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Richard Lucas

This is one of the saddest blog posts I've ever read.

I think TED is great. . It's altruistic. it's pluralistic. it's changing then world for the better. Most of the people I know who watch TED talks love them. It's very popular 300 million plus downloads, so its not exactly a tiny minority that think this way...

what has the author of this blog done in his or her life that has improved the world for other people.

The only criticism in the post that is worth considering is "why no debate" well the answer is that you do debate TED talks, but watching the TED attendees debate and question would not be compelling viewing. You can have debates and discussions later.

I'm helping organise a TEDx (for free as a volunteer, and I'm proud of what I am doing.

my comments on the content above

It's "a very creepy thing to have to get (a licence) to have a meeting"

my comment: No, only if you want it TEDx branded. not creepy at all.

"The speakers can't speak for more than 18 minutes?! what's that all about?!'

my comment: It's about keeping it short. A great feature forcing speakers to be concise. The talks are compelling and popular, partly because they are short.

"You can't charge for tickets? Well that's just plain repressive. "

my comment: No, its not, it's standard practice in Creative Commons Licence land (which is how TED talks are licenced). They give their content away for free, and expect those following their format to work in the same spirit. No one has to do a TEDx event...

"Especially when the TED people could be making money on this and license the brand in exchange for a standard cut."

my comment: No. Just because you think they could make money doesn't mean they have to. It's great that TED talks are free.

"It's only on suffrance that you *might* be able to charge a fee, and then only $100. I guess that's because TED Central will still charge $6000 a pop for the real conference -- these other local ones are only sort of fan groups."

my comment: Exactly, it's the model described in Chris Anderson's book "Free". it makes sense, is open, transparent and there is nothing wrong with it. its a cross subsidy from the wealthy everyone else. A good thing, not a problem.

"What's awful about this is how it fetched up on my Facebook "liked" by various vacuous indiscriminate tekkie types who thought this was a great way to learn -- at a free conference! "Llllearn" (they always use the jargonistic spin on the term to mean essentially "imbibe tech doctrine like a sponge" -- marked by the with rolling of the "l")"

my comment: you are being arrogant, and prejudiced. I don't know if you are English Irish, Scottish, German Polish, or Zimbabwean. It just doesn't matter and I don't care. Who cares what accent people talk in provided what they say makes sense.

"It's also disturbing to see that lazy teachers are using this in the classroom, and probably without any teaching materials that question any of the religious doctrine. You can't even discuss the creationist beliefs in the classroom, but hey, you can peddle TED transhumanism."

my comment: You obviously didn't listen to Billy Graham

or Rich Warren
(Christian Fundamentalists)
or Karen Armstrong, progressive nun) on

TED is pluralistic. it gives a platform to lots of people with different points of view.

“We know teachers are using the talks in classrooms,” said Lara Stein, TED’s licensing director. “What could we do to move that along?”

my comment: "Oh no, teachers are using compelling free short talks as part of their lessons". It's a great idea. I am in favour. I use TED talks as part of my workshops I teach. Again, what is the problem?

In summary, the blog makes one point worth making. That TED talks should feed into debate. No one in their right mind (least of all committed TEDsters) would disagree, Beyond this, the most anger filled and bitter piece of comment I have read in a long time..
Could it be you a little bit jealous.
I feel sorry for you, where ever you are and are going.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

You're a living example of what is so terribly creepy about this, Richard, and I'm not sad, I'm a healthy dose of realism in the fact of this awful icky creepy authoritarianism coming out of Silicon Valley.

Creative Commons is hardly a model; it decouples creators' from commerce and browbeats them into giving away creations, making it seem as if they HAVE to do that to be cool. No PayPal buttons for Cory Doctorow and gang -- they earn lecture fees to go give lectures you should give away your book for free.

Short? Well geez, could they go 25 minutes, even? Honestly, that's just controlling anal behaviour.

TED isn't pluralistic in the slightest. I've seen many TED videos and they are all out of the same transhumanist cookie cutter. If someone like Morozov is allowed on to play "twitter skeptic"; it's because he celebrates the tech and the devs even so, implying that it's merely about the masses getting it wrong, and not listening to experts like him on the "right" way to tweet.

Anger filled and bitter? No, just debunking bullshit. Jesse Schell is downright immoral in his notion that everything should be gamed by playing on people's worst addictive tendencies.

I notice that all the usual geeky meme-chimes are rung here -- that I didn't patch, so I should get the fuck out; I didn't "contribute to humanity" (laughs).

Shame, shame, shame on Chris Anderson, touting "Free" -- itself a bullshit technocommunist shill! -- and then only letting some of his pals charge $100, and browbeating everyone into saying they can't charge more, and then having the Big Tent $6000. If he REAAAALY believes in FREE, he needs to get rid of his big-ass freemium gimmick.

