I won’t be going to TEDxYYC

I was really excited that a TEDx event was being planned for Calgary. I was looking forward to TEDxYYC, and was planning to attend and help out in any way that I could. The website for the event went live today, so I went to register.

I got to the registration form. Except it’s not a registration form. It’s an application-to-register form. okaaaaaay… That’s unusual…

I proceed to fill the form in.

First Name. check.
Last Name. check.
Company/Organization. (hmm… whatever.) check.
Job Title/Role. (ummm… why is this relevant? fine.) check.
Email address. check.
Address. (maybe they mail the pass?) check.
Phone. check.
Tell us about yourself. (maybe for a bio on the website? um… okay.) check.
List some of your lifetime achievements. (wait. what? To attend? Really? No. Not appropriate. Closetab.)

The demographic info, I get. The address, sure, for correspondence. The company and job title may even be okay, but questionable for just attending the event.

But Lifetime Achievements? What the fuck? That’s not cool. That’s an elitism filter. That’s exclusionary. Even if they “allow” people with lesser lifetime achievements, it sets the tone for the event. It’s about Awesome People™ being hand picked to hang out together and watch Even More Awesome People™ talk about Awesome Stuff™.

I told my wife about this, and she wondered why I was so upset. “Hey, you’d probably get in. What’s the problem?” She may be right. I don’t know. But there shouldn’t be a worthiness filter to register to an event about making the world a better place.

Not interested. I’ll stick to the TED Talks website, where I don’t need to prove my worth to gain access.

112 thoughts on “I won’t be going to TEDxYYC

  1. too bad i won’t see you there. i’ll be the awesome one in the awesome lounge hanging out with awesome people with awesome life achievements and cocktails. we’ll wave at you. awesomely. ok, not really. i wish i was going.

  2. The Edmonton event email just came out as well and it says:

    “TEDx Edmonton is an invitation-only event. While we would love to open the event up to as many people as possible, we are limited by our license from TED to host an intimate gathering for no more than 100 people.”

    I guess they have to filter in some manner, but like the torch run, it leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth the way they do it.

  3. I think it is part of every TEDx process, not unique to Calgary. I tossed one in for the one in Austin next month (cause I am there the week before anyhow) and its the exact same thing.

    My approach in such cases is to toss off any serious intent and fill the box with crazy BS.

  4. It was for that exact same reason I opted not to bother trying to attend. It’s far too easy for the conference to descend from being a really neat idea into a popularity contest. Thanks, but no thanks.

    The next two fields (required as well); list 3 sites to help us get to know you better, and what are you planning to get from TEDxYYC don’t help matters any. It could really use some better copy as to why they want to prospective people to sell themselves in order to pay to attend.

  5. I had sex with a midget once. Does that mean I am awesome enough to attend. Actually someone else bitched about this some time ago… That it was one of the most exclusive events that they knew. Whatever let the special people feel special about their specialness… There is another name for special… err I forget… back to my midget.

  6. Well now you know why I haven’t been linking to TED videos in my newsletter all these years….

    There is a definite subtext to TED, and while people are happy to link oblivious to it, I will not play a role in propagating it.

  7. Isn’t that the whole point of the TED conference? Taking the most influential speakers of our time and putting them in front of the most powerful decision makers of our time and hoping it creates good? Their purpose isn’t to educate the world, it’s to change it. There are many, many other conferences to go to learn from.

    1. I have to echo Adam Z’s point. I can’t imagine TED would have survived year 1, let alone become the global brand that it is, had it not committed to what Adam said: “Taking the most influential speakers of our time and putting them in front of the most powerful decision makers of our time and hoping it creates good.”

      And I’m not sure — given that TEDx has to have a limited # of attendees/audience members — why it is surprising that organizers would seek what *they believe* to be the most interesting mix of folks possible to interact with the presenters.

      This is not meant to be a thinking-about-things-love-in or a ‘pure’ idealistic experience. It is about leveraging passionate folks who possess leverage.

      And while I can’t ask anyone to value what TED is or what it stands for (let alone — as Stephen’s stance is — to link to TED), to hold TEDx organizers accountable to an unrealistic/idealistic version of what they ‘could’ create seems disingenuous at best. If it was merely the first 251 people who signed up, there would be a diminishing value for the presenters themselves to take the stage. Not only does the audience expect the speakers to be compelling, but the speakers expect their audience to be equally compelling.

      Now, if a compelling person (such as anyone here who wants nothing to do with TED/TEDx) opts not to apply or to attend, that’s a different story. That being said, there seems little/no value in arguing whether or not TEDx organizers ‘should’ allow ‘anyone’ to come. This is especially true when anyone who does not value their selection process (given TED’s protocols) can simply stage a TEDx (or similar) event of their own.

      Instead of criticizing TED/TEDx (and their related organizers for the appearance of “elitism”), it would seem more practical and fulfilling to simply to create the event you want to attend…and frame the rules accordingly. Perhaps I’m missing something, but it seems to be not much more than a strawman in formation.

      1. “Taking the most influential speakers of our time and putting them in front of the most powerful decision makers of our time and hoping it creates good.”

        This by definition is problematic because how did these speakers become influential in the first place? Some bureaucratic structure chose these ideas as the best and then they get passed on in the discourse as being the best ideas. Obviously the ideas that would upset the so-called “powerful decision makers” who are no less the upper class are kept out, because let’s face it who wants to pay $6,000 to hear the people that they like or better yet themselves criticized.

