Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

TEDxSF - A Curation Of People And Ideas...

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 5, 2011

I've been to several TEDxSF events but the most recent one felt like a breakthrough event because of the mix of people and talks, plus the new venue.

The event was sold out with about 650 tickets for the Yerba Buena location, a larger theater than the Academy of Sciences, where it used to be held. The mix of people was eclectic as always.

There were at least two or three talks where I wished for the return of the old Vaudeville stage hook, or maybe a remote controlled trapdoor. Most of the rest of the talks were interesting, intriguing, and some were even brilliant.

But it was a packed afternoon, from noon to 6pm, a bit too long. Also, my friend Jim pointed out, it would have been nice to have a 1 minute pause between talks so that you could think about what you'd just heard and maybe have a quick chat with the person next to you.

TED talks are a form of modern theater within an old school format in that it's a one-way stage. The only interaction is through live tweets and that's a poor channel because it distracts from the stage. I don't know how you can make TEDx events more interactive but maybe that's what the 'x' in TEDx should stand for, experimental rather than a formulaic format.

However, the formulaic format of TED talks is pretty good, so maybe the organizers know not to mess with what works.

Among the standout performances:

- Dr. William Thomas speaking about geriatric science and how we follow anti-aging gurus when we should embrace our senior age as "Elderhood" a vital life stage.

- Eythor Bender and his eLEGS exoskeletons, he showed a woman paralyzed from the waist down walking onto the stage. I spoke with one of the wheelchair bound testers of this remarkable contraption. I asked how many months does it take to learn how to walk in the exoskeleton? She said it's just hours! Very impressive.

Andrés Torres got several standing ovations for surviving 12 years in the minor leagues of baseball before making it big in the majors.

Scott Hess spoke about the differences between Gen X and Millennial generations. It was a funny and insightful talk.

But I don't see that there is much competition between the generations he describes, it's a case of both generations learning from each other and both are benefiting from that process -- it's "and" and not "or."

Simon Mainwaring. O.M.G. Social media marketing claptrap that was so bad that it had me convinced, at one point, that I was watching a performance art piece that was a parody of an egotistical "brand marketing expert."

Dave Kim with his violin and box of tricks was excellent.


Shereef Bishay talked about how to structure work relationships differently and learning from how open-source projects are organized, plus other commercial models. I'd love to hear more about this subject.

Mel Robbins is a great motivational speaker with some direct advice for getting to your goals. "Set your alarm 30 minutes early and when it goes off you have three-seconds to get out of bed!"

I've been quite successful with my routine: I set my alarm 18 minutes early, and reach for my iPad and I start each day with a TED talk. It gets me out of bed and keeps me in bed -- it's win win. And it comes with a cherry on top because of the positive mood I always get from a TED talk.

BTW here is my current favorite: Tales of ice-bound wonderlands: Paul Nicklen



The best part of the event was when it was over and there was a chance to meet and talk with the audience and performers. In past TEDxSF events few people stay around afterwards. This time it seemed as if everyone stayed for hours. Strangers formed spontaneous discussion groups, salons were formed on the-fly... All great stuff.

TEDxSF is a great example of a type of curation that is uncommon: curating people. Choosing the people that present at the event, and also choosing the people that are allowed into the event (everyone has to apply).

It's a form of curation that is difficult but rewarding when done right and the TEDxSF team seem to be really hitting their stride.

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Here's the event program and links:

Events | TEDxSF

TEDxSF Membership Application

Here is a Pearltree about TEDxSF.

Prior events:

TEDxSF: The Edge Of What We Know...

Captain Of The Sea Shepherd - Paul Watson Stole The Show At TEDxSF...

TEDxSF - Little TED Just Like The Big TED


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