About XOXO

XOXO is an experimental festival celebrating independent artists and creators working on the internet. Each year, XOXO brings together writers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, game developers, coders, cartoonists, and more to share their stories and struggles of living and working online.

More than anything, XOXO focuses on the emotional experience of making things online, with difficult subjects including financial insecurity, anxiety, depression, mental health, impostor syndrome, burnout, racism, sexism, and online harassment.

At its evening festival events, XOXO spotlights the best indie artists and projects on the internet in four days of programming across multiple disciplines, including online video, podcasts, music, videogames, tabletop gaming, and internet art.

History

Launched in 2012, XOXO launched as a Kickstarter and sold out completely in two days, and remains the most-funded event ever on Kickstarter.

XOXO continues to grow and evolve, expanding its scope and growing to over 1,200 attendees with some of the most notable and interesting creators in art and technology, and featuring an inclusive lineup of over 100 artists, speakers, and performers.

In addition to the two-day single track conference of 15-minute talks (i.e. no panels), XOXO includes a packed slate of festival events — concerts from independent musicians, an experimental videogame arcade with the game developers, a night of storytelling/comedy, film screenings with director Q&As, a tabletop event with the board/card game designers, a market with our favorite food carts, and community-led social events and parties around the city.

Past conference speakers include Cameron Esposito, Hari Kondabolu, Jonny Sun, Open Mike Eagle, Natalie Wynn, Adam Conover, Dan Harmon, Anita Sarkeesian, Dooce’s Heather Armstrong, Kathy Sierra, Hank Green, Veronica Belmont, Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, Jay Smooth, Simone Giertz, Mystery Show’s Starlee Kine, Sammus, The Toast’s Daniel Ortberg, Vi Hart, Neil Cicierega, Anil Dash, Molly Crabapple, and the creators of Twitter, Tumblr, Kickstarter, Patreon, Double Fine, Daring Fireball, Metafilter, Pinboard, Cards Against Humanity, Welcome to Night Vale, Bandcamp, World of Goo, VHX, Suck, and Boing Boing.

Past musical acts at XOXO include Lizzo, Dan Deacon, Vulfpeck, Open Mike Eagle, Kaki King, YACHT, Anamanaguchi, Pomplamoose, Mike Doughty, Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick, The Kleptones, Nerf Herder, Jim Guthrie, MC Frontalot, and C418.

XOXO Video, a showcase of independent video creators, including the creators of Bojack Horseman, Feminist Frequency, Homestar Runner, Rick and Morty, Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Every Frame A Painting, Baman Piderman, and Bee and Puppycat.

XOXO Arcade curates a lineup of unreleased independent games with the designers and developers on-site to play with attendees. Past highlights included prerelease versions of Firewatch, Ooblets, Untitled Goose Game, Hyper Light Drifter, Donut County, Below, Quadrilateral Cowboy, TumbleSeed, Thimbleweed Park, Rain World, unreleased games from Bennett Foddy and Keita Takahashi, the west coast debut of 10-player cult arcade game Killer Queen, and the first playable appearance of Fullbright’s Tacoma.

XOXO Story featured live podcasts and storytelling, with past participants including John Hodgman, Jean Grae, Criminal, Harmontown, You Look Nice Today, Friendshipping, Just Between Us, and the first live episodes of Song Exploder, Reply All, and Hello from the Magic Tavern.

About the Organizers

Andy Baio, Founder/Organizer

Andy Baio is a writer and coder who loves making things on the internet. He helped build Kickstarter, produced Kind of Bloop, built Playfic, Belong, and Upcoming.org, a collaborative event calendar. Original reporting on his blog, Waxy.org, has been featured in the New York Times, Wired, and NPR.

Andy McMillan, Founder/Organizer

Andy McMillan is a designer and event producer based in Portland, Oregon. Previously, he ran The Outpost, a shared workspace for independent artists, published The Manual, a design journal for web designers, and organized Build, a design festival for web designers.

Rachel Coddington, Production Manager

Rachel Coddington is an independent event producer who started working with XOXO in 2015. When she's not producing XOXO, she has a dog, husband, and child — with another one on the way! She also manages Design Portland, has written three children’s books, and sings in a cover band.