        Since the discourse is then focused on these ideas, a whole system comes into play to invest in these ideas and then metrics that measure the success of implementing the ideas. So really it’s an elite ecosystem feeding on itself and making us focus on certain ideas, while discounting others that may be just as important. Such a thing is okay, but pulling us into a conversation that is not ours and making us believe that such ideas are important and then presenting inspirational people to further sell us such ideas I think is quite a bit more “disingenuous at best”.

        In terms of ideas, there is a question of filtering ideas. But that’s what democracy is for, legitimate debate without coercion and also preferably without meaningless rhetorical language is what is necessary. There is none of that here, so they pick the ideas, then they pick the people who have money to invest in those ideas. If you look at the list of topics, one of them should be politics, instead you see Global issues… Okay fine. What does that include well talks about how countries should be peace, pursue soft power, and so on. Essentially it simply reasserts the political dogma that is presented by the media in a cooler, more fashionable format. There is no discussion about war crimes, neo-imperialism, lack of freedom, agent provocateurs, abuse of authority, harassment of photographers (i.e. me), empty rhetoric continuously employed in political debate and so on. All of these topics by the way have been covered over time on this blog and a small community of people have contributed to the debate about these topics in a democratic manner. It’s all about the other, and how we are helping the other and we are good people, etc.

        In such a way, this blog right here, and I am not trying to be overly nice to D’Arcy anything is significantly more intellectual than you are likely to find if you just randomly sit through a TED Talk. It’s hosted by a self-described “Lowly Edu-geek” and his minions of EduPunks and random people. It’s not based on coercion and the ideas are not always the best… but they are good enough. So in terms of organizing an event, well this is the event… We sit, watch, and participate. We don’t have million dollar budgets, and we don’t ask people for a hundred dollars or their accomplishments, or the “most powerful” people to support us and that doesn’t stop us. We take pot shots at those who consider themselves the “elites”, and think that they have the right over such phrases as “Ideas worth spreading”.

        1. I’d leverage my own views off of the passionate views expressed by my leveraged friend. I’m personally leveraged to the hilt, blame the Vancouver real estate market for that.

  8. The “real” TED conference is elitist, but at least anyone with the $6K (or so) is allowed to buy a ticket. None of this “prove your worth” nonsense. If there’s a shortage of seats available (the license for the TEDx event is for 100 seats) then have a lottery or something.

    Selection of presenters is critical. Screening of attendees is not cool. TED is about changing the world. You can’t do that by marginalizing all but a select few.

    1. This is actually not true, as far as I know. You have to pay the money to register, *and* you have to be invited (based on similar criteria to the ones you object to). At least they don’t make you pay before you find out if they’ll admit you… 🙂

  9. I’m a little surprised that you think a text box inviting people to brag about themselves is more of a barrier to entry than a six thousand dollar fee.

    I know there are plenty of amazing, and at times inspiring talks that have been produced by TED. But their sensibility has always rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t go so far as Stephen in the sense of refusing to link to or use their videos, if I did that for every source I somehow objected to I’d blog even less often than I do. That said, I can see his point. It’s a strange way to change the world…

    1. I’m not saying the $6K fee for TED Proper isn’t a barrier – it’s obviously a significant one – but if it’s important to go, it’s possible (although not easy) to raise the money.

      Having an “are you worthy” filter is a harder nut to crack. It explicitly says “we only want a certain kind of person in the room, and will actively screen to ensure that.”

      I could _almost_ forgive a Worthiness Filter for TED Proper – where alumni are presidents, ceos, nobel prize winners, etc… but for a local grassroots event? that just stinks of pretentious elitism for the sake of being Awesome.

      1. I will happily write a reference to boost your elite points for you D’Arcy 😉

        The strange thing for me is, why does the *audience* need to be elite? Speakers, sure, but if you can clap, gasp and laugh in the right parts surely that is all the qualification an audience needs? 😉

        *sigh* at least you don’t need an awesome badge to watch the videos I guess …

        1. The TEDx Conference isn’t like going to the movies. You’re not going there to be entertained and educated. You’re going because they expect you to take what you’ve learned and do something with/about it.

          If your only interest is to gasp and be in awe, watch it on youTube.

      2. But it is not truly a “grassroots” event. It is a TED-branded/licensed event…that happens at the grassroots (if you will) level. A true grassroots event — for education — would be Educon (to name an obvious one). And there is nothing hindering anyone from creating their version of a TEDx (for Education, et al) event based on any range of variables/principles…and forgoing the TED/TEDx relationship altogether. Why not point this discussion towards the creation of something that lives up to your/our ideal, not just maintain an intellectual criticism of something that never was meant to serve the purposes implied in this thread? I ask that quite sincerely. If this group suddenly made a decision to create an event (or a series of events) that were truly grassroots on behalf of education — even borrowing from the framework of TED if needed/wanted — then something vital would be evolving. Otherwise, demanding that TED/TEDx be what we want it to be seems to be a distraction over time.

        1. I like the idea of potentially creating an event. However, I don’t think valid criticism is ever a waste of time. The critique here is valid as far as I am concerned.

  10. Hi Darcy,
    The application form is directly from TED, you can see it here: http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/361

    Aside from being required to do it, we figured because TED only allows us to have 100 attendees, getting people to fill out a form makes sure we have a nice balance of people. We’re trying to avoid making it a big ol’ circle jerk (pardon the expression) of pro-networkers. Not our thing.

    I’m a little disappointed you assumed this to be a negative thing. So far, people have been noting their achievements as to what is important to *them* – which is really cool. People are proud of an amazingly diverse set of accomplishments – and the organizing committee is getting pretty pumped to spend the afternoon with Calgarians doing great things that we’ve never met before.