If the TED people put in a few token -- and very anodyne! -- evangelists like Billy Graham, so what? They haven't really debated any controversial people on the right -- that would be aneathema. They haven't OPENED UP DEBATE by having actual panels of people with conflicting views and QUESTIONS. The entire churchy nature of this spectacle is appalling.

But you're a good advertisement for what's wrong with the TED movement, so keep talking! I know I'm absolutely right to be appalled at a movement that deliberately erases out controversy and dumbs down debate; that undermines commerce; that creates homogenized experiences; that peddles this tekkie crap hither and yon without question. No authentic university experience or institute of debate and learning would countenance an approach that allows lectures without questions, or one person to push a point of view, without others on a panel. The token questions they might allow are so far from anything remotely like a genuine debate as to be a horrid caricature.

"Ohnoes using compellings short talks in the classroom". Oh no, indeed. Again, there is no curriculum that critically analyzes this material; it's supposed to be ecstatically used like a religious doctrine, not questioned. I'm supposed to sit still while tech loons like Stowe Boyd are unleashed on my children?! Totalitarians like Seth Godin? No one ever *debates* these gurus; they bow before them and organize one more TED talk...

Oh, but you haven't rung all the chimes. You forgot to ask me if I am off my meds, and tell me I "need help".

Richard Lucas

I don't have a problem with you disagreeing with me, or the TED speakers(by the way you could write comments on their web site).

You completely misunderstand what TED is all about.

Saying you cannot learn from a TED talk because its too short or there is no debate is like saying you cannot learn from a TV programme or book, because you cannot debate it.
of course you can debate the book with your teacher, but the same is true of your TED talk... with TED you can write your comments on their web page.

or you could sign up to one of the Question and Answer sessions for example like here...

When I was at Cambridge in the UK lectures seldom provoked debate and there were very few questions asked. (not saying its good - it's just the way things were). Here in Poland where I live, TED talks trigger discussions and debates.

Freemium works quite well for Google...

Personally I find a lot of the TED talks highly supportive of an anti-big government approach to life. The successful outcomes are seldom to do with a wise bit of public policy.
with a constant background beat of individual effort, voluntary collaboration, making a contribution.

I challenge you to name five talks that would be powerful evidence in favour of voting for a left wing political party.

I personally don't agree with a lot of TED talks but that doesn't matter. they make you think. Some of them are quite "preachy" but you don't have to agree with a book or talk to find it valuable. Further a well expressed wrong argument helps crystalise your own thinking.

You may not be happy about it but you've helped me understand why I like TED, because your extreme position makes me think

Is there a left wing bias? maybe by American standards but I am not sure.

On a lot of the talks, its not at all about right/left or technology related issues at all.
its about topical problems and interesting solutions, whether in areas of anti corruption, slavery. health care, education, music or introducing concepts of leadership

or takr this one about getting people to listen to classical music

I fail to see a left right techno silicon valley angle at all

its just an impressive guy describing what he does and why to a global audience. its great that people like this are given a platform

Granted some TEDsters are a little bit smug, and self important. but...
I am far more impressed by the ones who bother and make and effort to do this, than do what most rich successful people do with their $6000 and time.

Its a powerful and positive role model in my opinion...

so seeing as you like debate, and discussion, please answer the questions

1. What in a world where you were in charge, would you rather Benjamin Zander were doing than telling people about his activities on TED?

2. What is wrong with giving a platform to someone like anti sex slavery activist

3. Derek Sivers idea about how to start a movement here is original and well delivered.
is he correct ? well you can discuss that. what do you think?

4 Taking a non TED talk you probably hate as well, Guy Kawasaki's 10 20 30 rule
well its a powerful argument in favour of being short. its not a debate, its a talk and its something that many people could benefit from...

I think the most important point is that just because TED isn't exactly what you want it to be doesn't mean it should change. it's very good at what it does. it is moving in the direction of more user generated content (though I am not sure that is a good idea as we will drown in too much content..


Catherine Fitzpatrick

Are you a paid evangelist for the TED set or are you just playing along at home, Richard?

You're using the usual silly geek distractor of claiming that because I've *criticized the lack of debate and openness around the sterile TED cult* -- rightfully so! -- I've somehow a) denied TED's right to express a point of view b) denied any value in these various homogenous exemplars of the techno cult.

They're right to freedom of dissemination of information is fortunately secured in the U.S., and needs no special defense from me, nor have I undermined it *by using that same right*.

And...Um, I didn't get into their "value", which for you is "self-evident" anyway because I'm concerned about *process* and *context*. We can't debate the value on the merits because of this set-up. Anybody who is "controversial" can't even have a TED event. And at these TED events, there is no debate; the UR-TED productions don't have Q&A, and don't have panals of debates. THAT is the issue.

