“Inspired,” said many of the attendees. Here’s why.
When blogs first took hold in the online community, back when there were few enough weblogs that they could be listed in aggregate, those early adopters of digital publishing formed one of the first Internet-driven communities. And in one of the great online-offline convergences, the drivers of this community began assembling in Austin every March, to share stories and break bread and reinforce their online ties with offline relationships.
Those assemblages evolved into SxSWi, a conference that now spans a week and encompasses nearly 20,000 attendees of all the monetizable corners of the Internet, and whose growth path certainly helped foster the creation of XOXO, an experimental festival celebrating independently produced art and technology, which concluded its second year yesterday, and which loosely tries to recapture some of the creative, intimate spirit of the old SxSW.
I feel fortunate—blessed? privileged? grateful—to have attended XOXO 2013, that rare conference where every single talk had value and poignancy, and where inspiration could be found almost everywhere. It’s a conference which focuses its 500-member assemblage on pure core values—community, creativity, and friendship—and reminds us all of the greatness that lies around and within us.
XOXO’s magic comes in the myriad ways that those values are able to surface. Attend the talks and come away awed and appreciative of the talent on stage and ideas put forth. Join in the evening music and film events for communal bonding on the dance floor, or on beanbag chairs with a bag of popcorn. Hit the arcade and tabletop events to play games ranging from physical to creative to raunchy. Buy a product directly from the person who brought it to life. Wander outside to the food trucks that made it easy to eat well without leaving the festival.
Few events provide so many diverse activities in one location, from morning past midnight. And fewer still create an environment of friendship and openness like XOXO. Everything was participatory,from sitting in a random seat for the talks to pulling up a chair for a game or a meal. Strangers—many of them introverts—readily introduced themselves to one another.Old relationships were rekindled, new friendships were made. Impromptu invitations to meals and drinks abounded, both in person and on Twitter. XOXO’s openness made it hard to feel left out, and harder still to not have fun.
Like the large majority of people in attendance, I came home truly moved by XOXO, my brain adrenalized by the many great presentations, my belly full from a weekend of great cuisine (and craft beer), my cheeks achy from smiling so much. I feel more connected, to other old-timers like myself as well as to those I just met, all of whose ideas and enthusiasm inspire me anew. I’m thoroughly energized and dreaming of possibilities.
And above all else, I can’t wait to make good on the promise we all implicitly made at the event, to organizers Andy Baio and Andy McMillan, and to one another: Create. Build. Ship. And turn all this excitement and inspiration into something new and wonderful.