TED: Spreading Ideas, Inspiration

Technology. Entertainment. Design. That’s what TED stands for. But it’s only the beginning. TED finds the smartest, most unique, most inspiring people around the world and gives them time to speak about whatever they want to. Then they post them on the internet so anybody can see.

Technology. Entertainment. Design. That’s what TED stands for. But it’s only the beginning.

TED finds the smartest, most unique, most inspiring people around the world and gives them time to speak about whatever they want to. Then they post them on the internet so anybody can see.

J.J. Abrams, the creator of the TV shows Lost and Fringe and director of Star Trek and Cloverfield, said in his 2007 speech, “When I talked to the kind rep from TED, and I said, ‘What should I talk about?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just be profound.’”

The incredible part is that most of them are. Hundreds of people have spoken at TED conferences, and while not all of them are great speakers, most do have something for everyone to take away from what they say.

The TED conference has grown since it began in the 1980s and is now held annually. TED2010 featured 50 speakers over four days. A companion conference, TEDGlobal, has been hosted in India and England.

TED’s lineups have included some of the smartest and most successful people on the planet, but you don’t have learn anything to be inspired by William Kamkwamba, who as a 14-year old in Malawi, TED went to his local library and used plans from a book to build a windmill to power his house.

Some speakers are well-known, like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (who’s 2005 commencement speech at Stanford was selected to TED’s Best of the Web series). Neither one speaks about computers nor how they became rich and famous. They focus on something audience members can actually do in their lives.

Lesser known speakers can also have a great impact. Richard St. John and Renny Gleeson gave three minute speeches that are humorous, teach something, and are relevant in everyday life.

David Blaine’s reputation as magician has led to critics saying that his feats have been mere illusions, but watching him explain how he held his breath for 17 minutes, might change some minds.

What keeps TED interesting is the variety of topics and how they are presented. Some people talk about their own adventures, like Mythbuster Adam Savage or Steven Levitt in his talk, “Why do crack dealers still live with their moms?” Speakers, like author Malcolm Gladwell and musician Derek Sivers, tell what they have learned from others. Arthur Benjamin takes the Entertainment part of TED to a new level.

TED2010’s lineup includes comedian Sarah Silverman and movie director James Cameron. Sir Ken Robinson and Bill Gates will each return to give their second TED speech. Gates will be followed by educators Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, whose KIPP program was discussed by Gates at last year’s TED.

Originally published on February 6, 2010.

Sprint Understands What Teens Want

While ten minutes of talking on the phone each day may not seem like very much, the Beyond Talk plan is absolutely genius because many people, specifically teenagers, hardly ever talk on the phone anyway.

Reuters reported yesterday that Sprint is putting forth a new cell phone plan where users receive “unlimited texting and Web surfing for $25 a month but limits phone calls to 300 minutes a month.”

While ten minutes of talking on the phone each day may not seem like very much, the Beyond Talk plan is absolutely genius because many people, specifically teenagers, hardly ever talk on the phone anyway.

Earlier in the day, Flowtown released the findings of a study that shows the percentage of 12-year olds who text is more than double that of those who actually talk on their cell phones. While the percentage of those who talk on cell phones increases with age, 77% of 17-year olds text while only 60% will talk on their cell phones, texting is still the preferred way of communication.

Another finding of the study shows that 63% of teenagers phones do not access the internet. As Sprint’s plan also allows unlimited Web browsing, that number could drastically increase in the next few years. Not only as people begin to use Beyond Talk, but as other companies lower their prices to stay in the competition. As more teens have access to the internet social networking will only grow.

Web access will make teens happy, but $25 a month sounds like a great way for parents to get kids to start paying for their phones too.

YouTube Redesign Not About Looks

I haven’t been on any sites in the past few days where somebody isn’t complaining about the YouTube redesign. “It looks stupid,” misses the point. It’s more about functionality than looks.

I haven’t been on any sites in the past few days where somebody isn’t complaining about the YouTube redesign.

“It looks stupid,” misses the point. It’s more about functionality than looks.

The most important change is the quicker ability to share videos via other sites. Facebook, Twitter, Live Spaces (Live Spaces? Where’s the competition in that?), good old fashioned e-mail, and more are all one click away. After all that’s what the internet and YouTube are ultimately about. Sharing. Anything to make that quicker is welcomed by me.

