Posted by: CJ | May 19, 2010

TED Talk Curmudgeon

I’m a TED talk curmudgeon. I maybe shouldn’t be, but I am.

Here’s the typical assumption I make, warranted or not, when someone starts telling me about a TED talk they’ve seen. It’s the exact same assumption I make about people who get their news from Huffington Post or The New York Times. My assumption is,

Here’s someone who wants to feel like they’re getting quality news, quality ideas, and generally feel like they’re connected with what the people in the know are thinking and doing. But here, also, is someone that either can’t afford the time or doesn’t want to spend the effort to actively search and engage ideas as a contact sport. Say, by searching out blogs by academics and opinionated partisans, by reading voraciously yet at whatever speed they need to absorb ideas. And, especially, by searching for the smartest people they can with ideas different from theirs and engaging those ideas. This is someone who will know much more than I will about what standard mainstream news sources are currently saying…but probably will be less in the know about what alternative, more knowledgeable source are saying about the same events.

I have no idea if this assumption is fair. It’s certainly a preening and conceited point of view. Nonetheless, my experience suggests it’s not entirely unwarranted in general, even if it’s off for specific cases.

P.S.–If that clarifies anything, I should also point out that I’m a hardcore information junkie. So my view is less of a “I’m so much smarter and understand the world so much better than you” conceit than a “Dude–my dealer’s shit is so much more amazing than that crap you smoke” conceit. This includes my belief that video and talks are, in many cases, inefficient ways of conveying information. Especially if you can’t interact with the speaker. On one-side, video is (obviously) best for displaying dynamic graphic information. But people talk much more slowly than I can read, and I can’t skim parts of a talk I don’t care about, or grasp the structure of a talk before diving into details. So a video that isn’t largely about moving pictures is likely a poor choice of medium if information is what you want. (Could be great if you just care about the experience and the speaker though. But then it’s performance art, not information.)



  1. The fact you are an introvert and read quickly influences that attitude. Some people get a deeper understanding of the content because of the speaker’s inflection and expression: reading Jamie Oliver does not convey the same level of crisis-mentality to his message that seeing his TED talk does. (In fact, Al Gore may be the only speaker who is easier to read than to watch for almost everyone!)

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