A few weeks ago, I went to Portland to attend the XOXO Festival. I had never been to Portland before. If anyone ever wanted people to fall so completely in love with Portland in such a short period of time, throwing the XOXO Festival was the perfect way to do it.
The XOXO Festival is an arts and technology conference that was funded through Kickstarter. There were speakers, and they were incredibly inspiring. Each speaker was remarkably positive in his or her message, even while speaking about problems we need to solve. The general sentiment was that we all need each other to solve these problems. I think Jesse Von Doom of Cash Music summed it up by saying “It’s easy to disrupt things. It’s hard to fix them.”
The marketplace downstairs from the conference.
But XOXO Festival was so much more than just a conference. The people who created XOXO, Andy Baio and Andy McMillan, made it very clear that the attendees were to talk to each other. A lot. And to anyone they wanted. And then they provided lots of opportunities to do so. In addition to the conference, there was the Fringe, which was a variety of events that began two days before the conference even started, and lasted throughout the festival. There was the opening party, a live music night, and indie game arcade, a pub crawl, and a film screening that felt like we were watching movies in someone’s gigantic living room with all our friends. They followed their own advice — Andy Baio was the one of the first people to come up and talk to me at the opening party. They created a space in which people let go of their egos and truly listened to and took interest in each other.
It was easy to see that the Andys love Portland. The Fringe and Marketplace highlighted a lot of really great local restaurants, venues, artists, and businesses. They took strenuous measures to hold the conference in the beautiful YU Contemporary building, rather than a regular conference space. They chose some of their favorite food carts to park outside and feed the attendees. They created a little map with favorite places of theirs. I loved that they took the time to show us why they loved Portland, rather than just telling us why it’s cool.
My lunch from the Cheese & Crack food truck.
XOXO Festival seemed to radiate and celebrate sincerity, openness, and vulnerability, all while honoring the greatness that is Portland. In their closing statements, Andy and Andy fought to hold back tears (and didn’t succeed) while recapping what a great experience it was. When I came back to Omaha, I took with me creative inspiration, an inclination to celebrate my own city more, and an even greater desire to have genuine conversation with all types of people. Dan Harmon (creator of the NBC’s Community) explained it best: “People is more important than anything.”
Slide from Dan Harmon’s keynote.
Hugs and Kisses from Portland
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“Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.”
– Diego Rodriguez via http://theindustry.cc/2012/04/30/design-your-how-be-a-team/
“Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people.”
“Your first design may be the best, but you won’t know until you can’t find a better one.”