Yesterday I’ve returned from the Build conference in Redmond. The content was awesome, the swag was awesome and, most importantly, the people were awesome. But there were a few less than perfect things which can be reduced to one …
This was my first visit to Microsoft’s campus, so it was really interesting in that regard. Other than that it’s hard to explain the choice of venue.
Except for keynotes which were held in what is now known as BAT (big-ass-tent) the rest of the sessions were held in 2 buildings (Microsoft Building 33 and 92). As you can guess by the building numbers these are not particularly close. Here’s the map:
It takes at least 15 minutes to walk from one to the the other. Microsoft tried to mitigate this by running shuttle buses between the buildings. I’ve tried to use the bus once. Ended up waiting 10 minutes for the bus in the rain and then when I finally got to the other building the session I wanted to attend was already full. So from day two I decided to choose the first session of the day and based on that stay in the same building for the day.
Another consequence of this layout was the need to have 45 minute breaks between the sessions. I’m not sure I mind this since that left more time for networking which is the most valuable part of the conference anyway (especially considering online availability of the content). But it’s worth mentioning that all the content would easily fit into 3 days if it was in the same building with ~15 minute breaks. And we could’ve had more content on day 4 (I’ve heard some sessions didn’t fit in).
One of the main selling points of doing the event on campus was supposed easy access to Microsoft employees. While I was told that we actually got more talks by real engineers (as opposed to evangelists) than we would if the event was held somewhere else, I’ve heard from multiple Microsoft employees that they were forbidden to get close to the conference. Add that to the fact that they have their own life in Seattle area (spouses, kids, hobbies) and they have to go home and you actually get less access to them than you would if they were on “workation” in Vegas.
This is totally random. Sorry for mentioning it here. But on the day I arrived I wanted to get a beer. So I wiped out my Windows Phone, launched Local Scout and found the closest place to the hotel that served beer and burgers. It’s called Red Robin (a chain burger joint). So I went there and ordered a beer. Bartender asked me for my ID. (and no, I don’t look like I could be younger than 21). I complied and gave her my European Union ID card. She was really genuinely sorry, but said that it wasn’t good enough and she needs a proper passport (which I left at the hotel). I was a little upset, but agreed to settle for a burger w/o beer. To my surprise she said that not only I’m not getting a beer, but can’t stay in the “bar area” of the establishment and non-bar (restaurant) area was full. Oh, well.
When I returned to the same restaurant on the last day of my trip with passport in my pocket no one seemed to care about my age.
I don’t know if this is a state of Washington thing or what. I wasn’t asked for passport in US (except at border control) never before and never after that accident.
Few notes on the hotels
Night shot of my hotel taken with Nokia Lumia 920
Tim Heuer has a great post with hotel tips for PDC in 2010. I would add one thing though.
I’ve chosen Silver Cloud Inn Redmond based on proximity to the event and actually walked from and to it from the Microsoft campus. That’s great, but … There was a great and free shuttle service from/to all of the official conference hotels (there were 17 of them) so the proximity to Microsoft wasn’t that important. On the other hand I’ve been to 2 parties (including some drinking and late return to the hotel) in the Bellevue center, plus I went there for shopping and actually went to the airport on a public bus (yes, I’m cheap) with layover in Bellevue center.
So, if I had to choose again I would choose a hotel in downtown Bellevue, rather than close to Microsoft Campus.
It was great, really!
I know this post sounds sour, but lets write this off on the fact that I was born in USSR or am European or whatever. I’m having hard time praising the awesome things (they were awesome what’s there to talk about?) and would rather mention the things I didn’t like (things that can be improved on). That said //build/ was awesome and I would do it again without blinking.
See you at BUILD 2013!