngularJS, I figured it would make sense to attend and learn more about this technology. David and Jon’s talk provided an excellent overview of Angular. They did run out of time towards the end of their talk, but I was impressed with how easy Angular appeared to be to use and how it solves not just the problem of data binding, but also how to initiate calls to the server. This session piqued my interest in finding out more.

SharePoint 2013 Apps with AngularJS, presented by Jeremy Thake

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/2-570

Many years ago, I worked as a SharePoint consultant; however, since joining Online, I have managed to stay out of the SharePoint space and been able to focus on custom application development. However, we do frequently get questions or needs around SharePoint. After listening to this talk, I am convinced of the value of Angular and the ways that it can enable developers to use modern techniques such as an MVC pattern in the SharePoint environment.

Most Quotable

Building a Large Scale JavaScript Application in TypeScript, presented by Erich Gamma

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/3-583

I had been unaware that Erich Gamma (of the Gang of Four) had joined Microsoft three years ago. When I saw that he was presenting one of the sessions, I knew I had to attend it. He has been working with the team responsible for Visual Studio Online, which has grown into a JavaScript application that contains more than 100,000 lines of code. To support this, they have moved to writing their code entirely in TypeScript.

As Erick described some of the pain points that his team felt, those same pain points resonated with my experiences and the difficulties that my team members have expressed to me.

One of Erick Gamma’s team members stated that writing JavaScript was like “carving code into stone,” referring to the difficulty and fear in attempting to change JavaScript code after it had been written. He also described the feeling of “being lucky” when your JavaScript worked. These experiences have resonated with the teams I have worked with and are one of the reasons that we have started adopting TypeScript for the projects we work on.

Best Non-Technical Session

IT’S A TRAP! 3 Remarkably Common UI Traps and How to Avoid Them in Your Designs, presented by Steve Herbst and Michael Medlock

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/2-660

Both of these presenters described themselves as psychologists at Microsoft, primarily working to understand how users interact with software so that we can get better at making software easier for users. This session had several interactive demos designed to help the audience understand their points. Frequently, when I have thought about what makes a good UI design, I would have described that design as being intuitive. After this talk, I have realized I need to choose a better word than intuitive. The point was made with regards to gestures, that there is no such thing as something that is intuitive because every gesture we make in life is something that we have learned. What we can do when designing a UI is focus on making the application easy to learn.

Were you at Microsoft Build? What sessions did you attend? I invite you to share your insights!

 

Topics: Microsoft, Professional Effectiveness

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