    FInally, TED is an elitist event. TEDx *also* elitist. We want a day of thought-provoking discussion with Calgarians who are smart, engaging, motivated and confident enough to be able to say they are all of those things. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s just the filtering tool that we’ve chosen due to size restrictions. We’ve got a great line up of speakers coming and we want it to be the best day it can possibly be.

    So stop being such a grumpy pants, take 5 minutes and tell us what you’ve done that makes you unique.
    Have a great day,
    Sarah

    1. It would have been better to have used a lottery or some other form of nonbiased selection process, rather than digitally replicating the bouncer in front of the hot new nightclub.

      you’re correct – ted proper is also elitist. that doesn’t make it right.

      the frustrating part, for me, is that I know you’re doing this with the absolute best of intentions. you’re trying to ensure that the event is a great one. but you’re also making sure that it’s just another clique. it could have been so much more than that.

      I’m fine being branded as a grump on this. elitism sucks, no matter how shiny the marketing around it.

    2. So what you are saying is this is a way that we can find out if we are smart, engaging, motivated and confident enough? Cool! Better than the Mensa test or the boy scout badges, take that high school swimming club, I am getting a “good enough for TED” certificate 😀

      (My ego is going to be so crushed when I am rejected, what will I do with myself? Do you offer counselling for the losers who do not pass muster?)

  11. you are a grumpy pants! you wouldn’t be very happy if you paid good money for a carton of orange juice that turned out to be mostly water, either 😉

  12. Don’t really understand how one can get so grumpy over a self-proclaimed elitist event being too elitist. Isn’t that like refusing to buy a carton of milk because it has milk in it?

    1. it’s my problem. I realize that. I’d perceived tedxyyc as a local, grassroots event. it’s obviously not. I choose not to bother trying to convince the bouncer to let me in.

  13. When i was being interviewed for Ted India, it confirmed my previous hunches about TED being a elitist venue. If Director for TED Africa interviews TED fellows for TED India you don’t need any further explanation and can imagine how INFORMED and WELL PREPARED he would be to judge who is appropriate for TED. Some of the videos can also serve as no-brainer jokes about IDEAS WORTH SPREADING. Other than that, i have nothing against the idea about people spreading wonderful ideas as long as its free.

  14. The thing is, they – TED Exec and their corporate sponsors – decide which ideas are “worth spreading”, and then they lend these ideas a false legitimacy by creating this ‘elite’ status around them – where ‘elite’ means, of course, ‘chosen by the TED Exec and their corporate sponsors’.

    Would these ideas stand on their own merit, without all the hype? Maybe. But the ideas – and the speakers advocating them – get a big boost. And we get, at a minimum, the ‘big man’ theory of science (coupled with the ‘big CEO’ picture of commerce) and the ideas and ethos that goes with that.

    TED exists as a concept by denying, at its foundation, that ideas are created and nurtured and grown by a community. It imposes on top of that (and often against that) a mythology that ideas are created by ‘great thinkers’ (and therefore to be owned, and commodified, and monetized).

    1. I disagree with this. I see the event as a platform and an opportunity for people to share ideas and to share the things that they are passionate about. Do these people, typically, end up being connected to big jobs for big money for their big ideas? Probably. Eventually. How could they not? Of course there’s a corporate presence. These are some of the brightest people in the world. I understand what your saying, but I’m not sure the TED event is to blame for that. I think that its a positive influence in the world. This all seems too cynical.

      Albert Einstein once said that there’re two ways to see the world – that everything was a miracle, or that nothing was a miracle. And maybe there’s some grey space between the whole miracle/not miracle dichotomy, but I think I get the gist of what he’s saying there and I know, for myself, how I’d rather see things.

      There’s good here, y’know?

    2. Not sure TED is denying anything. They have seized the language — “Ideas Worth Spreading — period. They have created a venue, a process, a community, a network, a publication hive, a brand, and a level of desire; this, of course, could be created by anyone. Anyone here in this thread, as well. Any sentient being who thinks that TED literally ‘owns’ ideas or the ‘spreading’ of ‘ideas’ would strike me as off-target. And to deny that there is a TED ‘community’ (with and without corporate sponsorship) seems to miss something. Communities exist in every paradigm, including for-profit and corporate; it is not the ‘elite’ element of the not-for-profit/Creative Commons-esque social stream. They do not ‘own’ the ideas. They simply own the ‘media’ (related to their events) that allows people to hear/spread those ideas. The ideas themselves are free (even if someone wants to argue that having to sit through a short BMW ad ‘distorts’ what we mean by ‘free’). Ultimately, if people were not drawn to those ideas/videos, they would die on the vine. And when have ‘ideas’ not been fair game for ownership/monetization?

      1. “this, of course, could be created by anyone.”

        Not without a significant amount of time and effort expended. It’s much easier for someone with millions of dollars to do than someone with a job and children… Especially someone who is an introvert.

        However, I do like the assertion that ideas are free. But really, none of the ideas really have anything that you should be doing — at least not in some meaningful political way. I mean we’re simply spectators who are not even at the conference. The media gives us a perception of participating, but we’re not a part of the conversation as many of the topics either don’t concern us or we have no power over the things that they mention.

        1. With all due respect, is your issue with any event that has a budget beyond a single person’s allowance? If the issue is simply a matter of monetary scale to you, why not demonstrate what can be done at a far less dear price (or no price at all)?

          The point is NOT to be AT the event. That’s merely frosting.

