The XOXO conference and festival is back for its third outing this September 11–14 in Portland, Oregon, the center of all that is creative and right with the world at this moment. Portland is a special place and XOXO is a special event that could only occur there, I think. The organizers, Andy Baio and Andy McMillan are amazing people in their own right, and they bring together so much good will and positivity about life in one place.
Here's what I wrote about it years past and a podcast with Andy and Andy:
- XOXO: Maker Love, Not Thwart (2012)
- In a Time of Hugs and Kisses: XOXO 2013
- New Disruptors with the Andys (June 2013)
The first XOXO in 2012 changed my life. I was in a slump and slightly at sea, and nearly everything I did after XOXO was different than before: I changed my job (from programming and writing to mostly editing and podcasting with some writing) and oriented what I do much more about facilitating the creativity of other people, through which I get my own joy and participation.
The 2013 event felt like a consolidation: less change but more fervor. I met so many people who I only knew online, made new friendships and connections, and went out with new energy right into a Kickstarter that launched a few weeks later—and (figuratively) nearly killed me.
I made some friends that I hope I will keep for the rest of my life. Oddly, I've met people in the months since who attended XOXO 2013 who I didn't meet there, and we've since become friends! There's an affinity for attending that extends outside of the event. ("There's a little bit of XOXO in all of us," I might say, and then hate myself.)
This year, I'm sitting out the conference part. That's for a few reasons. I've gotten so much benefit from the event, I feel like I should make room for other people. They've switched to a different kind of selection process that I fully support, in which they will pick nearly randomly (and filter only those who are clearly trying to market to participants). However, they're going to also moderate the randomness by attempting to gain more participation from people who are traditionally underrepresented at most conferences:
More than 80% of the people who’ve wanted to attend XOXO in the past are white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied dudes, and we want everyone who’s not in that category to know XOXO is for you too.
I fit that 80% definition. I don't feel required to exclude myself, but I also think having gotten the benefit twice, I should step back.
I've gone through so much this year already, I don't think I'm prepared for another "tear your head off" iteration. The Kickstarter kicked my ass. It was great and powerful and I couldn't be happier with the book we made. But I spent November to March working nearly full-time on it in addition to my regular full-time-plus amount of work and then April finishing up, while also writing a three-page Economist story about nanosatellites that's among one of the favorite things I've even written. During May, I believe I was in a fetal position. (June has proven much better.)
I'm applying for a festival pass (access to events, not the conference track), so that if I get picked, I can come and hang and podcast and do fun stuff, but won't challenge myself as much as I did. I don't have it in me this year to re-invent myself again! Maybe in 2015.
XOXO has been described as so many things. It's like an encounter group for entrepreneurialism. It's a place in which speakers, both relatively to quite famous and those known in niche super-interesting circles, talk about their failures and how to overcome them. It is a place that may encourage earnestness at the expense of criticism. It's a place to make new friends and colleagues.
They've added an option for people who travel together in response to some complaints last year. If two people who identify as spouses or significant others list each other's name in the conference application, if one doesn't get picked for a conference pass, that person will be given priority to sign up for a festival pass.
I encourage anyone who wants a jolt and an incredibly enjoyable few days in Portland to apply!