Engine Yard Distill 2014: The Essence of Development

1ENG2646Reinventing Events had the pleasure of producing for the second year, Engine Yard Distill, a two day, multi-track conference for people who create and build web and mobile technology. Distill attendees heard the latest ideas from a list of illustrious speakers, network with a vibrant group and be on the vanguard of web and mobile technology development.

This year’s event took place in the Palace of Fine Arts Exhibition Hall, previously known as the Exploratorium. With the all the playful laboratory items removed, Engine Yard had a blank canvas to work with. In fact, they even had a muralist, Candace Hopkins, create a world map in the Distill website theme.

We created three stages for the multi-track conference, each a different experience. The main stage offered a space for all attendees to come together for the start and finish each day, as well as serve as a breakout space. Rope and stanchions were put up during breakouts to encourage attendees to sit closer to the stage, which worked really well. The second breakout space had an open ceiling, with a canopy top and the third a theater with lap desks for attendees to use.

2ENG3776The venue space offered an existing stage which provided a unique backdrop to the ‘lunch and lawn games’ area. Just off the lunch and lawn games area was Distill’s own ‘coffee shop’ being prepared by the passionate baristas of Four Barrel coffee. It’s a really nice touch to offer attendees an espresso or their signature drip coffee.


Steve Souders, Chief Performance Officer at Fastly, opened the conference on day one with a talk titled, “The Perception of Speed.” Souders provided examples of how the perception of speed is completely independent of actual speed, and techniques for leveraging this perception gap to create websites that feel fast.

2ENG3769Attendees were treated to creative meals each day, beginning with a waffle bar and vegan, gluten-free strata options for breakfast on day one. For the second year in row, lunch time served as an opportunity for networking, as guests were given a lunch basket for six people and encouraged to find new friends to join them. One of our favorite parts of the day was seeing attendees run up to the line to find one last person to join their group.

After attendees were done with their meals, they could chose from a number of different lawn games, ranging from giant Jenga and bocce ball to a lunchtime ping pong tournament. The green astroturf and foliage was a great touch and helped the inside lunch area feel like an outdoor picnic space.

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Snack breaks were also served in this area and Engine Yard continued their tradition of working with local vendor favorites to provide tasty treats. The afternoon snack break on day one included an ice cream social hosted by Humphry Slocombe. Attendees noshed on three different ice cream flavors, including Humphry Slocombe’s signature flavor, Secret Breakfast.


After the conference concluded, things were just getting started for the “Polaris” kickoff party, held at the unique and industrial-feeling NWBLK gallery and venue space, located in the Mission District. Attendees were bussed to the venue and treated to a outer-space themed evening. Signature cocktails from Rye on the Road featured a glowing “Polaris Swizzle” comprised of vodka, lime, cucumber- jalapeño tincture on crushed ice, drizzled with hibiscus syrup. Tunes from DJ Jason Amarante kept the party going while guest networked amidst a room of futuristic glowing decor and constellation lighting, provided by Classic Party Rentals and McCune.


On day 2, guests were treated to a beignet bar and an assortment of delicious breakfast hand pies. Founder & Chief Development Officer at Indiegogo, Danae Ringelmann, kicked off day two of Distill, sharing her experience as a successful entrepreneur and inspiring others. An assortment of vegan tea breads and smoothies filled everyone up for the morning break and prepped them for a bbq feast at lunch.

In the afternoon, attendees snacked on goodies from another local favorite, Dynamo Donut. The always popular Maple Glazed Bacon Apple was a big hit, in addition to an assortment of other flavors, including gluten-free spiced chocolate. With donuts in hand, attendees also enjoyed a cocktail reception with local beer and wine and signature Distill cocktails.


Continuing last year’s tradition, at the end of second day, Engine Yard offered attendees the opportunity to submit ‘lightning talks’. The five talks accepted had mere hours to put their five-minute pitches tEngine Yard Teamogether. It was motivating to hear these delightful, entertaining and passionate talks at Distill.

To close the conference, Ben Huh, Founder and CEO of Cheezburger, shared his thoughts on what’s coming in the technology and its cultural business impacts. He showcased funny fails, cute and crazy cats in a talk titled, “Making the world happy for five minutes a day.”

Reinventing Events loved working with the Engine Yard staff to produce another successful Distill. What essence of development did you learn?


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