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Peter Grainger
Peter Grainger

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Microsoft Build 2020- working at home edition

I'm a little sick of reading about "the virus that shall not be named". However, if I wasn't home-bound along with the whole world I very much doubt I would be listening to Microsoft employees and partners talking about what's new with Microsoft. I'm not that interested in flying half way across the globe for a two day conference, there are enough great options in Europe.

I go to quite a few in person conferences normally and over the past few weeks I've been to a few online ones too. Hopefully I'm in a good position to give a balanced review.

So what's new in Microsoft?

Most of my work is either in C++, web development or Azure, so I didn't care about anything to do with office365, teams or Business Intelligence. If you want to know about those products the independent has an OK write up

As I'm in the UK I wasn't watching any of this live. Watching a repeat of a live broadcast is not fun. It's like watching a repeat of a football game, you don't feel like you are involved at all. However, the live chat at the side saves it a little bit as you can sometimes get a response to your questions. There seems to be quite a few people in a hoodie, which seems a little forced, I think they are trying to appeal to developers.

Most of the new features I cared about were first announced were at GitHub Satellite. Which is OK but for the fact I watched GitHub Satellite last week so already knew half of what they were announcing. The rest of the time was spent talking about how Microsoft are working towards having a complete developer system from build to deploy with minimal configuration. There were no bombshells.

So the "new" features that they kept going on and on about were:


Nearly every talk had something to say about codespaces. They take the headache out of setting up your system to work with a repo you don't normally work in. This is great and probably around 90% of slack messages in my organisation. Sign up for the beta here,


Windows Subsystem Linux (WSL) 2. Microsoft are backtracking on the WSL1 which didn't work as well as they expected. WSL2 is pretty much a linux VM that is accessible easily from the terminal.

DevOps Tooling

Not to be confused with the product Azure DevOps but they kept going on and on about how they are doing everything they can to make the feedback loop of coding to deploy to getting feedback on your system as small as possible. Not really an announcement but probably news to some.

What I'm liking about Build

Unlike most of the other online conferences it was over 48 hours with content relevant to different timezone and representatives from those timezones. I really appreciate this as most of the online conferences are in American timezone and I need my sleep :)

I also like how all the talks have a toggle to enable american sign language to accompany them.

There are different live tracks which are amusingly through teams. All of the presenters are really professional with very little stuttering or awkward pauses that I'm so used to now watching other conferences.

I had a one-on-one consultation on Azure DevOps which was really useful to get some feedback on one of the applications I'm working on for work.

The moderators are unbelievable. They answer your questions almost faster than you can write them. There must have been an army behind this conference.

The recordings are available immediately after broadcast. I always wonder why all the conferences take ages to do this...

Made me dive deeply into Blazor

I'd never heard of Blazor before today--not to be confused with Razor the template language. It's a way to make web pages using C# compiling to WASM so it can be ran on a browser. But not only web pages, you can use the framework to create a static front end and linked backend services at the same time.

I've played with WASM before but I think this is the first time it's been easy. This is one session that I think will have a direct impact on projects I'm working for. Most developer's I'm working with know C# and would probably enjoy writing in it more than JavaScript.

The Most confusing part is that there is also a project called Razor that is a template engine.

Well written learning modules

Microsoft have really well written learning modules, very up to date and thourogh. You can have a look at I'm going through a collection on languages and frameworks that I'm really enjoying.

The Best Part was a Session on MakeCode with Minecraft

The best part for me so far was the talk on Microsoft MakeCode with Minecraft Blocks. It may be because I have a small child but it was a really good fast paced talk and the presenter Salaman Chishti seems very genuine. Also MakeCode Arcade looks really good and I could probably waste many an hour making sprites.

Also nearly missed the talk by Gene Kim, author of pheonix project. He seems like a really nice guy and I always take something from his talks. Go see that one.

And the Worst Part was the Lack of Interactions

The worst part so far is the lack of interaction. Other conferences have gone to great lengths to get participant conversation. Sometimes it feels like I'm just watching videos rather than getting involved in a conference.

I would like to see more breakout sessions where participants get involved.

Plus... no swag. Disappointing.

Build is Probably the Best Organised Remote Conference

Probably the best organised remote conference I've been to yet. Really embracing the benefits of online. It still felt a little corporate and rehearsed but I didn't expect anything else--I actually expected it to be much worse.

Some pretty weak announcements compared to those at AWS:Reinvent but the amount of content they put out was really impressive and well organised.

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