Update: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dear Diary, the quarterback is taking the head cheerleader to the prom – again. What’s worse, I didn’t get that job because someone’s daddy called a friend from The Club and got him the job instead.

Update: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Well it looks like the cool kids are taking applications to sit with them at the lunch table again. It goes without saying that I will not be applying. Forget the fact that the price went up ten bucks. They’re still forcing an application process on prospective attendees; and I still think it’s crap.

I can understand not wanting a bunch of shameless self-promoters clogging up the event. I can also understand excluding people that just want to use the TEDx audience to make some sort of statement or protest. But here’s the thing: even with the application process, several people reported to me that last year’s audience wasn’t all that and a bag of chips, and weren’t terribly engaged either; with a great number of faces buried in their smart phones the whole time (FYI,  there’s a lot of Blackberry in this town).

So apply if you must. Heck, I’ll even share the application link for your convenience. If you’re lucky maybe the cool kids will let you play with them at recess too. 

Original Post From: Monday, March 19, 2012

So TEDxWaterloo is happening this week. I won’t be going. Why not, you ask? Good question. I won’t be going because I didn’t apply for the privilege of buying a ticket. Why not, you ask? Another good question. I think having an interest in what the event is all about, being willing to take a day off work, and dropping 45 bucks on the ticket makes me worthy enough. The people at TEDxWaterloo disagree.

To be eligible to purchase a ticket to the event you are required to fill out an application. I didn’t check every single TEDx event, but I randomly selected half a dozen with “availability” as per the event listing from the main TED site and all had some form of application process. Apparently this is a popular trend with the TEDx events. The main TED site simply has the disclaimer “This event is open to the public. Tickets are available. Ticketing policies vary by event.” 

For TEDxWaterloo the application asks you the following questions:

  1. How do you spend your day?
  2. Tell us how you are involved in your community.
  3. What do you hope to get from 2012 TEDxWaterloo DIS CONNECTED event?
  4. What else would you like to share with us?
  5. List at least one website that will help us understand you better (such as your blog, your company’s website, LinkedIn profile, Tumblr, your Flickr account, writing, research papers, C.V., films and book) 

If you read the whole page those questions were taken from, you’ll see a whole bunch of words about wanting people with a “spark” and “energy” and “passion”, and they try to be quite clear that your economic situation or standing within the community or any other “accomplishments” are not relevant.

Really? Then why recommend the applicant share their blog, CV, and other potentially non-relevant information and leave a question wide open like #4? How about a single question:

  1. What are you passionate about, and how would attending TEDxWaterloo make a difference?

Even still, this would just turn the “process” into a different form of essay contest. 

I am passionate about a ton of things, and I can likely articulate this in such a way that my application would be accepted. Of this I am confident. However, just because I wrote it down a little more eloquently than the person beside me I get in and they don’t? 

Where’s the line? Why does there even have to be a line?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the event, or any of the speakers, or any of the attendees, or any of the volunteers. All of these people are top notch in my book, and I can really get on board with spirit of TED. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid and I like it.

All I want is for the person on the right of that red line to have the same chance at getting a ticket as the person on the left side of it. Submit your personal information and if your name is drawn you get to buy a single, non-transferable ticket. Want the best of both worlds? What about a lottery for 90% of the tickets and an application process for the remaining 10%, with some perk offered for those who took the time to jump through the hoops?

From where I sit, I just can’t see the event being undervalued in any way by accepting a random selection of interested people. Assuming the people who are even remotely interested are no less diverse than the current body of applicants all your demographic distributions will be met as well. Simple statistics has that one covered. 

Wouldn’t it be something if that person just to the right of where the red line would have been drawn gets a ticket, attends the event, and has an experience that changes their life? 

Better yet, what if you meet them there and they change yours?

13 thoughts on “HELLO My Name Is: TED

  1. Taticat

    Wow! I didn't even know this type of thing existed. These events that are harder to get into than a university. Do you get an event diploma? — This is what I think: I think you should go through the whole application process, do everything they ask of you, then decide you don't want to go after all and let me have your ticket! We've done this before. You know how it goes. I'll even wear the name tag with YOUR name on it and let them put your name on the event diploma. Good times, no?