Steph Barnhart, Production Lead

Jedd Chang, Speaker Hospitality Lead

Press Quotes

“The festival contributed so many good ideas to the world of internet culture — online and off — that its disappearance, however temporary, stings… It was pretty much the best thing I ever went to. I'll miss it terribly.”
The Verge on XOXO 2016

“By the time I left on Monday morning, my heart felt like it had grown 10 times. I feel like I've made new friends. I feel inspired to make and do new things. More importantly, I feel like I've discovered a new community where I belong.”
Engadget on XOXO 2015

“XOXO proved to me that parts of the internet are still really, really fucking good.”
Digg on XOXO 2018

“XOXO’s popularity is partly down to its gentleness, its emotive undertone and thoughtful curation, but also its commitment to supporting individual artists over businesses and corporates.”
The Guardian on XOXO 2015

“XOXO is a way to take our heart out of our body for a few days, share it, and know it will be cared for before we return it to its cage.”
Boing Boing on XOXO 2013

“A defining moment for people who express themselves creatively and independently online.”
Wired on XOXO 2012

Attendee Quotes

“Nothing anyone said prepared me for how much #xoxofest would affect me. I’m so happy I got to be there.” — Audrey Penven

“The Andys raised the bar so far beyond anything else compared to other conferences, showing us all how thoughtful every little aspect of an event could be.” — Matt Haughey

“I've encountered two super-hyped things in my life that turned out to be Not Overrated. One was Hawaii and the other was XOXO.” — Sarah Jeong

“It was a fantastic festival. It was fun and funny and heartbreaking and inspiring; it was a kind of thing that just a couple years ago I didn’t even know was my kind of thing, and now I can’t imagine thinking twice about it and only worry that it might never happen again.” — Josh Millard

“One of the most surprising things to me about XOXO was the sheer number of queer people at the fest.… Having queer people so present at an event that wasn’t explicitly queer was staggering.” — Lena Brooks

“At XOXO I was able to see people I admire stand in front of a huge group of people – total strangers – and tell the most honest and open truth there is: one full of vulnerability and openness that is both overwhelming and welcome.” — Chris Koener

“I only go to conferences that bring me to tears multiple times in two days. Thanks for an intense weekend, XOXO.” — Gina Trapani

“The best thing about XOXO is the community. As the festival drew to a close on Sunday the Slack channel began to pick up steam again. People starting sharing plans for new projects, plans to quit their jobs and finally work on the projects they’d been putting off.” — Aaron Gilmore

“XOXO is utterly exhilarating and enriching and exhausting in only the way that mainlining raw human experiences can be.” — Ryan Block

“At XOXO, personal struggles aren’t treated as convenient plot points in the (inevitable) success narrative; they are the narrative. XOXO is where we try to figure out how we can create our life’s work without losing our lives in the process.” — Erin McKean

“Being at XOXO and seeing evidence of the growing narrative around empathy, kindness, systems thinking, self-acceptance, and appreciation for the shortness of life gives me hope for the future in a way that I haven’t had in a while.” — Buster Benson

“I left XOXO reinforced that I, too, give things to the world. I solve problems. I make art. I provide insight. Sometimes, I’m even funny. And after spending four days in a vortex of intelligent, good-intentioned people who straddle the line between humility and debilitating Imposter Syndrome with such grace, I’m inspired to do more.” — Ashleigh Penrod

“The weekend feels almost like a fever dream. The emotion I felt so intensely, sparked by the brutal honesty of many of the talks and the sense of community among the attendees, is still there; I still feel it acutely. I hope I continue to feel it. And I hope I will find the strength to accept my own emotional vulnerability. In terms of creative work, I think it might be the only way to survive.” — Erin Mickelson

“XOXO has continued to evolve. It’s more than the event itself, now, and I don’t think anyone could have anticipated it becoming what it has become: a community, in the truest sense. If you look at the tweets and comments from attendees, you can see it, feel it, the sense of belonging is palpable and so, so needed.” — Nabil Maynard

“This year, XOXO provided a dozen epiphanies, shared a hundred ideas, from the stage and in conversation and over drinks. But among all of those, the first and the last, is the fundamental, underlying insight that the festival itself has demonstrated, over and over, for the last five years: you can get better, no matter how good you are, if you do the work — tirelessly, relentlessly and with a profound and abiding belief that what you are doing matters.” — Greg Knauss