TED teams up with PBS: What is TED?

6 May

Elizabeth Jensen reports in the New York Times article, TED Teams Up With PBS on Ideas for Education:

Television viewers — even those who watch the more sober-minded PBS — are generally not keen on sitting through long speeches. But TED, the nonprofit group that sponsors conferences on ideas, thinks it has found a way to bring its signature 18-minute talks to a TV audience that may not have found them on the Web or through mobile apps.

In its first television foray, TED has joined forces with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the New York public broadcaster WNET for a one-hour special, “TED Talks Education,” to be broadcast on PBS on Tuesday. If it is successful, the program could become a template for future joint projects, said Juliet Blake, one of the show’s executive producers and the TED official charged with bringing the conferences to television.

The program was 18 months in the making, a short time for public broadcasting but long for TED, which is accustomed to the more immediate online world. Other suitors have also sought to do TED television projects, Ms. Blake said, but “to reach the audience we want to reach, public television was the place.”

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting paid for the show’s $1 million costs under the auspices of an initiative that addresses the high school drop-out problem in the United States. “It was the perfect marriage of ideas that matter and our core value of education,” said Patricia Harrison, the corporation’s chief executive. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/business/media/ted-partners-with-pbs-for-education-program.html?ref=education&_r=0

That prompted moi to ask, what is TED?

This is how TED describes itself at its site:

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference on the West Coast each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TED Talks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

The two annual TED conferences, on the North American West Coast and in Edinburgh, Scotland, bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).

On TED.com, we make the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free. More than 1400 TED Talks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled in English, and many are subtitled in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress, and you’re an important part of it. Have an idea? We want to hear from you.

The springtime TED Conference is held annually on the West Coast and simulcast at a nearby city. The breadth of content includes science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. Over four days, 50 speakers each take an 18-minute slot, and there are many shorter presentations, including music, performance and comedy. There are no breakout groups. Everyone shares the same experience. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It works because all of knowledge is connected. Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole.

TEDActive is a curated community of curious and energetic leaders who share an immersive week of watching TED Talks and surprising experiences designed to inspire conversation, exchange and immediate action around ideas worth spreading — all in a creative and casual setting.

TEDGlobal is TED’s summer conference. The themes of the global conference are slightly more international in nature, and the full TED format is maintained, with a wide-ranging roster of speakers and performers over four days of TED mainstage sessions — plus the famous TED University, where attendees share their own knowledge with one another. TEDGlobal was held in Oxford, UK, in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2007. TEDGlobal is now held annually in Edinburgh, Scotland.

TED also hosts events around the globe. TEDIndia was held in November 2009 in Mysore, India, celebrating and exploring the beckoning future of South Asia. TEDWomen was held in December 2010 in Washington, DC, asking the question: How are women and girls reshaping the future? TED also hosts smaller events around the globe, including many TED Salons, evening-length events with speakers and performers, and TED@ events, exploring a topic or location.

The TED Prize is awarded annually to an exceptional individual, and is designed to leverage the TED Community’s wide array of talents and resources. In 2012, the cash award was raised to $1 million to provide powerful seed funding for “A Wish to Inspire the World.” After several months of preparation, the wish is unveiled during a ceremony at the TED Conference. Over the life of the prize, wishes have led to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact.

TED Talks began as a simple attempt to share what happens at TED with the world. Under the moniker “ideas worth spreading,” talks were released online. They rapidly attracted a global audience in the millions. Indeed, the reaction was so enthusiastic that the entire TED website has been reengineered around TED Talks, with the goal of giving everyone on-demand access to the world’s most inspiring voices. As of November 2012, TED Talks have been viewed more than one billion times.

The TED Fellows program helps world-changing innovators from around the globe become part of the TED community and, with its help, amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities. TED Fellows, TEDGlobal Fellows, and TED Senior Fellows are drawn from many disciplines that reflect the diversity of TED’s members: technology, entertainment, design, the sciences, the humanities, the arts, NGOs, business and more.

The TEDx program gives communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently.

