XOXO, and Not a Letter's Delightful Complimentary Close.
Dearests! Good morning from the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon! I am up here this week for XOXO Fest, an event previously called “the internet's best festival” that showcases creators on the internet, and the challenges and victories they face on a daily basis. Obviously I’m excited: I’ve only been here twelve hours and already I’ve met people building games based on the behavior of epidemics, the designer of flame apparatuses that respond to human movement, and a virtual reality ethicist. But yes my friends, for me imposter syndrome is very real thing.
An overarching observation from Thursday’s Day 1, which consisted of registration, opening remarks, the welcome Keynote, and a get-to-know-you party: this is some pretty awesome shit. There’s much to praise so far, both from a logistics - the welcome email had EVERYTHING you ever needed and holy hell, did you know they had a sponsor pay for childcare? - and an omg-AWESOME perspective - 20 min on the mainstage was devoted to discussing the re-envisioning of the land around the venue to honor the spirit of the neighborhood that wall bulldozed in the 50s to make space for said venue.
Cameron Esposito’s opening keynote, instead of being like other conference headliners who cobble their existing stand-up into a digestible laughfest-disguised-as-learnings, consisted of a deeply personal exploration of what led her to create “Rape Jokes.” This recent stand-up special, for which she built a simple website wherein she allowed anyone to watch the special for free in a proprietary viewer with only a wee “donate” button beneath, has raised over $72,000 for the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN. Esposito is herself a sexual assault survivor, and she spoke at length on how she used her “one ask” to enlist her friends in the entertainment industry to help her build and share a special so named that it could become the #1 result on Google and push down other, ahem, results of that term.
As a conference keynote, Esposito was funny and raw and off-the-cuff and challenging and wearing a gorgeous button-up with seahorses on it. There’s much I want to write about her frustration towards those “mourning the loss of artists who turn out to be predators,” and why she spends her professional capital redirecting cash money and job experience towards those who can improve her industry, but what resonated most for me as someone who puts a helluva lot of words into a computer on the regular were her thoughts on sharing early, and often. Her belief that getting out imperfect work to be improved on by others is much better than hoarding your ideas, or being afraid to share them unless said ideas or product are perfect, resonated for me as a writer, and as a collaborator.
Anyhoo, today I’m meeting and learning from creators of virtual reality projects, online media portals, and civic tech crusades, and I’m really goddamned excited about it. And not to get too sausage-makey about it, but I’m so impressed that, while alcoholic beverages cost $$$, XOXO has delicious and interesting non-alcoholic options available for free, all the freaking time. As an ex-drinker and someone who has organized tech events, I am thankful and impressed. Bravo.
But don’t worry my loves: we’ll discuss that bat-shit-crazy op-ed and the terrifying precipice on which our democracy sits next week.
Yours in enthusiasm,