          The point is to put ideas into motion. If the ideas matter to you (or anyone), and are then put into motion at the scale of the individual and/or their community, then its a win/win.

          Is the issue simply with the average person’s inability to be ushered to Long Beach for a few-day event?

          1. Fair enough, I hear your call to action and acknowledge that it’s hypocritical not to act. I have actually mentioned that on this blog before… That to talk about it is hypocritical without action. There is a counter-argument to that argument that Zizek made, and that is sometimes (I am paraphrasing, get his book titled Violence for the real quote) “inaction is the most violent thing that you can do”. What Zizek means is that if you can not conveniently act politically as most of us don’t find it easy to act politically because the so-called “elites” continuously get in the way of freedom and set upon us with surveillance and physical violence when we attempt to act or protest especially when we do so peacefully, then the most violent form of protest may be not doing anything at all.

            If you look at the issues not covered at TED and want to do anything about them or the bureaucracy in schools or education, you have a long road ahead of you with tons of resistance; not to mention losing your job, etc, such risks people who want a “good” life don’t wholeheartedly take. What that means is if an all encompassing “bad” ideology is at play and you do nothing to address those issues which need addressing, then things go from bad to worse eventually collapsing the system. We see that this is possible now, and I can see how things can get much worse. So I think Zizek’s argument is valid.

            I think what is needed is for the elites to realize that protest is the lifeblood of democracy and stop harassing us when we attempt to bring about any sort of productive change. Barring that, the system will be in trouble and will collapse probably until an even more totalitarian system like the Chinese take over.

            So to answer your question, yes, conferences can be brought about with far fewer resources. But it’s not ideas, but the actions arising from those ideas that matter and media coverage of those actions that bring about change and put pressure on the incumbents to change. Barring the ability to put such pressure on the incumbents, we have no power. In such an atmosphere all you can do is bitch. This is what we do here 🙂

      1. Well, I think the organizing committee gets to decide who is “elite” for this event. They are the ones with the vision, putting in all of the work and who really have the most to lose if the day doesn’t end up being interesting.

        The great thing about this is, anyone else can organize an event as well. If people have a different vision, they can run with their vision, organize a different event and make it happen!

        caution: even at 100 people, organizing a day like this is a lot of hard work…and no matter what you do and how hard you try, not everyone will be happy. 🙁

        1. I get that it’s a huge undertaking, and that you (and the other organizers) are putting in a LOT of work to make sure the event is a success. I admire that – and I apologize if this came across as anything personal. It’s not. I’m certain the event will go well, and that 100 people will have a life-altering experience. That’s great, and I’m genuinely thankful that the event will take place, and hopefully help enlighten this city in the process. But, I won’t be there.

        2. Sarah pretty much hit my points. most events have a committee or filter process (i provided an entertainment industry business card to go to comic-con), and if DARCYCON2011 gets off the ground, then he can determine who goes by whatever means he pleases. free country!

      2. Simple: the people who spend months trying to organize get to decide. As for TEDxNYED, this was a group of independent school teachers. Teachers. People making fairly ‘realistic’ salaries who teach kids. And they decided to use the TEDx framework to create a compelling conversation about education (and journalism). And I’d say that those few individuals that have been organizing the event on top of their day jobs (and not being paid for their TEDx roles) have the right to decide who gets the 251 seats. Seems like simple math/economics/sense.

  15. Just Just Just that. Can’t put it any better. For example the guys they picked were on pay role of Western sponsored NGOs preaching values which served the ends of their corporate sponsors and respective governments.

  16. So what you are saying is that they won’t accept my application to do a talk titled “The wonders of midget sex” because the elitist Ted Exec does not think that it’s an idea worth spreading? By far it is my greatest accomplishment and does make me unique. Considering the ratio of midget people to non-midget people, and me not being a midget and getting some of that sweet, sweet midget love makes me unique, special, and elite indeed… So let me in, damn you, I have so many great things to share! This conspiracy must end, and the words must get out…!

  17. I confess that I do find TED videos sometimes inspiring. I find the approach to choosing attendees and the admitted elitism of the event less than inspiring. (I find the fact that you have been called a grumpy-pants both odd and very, very funny. )

    But mostly, I find the thumbs up/down ratings on the comments for this post fascinating.

  18. There is a lot of this in the education world. I know people who are considered real innovators but they won’t talk to you unless
    a) You have a phd (from the right schools, of course)
    b) You might have grant money for them
    c) You are really cute

    The TED talks are interesting but the process goes counter to any sense of openness. We need to kick down the doors here. There have been enough barriers over the years to collaboration and innovation.

  19. I appreciate the discussion in response to my post. I should probably clarify a few things.

    1. I’m not saying TED is evil, or bad, or that it shouldn’t hold conferences. It’s a free country. They are of course more than able to do whatever they want.

    2. I don’t agree that TED is changing the world. My point is that it is essentially just a self-congratulatory exercise in echo chamber choir-preaching. Anyone blessed enough to be allowed into a TED event is likely already in agreement with whomever is presenting. There is little chance of actually changing anything – it’s a feel-good event. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not changing the world. It’s reinforcing the world we have.

    3. To change the world, the starting point isn’t to line up 7 billion people, sort them in descending order of awesomeness, and then decide that the first 100 people in line are worth talking to. That kind of sends the wrong message to the other 99.999999% of the planet. That the Chosen Ones will meet, talk, and decide a plan of action to save their sorry asses, and that we should all be thankful that They have decided to act in our favour. I realize that this is not the intent of the TED folks, but what other message is possible with such an elitist selection process?

