Each of the 10 times I attended the TED Conference, it was the most wonderful four days of my year. For the years from 1997 through 2006, every February I drew fresh inspiration from 60 people who had each changed the world in a dramatic way.
Signing up for the exclusive event required a significant leap of faith; ticket prices were 3-4x what other 4-day activities might cost, and the tickets would be sold-out a year in advance. The speakers hadn’t even been announced yet! But having the opportunity to hear mind-bending presentations which had never been seen before… and then to actually meet and spend personal time with the presenters… was a mindblowing activity and an invaluable opportunity. So, did TED cost triple what “comparable” events cost? Not really, since there is nothing comparable.
Recently, I’ve been asked about the “#antiTED” hashtag and whether the event has “sold out” (meaning “become a representative of a corporate agenda”, not meaning “successfully completed the objective of filling its venue with interesting people”).
Has TED become different, in a bad way?
One blog critique in particular was called to my attention, written by someone who has never been to the event: http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/against-ted/. Note that the guy who writes an essay about an event he hasn’t attended… also posts the article with no place for comments.
There is none so blind as he who chooses not to see.
My open response to the “essay against TED”:
It’s true that not all speakers will appeal to all listeners, and it’s also true that the independently-operated TEDx franchise events tend to attract less earth-shaking presenters than the main event… but I still think TED has become all the more extraordinary for the number of souls it has touched and the number of projects it has mobilized.
And, of course, an event hasn’t truly “made it” until people who have never been to it start feeling qualified to criticize it.