I'm not going to be frog-marched into what geeks like you try to do when the discussion is actually about freedom and open context, and somehow make a begrudging admission that yeah, there's decent content in TED. Because TED is a cult. It's not about content, but process. You're examples of the "range of opinions" that have...Billy Graham are laughable.

Question and answer sessions like that get controlled for "trolls" who are simply people persistent in their obvious questions about how rigged this is.

And now, a completely laughable argumentation from you with the contrasting of apples and oranges. Your particular experience at Cambridge in the UK involves "no debate", although Cambridge is a recognized university which competing perspectives and debates in it of every kind. Um, perhaps you feel it is all neoliberal policies and running dog imperialists, but whatever, most people can concede Cambridge's reputation.

Then you play three-card monte and take us to...Poland...a place where people have struggled and died for their freedom of speech and the right to debate and the right to be wrong, and suddenly hijack that demonstrable record as a mantle to wrap your TED cult in. Devious, devious! I saw what you did there...

Rather than me spend time drumming up five TED talks that "talk you into voting for a left-wing party," why don't you take any random 10 TED talks and ask how those speakers voted and what kind of following they had, even if they talk about...server stacks and widgets.

To fail to see any leftwing agenda in Silicon Valley is to fail to see the enormous role of the tech devs of social media in the Obama campaign. Just because some big IT is Republican or the governors are Republican doesn't mean that these new media moguls don't have tremendous influence. Also, um, please point out the place where Chris Anderson espouses conservative Republican views ROLF.

I don't need these technocommunists to serve as platforms for causes like anti-sex trafficking. Good Lord, that's a load of sophistry and a half.

Um, Benjamin Zander is just a conductor, not political? I guess you missed this birthday party notice!

This is where you truly #fail, Richard, when I can easily Google up links like that. Admit defeat, and come over to the light side.

Guy Kawasaki? Are you daft? I follow Guy, but he's Just a Guy. An inch deep and a mile wild, and also an Obama voter, dearie.

It's not about TED changing its orthodox technocommunist content shrouded in a million silly arguments in favour of being short. It's about creating a context to challenge these homogenous viewpoints by having free discussions, even by controversial organizations TED doesn't like. I'm not the problem here with not liking something; TED is for blocking progress and making its followers conformist little myrmidons.

cube inada

lara Stein -- part of TED.that answers alot.. wow
the NYC creative community remembers...
Saul got a big house...he deserved it for his design work, not for giving us TED (at least the folk that hanger on around it all)

ever the proof that technocommunists are thieves.
i really do know where so many bodies are buried.:)

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Richard is the TEDx organizer in Warsaw, so he's wedded to TED.

cube, this is a non-sequitor. Who?

cube inada

in your story.. the TED moychandizing director...
she was the "MSN" queen B back in NYC in the early mid 90s....

if i told you the truth of stuff back then, you still wouldnt believe me;) and maybe thats better..but if you think Linden had its full of disasterous execs... MSN had nothing on them:)

im being polite and not telling the whole stuff:)

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Another good critique of TED meetings:


After being hit with a terrific TEDache, I accepted that I too hate TED. The epiphany struck me as I was watching a talk on a topic that's dear to me--introversion. While I enjoyed what Susan Cain had to say (especially about group work), I couldn't help feeling dirty. The headset microphone, the high ceilings, the blue background signifying heaven, the mysteriously darkened and vast audience is just kinda cheesy. As a result, I lost my desire to read Cain's book QUIET. Sadly, her blood and sweat were tainted by the perversion of production. So, in a fit of irritation, I googled "Cult of Ted." That's how I found you.

Your critique of TED is very funny and smart. Personally, I don't mind that TED denies fringe groups like the Tea Party a forum, for me it's mainly the god/guru-making aspect of the program that's so gosh darn chafing.

In Los Angeles there's no shortage of public forums, author talks, discussions; we have the LA Public Library, Skirball Center, PEN, Hammer Museum, etc. Most of the time the authors are sitting down, and in conversation (always a Q&A); the lights in the house are on. And the speakers are not at all deified--even a god like Salman Rushdie! I don't want to sound like a communist, but it's just more egalitarian.

TED (and its metastasis) is symptomatic of our viral culture. People want to be smart without putting in the work, and they want to be the first one to show off their smartiness (by sharing what they find). Unfortunately, by watching a 19-minute presentation, they think they are taking the great leap to intellectual autonomy. I guess my rhetorical question is: should we be praising these people for not watching reality shows (or playing Farmville), or chastising them for not reading books. (Disclaimer: I do know some good people who watch TED talks AND read books.)

I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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