I attended the first independent TED event in Waterloo (TEDxWaterloo) yesterday, 25 February 2010. The theme was "Tomorrow StarTED Yesterday." The web site and twitter account page have lots of great info if you're interested to know more about the event and speakers. There's even a nice photo blog of the event at http://www.longexposure.ca/2010/02/tedx-waterloo/

So what can I add that hasn't already been said? Well, I can tell you what the event meant to me.

I wasn't sure what to expect. "TED" stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design," but that tells me nothing. I've seen and enjoyed a number of the videos that I have come across - i.e. that were recommended to me in one way or another (email, web page links, twitter, passing conversations, and so on). However, separate videos alone hadn't quite made the connection for me.

The opening remarks helped set the context for the event. In those few minutes, it all came together - it clicked. Aha! This event is about more than the sum of the individual words above. Even the motto "Ideas worth spreading" make sense to me now.

The people who spoke at the conference and the selected TED videos that were shown hit me somewhere I didn't expect - in my heart. Most of the conferences that I have attended speak to my mind; help me try to understand or learn something or other. That's nice, but that's not all there is to life.

There's only one conference that I have ever attended that I would compare to the TED event - the AYE Conference. The difference here is that AYE is built from a series of interactive workshops intended to help us understand and work better with each other - human beings, not machines. TED is a perfect complement in that the speakers share stories and ideas which inspire us.

Inspired. Yes, that's a word I would use to describe how I felt during and after the TEDx event.

I spoke with someone at the event whom I hadn't seen in over a year. She described to me how her current project is making her feel dumber every day, dealing with processes and bureaucracy that only serves to confuse and make the project more difficult. At the TEDx event she said she felt like her brain was expanding, opening up again. I think that's another good description of how I felt.

Following the TEDx event, I now have a better understanding of what the words mean when I see them. I have a context for this event and videos - which helps me know what to expect and where/how to process the information.

Here are some notes I took from some of the speakers at the event:

Terry O'Reilly
  • The Age of Persuasion
  • idea of friction - sometimes you need to slow down in order to sell and market new ideas. Brilliant examples
  • He referenced the book "The Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande. (Good example that has come up a few times in testing. I think we need more good, practical examples in our profession.)
Paul Saltzman
  • (I was really surprised and blown away by this talk. Really left me with a lot to think about afterwards.)
  • "magic" - that which is real but you do not yet understand. (I've seen magic used a number of times to help demonstrate certain testing concepts. Paul used it in a different sense here and I think there is a lot of magic in what we do every day.)
  • "humility" - not making yourself feel small, rather, seeing yourself in perspective of the larger universe.
  • "There is no end to love. Love is infinite. There is no end to creativity. Creativity is infinite."
  • "Nothing changes until you do."
Caroline Disler
  • "Western civilisation" - There is no Eastern vs. Western civilisation (unless you happen to be strictly speaking geographically). We are one world.
  • "Those who are ignorant of the past are prisoners of the present."
  • she gave a really interesting summary of where knowledge and language (and even numbers!) originated and how every part of the world has helped bring us to where we are today.
Madhur Anand
  • Heh. I didn't know about Sudbury and the environmental restoration projects happening there. Cool! (My university degree was in Environmental Science, so I had an interest in this talk. As a mining town, Sudbury hasn't had the best rep over the years, so I'm pleased to see that it is leading the way in environmental restoration projects. The world needs more of this.)
  • she used some interesting quotes. One that was new to me was: "To live in a place, you must first imagine it." by Jay Ruzesky
  • The environmental crisis is also a crisis of imagination.
Darren Wershler
  • First one to mention Marshall McLuhan (he said he pulled the short straw backstage before the event. ha ha.)
  • The roles of different kinds of media (untimely, conceptual and impossible) and their influences on us. Something doesn't have to be real or even possible to have an effect/impact on us, to inspire us to new ideas.
  • e.g. transporter technology from Star Trek, or the many inventions by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. (Nice comic book reference!)
Marty Avery
  • Be soft to be strong. Namaste.
  • Kayaking story really touching. What does it mean to be a hero?
  • There is some of us in everyone we meet. "You am I and I am you."
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • (Google search doesn't do her justice. This was [yet] another amazing talk! Here's a link to reach her: http://www.whoisamy.com/ - watch the videos!)
  • The 7 [musical] notes on life:
    • Always Trust Magic (ATM)
    • Beckon the lovely. Whatever you beckon (attract, look for) will eventually find you.
    • Connected. We are all connected.
    • Do
    • Empty space
    • Figure it out as you go
    • Go do it. Howard Thurman quote: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
  • The [musical reference] 'key' is you
  • "Make the most of your time here."
Wow. And that doesn't cover all the speakers and videos we watched!

This event was certainly something I needed! I was moved and feel like I want to do something even bigger now! Well done! I can't wait to attend the next one or create my own independent TED event! =)

If an independent TEDx event is coming near you, I highly recommend you take the time to attend. If you do, please tell me what you thought and felt.


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