    4. I have other issues with the TEDx process, but those are really my own problems. Again, it’s a free country, so they can do whatever they want. I’m also free to not be a fan of it.

  20. Who are the champions of open learning? According to TED, a Harvard professor and an entrepreneur.

    This is classic TED. Take an idea that has gained currency. Self-appoint some (non-genuine) champion of that idea. Change the idea subtly to align with the political preferences of the ‘elite’ audience. Then market the new version of the idea (and its new champions) as the original idea that has been and is widely accepted.

    http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/hbreditors/2010/02/ted_day_two.html

  21. Funny how when you start analysing it how deep the coercion goes and how sneaky the tactics to pass of the discourse as legitimate. I personally still like the videos, but the process is straight out of Bernay’s Propaganda.

    “One of Bernays’ favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead his clients’ causes. “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway”,

    — Edward Bernays

  22. I read your new tagline and I wanted to comment, perhaps you are being a bit sarcastic with that, but anyhow.

    I feel in general that our position is more defensible than many other people, especially the so called “elites” which I think are equivalent to the Greek tyrants who were populists, and I think what we call democracy the Greeks would call a tyranny of the capitalist class in the Greek understanding of the word which means illegitimate rulers who seize power from the priests or the aristocracy up stirring popular sentiment; in the end Socrates would associate the rhetoricians (marketers) with tyrants and Machiavelli would then associate the Prince with the tyrant — and there you have our modern politics.

    The princely politicians and business tyrants using rhetoric or marketing to sway the masses for personal gains of power and money. We on the other hand are the self-preaching philosophers who have railed against the tyrants and priests for 2,000 years but still have nothing to show for it. In fact in the present it has gotten so bad that the real philosophical tradition, which was being kept alive in the continental school, has been killed by the analytical school of philosophy which focuses the discourse on meaningless symbol manipulation which is an idiotic way of looking at the world. I think it’s time to revive the Greek tradition and understand things from their perspective, because I think they were much closer to reality (both theirs and ours as we have not changed much despite the introduction of complexity and march of technology) in their discourse then we are in our discourse.

    The only thing that I want to do more is be involved in politics and protest and public philosophical discourse. I don’t think there is much else to do for people in our positions. We do in fact need a new renaissance, because the last one failed. The priests were replaced by tyrants, when we actually wanted to replace them with philosophers!

  23. I went to a barcamp recently. Free, open, about anything. I even saw a few elites there, ready to sit next to a stinky hippy, a clammy IT dork, and a wound up anarchist. there were definately ideas worth spreading, not least the relative freedom and openness of the event.

  24. Holy cow. I’ve purposefully been avoiding sticking my head in here every time I get pinged with a note that someone has posted, but, seriously, enough is enough and, yeah, I guess I’m gonna feed the troll.

    Are you people for real? And I mean this with all due respect to you and to your individual thoughts and opinions, because that’s what this is all about and – trust me – I cherish those thing more than 90% of the population does, but if I’m going to be completely honest and transparent with the people in here saying the TEDxYYC event is ‘elitist’, I need to tell you that you are ridiculously unrealistic and naive. Of course there’s a selection! How else do you make sure you’ve got a diverse representation of the unique people and thoughts and arts and personalities and archetypes at the event? Holding a lottery won’t do it – what if you’ve only got one 71 year old multi-lingual clay artist that applies? You miss them. What if you’ve only got one 32 year old punk-rock engineer and teacher? You miss them. What if you’ve only got 4 passionately interested and engaged high school students that apply? You miss them. And you need those people. They are the life and color and vibrancy of the event. Selecting the audience is arguably more delicate and important than selecting the speakers! You need people that will share, you need people that believe and you need people that will, hopefully, go out there into the world inspired and fired up to make an impact – any impact.

    So, yes, the unfortunate reality is that, with 100 invites, and in order to make sure you DO have the stinky hippy, the clammy IT dork, and the wound up anarchist sitting next the doctor, to the engineer, and to the corporate energy guy, you NEED to filter through and select them, one at a time. Why is this hard to grasp? Otherwise you get a bell curve of people and that’s not the intent, you miss the rare ones. Sure, it sucks if you don’t get selected, but its absolutely, 100%, not something personal. There’s only so many tickets and only so many people that can attend. Is that elitist or strategic? I guess its subjective, but some people chatting and griping in here have, utterly, the wrong impression. Selection is to ensure diversity, not to contradict it. How else do you manage that? It’s always been easier to critique than to create, and so people critique. Sorry if this seems disrespectful to your thoughts and views, but I can only share mine the way I wanna share them.

    1. And I’d like to point out that those are my own thoughts and in no way necessarily reflect the opinions and perspectives of anyone at TEDxYYC, or TED, or anyone, anywhere, other than me, really. Thanks.

    2. Okay so let’s take apart what you are saying blow by blow.

      I personally could argue it both ways.

      Is this whole TEDxYYC a big issue, no not really. It’s a very small issue, and probably irrelevant. It could be summed up as D’Arcy’s not going to the event because he does not feel like going through a selection process based on his achievements.That is it at face value. However, there are implications to that and many people chimed in to express their opinions. They have a right to do that, that’s democracy, if you don’t like it perhaps you should move to a tyranical kingdom far, far away where a few control what can be said and is considered reasonable, realistic and so on; in such a kingdom they round people in “freedom” cages so they can protest, tase them, harass them; start meaningless wars over thuggery of a few… I can go on for quite some time.

