TEDxDU Review


Just got back from attending my first TED event. For those of you keeping score, TED, which stands for Technology Entertainment and Design, has allowed for others to organize conventions under their brand. There are of course guidelines and I thoroughly enjoyed the event. I did however have moments of; “how does this relate to technology or entertainment or design?”. It definitely fits under the heading of there is something there for everyone and since my goal is to one day speak at TEDxDU and soon after the original TED, it made me happy to see such a wide range of potential subject matter. For me some of the highlights were the following:

Lukas Biewald – Lukas is the CEO of CrowdFlower whose business is crowdsourcing. He reviewed how crowdsourcing had helped the recent Haiti relief. I’ll paraphrase: someone got a cell carrier to donate a CSC so people in need could send in SMS messages indicating what they needed. From their the messages needs were passed on to organizations that were on the ground that could address that issue. Then CrowdFlower members created a map of where these messages were coming from and color coded them based on type of need. The governmental agency in charge of the relief then used this map to help coordinate the efforts and in fact commented that they have never seen a more thorough method of handling addressing issues. I love the Internet and the people that live in it!

Eva Hakansson – Eva was sitting right in front of my wife and I during the first half of the show and the next time we saw her, she was on stage riding an electric motorcycle. (Very very quiet.) Her and her husband run/compete in electric motorcycle drag racing under the moniker  Killacycle. 0-60 in under 1 second!

William Espey – Mr. Espey is the ir-reverand (his term) for Chipotle and gave a talk on becoming more creative using a colorful twist on the term asymptote, as in get off your asymptote and go after what your most passionate about. Creativity will follow.

Neal Foard – Neal is from the advertising world and came to talk about engineers being the real heros and not professional athletes & rock stars. (An ad-based fanboy for engineers? You just can’t make this up.) He walked out onto stage with a toolbox and pulled a roll of duct tape from it. His point was engineers, just like duct tape, can fix just about anything. Because of that they should be supported. They should be cheered. He showed us a video of him visiting the lab one of the people he talked about; can’t remember his name. The video show him asking the PhD to follow him out into the hall. When they get to the hall there are three cheer leaders, cheering him and his team on. Very very funny. The team is working on a solar cell that is only 20% as efficient as today’s photo-voltaic cells but costs 1/100th -therefore making it practical to sell. He has created a logo that was the silhouette of a role of duct tape. If you had the duckey ($70), you could purchase a rugby shirt with the logo on the front.

Richard Lapchick – This man is a sport desegregationist. In other words he’s focused on equal rights for athletes for a very long time. His father was the coach of the Celtics, the first in the NBA to hire a black man to play for his basketball team. (This sentence sounds ridiculous given the make-up of the professional athlete world today. Especially the NBA.) Mr. Lapchick grew up with hatred aimed at his father for his coaching decision and then later at him. He was apart of the anti-apartheid movement and was attacked by two pro-apartheid whites. He was beaten close to death and they cut the “n” word into his stomach. His bio on Wikipedia is here. He a very accomplished man and Nelson Mandela is a friend.

Brer Rabbit & Jonny 5 of the Flobots -These two are the leaders of the band and talked about music and media holistically. Their goal is to get fans to really hear their music. Hear the message in their music. This is tough. As more and more of us multi-task across numerous mediums at the same time. I really appreciated the holistic approach to media . . .

In the end TED was not what i expected it to be. That is both good and a bit of let down. This is due to going in with expectations. I wanted every speaker to astonish me the same way the oceanographer did when they showed the video on the octopus. That didn’t happen and it’s not supposed to. You’re supposed to be exposed to a diverse group of subject matter experts. And that’s about the only expectation you should go in with. I feel like I did the first time I tried sushi. It was good but my palette was just not there yet. Today, I’m a complete sushi snob. I love the stuff!

Can’t wait for next year!

1 comment

  • This was the first TED event for DU as well,so I am sure they were thinking wider rather than deeper for a debut effort, so they could attract a wide audience, generate some buzz and see what ‘sticks’. As they get more viewer feedback, I would bet that future DU TEDs will become deeper on subjects that people care about most.