I recently was able to attend an amazing event called Yes by Yes Yes (YxYY) which took place in July at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. This event was born from a few folks having a conversation at SXSWi discussing how they wish they could create an event that had similar magic but without the conference structure and other negative elements. I didn’t go to SXSW this year for the first time since I decided to start going 4 years ago. I like to think that YxYY was a collection of many SXSW refugees that missed the electric feeling we all had when attending our first one. The organic way in which the people attending the event was formed was pretty cool. The seed of initial guests was planted via an invite to a Facebook group and then those people in turn invited others. It made for a self selecting eclectic group of guests. By the participation in the group leading up to the event I could already tell that something special was going to happen when we all got there.
The event had a very loose agenda with only a handful of officially scheduled events. I think this was a great plan by the organizers which left us without any pressure and giving us the ability to easily navigate whatever we wanted to get out of it. There was some online organization prior to the event around possible talks and other activities. There were 2 pools which turned out to be the main congregation points for many of the attendees as a welcome respite from the powerful sun and many informal discussions took place within them. The main pool area had a Barcamp style board where you could add post-it notes to organize an activity. This led to a very casual atmosphere with all activities taking place within the ACE compound. The limited attendance (I believe ~400 people) also contributed greatly to this tight-knit feeling among the guests. Day one consisted of meeting the other attendees during a welcoming cocktail event and then there were 2 sessions of ignite talks later in the evening. The talks were great and covered a large variety of topics beyond technology although a few of those were sprinkled in as well.
The underlying theme of this event was a mantra of “Yes”. This not only encouraged the literal verbal expression of agreeing to do something new and different but also having an open minded attitude with positive thinking, but not in that hokey self-help kind of way. For this event I was a big fan of “Yes” but you have to be careful as even under the best intentions it can lead to destructive behavior (see #10 on this list) but in the case of this event I opted for #27. One of the first things I said Yes to was trying out Crossfit training for the first time on the morning of day 2. I play racquetball and hike and I’m in decent shape but I was humbled by how difficult Crossfit was. At the end of my session I felt an exhaustion I hadn’t felt in a very long time. While I’m glad I tried it, I don’t think it’s a regimen for me primarily because of my fear of injury to my knee which has now survived 2 surgeries including a full ACL reconstruction. No regrets on saying Yes and this was the first of many times I would do this. Now off to the pool I went to float the pain away.
The rest of the day I spent finding people I knew and introducing myself to others I did not. My Jawbone Up and Fitbit became conversation starters whereby I was able to provide some insights around my experience testing 4 activity trackers simultaneously. A large number of people were wearing trackers and we all were sharing our own tips and insights. Later I entered several conversations with people around our 23andme data. I also tried to inject the topic of digital preservation as often as I could since I feel it’s an area that isn’t discussed much yet. Clearly a pattern seemed to be emerging for me discussing discoveries from personal data with other people. I found it very interesting that over the course of my time there many conversations revolved around this. I feel that putting many similar minded folks together can glean these sorts of insights which for me become great growth experiences.
The event culminated with a party that took on the theme of an 80’s prom to some degree with lots of additional surprises. I can’t really do this justice in words so I’ll let the photo gallery links I provide below give you the visuals of its gorgeousness. Other notable events included an underwater photobooth, a scotch tasting disguised as a backgammon tournament, an adult piñata party, and a session on how to draw dinosaurs. I’m very glad I went to this event. The combination of bringing together a great (relatively small) group of people together in an isolated desert oasis seemed to have been just the right recipe that many of us who attended needed. I’m looking forward to going again next year in the hopes that this recipe doesn’t change too much.
Blogs: I enjoyed two posts I read about the event. One from John Biehler that provides a similar take as myself but with added details and the other from Dinah Sanders titled Venues Amplify Vibes where she provides her observations about helpful underlying patterns that made YxYY and other events successful.