by adam mathes
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XOXO Recap

XOXO Fest was last weekend.

Hugs and Kisses

Andy Baio opened the festival and made explicit that this was an event that had been filtered specifically to people who would show up to something with “hugs and kisses” in its name.

Basically, this was intended as an event to celebrate creators and creative output. It was not an event for the “haters.”

Although I may have in the past had a reputation for being highly critical, I have been trying to channel my energy into creating things I want to exist and spend less time criticizing, so I appreciated that that tone was set explicitly. I tried to respect it.

The Right Crowd

Festivals like this only work when the right people attend.

I would have gone to this conference based purely Andy Baio’s credibility. While XOXO wasn’t “waxy-con” this was not a conference that sprung up and people gave $400 to attend on a whim because it just sounded neat – it was in large part a result of Andy’s work and accrued karma for years.

XOXO was different than most conferences in a lot of ways, but most interesting was that before it even started the attendee list was, as a virtue of it being a Kickstarter projects, public.

Tickets sold out in less than two days and you could see exactly who was going to be there.

New and Old Friends

Limiting the tickets to 400 made the event manageable and almost intimate but still large enough to feel like the whole internet was there.

As someone who is fundamentally an introvert, this was one of the only events where I could meet up with old friends, meet people in person who I’ve known for years online, and meet new people who I might even get along with.

The New School and The Old School

I loved that the attendee list was filled with “old school” bloggers I respect and care deeply about this medium.

And that along with them there was a whole new generation of attendees bringing a new enthusiasm and perspective to this. The sort of enthusiasm and excitement I had a decade ago the first time I went to SXSW.

(Although that made me feel old.)

Single Track

There were two days of talks, all in the same room at the same venue. I think this single track aspect helped in a few ways:

  • Nobody had to worry about which talk or track to attend
  • We all had a shared experience to discuss after
  • There was never a feeling of “missing out” on the cooler talk

Advertising and Sponsors

At no point in the events did I feel like I was being sold to sponsors or advertisers, nor did I feel like the CEO’s of companies who gave talks were merely using the forum to hawk their wares.

This is a triumph compared to what it’s like to attend something like SXSW interactive these days, which often feel more like trade shows or marketing events.


Given that this was the first XOXO event, I expected some logistical difficulties. But I suspect co-organizer Andy McMillan’s experience running Build Conference helped to ensure that the event actually ran well. It worked.

(And the few issues people had were addressed – after a hot first day, there were water bottles for everyone everywhere the next day.)

The Content

I expected that I would attend XOXO, have a good time, see some old friends, feel like the internet was in the same room again. All of that happened.

I did not necessarily know what to expect from the speakers, given that this was the first event of its kind.

Without exception, I understood why each and every speaker had been asked to talk there, and some of them really knocked it out of the park. Dan Harmon in particular gave an excellent keynote.

But I didn’t expect to actually change my views on the “topic” of disintermediation and technological impacts on our creation and distribution of culture. But from hearing all of these talks at once I’ve come to a new conclusion on the issue, which I’ll be posting tomorrow.

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