XOXO: Not an Echo Chamber

The XOXO festival opened last night in Portland with a party at Holocene, but in reality the crowd started to gather first on twitter, where following the #xoxofest tag showed attendees en route, finding each other on planes and trains, and generally setting a mood of giddy anticipation for the event. Even the sun showed up, tricking first-time visitors into thinking they had landed in nirvana (reality check next February).

A gathering for “disruptive creativity”, XOXO was in part conceived as an antidote for other events for creatives and technologists that have lost their intimacy and original flavor. XOXO sold out of tickets via Kickstarter in 50 hours and raised $175K—$50K more than their goal.

It’s looking like XOXO will be more than just a club for cool kids from the same clique, by bringing together a bunch of really interesting people that are not already connected. How do I know? Marshall Kirkpatrick showed me a report on people discussing XOXO from the remarkable Plexus Engine that he is developing with Tyler GilliesMikalina Kirkpatrick, and a growing team. While XOXO attendees are mostly deeply connected people (Tim O’Reilly tops the list of attendees with 1.5M+ twitter followers), Plexus Engine shows that even with the twitterati, XOXOfesters are mostly not (yet) fully connected to each other. I expect compelling things from so many vibrant people coming together who haven’t all already met.

For me, the highlight of the kickoff party was reconnecting with friends like Crystal BeasleyKent ByeAmber CaseBill DeRoucheyErin Jo Richey, and Ben Werdmuller, and making some new acquaintances like Brennan Novack and Phil Thompson. Most special by far was rediscovering Ezra Spier, a guy I knew last as a middle school student, who worked with me at OMSI on web development and interactives and has now gone on to an inspiring career using technology to change the game of international coffee production and distribution for the better with Sustainable Harvest. I’m proud Ezra so clearly managed to overcome any bad influence I might have had on him to evolve into such an engaged talent. Go Ezra!

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