The TED Open Translation Project brings TED Talks beyond the English-speaking world by offering subtitles, interactive transcripts and the ability for any talk to be translated by volunteers worldwide. We launched the project with 300 translations, 40 languages and 200 volunteer translators; now, there are more than 32,000 completed translations from our thousands-strong community. It’s an ambitious project that radically enhances the accessibility of the talks — for the hearing-impaired, for those who speak English as a second language, for search engines (which can now index the full transcript of a talk), and of course for the vast audience of non-English speakers worldwide.

Today, TED is best thought of as a global community. It’s a community welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.                                                                                              http://www.ted.com/

See, About TED » Who we are » Who owns TED http://www.ted.com/pages/42

Here is information about the Sapling Foundation from Guidestar:

Basic Organization Information


Physical Address:
New York, NY 10013 
NTEE Category:
T Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Grantmaking 
T99 (Other Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Grantmaking Foundations N.E.C.) 
Year Founded:
Ruling Year:

Sign in or create an account to see this organization’s full address, contact information, and more!


Nilofer Merchant writes in the Business Insider article, Is TED Elite?

Five common myths of TED and my take on them:

1. It’s Snobby.

To get into TED Long Beach, you have been picked because you are at the top of your game, in business, politics, education, social media, or whatever. There’s a definite snobbiness to that. I got rejected the first time I applied. So in some ways, this myth is completely true, yet I’ve already shared that being with this crowd has allowed me to stop playing small. Because most people are already established, the energy that many take into impressing each other is (largely) gone. That let’s us have more real conversations.

That said, you’d be surprised if you looked around at the demographics to see that there’s a vast range of economics, age, sex, and geographies represented at the TED Long Beach conference itself.That tells me TED is being intentional about the mix of who they bring together.

It has about 25% of the stage full of women, the highest I know of, besides an all-women’s conference. And, about 30% of the participants are women, which represents a pretty good mix. Not great – I’d love to see more gender parity, and this is a place of improvement that SheTalksTED advocates.

2. It’s pretentious.

This is a tough one.  I don’t believe the #TED organizers are not aiming to be pretentious. What I do see is a lot of people who come to TED for the first time, tweet comments from it to show their friends’ back home that they are at TED and their friend’s are not. I can see the temptation of tweeting that you are, say, sitting next to @ev, or Cameron Diaz, or Jeff Bezos or Tony Hsieh. But I think that’s the behavior that happens when first-timers are just a wee-bit impressed that they are “in” the club. Most people, thankfully, do not do this.  And perhaps if the new-bie understood the cultural norms of TED better, they would be more self-managing.  

The ideas developed in 18 minutes don’t lend themselves to tweetability. So sometimes we sound inane, as Jeff Jarvis was right to point out.

The actual curators of TED see what they do as a huge responsibility. One curator works in a sort of 24×7 way and is currently helping curate and support the folks in Cairo, and other Middle Eastern cities have neutral (non-political, non-sectarian) conversations that could truly change the world. He won’t get credit, or money, and neither is his goal. TED has come to represent the best ideas to change the world. His goal is truly to help change the world by the possibility of great ideas, being told well, and then discussed amongst that community. I don’t know about you, but I am so seriously hoping for what might happen. (I don’t have permission to share his story but I’m hoping he’ll forgive me)

3. There is no action out of it.

A good friend of mine, Michael Dila, said something a few years ago that has stuck with me: conversations are truly the only way in the world is changed, not technology. Conversation drives a new way of thinking, therefore new states of being, and the results that follow from that. The purpose of having loads of white spaces into the conference is to talk about ideas. I got into an interesting conversation with the head of WPP, one of the largest advertising organizations in the world about the situation in Nigeria, which was a deeply thoughtful idea about how to change an entire country known best for corruption. I don’t underestimate this discussion or what could happen if the head of WPP thinks about how to change the world with any of the ideas presented but without this venue, there is little likelihood most of us would spend 18 minutes thinking about Nigeria and corruption and how to influence the situation. Action follows from a shift in mindset. So I think TED creates context, the rest is up to us.

Second thing related to action. Bill Gates curated a session where he highlighted the Khan Academy. I didn’t know of this organization, founded by a former hedge fund creating YouTube videos, to help people learn. This was where I wanted people to tweet and many did. Education could be changed dramatically if this idea that Jennifer Pahlka captured: reverse homework and classwork, let them watch the videos at home and work on problems in class. So while no action was done right at that very moment, the 1000 or so conversations people had when they called home might just bring that idea into the system so that 100, 1000, or 10,000 educational institutions try something new in the next few years.