The like and dislike buttons make more sense than the starred ratings. What is the difference between one and two stars? Either way the video isn’t worth watching. Like or dislike is simple and to the point. It would be nice to see what the current like vs. dislike standings are before you vote, but it’s understandable why that isn’t displayed. First, if there are three likes and eighty seven dislikes, you probably won’t watch the video and second, the more people who vote, the more accurate representation of the general view of the video.

Directly to the right of the video window you will find suggestions for other videos to watch depending on how you got to the one you are watching. If it is on your favorites list, your other favorites will be displayed. If it was one of the latest videos from a subscribed channel, the other latest videos from your subscribed channels will be displayed.

The look of the comments have been altered some, you can’t see a reply or a like/dislike button for each comment until you hover over it. That’s a feature that I like on all websites because things tend to look a lot less crowded. Where the number of comments statistic has gone, I don’t know, but I would like to see it.

The quality of most comments continues to decline by the hour, but that can’t exactly be put on YouTube.

There are still some improvements, minor tweaks really, that could be made, but for now I am clicking the Like button for these changes. If you still don’t like the changes, the best advice I can give you is: Don’t use it.
What are your thoughts on the redesign?

Taste in Music Changing In Good Time

I’ve been following BnL for longer than any other band. My musical taste has evolved quite a bit over that time most of the things I listen to nowadays are heavier, but BnL has always remained one of my favorite bands.

My review of the Barenaked Ladies’ newest album All In Good Time is now up. You can find the review here, and watch their first music video from the new album here.
I’ve been following BnL for longer than any other band. My musical taste has evolved quite a bit over that time most of the things I listen to nowadays are heavier, but BnL has always remained one of my favorite bands. Surprisingly when I go down my list of my favorite BnL songs, many of them are lighter love songs. “Light Up My Room,” “War On Drugs,” “Break Your Heart,” “Wrap Your Arms Around Me,” “Blame It On Me,” “Beautiful” are all pretty high up on that list.
Has your taste in music gotten heavier or softer over the years?

The Element (It's Elementry!)

I know I’m a little late to be reviewing Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element which came out over a year ago, but I’ll make it short and sweet:

Buy it.

I know I’m a little late to be reviewing Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element which came out over a year ago, but I’ll make it short and sweet:

This is the link to amazon. Buy it.

Still here? I guess you want a little more than that.

I saw Ken Robinson’s TED Talk (his first one, still waiting for his second to be posted) and loved it. Initially I wasn’t quite sure, what’s this guy going on about dancing? But I watched it again a few weeks later and really got it.

The Element is an expanded version of that talk. The surprising figures, subtle humor, and message that things need to change are all there.

The school system is designed like Burger King. Cranking out kids one after another who are ready for the world. The problem is that more-and-more, they aren’t ready.

The world is changing, education needs to change as well.

Math, Reading, and Science are placed at the top no matter where you go. But why? Why single them out when the majority of the people in the world aren’t going on to work in these fields? Sure almost everybody uses these subjects on a daily basis—often without realizing it—but that doesn’t mean that gym class (or even dance) shouldn’t be taught right along with them.

We use our body’s everyday too.

School is one place that nobody can avoid. At some point or another you went to school, maybe you are still going. It shouldn’t be about being judged. It should be about learning. Why the heck wouldn’t we want to try and make it enjoyable too?

OK, so maybe education is more like Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s did something about it, now it’s education’s turn.

Next Event: Smart Phone vs. Tablet

About a month ago I wrote about how desktop computers—or at least computer/internet access via a big screen—will be around for a while.

Today Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal gave the iPad a pretty solid review.

If that trend continues and people start taking to devices like the iPad (which isn’t exactly lacking for pre-orders) I can see it overtaking the smartphone.

The iPad itself is still lacking features (no camera? Really?), but once they are added and other devices which have them start rolling out why would you not want one? It can handle anything a phone can and the larger screen makes many more activities possible, or at least enjoyable.

I just don’t see many people reading the next Stephen King novel on their phone.

Size is the only major factor I see preventing the tablet from ruling. You can’t stick a tablet in your pocket as you head out the door for a night out with your friends, and let’s face it—at this point we’re all going to want some connection to the web as often as possible.

People will have that desktop at home as their base regardless, but as always there are multiple things that could happen: People use tablets and phones, people reject tablets and just keeping using phones, or tablets start to take over. What do you think will happen?

Me? I’m going with SixthSense.