XOXO Roundup

XOXO was two whole weeks ago, and I haven’t written up any notes on it because I’ve been busy, um, making things? Sure, that’s the ticket. (Seriously, I’ve been trying to finish Opti Space while putting up this weblog and working my way through months of backlogged bookmarks. It takes a while to catch up.)

Anyway, here are some links to thoughts from other attendees who manage their time better than me:


Christina Xu wrote up the talk she gave on changing the power dynamics between publishers and creators:

It shouldn’t take an epic origin story to make it; becoming an independent (or rather, interdependent) creator should be increasingly mundane. I have an immense respect for trailblazers who jump, not knowing if they’ll land, but it should be a last resort. A system that depends on trailblazing for success will see two groups of winners: a small group of exceptionally talented/hardworking/lucky people, and people who have the privilege (wealth, education, social connections, otherwise) to try stuff without worrying about the full weight of failure. Everyone else, all the creators who are talented but don’t want to or can’t afford to risk everything, will shy away. We have to make it easier to win.

Leah Reich on the hesitancy we often have to give earnest, construtive criticism.

We go out in the world not simply to meet the amazing people we want in our lives as friends, but to find the people who will say, “Ok, this is pretty good. But you can do better. I’m going to push on those spots.” For guidance and, if we get lucky, for mentorship. So as it turns out, The Uncanny Valley of Earnestness is where people can be excited about stuff. And here’s a secret: Sometimes being excited about something means not always being positive.

Anil Dash on getting past ¿quién es más indie? syndrome.

Now, I don't just go looking for things to criticize for the sake of criticism; I'm a big believer in sincere enthusiasm. But if XOXO's best trait was a willingness for speakers to be humble and self-critical, then one of its most glaring omissions was its unwillingness to be critical of the orthodoxy of the community overall. Put more simply, it's a lot easier to get a room full of digital hipsters like me to feel bad about our lack of racial and economic diversity in the room than to challenge us on our lack of political or aesthetic diversity.

Greg Knauss on a topic that didn’t really come up at the festival, and doesn’t come up often enough in creative/DIY/startup/whatever culture — plain ol’ failure.

It sounds both massively cynical and relentlessly despairing to come away from a wildly inspirational conference like XOXO, filled with people who are both successful and happy, and be most interested in the other side of the equation. I firmly believe that XOXO is perfect as it is — it achieves its goals brilliantly, almost magically — but indie culture at large (and I count myself as part of that culture) needs to be able to have open conversations about the risks, consequences and costs of pursuing your dreams… and failing. Not just business failure, not just financial failure, but personal and emotional failure as well. The decisions our dreams inspire have consequences, and if we imperfectly understand those consequences, the results can be devastating.

Frank Chimero wants to change the narrative around independent artists.

XOXO’s talks had a deep undercurrent of mental health: dealing with stress, depression, impostor syndrome, and doubt. Emotions are good, especially when aired, and stress can be beneficial, but they are not meant to derail you. If the best, brightest, most talented and successful people we have in the independent community are feeling this way, clearly we have some corrosive expectations of ourselves and one another, and things need to change. We have a climate problem with personal consequences.

Darius Kazemi interprets XOXO through a Twitter bot, of course.


Lastly, and most importantly: Erin McKean compiled a list of the top ten unchuggable liquids.