Of course, many other good efforts that flow from the TEDPrize to help create the change we wish to see in the world.  Architecture for Humanity, an amazing organization creating a more sustainable future, through the power of architectural design. They got hyper-boosters on their mission, by TED and the TED community.

3. Money goes to line their pockets.

One big myth is that Chris Anderson and the folks at TED must be doing this to be rich.  TED is owned by the Sapling Foundation, a 501(c)3 foundation and all the profits are reinvested in things like the TED Prize and distributing the talks free online. Chris Anderson doesn’t even take a salary (he made his money when he founded Business2.0) and he took over the TED conference and a short 7 years later he (and his team) opened it up with TEDEd, TEDFellows, TED.com, TEDx and so on.  I don’t know about you but I get pretty tired when I just think of all they have done…

Add to this mix, the 40 or so TEDFellows, a group of innovators, artists and change agents,  curated by Tom Reilly, from around the world,  to amplify the work of people who are working to change the world. All those Fellows need funding and support and the Sapling Foundation does that.  So if my measly thousands of dollars can help fuel access to ideas globally, I gladly give.

One important thing that Todd Lombardo helped me remember is the Sapling Foundation may not be transparent enough to ward off the critiques. How much money does it cost to run these events? Are all the amenities necessary? Palotta Teamworks who ran the AIDS Rides were registered as a for-profit company and weren’t transparent about the flow of capital through their organization… This ultimately ruined that company. I suspect the TED braintrust is working on this. 

4. You limit access to great ideas by limiting who gets to see it live.

While I love the immersive experience of TED Long Beach, I recognize there are many ways to experience it. Did you know there’s the simulcast at $500 where people can organizer a crowd of people in a high school gymnasium or one’s own living room (and split the costs to $1-25/head)? That means anyone who really wants to see it live, can.

Add to that, TEDActive and TEDx audiences and you can’t possibly say “it’s limited” cause “it” is now available to “us”. Laura Stein has set the TEDx licensee policy so that one **cannot** charge for attendance. Anybody could organize a TEDx, curate the best TED talks or local TEDxtalks and create something themselves. So, definitely not limited if you consider how accessible TED can be, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves

TED talks are translated, for free, by people from around the world, allowing 15 million people to view the well-produced talks online. In some ways, by editing well, instead of streaming live, it creates a library of high-production content that will let it be seen by more people than the streaming version would allow.

5. Aren’t they Hypocritial?

Consider the Sarah Silverman episode of 2010. She did what she was asked to do, Her brand of humor, her story. But because some (Steve Case was notable visible around this) felt uncomfortable with what she did, she was viewed as banished by Chris and some of the TED community.

I was there when this happened, and frankly I thought Chris was very genuine when he posted he hated it, but then he retreated. I think he could have said he hated it, others liked it and that’s what TED is all about — many ideas being discussed. A slightly awkward moment on twitter got caught into a huff but perhaps it was a learning moment… I don’t know.

In Summary

While I do think TED is full of elite people of many disciplines, ages and economics, it is not, in my opinion, Elitist. I have never seen a more open, curious group of people who truly want to understand the world better and to hopefully apply their skills and talents to contribute their part to make the world a better place. I tweeted yesterday that a great audience allows a speaker to step up his/her game and deliver the best idea that could change the world, well. So having TED the conference is important in the mission.

I notice that most of the people who “hate” on TED are people who have never been, as demonstrated by Sarah Lacey, Umair Haque, and Jeff Jarvis. Sarah posted a one-sided argument from someone this week that could have benefitted from a little more journalism. Umair posted something that could have been much tighter given a simple Google search. And Jeff Jarvis, whom I respect, was definitely taking jabs from afar calling it a cult. Can I ask you to come? Or at least attend a simulcast. Robert Scoble did a very thoughtful critique of TED, called Elephants in the Room, after coming and I respect him for what he shared….. http://www.businessinsider.com/is-ted-elite-2011-3

It will be interesting to see where the PBS and TED collaboration goes.

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