When it comes to technology conferences, with their thousands of attendees, hundreds of sessions and A-list entertainment, the mantra is usually go big or go home. But smaller tech conferences, like GitHub Universe, which took place for the first time over two days this fall in San Francisco, are growing in number. GitHub, the software collaboration tool, enjoys a very deep technical community of developers, coders and programmers. Its user conference offered a kind of high-tech meets low-tech art vibe that incorporated interactive and design installations to engage attendees in tactile experiences that GitHub’s older, more seasoned cousins in the tech world may want to take note of.
GitHub Universe took place in what had been a burnt-out warehouse with no roof, no power and rusted-out walls on Pier 70 in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, where many tech companies are based. The company restored the site with electricity, Internet, lighting, even restrooms. The result was a venue at the intersection of the digital world and the very real one.
The goal? “An experience that included a palpable sense of community and an organic element of surprise and delight,” says Kelsey Schimmelman, event producer at GitHub. “The end result was a place where people felt immersed and inspired to have conversations with others passionate about working together to build great software.”
Two art installations helped GitHub Universe achieve that goal. First, it brought in an artist to recreate GitHub’s logo by placing mini plastic cups within the spaces of a massive on-site chain-link fence. That became a conversation starter among attendees and provided a backdrop for photos for social sharing. Also cool: the Obliteration Room, a white space that attendees decorated with colored stickers, working either by themselves or in collaboration with others, proving that even high-tech thinkers enjoy an occasional break from the digital realm. Agency: Manifold, San Francisco.