I was not at the first XOXO festival and from the day the Kickstarter was funded I swore that if there was another that I would be there. Luckily, I was able to make that happen.
But, I want to go back in time, just a tiny bit. The time is May, 2011 and I’m attending my very first SxSW, going to the ThinkUp App meetup at the Ginger Man Pub. Gina Tripani is busy chatting with loads of awesome folks, so I grabbed a pint and took a seat. Lo and behold who sits down right next to me but Andy Baio. Andy didn’t know me but he immediately introduced himself and the conversation started. We talked of the advantages of being a generalist versus a specialist and various industry trends. But the big talk of the week was that SxSW may have finally collapsed. The love wasn’t there and it had been overrun completely with all the words you see on Unsuck It. It’s this very moment that I like to think that I may have witnessed the first XOXO seed planted in Andy’s mind. I’m sure it wasn’t, but it’s one of my favorite memories from that SxSW. For the record I had an amazing time at that SxSW, but I could see what Andy and other old timers were talking about.
So, back to now. XOXO is a thing that had happened. The first was almost universally lauded. Now, the immense challenge to do it again loomed large. There was the inevitable backlash against how tickets were made available by application only. I got a conference ticket and my wife didn’t. So, that made things a little less awesome. I wasn’t the only one in that scenario though. It’s a hard problem and they’re trying to get it right. After it was over there were some grumblings of it being a “cool kids” club. It’s not everyday that I get to count myself in the company of Jason Snell and Glenn Fleishman in saying “if it’s a ‘cool kids’ club, what am I doing here?”
Frank Chimero mentioned the impostor syndrome in his wonderful reflection of XOXO and of course it immediately resonated with me. Here I was with any number of amazingly creative people, some Indie A-list and some not, and what do I have to show people? I stash stuff in so many places around the internet it’s hard for me to even keep track of them. I have more failed, err, I mean abandoned writing ideas that I can count. That’s a total lie, I can easily count to 75. But Andy, Andy, and whoever else they may have gotten to help pick applicants decided I was worth a festival pass. For that, I can’t thank them enough.
So, without rehasing the talks, the festival, or anything else, I’m putting it down in words right now: next year, I will have works (yes, plural!) for my “application” (if that’s even a thing) that I will proudly show to anybody that dares to ask. XOXO sent me away completely reinvigorated, not only to get back to creating some of my own work, but to think hard about why I’m so down on my creative abilities. Again, Frank is a must read on this area as well.
There wasn’t a single person at XOXO that heard me talk about the job that I perform at an ecommerce company and looked down on that. That kind of community is one I want to be a part of forever.