      So next up is calling people who wish to express their opinions trolls, calling people ridiculously unrealistic and naive. Look buddy, first of all, we wanted to have a discussion, so we decided to have a discussion in doing so the entire spectrum of opinion was expressed, that’s democracy. Perhaps you are the one who has been deluded by the extremely constricted sort of discourse that might take places in modern media, academia, and so on. But here, we talk about whatever we want, and that’s called freedom; I know you are not familiar with this because this sort of freedom is not “reasonable”, but yes when you want to talk at length all sort of discussions open up, trolling occurs and so on.

      Now the rest of your argument is pure conjecture. It may be the case that’s how it will work, but it may not. In the end you have a select few deciding who is worthy and who is not. In the end you may get all of the cool people that you speak about that other people may enjoy listening to, but yet leave out a whole other set of individuals that are just as “worthy”. Why would you do that, well anyone may have any motive. Corporate capital has a profit motive, the political elite have a power motive, the religious elite have a power motive. The list goes on. So the point I think to take away from this is that D’Arcy is right, the process of having like a handful of people decide who is worthy of talking without any public debate or transparency is elitist, but at a very small and insignificant level. What TED does is even more elitist.

      So what would I suggest. I would suggest a public process where people can apply and then people can comment on whether they would like to hear them speak or not. Then the judges can decide and present the reasons for their judgment. That’s an example of a more open process, and I am sure it can be improved much with a bit of thought.

      1. The same above may go for who may attend, but I doubt many people will want to be judged on whether they can attend or not… and hence why the whole idea of judging people who can attend an event is ridiculous!

      2. ‘Troll’ is just a term, I meant no offense. I was referring only to inciting a flood of comments. And that’s it from me – cheers for the discussion, all!

  25. 100% in agreement Kevin.

    I would also add that they’re specifically choosing people with a list of accomplishments because those people are more likely to take what they learn from TEDx and accomplish more. What they specifically don’t want are armchair critics who are going to throw out their opinion yet refuse to actually DO anything.

    Opinions are a dime a dozen. Action is priceless.

      1. Me too. I appreciate the host of the blog for creating dialogue and for providing a place to share those thoughts. All props and respect to anyone that will log-in and share their feelings, always.

    1. I hate this idea that people “accomplish” as if it’s something that an individual has done on his own — hence why they should be rewarded millions for making a company successful. The whole system is driven by capital. So if I have 1,000,000 I can hire 20 people for 1 year to accomplish whatever the hell I want; the only difference may be in accomplishing things which are profitable or not profitable — so if I sell a million cigarette I have accomplished quite a bit and killed or made sick thousands of people. How did those people get up there? Marx would argue its because of primitive accumulation. For people like Bill Gates, its because of semi-ethical behavior backed by initial capital which came from primitive accumulation. Stealing other people’s ideas with the backing of said capital helped too. For academia, you accomplishment is achieving whatever the administration or the elites decided was worth achieving. The rabbit hole is deep my friend, such simple arguments don’t give acknowledgment to the mechanisms that define society.

  26. The thing I prefer about the Barcamp/Open conference model is the “natural selection” process. Of course the curated model works for its own objectives, but to suggest its the only or even best way ignores a lot don’t you think? What if the reverse could be made true, were ‘elites’ actively engaged in the ‘mass’ (eg. edit Wikipedia, write a blog, attend barcamps) as apposed to the reliance/belief in exclusion through big fees, application processes, limited numbers, and curator, having the lateral perspective to authentically include all the elements that go toward surprising connection and egalitarian ideals? I mean, clearly the TED process has excluded D’Arcy, Steve Downes, and a number of others…

    1. I disagree. D’Arcy has excluded D’Arcy by choosing not to apply. Had he applied and been rejected. Then yes, you’d have a point.

      I don’t think anyone has suggested that the TED way is the only way. But the TED way is the right way to accomplish TED’s goals. Are there other forms of collaboration and sharing of ideas? YES! Do they have their own value? YES! Should YOU organize one of these events? YES!

      1. Adam, I was about to respond to say the same thing. TEDxYYC didn’t exclude me. I did. All they did was set up the conference in a way that made me not want to participate.

        As for organizing a separate event, I’m unconvinced that an Event is the way to change the world. If it is, then BarCamp type unconferences are at more interesting to me, and I need to make a bigger effort to participate in BarCampCalgary…

      2. Its funny isn’t it, how meaning takes unexpected turns.
        When I said, “I mean, clearly the TED process has excluded D’Arcy, Steve Downes, and a number of others…”
        What that was supposed to mean was the exclusion took place by way of D’Arcy, Downes and others rejecting TED because of their approach to organising an event. And that point was meant to illustrate a contradiction to the rationale behind TED. They might not be getting such a great sample to select from because of the offense their process causes to some people. How many bankers, financiers, innovators, policy makers, decide to not apply to TED as a matter of principle? Probably not many, but a few evidently.

      3. Yes they have their own objectives. It would be preferable to me that it is made clear that they have their own objectives in the mind of the masses… TED has nothing to do with anyone or anything but TED. TED: Ideas worth speaking for TED, by TED, and for the benefit of TED only!

    2. No one has said anything remotely indicating that the TEDx selection process is the ‘only or best way’. You’ve said it best yourself; each process has merits beneficial to each event. Agreed. So what’s the issue?

      I could argue that the TEDx process hasn’t excluded those people you’ve mentioned, only included 100 other, likely sort of similar, types of people. I wonder if they feel the same?

      All this talk of ‘elite’ and ‘awesome’ is projecting an unsubstantiated personal argument based only on emotion, and using the gut reaction people have to those terms to fuel more conversation. Not very cool.

