Why go to TED?

It may seem like a stupid question.  Why not go to TED, if you could?  It’s full of brilliant and influential people.  And celebs, if you’re into that.  Anyone who’s ever watched a TED talk knows how thought-provoking they are and how addictive watching them can become.

So why not go to TED?

Well this post by Josh Macht at Harvard Business Review got me thinking…

But why is TED so different? Partly it comes from the A-list speakers, including Bill Clinton and Bono. But I suspect it’s the variety of speakers, not the status of the headliners, that provides TED with its real fervor.

In particular it was this bit that jumped out at me:

“Prepare to have your mind blown,” says one eager TEDster while waiting in line to get our TED gift bags on the evening of the big conference.

And, again, maybe this doesn’t strike you as odd.  Wouldn’t it be mind-blowing?

I’m not so sure.  After all, what are they going to tell me that’s so special?  Not that I already know it all – I most certainly do not – but rather what are they going to convey in person that I couldn’t otherwise learn?

The talks themselves are available either live or after the fact on the TED site.  Many if not most of the presenters write books and articles, maintain blogs, or post updates on Twitter.

More generally, I have access through Twitter and my RSS reader to a diverse cross-section of the world’s brightest thinkers.  Jumping from a post by Tyler Cowen to a video by Lawrence Lessig and then over to Clay Shirky’s Twitter feed doesn’t leave much time to wish someone would organize a conference for me to hear interesting ideas.

And so what I wondered about the eager TEDster was whether he was even paying attention.

Is the TEDster oblivious to the wealth of content freely available and one good filter away?

Of course, I’d love to attend TED if given the chance. And obviously there are elements of the conference that one experiences by being there that I just can’t experience at home.

But why wait for an annual conference to get your mind blown when you can do it, for free, every day?

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