T his weekend I watched a bunch of amazing videos from XOXO. I first heard about XOXO from a tweet from Jacob Kaplan Moss:

#xoxofest left me inspired to write again. So I’m starting (naturally) with that lesson and a few others from XOXO: http://t.co/BNqUH7RA8P

— jacobian (@jacobian) September 23, 2013

I was curious, so I looked into it a bit more, and found out that this festival had just happened in Portland, Oregon – the city where I would be moving to in a few weeks. (Now the city that I moved to last week.)

Everything I read about the conference resonated with me. A few weeks ago I wrote the following:

I don’t think everyone should quit their job to pursue an idea. Rather, I think the people who will enjoy it should be encouraged to do it. Not so they can become rich, nor to grease the ego, but so that the pursuit of creativity becomes a legitimate pursuit.

This is the fundamental thing about XOXO that I really loved from watching the videos this weekend: it is a conference dedicated to the pursuit of independence.

Andy Baio describes it:

It’s about everyone using technology to make a living doing what they love.

The part of startups that I like so much is exactly this. It is creating a reality, and supporting a society where people can make a living doing what they love. If doing what you love is building technology companies and mobile applications, then you are lucky. But what about those who fall outside this narrow scope. This world doesn’t have VCs to give you money. But it does have success stories. It does have heroes who have found a niche.

The question might seem ridiculous, but why is it important to empower people to make a living do what they love. It sure sounds nice, but why is this a notable goal for a society. Why is this something that is deserving of our fight?

I think an answer is that at the end of the day people are just people. Regardless of any media connecting two ends – present or future – we are still human. But this peopleness, this humanness, is lost in big corporations. It is lost in scale. The institution blocks the direct connection from one person to another. In the convenience of it we lose something, something that is hard to describe. It is the difference between a hand-written note and an email. It is the difference between a local coffee shop and a corporate chain. Convenience can be great, but we need to pay attention to what we give up in return. Maybe the chitchat with a cashier has a value. When the underlying metric becomes only money, and it always becomes money in corporations, the tangential values of these other things are lost.

The most important things in life are always direct connections between people. It is relationships between people that are more valuable than anything else. Independent people and their projects and companies have consistently kept their “humanness”. By supporting people making a living doing what they love, we are supporting a more human society. I’ll leave the answer to why that is a good thing up to you.

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