      1. Included whom and for what purpose? It’s not based on emotions, there is an organization out there borrowing the phrase, “Ideas worth spreading”, we are talking about the merits of such an organization and its selection process. This idea, that hey everyone out there is out to plant flower, solve problems and share the love is a lie. There are many if not most people out there with an agenda. So the point is to see the agenda, and call it out. In order to do that there must be transparency. Otherwise you legitimize a discourse and ideas as being popular and therefore democratic, when it is not the case that they are popular or democratic!

  27. Again, just a general comment, but it seems to me that many people in academia, especially those who work with the administration, are some of the least critical people who buy the propaganda that the administration and the elites feed. If I had to guess, I think it would be because it’s in their interest to do so, to question may keep them from doing their jobs or get them fired. So they have no choice but to agree. The rest of us have a bit more freedom than that!

  28. I also wanted to point out that we have open conferences all the time… As pointed out above, BarCamp, etc. First come, first served and it works well enough to get a set of interesting people together who are interested in the topics of the talks being given. So the whole argument about, hey it’s will be like this or like that, people that you want will be left out, is sort of a joke. It can be done and is done often enough to show that it works.

  29. 80 comments, nice work!

    Just wanted to jump in here again to say that in addition to organizing TEDxYYC, I also organize BarCamp in Calgary. While we don’t often run BarCamp, we do DemoCamp about once every other month. Sign up for the mailing list (we don’t spam, we just send details) at http://www.democampcalgary.com

    1. it kinda took on a life of its own. yikes.

      I’m going to try to make more of an effort to make it out to BarCamp. I’ve subscribed to the site, so won’t miss updates.

    2. Thanks for holding DemoCamp Sarah, your work is definitely appreciated! I would recommend everyone attend that event.

  30. As Co-Chair of TEDxToronto I know all to well the backlash and criticism that can come from the application process. While it is by no means perfect and unfortunate it is one way organizers can ensure they see their blood, sweat and tears turn into the event they envisioned. I think it is important to realize the organizers are volunteering their time outside of full-time jobs, families and other commitments to the community and their personal lives. For that reason they should have the right to ensure the audience also has put in some effort to attend and therefore will show up. With only 100 people they could accept the first 100 applicants, but if no effort or filters are put in place you could find yourself with 60 people scattered through 100 seats. That isn’t very fair to the organizers. By increasing the effort to apply and inviting a select group they increase the potential they will see 100% attendance.

    Another way to look at it is that just as a privately owned company has the right to hire based on a resume and interview process the organizers of TEDxYYC have the right to curate their audience.

    When the event is limited by TED in numbers the options are simple; first come first serve, charge for tickets to limit interest or select your audience. To ensure a unique mix of attendees within our limited capacity we selected people not necessarily on their “achievements” but on diversity in interests, experiences, ages, education and dreams. We wanted to put on an event where attendees would find themselves sitting next to people that they would never be sitting next to at any other conference. We had the mayor of Toronto sitting next to a DJ, Director for Doctors without Borders, an engineer and a tech start-up principal.

    This dynamic connected people who ever would have spoken before while raising awareness of amazing companies, causes, dreams and people with other people who think big.

    Yes, we wish all 600 hundred or so applicants could have been there but TED requirements dictated that just couldn’t happen. To allow everyone to view the event we, as has YYC, bucked up and covered the cost of streaming the event so that everyone can enjoy the talks.

    I know first hand the evenings, weekends and stress that goes into putting on the event and that they have no ability to impact the restrictions placed upon them by TED; therefore I believe a little slack should be sent their way and maybe even a thank you.

    FYI – I have had no contact nor do I know any of the organizers of TEDxYYC but I applaud them for putting on what appears to be a great event.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. I’d have applied, if I wasn’t currently in Vancouver for the Olympics. The only thing of which I would criticize TEDxYYC is their choice of date :).

  31. Is it really important to attend the event itself? Percentages don’t allow everythingh everywhere for everyone, while through this magic wire anyone can see and comment and organize and bitch about it and do whatever they like with it.
    Since when is life fair?

  32. Just catching up here, and offering a potentially different take: A completely unscientific and not entirely random poll suggests that nine out of ten people on my suburban block have never even heard of TED, not to mention most of the ideas promoted there. So while this is a really interesting conversation, I have to wonder if those of us who are following it are, if not “elite,” at least a relatively small, self-selected population, making this a bit of a, um, teapot tempest. TED is potentially “influential” and fascinating, and reaches large numbers of people through various means, yes…. but it and all of its various manifestations are non-existent for, I suspect, even larger numbers of other folks, which gives me a bit more pause than the selection process itself (although I could see connections between the two…).

    1. There’s a difference between “not common” and “elite” – just because many people haven’t heard of these concepts (or of TED), doesn’t make those who have “elite.” There is no secret handshake involved here.

    2. I hate to go on with this topic, but what needs to be said, needs to be said and if I am going to be the one to clarify then I will oblige rather than shut up.

      The point that you are missing is concerned with opinion leaders… Considering that many people here work in academia are influential amongst their peer groups… They go to influence other people in academia. So in it not necessary that TED pass its ideas to nine out of ten people in your neighbourhood but only to you. If you are considered are opinion leader or an expert having sound opinion and judgement and watching one of the videos gets your interested enough to talk about its content or discuss them at length with other people, then opinion is shifting in favour of those ideas.

