I was at XOXO this weekend and have to say it was one of the most amazing conferences I’ve ever attended. There were some great takeaways I’ve been simmering on and will try to write about over the next week.

The Internet wasn’t always this way.

There was a time when we wouldn’t have trusted anyone on the web asking for money to fund their dream project. There was a time when we connected with web sites, not the people who created them. There was a time when web companies were as opaque as real companies, and that was okay because it was all we knew. There was a time when companies had histories instead of present and continuing narratives.

The new era of personally connecting with brands we consume and their creators is the culminating realization of the Internet’s potential. The original promise of a digitally-connected world was that we could shrink the globe and bring people together; that we could expose and humanize distant cultures to each other in real time. What we didn’t expect (but should have) was that exposure leaving us longing for similar humanization of our daily lives - the people we interact with locally, places we live and companies we give our business to. We found that those deeper human connections result in richer, more meaningful experiences, along with a higher overall quality of products and services.

And how do creators make those connections? By telling us their stories and letting us act as a part of them. By driving for relationships instead of transactions. By explaining who their company is and what they stand for. Not just with an About Us page, but with every action they take. Simple, VHX, 20x200, Kickstarter, Etsy. All focus on the connections people want to have with their bank, with the film they watched, with the art on their wall or the handcrafted piece on their bookshelf. All of these companies strive to convince us all that companies can be people too. Or, at least, that companies are made of people and are thus capable of people stuff (like empathy and optimism and playfulness).

This weekend Dan Harmon posited that the Internet is the world’s greatest people connector. I would contend that it’s not the Internet connecting people (any more than a television or an alphabet can by themselves). Rather, it’s these empathic and humanizing services and products we’re creating that are bringing us all closer together. Through these services we’re rediscovering our sense of community (this time at a global instead of local level) and responsibility to each other and to our collective destiny. The Internet wasn’t always this way, but if XOXO this weekend was any indicator, it is now and there is absolutely no going back.


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