  2. Neil

    I must admit that I'm still on the fence about events where one has to apply to *speak*. So it caught me by surprise that there's an event out there where one has to apply just to *attend*. Is it a marketing gimmick to place a higher perceived value on the tickets? Possibly. Is it working? Almost certainly. Is it off-putting? For me, there's no question.I love the TED Talks series of videos. I've sent links to dozens of them to friends, colleagues, and people who need to be inspired by brilliant ideas.But could you imagine the uproar if Justin Bieber were to suddenly only sell concert tickets to kids he thought \”deserved\” to go? The streets would be filled with furious parents, and rightly so.What if you had to audition to be able to get into the next Steve Carrell movie, because the producers wanted to make sure you're \”funny enough\” to get the jokes?Imagine a grocery store where you're not allowed to buy certain cuts of meat because there's a chef who's demanding to know what you're going to do with various ingredients.I'm glad to know the videos from these sessions go online where people can check out these brilliant ideas for free. Hopefully, we don't get to a point where the organizers make potential viewers fill out questionnaires before they're permitted to be inspired. And the organizers can rest assured that they'll always have a ticket to sell that could have gone to me.

  3. Andrew F. Butters

    Thanks for your reply Neil. I've been doing a ton of reading up on this the past few days and there's this handy nugget straight from the TED website:\”Is TED elitist? In a nutshell, no. It certainly attracts people who are regarded as elite in their area of expertise. But the word 'elitist' implies exclusionary, and there have been numerous steps in recent years to open up our conferences to as broad an audience as possible. We've expanded significantly the number of non-US attendees, as well as the number of women.The TED Fellows program allows talented individuals from all over the world to attend TED without paying.The TEDx program offers local organizers a free license of our brand. It has led to almost 3,000 events around the world based on the TED format, many allowing free admission.Perhaps most important, since June 2006 we've been posting the best talks recorded at TED so that anyone can watch them free of charge.\”Under the How do you decide who gets admitted? heading we have this:\”We give preference to people who: are curious, passionate, open-mindedhave done something fascinating with their livesshow evidence of creativity, innovation, insight, or brilliancewould be wonderful to sit next to at lunch and have a conversation withare well placed to help make a difference in the worldhave made a contribution to the TED community (for example, by supporting a TED Prize wish)No that's not elitist at all. I'm glad they cleared that up.We don't care about your money, or your social standing, or your gender, but if we don't think you measure up to our glorious standard you cannot attend. Stay home and watch it online. You're welcome! [pats you on head]

  4. Roland

    I think it should be either, \”I drank the Kool-Aid…\” or \”I have drunk the Kool-Aid…\” but not \”I have drank the Kool-Aid…\”

  5. Andrew F. Butters

    I just knew you'd comment Roland, but I figured it would be for some reason other than grammar :PI debated this with Jodi and neglected to consult the interwebs, so you get what you get. I'm not entirely happy with the phrasing regardless of which one is used. Had I been less lazy I would have rewritten that part.

  6. R Chazz Chute

    Good post! You know, I like TED talks. However, stuff like this fits with the perception that TED has fallen in love with itself. Recently, on Joe Rogan's podcast, a TED talker (forget who) made it clear that the speakers are treated like slaves. Though he wasn't paid to be there, he was supposed to be on site and \”available\” all week. He couldn't book his own hotel room and shared a room with another speaker. He was scolded for leaving the event for one afternoon. Not exactly the happy view you get up front, is it?Then there's the bullshit of cutting out the free speech of their speakers. (I really would have loved to see Sarah Silverman's TED talk.)I want TED Talks to continue. I want them to stay organic like when they started. I don't want them corporatized and into all this control pathology. I'll continue to watch them on YouTube, but given your description, I'll never attend one. Like Kevin Costner's character in Bull Durham, \”I don't try out.\” I don't jump hoops. I get invited, preferably onstage.

  7. AJ Aalto

    1.How do you spend your day? In my pajamas, drinking Fireball whiskey and making shit up for the entertainment of others.2.Tell us how you are involved in your community. The judge made me promise not to be \”involved\” out there anymore.3.What do you hope to get from 2012 TEDxWaterloo DIS CONNECTED event? I don't know. I don't even know what that is. Generally speaking, though, I am entirely without hope, so TED can't really disappoint me.4.What else would you like to share with us? My views on Earth's future under my benevolent-yet-maniacal rule as Supreme Empress. 5.List at least one website that will help us understand you better (such as your blog, your company's website, LinkedIn profile, Tumblr, your Flickr account, writing, research papers, C.V., films and book)www.Youporn.com I have a feeling they're not going to like me. 😉

  8. Andrew F. Butters

    I have spoken with several people about it and one comment that has come up more than once is \”I agree with you but I don't want get blacklisted\”. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs can't afford the cold shoulder, so they have to play along. As you can see, I'm less worried about it 🙂


Say something!