Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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XOXO 2014

XOXO is a festival celebrating "independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love." What a lovely niche! I had heard of the event for years, I had watched some of the XOXO talks on YouTube. So I was quite honored when one of the two Andys who organizes it reached out to me - they had found that failure and vulnerability made for good talks and they thought I might share some of what I've learned being vulnerable and sharing my failures on the web.

I said yes I would love to participate in XOXO! I pitched them a screening of my upcoming "20 years of documentary" but a speech was a better fit. Here's my talk, in this nice video shared by the XOXO folk Justin Hall, Links from the Underground - XOXO Festival (2014):

What's not included in this video is the heartfelt introduction by Andy Baio suggesting that my web pages might have had some kind of influence on him in high school; Andy was sweet to write it up afterwards. After listening to his introduction, by the time I took the stage, I was a bit choked up.

My speech here looks back over 20 years of personal sharing online. XOXO is about as splendid a venue as I could imagine for this content - the event is curated, everyone attending has to explicitly explain something they make (not just sell, or promote, or schedule, but hands-on). So there's a touching lack of irony and the chance to turn to anyone there to ask "what do you make?" with people generally prepared to tell you! It's a much more fun conversation opener than "what do you do?" or "where do you work?"

In the crowd were many godparents of the early web; serious long-term community builders and online experimenters. It was heartening to see them a little grayer, still making things, eyes a-twinkle.

meeting Aaron Peckham - the guy who made Urban Dictionary! Enabling a collective evolving vernacular online, hurrah.

But XOXO wasn't some kind of web geezer fest - there were all manner of innovative new creators in the mix as well. Animators, game designers, storytellers, musicians making new experiences left me in a delicious limbo between the beloved familiar and the tantalizing novel. I came away from XOXO hugely impressed by the momentum they've created to attract folks, friends and strangers that I wanted to be around.

Ilyse and I meeting Asher Vollmer, game designer behind Threes! And now a casual RTS called Close Castles

Inside the XOXO venue, Andy + Andy on stage to kick things off Friday.

Riding a schoolbus between cultural opportunities and hotels

Portland, a city famous for cloudy skies, beamed bright burning sun throughout. Here's some outdoor pleasure on the roof-deck of Panic, an XOXO sponsor.

Playing Close Castles during an evening curation of experimental video games.

DJ Anil Dash descended from Twitter/ThinkUp to drop beats for happy feets.

Ilyse and Tantek work their way through a maze at the Hover-sponsored happy hour at Ground Kontrol, packed with playable arcade games, part of XOXO 2014.

People playing "Marrying Mr. Darcy" - a card game based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen during an evening's session of curated board and card games.

Jamie Wilkinson, Casey Pugh and KK Apple prepare to preview The Empire Strikes Back: Uncut as part of the XOXO Film Fest

Darius Kazemi sums up his #1 inspired XOXO 2014 talk "How I Won the Lottery" - not yet posted online, but Darius is active at

There was soul food and brain food and social connection - I was delighted and honored to be a part of XOXO 2014.

I managed to be included in one of Jonathan Mann's daily songs, after I too cried at his XOXO talk featuring his wild and lively grandmother:

Finally, after my talk, after a few drinks, late one evening in a bar I had a chance to answer Daniel Agee's question: What is it you do or make only for yourself?

Kevin Marks took great live notes, and Scott Rosenberg wrote up his multiple years of attendance in "XOXO and the Fierce Urgency of Nice". I didn't get a chance to thank Glenn Fleishman for the wireless setup book he wrote that help me configure my home; he wrote up a longer piece about XOXO 2014 for BoingBoing, "The narrative lottery at XOXO".

Preparing for my speech took a few weeks but nicely overlapped with the work I've been doing to look back at 20 years of online sharing at this here web site. My speech video from XOXO is a tasty appetizer, I hope, for a hot steaming pile of delicious main course film I aim to serve up in the next few weeks! More information about my upcoming documentary currently titled " 20 years of Too Much Information" lives here:


Thanks Steve Rhodes - from @tigerbeat on Instagram
June 2012 dancing in the streets of San Francisco with Ilyse Magy, photo thanks Steve Rhodes on instagram!

Hi, I'm Justin Hall and this here is a personal web site I've used to chronicle my time on earth since 1994. The content on the front page is relatively recent; if you search through the archives, you'll find old pieces of Justin. Some folks have indexed my doings on Wikipedia.

Twitter: jah
Facebook: Justinreach

eBooks by Justin Hall

I've published books for sale, somewhere else online! Behold:

Now available for the Kindle: A Story of GameLayers. My experience being CEO of a tech company, 2007-2009:

"A tell-all story of a startup from the very beginning, with lots of info about real-world fundraising. A more intimate look than you'll find in other business reads." says Irene Polnyi in a 5-star review on

A Story of GameLayers, for the Amazon Kindle.