      Considering that many people in my peer group watch and are interested in ideas presented in TED and they tend to be considered intelligent by other people, there is a large influence which is had on society despite most of society not knowing about TED or where the ideas came from. That is why it is important to consider this topic at length and not ignore it and think that these things don’t have an impact. If you wish to learn more about opinion leaders read any marketing book.

      If you want to think about the history of such tactics then go and read about rhetoricians and their history:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetorician (this will get you started)

      Then go and read about Edward Bernays:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays

      Anyone who is attempting to win the appeal of any group has the potential to influence any number of other people in society simply through communication.

        1. Yes, and…? I am not arguing here that no one has any other ways of saying anything… Sure one can go make a video on Youtube, but only very specific voices get heard. Yes, you might become popular, but the odds are massively stacked up against you because of what is and is not promoted. Also, there are certain topics that have mass appeal, for instance makeup and pop culture — so most of the Youtube stars talk about these sort of things.

          Why is that? Well in that case Google usually decides what get promoted as being popular both on their front page and on their sidebar, there are actually huge debates on Youtube about what Google promotes and what it does not promote. One of the things that Google encourages for their top producers are 1 minute videos, how much can you get out in one minute? Ask Chomsky, not a lot…

          Here is a video by Chi City which has 721,190 views and over 30,000 votes talking about the problem.

          1. Adam, I know I have gotten my point across when my opponent has nothing but mocking to resort to… (in relation to the comment below)… As for whether or not it is fair, it is important to identify systemic problems within the system so that we may be aware of the systematic and social problems caused by nature of the system. Current systematic problems include harassment at airports and invasiveness of surveillance which threatens privacy.

          2. There are no shortage of people in the world who stomp and whine about how they think the world should be. It’s more rare to find someone who sees a problem, identifies a solution, and then takes measures to make it happen. This is the spirit of TED.

          3. By the way, with the last comment I sort of made a leap that non-intuitive people may not be able to follow, so let me take a minute to clarify. If the premise that the world is run by a certain class of people (namely people who are interested in acquiring greater amounts of capital) and a said class of people and their supporters control the discourse is true… And the premise that TED is part of the said discourse. Then, it is also true that such people may create systematic problems which are due to the nature of the system allowing them certain freedoms that they should not have. Such people may do it for power and wealth, or they may have political agendas to control certain places.

            That part is not fair, moral, or just because they create problems that the people who are not in the class have to pay for… For instance if the Credit industry, Military-industrial complex, or the Prison-industrial complex turns a profit on the misery of people, then it is not the people who are paying the cost (the people who are paying for it) are the poor, the Iraqi and Vietnamese, or people wrongly or unnecessarily convicted. None of which are in the class causing the problems. So I prefer not to pay for other people’s sins, I know others, who may have an affinity for such a class because of various reasons including the lack of the ability to think critically. Such people may defend such people because they not not able to think for themselves, but eventually or through their children pay for other people’s sins.

            In exposing such a discourse, it is hoped that more attention will be paid to other ideas or to genuine experts who have toiled long and hard to understand problems and actually solve them rather than simply acquire more wealth or power for themselves — I call such people philosophers and they have been around probably as long as any of the others who gravitate towards power. The way it stands currently, there is a lot banter about things being said — but really no one is fooled. All the bullshit about environmental concern, reducing terrorism, etc, all pure bullshit from people who brought you the problems to begin with. The people might stay quiet, but there is a definitely sub-text of understanding and need for real change among the masses. We just aren’t quite sure as what to do… yet!

          4. Adam, your belief that there are people who do things and people who whine about things is disingenuous. By the way, that’s the only thing you have added to the entire discussion. It is disingenuous because when we try to do something, the system steps in order to prevent us from doing certain things. I know from experience. I was stopped at the C-Train I went to the media and was summarily put under surveillance. So let’s talk about your experiences as to how you have come to your conclusion.

            Here’s another dude who has experienced the same thing in Canada. So you are more of an arm chair critic who no less works for the administration, then the person you are accusing — just to be clear on the facts.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaggi_Singh

  33. I don’t disagree with most of your observations. In fact most of them are quite self-evident. What I fail to see is how an application process to an event with a limit of 100 people in attendance is causing such plight. Similarly, I fail to see how privacy laws and the C-Train have any relevance. Is D’Arcy’s decision to not apply to TED really at heart here, or have you just claimed this as your own personal soapbox?

    1. If you read the entire discussion, instead of skimming in and adding a few quips here and there you would realize that the discussion long ago had been driven from TEDxYYC — I conceded that long ago. In fact Stephen Downes in post 8 above started talking about TED rather than TEDxYYC. I provide my defence above:
      Quoting from above:
      Is this whole TEDxYYC a big issue, no not really. It’s a very small issue, and probably irrelevant. It could be summed up as D’Arcy’s not going to the event because he does not feel like going through a selection process based on his achievements.That is it at face value. However, there are implications to that and many people chimed in to express their opinions. They have a right to do that, that’s democracy, if you don’t like it perhaps you should move to a tyranical kingdom far, far away where a few control what can be said and is considered reasonable, realistic and so on; in such a kingdom they round people in “freedom” cages so they can protest, tase them, harass them; start meaningless wars over thuggery of a few… I can go on for quite some time.

      I have further provided a long and lengthy defence about the right to discuss whatever topic we want… As for how it’s relevant, it’s relevant because you have been accusing people of being arm chair critics, and I wanted to point out that this was in fact not the case… So yeah, that little ad hominem attack doesn’t work either, I am sorry.

      I am glad you see them as being self-evident and concede your position!

  34. this thread has gone on long enough. closing it. trackbacks are still open, if anyone writes on their own blogs and links back.

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