An open letter to TED organizers on #TEDHighConcept

Dear Chris, June, Bruno –

One of my students at the Center for Civic Media and I were discussing the need for more conference venues for young speakers to share their ideas and polish their presentation skills. While TEDx has greatly expanded speaking opportunities, we felt that there was still more room to experiment with novel formats and extend the TED brand.

In the spirit of collaborative innovation, I posted a proposed new TED format to Twitter this morning:

Idea: TED Ex. Your former lovers have 18 minutes each to discuss your flaws, streamed live on the web.
Ethan Zuckerman

While this would make for a short programme in my case, I suspect there are organizers who could convene an excellent roster of speakers around this theme. Indeed, one especially experienced respondent wondered whether the four-day conference format would be sufficient to accomodate all speakers he planned to invite.

Fortunately, the Twitter hivemind saw the wisdom of extending the TEDx format and have been posting suggestions to me directly, and using the #TEDHighConcept hashtag. I’ve collected some of the more promising ideas for your edification here.

@ @ TED SubteXt: Everyone will wonder what the speakers *really* meant.
Nancy Baym

TED Ex Parte: Speakers have 18min to make their case, while being judged by a remote audience that can’t hear them. (@ @)
Kate Crawford

@ TED eXcuse: None of the speakers show up (@)
Nancy Baym

@ @: @ TED eXpel. Speakers vote each other off the conference one by one, Survivor style, till one is left.
Zeynep Tufekci

@ @ TED: DEAD – Great historical figures return to give the present (and the future) a little perspective. :)
Tama Leaver

@ @ @ @ Ted X. Complete with hugging and glowsticks.
Deb Chachra

@ @ @ @ @ TED eXterminate: Only Daleks speak. Audience destroyed at the end. Unless…
Nancy Baym

@ TED eXcommunicate. Speakers confess their sins for 18 minutes, audience decides which ones to eXcommunicate from TED.
Zeynep Tufekci

TED Hex – the world’s top wizards and witches duel to prevent each other from taking the stage.
Ethan Zuckerman

@ TED neXt: speakers talk about what they want to speak about in the upcoming TED event.
Ahmed Al Omran

Some of these ideas are more controversial than others:

@ TED Next – speakers have 1.2 seconds to impress before the audience hits next. also, high risk that the next speaker is a penis
Sara Marie Watson

While others seem likely to involve litigation over intellectual property:

@ Ted Excellent! All the speakers are historical personages, whisked to the present day by a couple of teenagers in a time machine.
Paul Frankenstein

Yet some I can easily imagine working on the TED stage:

TED eX libris: speakers read directly from their books. @ #TEDHighConcept
Sara Marie Watson

TEDLex – Lawyers forced to plead a case in under 18 minutes @ @
Kate Darling

@ TedFX: Everything is in 3D, with CG anthromorphic animals and robots and aliens mucking about, then suddenly EXPLOSIONS
Michelle C Forelle

TED(ve)X – 18 minutes onstage, costumed as a bull. Your task is to destroy as many pieces of chinaware as possible cc. @
tolu ogunlesi

@ TEDtreks: Deliver your talk while running the gauntlet. Bonus seconds for costumes, penalties for exertion noises.
Kristen Taylor

@ TED neXt Newly ousted CEOs defend their next project from skeptical shareholders. Fruit-throwing encouraged, especially apples.

@, EX-TED-NZ: speeches that last all night
Lova Rakotomalala

Xeni’s suggestion offers ample possibilities for collaboration with BoingBoing:

@ TEDMex: Drug war solutions? New tech manufacturing? Aw fuck it, just: an epic talent battle between 500 mariachis.
Xeni Jardin

And a number of suggestions attempt to leverage TED’s technological prowess:

@ TED LaTeX: speakers find bugs in Donald Knuth’s typesetting program. Slides are done in TeX, of course. #TedHighConcept
A Springmann

@ @ MooTed: Ted talks given in a text-based online virtual reality system.

@ TED X-Men. Speakers with freakish mutant powers of visualisation. Only Hans Rosling is invited.
Steve Song

Finally, we understand TED’s focus on social impact and change. These ideas might prove helpful:

@ TEDeXtinction: talk about human civilization.
Jamais Cascio

@ TED Expat: only migrants allowed as speakers. Theresa May advised to stay away.

@ @ WanTED: Fugitives on the run from the law are given amnesty to explain why they didn’t do it, in 20 minutes.

@ #TEDrex, or why we need more monarchies. #TEDHighConcept
Oxblood Ruffin

If you’re concerned about the compatibility of these ideas with the existing format for TED conferences, here’s an especially helpful suggestion:

TED Xzibit: Yo dawg, we heard you like conferences, so we put a conference in your conference. #TEDHighConcept
Sara Marie Watson

And while existing conferences rarely suffer from these problems, this is a helpful intervention when events aren’t going well:

@ Ted Ex Machina: terrible speeches are saved at the last minute by increasingly unlikely plot contrivances.
Thomas Wilburn

Should any of these ideas prove viable as a future TED format, no need to share royalties – just send mainstage passes. We hope to offer more assistance in the future at the #TEDHighConcept hashtag.


@ethanz and friends

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