XOXO Festival

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One of the speakers at XOXO 2012, Chad Dickerson of Etsy.

XOXO Festival is an arts and technology conference that has been held twice in Portland, Oregon. It has described itself as celebrating creativity and innovation[1] in forms it considered alternative or disruptive to the prevailing social or professional context ("democratizing media and innovation").[2] The conference was founded in 2012 by Andy Baio and Andy McMillan with funding from prepaid tickets and other contributions via Kickstarter,[3][4] and it was described by the New York Times as an "experimental" conference.[1]

XOXO 2012[edit]

The inaugural event was held in Portland's YU Contemporary Arts Center in September 2012 with approximately 400 participants.[5] The first day of the conference focused on talks from independent creators from fields such as film, comics, music, art and illustration, video games, hardware design and product design, while the second centred on technology, and those building tools to facilitate and encourage independent creativity through the web.

Associated events included live music, film screenings, an arcade of independently produced videogames, a pub crawl, a market, and food trucks.[6]

News media and bloggers noted an "impressive list of speakers",[1] a focus on "democratizing media and innovation",[2] and an "intimate tone" missing from other technology-focused conferences.[5]

XOXO 2013[edit]

Andy Baio and Andy McMillan on stage at the end of XOXO 2013.

XOXO returned to the YU Contemporary in September 2013 with speakers, workshops, films, music shows, game events, and a market.[7] Baio described it as being "about artists and hackers and makers that are using the internet to make a living doing what they love independently without sacrificing creative or financial control".[8] Portland Monthly compared the event to the larger South by Southwest festival, quoting Matthew Haughey saying SXSW speakers are "in the business of selling technologies" and XOXO is speakers are "creating things".[9] To handle increased interest while remaining small (500 conference tickets and 200 "fringe event" tickets), it had an application process with questions intended to filter out people who wanted to market to attendees.[8]

An attendee, Glenn Fleishman, described the conference as having a very friendly social environment and inspiring people to change their jobs, and he noted essays by other attendees about the need for critique and not just friendliness, a lack of gender balance similar to the technology industry in general, and a harassment incident that was handled effectively.[10] Another attendee also discussed her enjoyment of the people at the conference, and she noted the challenge of running a conference about independent creators that is inaccessible for some independent creators due to ticket and travel cost.[11]

The organizers described their choice of the YU Contemporary as important to the event, with character and history unlike Portland's convention center.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Wortham, Jenna (September 14, 2012). "XOXO Fest, An Experimental Tech Conference, Gets Underway". New York Times Bits Blog. Retrieved December 24, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Tate, Ryan (September 18, 2012). "At XOXO, a Counterculture Kickstarts Itself". Wired. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ Wortham, Jenna (May 25, 2012). "XOXO aims to be an alternative to South by Southwest". New York Times Bits Blog. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  4. ^ Walker, Alissa (June 18, 2012). "Conferences Get Creative: An Art and Tech Festival Wins Over Kickstarter". Wired. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Gantz, Ryan (September 19, 2012). "The Dream of the Internet is Alive in Portland: Inside the XOXO Festival". The Verge. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ Wortham, Jenna; Gallagher, David F. (September 18, 2012). "XOXO: A Festival of Indie Internet Creativity". New York Times Bits Blog. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ Larsen, Luke (September 20, 2013). "Technology, creativity cross at XOXO". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Edidin, Rachel (September 20, 2013). "The Record-Breaking XOXO Festival Returns to Cross-Pollinate Art and Tech". Wired. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  9. ^ Patall, Marty (September 3, 2013). "How the XOXO Festival Charms Cutting-Edge Thinkers". Portland Monthly. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  10. ^ Fleishman, Glenn (September 30, 2013). "In a Time of Hugs and Kisses: XOXO 2013". BoingBoing. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ Edidin, Rachel (September 30, 2013). "XOXO and the High Costs of Not Selling Out". Wired. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
  12. ^ Patall, Marty (September 20, 2013). "XOXO 2013: Why This Fest is Different". Portland Monthly. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 

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