Fresh Ink

XOXO Fest - Bountiful & Plenty

Oct 15, 2014

As it turns out, Portland, Oregon, was perfect place to be last month. It was especially magical if you were there on September 11th and stayed through September 14th. It was even more unbearably wonderful if you were at The Redd surrounded by Erik Marinovich's mural.

Four weeks ago, my husband, Garo, and I took off a few days to go to XOXO Fest in Portland and we didn't know what we were in for. We figured, at least we knew each other and we loved the idea of the internet-meets-arts conference, so that was enough to go on.

Walking onto the XOXO grounds at The Redd was a welcoming experience unlike any other. It was like a reunion where you were meeting people for the first time. A beautiful buzzing sound of conversation met with smells of fresh roasting coffee and delicious food carts as we made our way to get badges and figure out the lay of the land. Good morning Day 1 at XOXO, I didn't know this was where I always wanted to be.

The XOXO days were filled with amazing lectures and the nights turned into morning with live music, video games, films, and storytelling. If that sounds like heaven, it was - a really enriching, stimulating, and physically exhausting heaven.

Garo met some of his online heroes; John Roderick, John Gruber, and Andy Matuschak. He also went head-over-heels when we were invited to an open house at Panic, which he corrected me by stating, "the legendary offices of Panic." (Just wanted you to know he's serious about that company.) Basically, this was the perfect conference for Garo.

I went in knowing nothing about anyone or anything. But that changed fast. I cried my eyes out after hearing Jonathan Mann tell us about his Song A Day project. I fell in love with Song Exploder, a podcast by Hrishikesh Hirway, that's dedicated to breaking a song down and revealing its every nook and cranny. I shuddered at the personal accounts of sexist hatred endured by Anita Sarkeesian. But most of all I felt inspired and widened. My understanding of how we use the internet to tell our stories has been deeply broadened by XOXO. These stories told through words, images, music, animation, and code come together to form our technology driven world.

XOXO opened the door not only to new thinking, but also reminded me to tap into core passions. It's why I started Fresh Ink again, why I've been observing and assessing, and why I'm giving myself the chance to ask those big life questions. XOXO has also brought about fearlessness, a sense of adventure, and real feeling of new possibility. For all this, I thank you XOXO. I hope to see you again next year.

The exterior of The Redd. Amazing and vibrant. Such a joy to go there every day.


Did I mention, The Redd was a steel factory? Here's a bit of machinery left behind. This building was very busy during WWII.


A 1940s photo of people sitting in the factory. The chairs are positioned exactly like the XOXO conference seating. Not much has changed in the past 70 years.


Garo was in love with the arcade setup. He found a track and field game from his childhood and wouldn't let go.