A TED talk about what's wrong with TED talks

Duh. There is good and bad with everything.

For those who are interested, the full test of the Benjamin Bratton talk was published in the Guardian last week (here) with plenty of interesting chat BTL. Chris Anderson, TED curator, has also responded in the same newspaper, (here) again with plenty of interesting comment BTL.

The very last line of the very short manifesto is:

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

In other words, the manifesto isn’t saying “don’t document”, it’s saying “if you’re documenting stuff that doesn’t help you build and maintain working software, you’re doing it wrong”. Successful Agile projects do document, but they avoid documentation that exists just for completeness’ sake or because management wants an update. They document what’s going to help them and the maintainers effectively create working software.

That’s kind of a great example of my point—people see a few statements, think they understand them, and then implement something that either fails or creates a ridiculous amount of hidden technical debt. And yet they will defend it as the best thing ever; in fact, it’s not the best thing ever even when you do it right.

It’s just an improvement over “traditional” methodologies for some types of projects in some kinds of organizations.


Having never been a part of these corporate types of things, I always figured it was like doctor’s conferences…sleep through the minimum requirement of talks, then go hit the town with your new friends!

Coming next year, the new and impoved BILL and TED talks.

(And their evil robots us’s)


Widespread and popular awareness of that fact.


I submitted this to BoingBoing a little while ago as a youtube link and also as an editorial in the Guardian
[http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/30/we-need-to-talk-about-ted] but now it comes by way of Gawker ? : )


Agreed, although having succinct statements that need further clarification also kind of goes against the functional idea of being so succinct, no?

I suppose why agile has been misused is that it just plays into some people’s desire for black/white, which was one of the threads that started this.

I’m not sure you can blame the amazing content within many of those TED talks for the fact that we’ve evolved a society that doesn’t reward thinking things through.At the least, a number of TED talks have made many of us aware of options and solutions that we hadn’t even thought might exist before.

My beloved would complain about how awful it was that those brilliant TED talks just weren’t happening in the real world, but the fault is with us in general for not looking for solutions that enable us to implement them more creatively.

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Worry not, Dear Boy, we’ll sell you one

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It’s true. TED is a fat, slow moving target, richly deserving of ridicule, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Same for TEDx.

Disclosure: I helped organize a TEDx event a couple of years ago. Some of the talks were not that good, but a couple were very good, and one is one of my favorites of all TED talks, about climate change.


Yeah, that’s my take.

The medium is excellent for delivering some concepts to some people. I spent months trying to get a data warehouse project approved that was solved in a half hour thanks to Hans Rosling, and I’d have been dangerous if I had Dan Pink’s talk on motivation back when I was setting up working groups.

On top of that, when doing a lot of cross discipline work it helps to have something that’s been tightened up like that to have as a mental placeholder. People put a lot of work into those presentations and while you lose a lot of data there are usually links and the tightened script helps me remember some things that are outside my expertise.

That being said, it was never going to change the world. You need an entity that can enable and support people that transitions from the world at large and you can’t fault them for not getting around to something nobody else has done either.

The problem here is that it can often be more popular entertainment than popular science. It’s appealing to the ice road truckers fans who want to impress other ice road truckers fans, without all that pesky reading.

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What do you really expect from 15-minute general audience puff pieces? The talks are the equivalent of asking someone at a party what they do and getting a slightly too enthusiastic answer. They are only first introductions to ideas or persons, by design without any rigor or academic merit. A good talk may prompt you to google the subject.

TED is not some kind of shadow UN solving the great questions of our time. It’s the “academics tell us why they love their work” show. Sure, TED has its own style that deserves a certain amount of ridicule and at times they could select their speakers a little more carefully. However I still think as long as you have somewhat realistic expectations it is a fun diversion and not really worse than most other general audience formats.


Actually, depending on the talk you’ll often see a link either on the talk page or else a bio link to the speaker, and from there you’ll have some things to follow. It’s definitely not consistent, but there are quite a few short presentations out there that have more than sufficient rigor and merit.

Not all of them, mind you, but it’s unfair to assume because a large operation is having some controversy that every individual who gave a presentation is in on some ‘low standards’ game. Some of those guys prep for months and really put their hearts and every ounce of their group’s collective intellect into what they present.

As silkox1 pionted out a few posts up, there are a lot of babies in that bathwater.

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My point was that the talks are only meant to be starting points even if the work behind them is flawless. The information contained in the talks themselves is not enough to get you very far, but it’s unfair to expect that.

Oh sure. Perhaps I am not expressing it very well, but I am firmly on the pro-TED side.


Oh yeah! Totally with you there!

I tend to focus more on individual talks rather than TED as a whole, so for me there’s been the recent frustration of sometimes having to find other (sometimes less well put together) versions of the same information when trying to deal with complex issues when I run into somebody who’s been given a recent anti-TED bias, so the recent press has been a bit annoying for me.

Placebo medicine really annoys those who believe in mainstream medicine, even/especially when people who are driven to placebo medicine are given no hope at all from conventional treatments.

Placebo politics doesn’t really have any detractors, because the folks left out don’t matter in the first place. It’s kind of the beginning premise of capitalism: those who don’t own shares in the company simply don’t matter.

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I misread it too, but thought he was going to help awkward FBI agent Sandra Bullock expose a beauty contest scheme. Or compose an opera based on Billy Budd.

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Well he did give an example at the very beginning. The concept of a TED talk has become influential enough to have an effect on the way we think about problems, ideas, design in general.