I’m excited by the people I already knew; I’m excited by the people I met for the first time and might never see again. The conversations stretched past midnight every night. Everyone was an equal participant, and the meaning of XOXO – literally, hugs and kisses – was evident from the opening party through to the closing moments, as the conversation spilled over into an entire street in the middle of the night.
More than anything else, this was an uncynical, hopeful event that celebrated humanity and individual creativity. This is the promise of technology. Let’s make things and connect.
Here I am again, hanging out in Portland with a collection of amazing creatives and makers. I don't mean "creatives" in that asinine corporate marketing kind of way, but rather, people who create; while last year the event was open to anyone who backed it on Kickstarter, this year the only rule was that you had to be someone who makes things. Personally. Executive teams and marketing fact-finding missions were not allowed - unless, of course, the people on those teams were, individually, people who made things for themselves, on their own terms.
The result is, once again, an inspiring group of people, and once again I'm finding that the conversations I'm having in hallways and courtyards are every bit as inspiring as the talks I'm seeing on stage. I'm seeing more of my heroes this year, too - people like Evan Williams, Maciej Ceglowski, as well as people I didn't know were heroes until yesterday, like Molly Crabapple and Vi Hart.
Let's talk about the word "inspiring". Usually we use it in these kinds of contexts as a kind of platitude; it's almost a cipher for "oh, that speaker was very interesting." At #xoxofest the participants are inspiring in a more direct way, as in: "I want to go home and make something incredible right now." Since last year's event, I've written a novel and kicked off the creation of a new open source social platform. If anything, I want to create more things - but also do it in such a way that they're sustainable in themselves. Last year's event helped me blow off the pseudo-clouds of my impostor syndrome. This year's event, again so full of emotion and motivation and creative, hyper-intelligent people engineering their own lives so that they can make the things they dream of, is the kick in the pants I need to begin taking my own creation seriously.
And that, really, is the magic of XOXO. This isn't pie in the sky or some kind of nebulous conference about values. These are people who have done it; people who have made art, music, software, literature, devices and movies themselves. Hundreds of them. And they all want to talk, and hang out, and maybe make together. I hope to be back, and I hope to be meeting those entrance requirements - just make something! - for the rest of my life.