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XOXO: Marry Me! | nina eleanor alter
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In thoughts

By ninavizz

XOXO: Marry Me!

On 25, Sep 2012 | No Comments | In thoughts | By ninavizz

This past weekend’s XOXO Festival changed my life. Ok, it probably didn’t, but the buoyancy I felt leaving Portland last weekend had me feeling otherwise. For now at least: it’s opened my eyes, lifted my spirits, inspired me to believe in ideas I’d been uncertain of, re-inspired me to believe in myself, and reminded me of all sortsa good I’d always “known” was there—but is so easy to loose sight of in the day-to-day.

I love you XOXO, for being a conversation.
Your stage was not one for competitive broadcasting. No products were discussed in the limelight of their own glory. Your organizers may have even contributed the most, by allowing themselves to dissolve into two of the most engrossed fankids in the audience. And, for then sharing their awe & thoughts with the rest of us. No polish. Just two dorky guys. Your two Andys.

Speakers fell from their pateaus of industry importance, and into the sleepover pile-up of excitement that had overtaken the rest of the conference hall. Each was visibly present in the small crowd, listening to and thinking about what other speakers had to say. Some deliberately positioned what they had to say as conversational links between what was said by preceding folks, and what they hoped to maybe hear answered by those to follow.
 ·  ·

I love you XOXO, for your inclusive warmth.
You inspired most of the speakers to forget their notecards and to instead just ad-lib through their presentations. To be their human selves for the rest of us to gawk at, feel inspired by, and identify with. Nobody was a general—least of all the organizers—everyone just a soldier, all in the service of optimism & possibility.
 ·  ·

I love you XOXO, for the platform you offered to those comfortable with public displays of humility.
Even the VCs I met, I liked! Pretty certain it wasn’t just the beer, though WOW! Green tea beer?! Pages of wheat varietals? Portland: could you maybe swap places with Napa whenever I have a weekend to drive North?
 ·  ·

I love you XOXO, for allowing the puddle of creative, inspired geeks to just subsist and thrive on our own mutant strains.
Ok, yes, radical inclusion is wonderful—but marketers can hurt our brains, and sometimes web celebs and social media experts prompt spurts of self-withdrawl and alienation. VIP parties are fun to dress-up for, but can you beat a conference festival that in its entirety, occupies a small handful of bars on the same block, a few food trucks, and a funky old building? I came home without a hangover from industrial floor cleaner fumes. Thank you.
 ·  ·

I love you XOXO, for being about people and not about products.
Not only did the speakers present themselves as average Janes and Joes, but conversations tended to always fork-off and into broader discussions of business existing with or against what we want to see our world become. How our day to day outputs do or don’t affect all of us collectively, for better or for worse. No Birkenstocks. Just. Naked (but wearing Chuck Taylors). Honesty.

We confronted Capitalism honestly and as eager do-good-ers conflicted by our deep, burning, rampant desires to participate in this Capitalist mess of a world that is easy to feel disempowered to change. No: we re-empowered one another to challenge ourselves and our paradigms we feel subservient to, to make amazing change happen. Combustion of change in a FUN, participatory, aspirational way, and not in a boring or asshattedly Berkeley Bowl kinda way. P.S. You rule, Chad!
·  ·

I love you XOXO, for getting over yourself before you ever happened.
The absence of sexy product launches: I coulda never predicted such an anomaly as so damn refreshing, but like—wow—it was!  No structured workshops, core conversations, programming tracks or exclusive gatherings. Just a giant open-air hall of handmade things, most excellent and fun Makers, epic coffee, and then a smattering of food trucks and picnic tables outside. You curated a space, and limited the programming to just neat stuff, shared ideas all around from the folks more loaded with stories than monies, and just enough attendees to complete the experience w/o bulldozing it’s potential for reciprocity. I think I may actually use all your schwag, too—instead of feeling half exploited and half guilty from it’s fun-at-the-time accumulation.

That TED guy? I was SO into him. The Texan, too. I was. I thought each were the sun, the moon; the go-to fun places “for work,” and also thee coolist kids evar on the block (even though I could never afford that sosh, TED). Your initial proposition was to merely put a bird on it, and baby: The Eagle, you landed! And cool-ness? Yeah, you put that smack into the Yoga Supplies aisle at Berkeley Bowl, where it’s belonged all along.
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XOXO: Will you marry me? Will you remain in this world and in public conversations, year after year, till mundane complacense do us part?
I realize, that’s not an easy thing to ask. What’s the likelyhood those Andy guys will always hit the nail on the head with curating the right things, the right folks, hitting the right creative nails, year after year? Should they invite guest curators? Should they chalk this year up as an anomily? Should they feed from the crowd’s inspiration and believe in themselves to repeat the same strokes of serendipitous wonder for next year? Should it be once a year? Once every two or three years? Should they restrict the attendance to just 400? How to keep that same audience spirit alive with either all new folks all the time, or all the same folks all the time? CAN you hold onto a feeling of a particular integrity? SHOULD you even try? IF they never cave to Evil Corporate Sponsorship, will each year depend on Yet Another Kickstarter?

