Starlee Kine – XOXO Festival

A belt buckle. Britney Spears’ book. Jake Gyllenhaal’s true height. After years of producing stories for This American Life, Starlee Kine joined Gimlet Media and launched Mystery Show to instant acclaim, chasing every lead to solve everyday mysteries, revealing quiet moments of humanity along the way.

Mystery and intrigue abound in Kine’s podcast Mystery Show. In this talk she pulls back the curtain on what it takes to produce a show. The feelings and experiences of being human, and making stories about humans. The surreal and weird (good weird) way an engaging project can lead to unexpected destinations.

Star Simpson – XOXO

Star Simpson builds hardware with soul, currently working on sky machines at Otherlab. The creator of the PLIBMTTBHGATY series of coding events and the TacoCopter drone delivery concept, Star’s latest project is Circuit Classics, reviving the hand-drawn circuits of Forrest M. Mims III as hardware kits.

If you’ve ever done something creative 1 you’ll know the alternating feelings of “This is crazy”, “This is terrible!”, and “This is great!”. I enjoyed Star Simpson’s talk on how that craziness is what often leads to some of the best things people have ever made.

I’ve languished in sharing more videos from XOXO, but this one is rather timely. Just the other day I learned that the circuit board designs Star talks about are now available over at Adafruit!


  1. You have, even if you don’t recognize it

Neil Cicierega – XOXO

One of the most prolific creators of weird and wonderful internet, Neil Cicierega is an artist, comedian, filmmaker, musician, and game developer. His many, many projects include Potter Puppet Pals, Lemon Demon, and his stunning Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence mashup albums.

If you’re a person of about my age you’ve undoubtedly witnessed one of Neil’s many creations. In the early days of the web, before social media, files were shared with what felt like more anonymity. Folks created multiple personas and tracing back the original was difficult. 1 I fondly recall discovering Neil’s Hyakugojyuuichi, a bizarre Flash animation juxtaposition, that even decades later is still enchanting – in a strange Niel Cicierega way. 🙂


  1. Not that any of this is not true in 2017, but it is far easier now.

Sammus – XOXO

“Balancing a full-time hip-hop career while pursuing her PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Cornell, Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo’s been producing beats and rapping under the moniker Sammus since 2009, a powerful voice at the intersection of music and technology, covering subjects as diverse as video games and cartoons to social justice and mental health.”

Oof. Sammus’ talk was really strong, and then she started performing and all the feels came out. Watching this again, on YouTube, at my computer, still gives me chills.

 

Talia Jane – XOXO

Another great talk from XOXO. The intrepid Talia Jane.

“After her open letter to Yelp’s CEO, writer and comedian Talia Jane was fired for blowing the whistle on the treatment of “lower tier” employees in Silicon Valley, and faced a non-stop barrage of personal attacks and accusations of “millennial entitlement.” Two months later, Yelp raised wages company-wide for the employees of their food delivery app who could barely afford to eat.”

I’ve been in sucky situations where I though a message to the higher, higher-ups would be A Good Idea, but I’ve been too fearful of the repercussions to actually carry it out. That’s as a straight white guy who’d probably get praised for speaking up and ‘being a leader’ or whatever biased BS other white dudes tell each other. 🙂

Talia is amazing because how brave she was in her convictions. She not only lost her job but received undue assault over the Internet.

There’s much to be said about the great things the interconnectedness the Internet has brought to the world. The shitty part is when people use that distance and anonymity to take out aggressions on other people instead of doing the right thing.

Talia made one hell of a positive change to other people that didn’t result in a direct benefit for herself. Not many people do that.

Take away for me: Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, get out. Do it before you become unhealthy. Persevere through criticism. Be positive. Do the right thing.