Over the past year or two, the viral TED and TEDx talks have taken some heat. Articles have been written, spoofs have been taped, and TED even let someone talk about what’s wrong with TED.
Why do they suck?
What’s wrong with them? I still enjoy them. But I also have my frustrations. One thing that’s missing is that there is no measurement of how “actionable” a talk is. There’s not even an expectation that a talk must be actionable. The bar is that a talk must be ‘informative’ or ‘inspiring’. That’s too low a bar. The bar for any talk should be that it creates an incentive to act and a starting place to take action. There are talks on peace, charity, cancer research, addiction, happiness, etc. Yet there’s no encouragement to take up the cause! Look at a typical TED talk page:
You can log in, search for other videos, search for videos ‘you may also like’… the closest thing to ‘taking action’ that it enables you do it is share it. That is, the closest you can get to making a difference is to simply raise awareness.
It’s just white collar entertainment.
What else can you call videos that captivate and draw millions of views but don’t seek to create millions of advocates or participants? If these talks about just for mental stimulation, just intellectual food for thought, then what else can you call them besides ‘white collar entertainment’?
Why is there no “Take Action Now” box?
The most prominent thing on the page should be a box filled with links enabling a viewer to take action:
- If the talk was on a cause, it should have a “Donate Now” link
- If the talk was on a government problem, it should have an “write your senator or congressmen now” link
- If there’s a petition, there should be a link to add your name
- If there’s no movement to get behind, TED should encourage speakers to set up a KickStarter campaign and get the movement happening
- If there’s nothing more to do than raise awareness, setup a campaign where people can donate to the campaign and the funds can go towards creating ads, YouTube videos, and commercials to spread the word far and wide
What Others Are Saying About TED
A TED talk on TED Talks
By far, the best representation of why TED talks suck:
One of the most annoying parts of a TED talk is how dramatic the speakers are. TED speakers often emphasize every word and the talk becomes slow and boring:
Funny spoof, TED talks given while high:
This spoof is great as it’s also commentary on how the Internet hasn’t enabled the greatest ideas to organically float to the top… it’s about who is about to speak the ‘loudest’ through the popularity of their network. A great example is LinkedIn’s new publishing feature. It allows any member to publish, but your article only goes to more people if your network if large. A typical person with 200 connections will only have their article shown to their 200 connections. A blogger or journalist or public figure with thousands of connections though, will have their article shown to all their connections and thousands of non-connections.
Tons of businesses today collect data on their customers and then sell off the data. Google and Facebook do this more than any other company. They use data from search behavior and social posts to learn about us and then sell that data to others. Worst of all, the data is hardly benign. The data they analyze is personal.
“Social media companies are useless”