There was an energy present this year. A vibrance. After the first year, it’s never as good—it was always better the year before, or the year before that. Right? Maybe not. I’m oddly optimistic, that the final act in this year’s XOXO! Festival, will be how it moves into the presence of 2013. How it may challenge expectations, serendipity, or something TBD.
 ·  ·

XOXO: You don’t have to decide now. Think about it. Really. Just know: I do love you. 
I love it that one of your Andys created one of my favorite-ever digital communities, that then became an early casualty to Big Corporate Soul-Sucking Buyouts. That you were in part born from your upcoming.Andy then getting reflective & thoughtful on what for so many, could only be seen as a Big Lousy End. I love it that you weren’t born from perfection. Hell, I was heartened to see the Tweet exposing that you didn’t even think ahead enough to have one Square reader for your Square-dependent booze vendor in the movie hall! I mean: I did miss the W+K party, and that could have been a douchefest. But I also heard that the neighboring taverns just naturally filled with its bored wanderer-off’rs.

Your venue’s single bathroom SO tanked—but then the trailer you brought in, was like: so nice! There were some unused spaces in the building that could have been used interestingly. Or was it nice that they were just left well enough alone? I was wanting to see some interesting room-specific art installations (well duh, being an installation artist)—but maybe the unused space—just something left alone for once—maybe that was the right thing? Oh, and the building? GORGEOUS, but one of the 2×4 boards used as window-props did fall-out an down onto the street. 3 feet away from my friend. Might wanna mention to the venue peeps, that some leashes might be handy to advert future head injuries, for all several dozen of said 2x4s.

Plugging-in: I loved it that so few folks had their laptops out. Those who did? They made meaningful contributions to share their experience (for the most part, I’m assuming). The WiFi was great. I loved the natural sense of meatspace community that the entire shindig fostered. I’m a geek though, and the sparse 110 outlets to charge-up while sitting in rapt attention to my meatspace surroundings: I do have actual OCD, and that was kinda a persistent obsessive compulsion that was hard to shift my brain away from obsessing to a bloody pulp-reel. Maybe my idea of daisy-chained Ace Hardware $7 power-strips zip-tied to the backs of chair-legs, a few per-row, per aisle-side; maybe that’s just an OCD geek fantasy. Or maybe it coulda been useful? Diesel tow-in rental generators are an option, if such a grande old space isn’t hard-wired to juice-up 500 dorks and their 1000+ devices.
 ·  ·

Ok, that’s all. I had WAY too much to drink. Beer and coffee, both. I saw and delightedly caught-up with many, many folks I hadn’t seen in far too long, and met lots of new folks I just felt lucky to come into contact with, if only for the energy, enthusiasm, nutty creativity, and determination to make a difference, that we all seemed to share. I came home hoarse, developed a head-cold 3 days later, and 6 days after that I’m still fighting-off the dippy cold.

Please consider the proposal. I meant it. I need to now kick this head-cold though, quit writing this totally (likely?) riddiculously-styled article, and go forth to put my newfound inspiration, excitedness, and determination, to work. Stay tuned, world! And, don’t be a stranger. xoxo!
· ·

These are a few wonderful links I found, summarizing or offering insights from the festival. The first one reminded me, that my flight snafu out of SFO had me entirely miss-out on the arcade. That, officially, I would mark as my one and only bummer-tag on the whole thing.

Oh—and, one of the below articles notes, that waved-release ticketing would be a great way to hurdle the early adopter only issue. And, well: coinkeedink! My in-the-works-ticketing startup, will offer that as a preferred option to the ever lousy lottery!
· ·

Adam Mathes · @adammathes
Considerably more articulate than my girly babbldey-gush above. Thoughful, cultural anthropological insights. Great, quick read. http://trenchant.org/daily/2012/9/25/ 

Punk-rock, personal, simple. Lotsa warm fuzzies from this one.

Others I have yet to read
BoingBoing! http://boingboing.net/2012/09/19/xoxo.html
The Verge http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/19/3359592/xoxo-festival-2012-internet-party-conference
WiReD Magazine! http://www.wired.com/business/2012/09/xoxo-counterculture/
NYT http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/xoxo-a-festival-of-indie-internet-creativity/
kottke: http://kottke.org/12/09/some-thoughts-about-xoxo
Ben Ward: http://benward.me/blog/xoxo
Anil Dash, liveblogging: http://dashes.com/anil/2012/09/xoxo-jomo-live-blogging-the-conference.html 

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