Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be ‘accepted’ to be in the audience at the TEDX Sydney conference where I got a crash course in what some of Australia’s smartest, most entertaining and intelligent people — and the odd flying trapeze artists — are up to.
As part of Alan Jones’ social media team, my tweets formed part of a live Twitter feed on screens in the foyer of Redfern’s CarriageWorks where a crowd had gathered on LoveSacs. As word spread via social media that you could watch the event ‘live’ at the venue along with the 800 ‘chosen ones’ granted a seat in the auditorium, more people turned up and the tweet feed exploded.
Hundreds more watched the live stream on YouTube or listened to it on Radio National and Jones re-tweeted the best comments.
1. When Mango, the blue and yellow macaw flew on-stage as bird whisperer Josh Cook called him.
2. Biomedical animator Drew Berry – who has won an award for being a ‘Genius’ – showing computer graphics of DNA moving through the body and malaria infiltrating a baby’s vital organs after a bite from a malaria-infected mosquito.
3. The radical idea that taking time out and being bored helps the brain re-set itself. We don’t need to be connected 24/7. That’s what Genevieve Bell said and Intel is a client.
4. Geneticist Richard Cotton’s idea that sometime in the next two decades we’ll start carrying our gene sequence around in our phones. When a couple want to start a family they can compare genomes and a database will tell them if they have mutations that can cause diseases.
5. Richard Gill’s infectious enthusiasm for song that had us clapping along and the idea that every child deserves a great music teacher.
6. Astronomer Bryan Gaensler’s revelation that Australia has developed a telescope that can take pictures of the sky wider and deeper than we have ever seen, taking us back to the Big Bang.
7. Inventor Saul Griffith’s idea of wind turbines that soar like kites and harness strong winds to generate electricity. And his suggestion we ditch the monorail for ziplines and rollercoasters.
8. Shaun Tan’s Oscar-winning ‘The Lost Thing’, which was particularly magical accompanied by the original score performed by Michael Yezerski.
9. The discovery that Daniel Johns is rather attractive. Especially when he sings. Even if he did split up Silverchair and spends most of his time at the Ivy pool bar.
10. And just as I was exhausTED* and couldn’t take another genius Paul Kelly was on hand to sing a song and tell a yarn.
*Pun stolen from the Chaser’s Craig Reucassel wrap-up.
By the way, TEDX Sydney is an offshoot of TED (Technology Entertainment and Design), the annual conference in Long Beach California featuring 50 speakers who give an 18-minute talk on ‘Ideas worth spreading’.
Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
To be one of the 1000 people in the US audience you need to be “a leader in your field and can make a strong contribution to the TED community through your energy, influence and connections to change the world”. And have a spare $6000. Applications for TED 2012 in California have already closed.
Call it elitist, but a whole community has built up around the conference globally with 500 local events similar to TEDX Sydney held around the world each year and the online TED talks attracting more than 290 million views.
The Sydney license is held by Remo Giuffre, who runs REMO, and thanks to his merry team of volunteers it’s free to attend, but you still have to apply for a seat in the main theatre.
The first people Ogilvy PR’s Heather Jacobs ran into a TEDX Sydney were a team from Ogilvy & Mather. So, she roped American Express creative director Simon Bloomfield into writing up a piece for the website on his experience.
There’s no doubt it was a brilliantly organised, thoroughly fascinating, and somewhat overwhelming day in the Carriageworks surrounds, but there’s been one thing gnawing away at me: I didn’t walk away from it as inspired to do something as I did after attending TEDx Sydney 2010.
Was I the cynical old hand, compared to the many starry-eyed TEDx virgins in attendance? Or was it something else?
I’ll be honest and say things didn’t start well when everyone bar the back two rows (containing the designated “blogging community”) were asked to switch off all electrical devices. How were we supposed to spread the ideas if we couldn’t take note of them? (#tweettweet?) I confess I didn’t turn my iPad off but felt conspicuous when I did try to jot something down.
But I don’t think that was the main problem.
Try as I might, five days later I can’t really recall hearing any big ideas that were really worth spreading. At 2010’s event, Rachel Botsman delivered her first presentation on Collaborative Consumption, and whether you were into it or not, it was an idea that has well and truly spread from that point to all corners of the world.
Sure there were plenty of ideas that made sense – Katherine Samaras’ presentation on obesity certainly was that. But if parts of the US are already looking at it – read here about Arizona’s plans to tax the obese – then it’s hardly revolutionary.
And there were ideas I certainly agreed with – I went home and told my wife I wanted to take my girls out of ballet and get them into an instrumental music program thanks to Richard Gill’s speech. But after two years of end of year concerts that look like someone’s trying to herd cats – it was hardly going to require a big push. (Question is will screeching cats be any better?)
There were loads of interesting people doing loads of interesting things – Drew Berry the biomedical animator; Josh Cook the bird behaviourist; Bryan Gaensler the astronomer; Johanna Featherstone the poetry advocate (yep, not sure what that means, but she was cool) … the list could go on. Everyone was really interesting to listen to.
But I reckon other than Saul Griffith – who wanted to (re)spread the idea that the future should be awesome (robot shark submarines, anyone?); and Genevieve Bell, who told me it was OK to be bored every once in a while (and revived my faith in big corporations like Intel at the same time), there was no one else that really got me thinking.
Except I did think that the upcoming Daniel Johns/Josh Wakely collaboration was likely to end in disaster. But boy can he sing.
Yes, I loved the day, and yes I’ll be clamouring for a ticket again next year (providing this post doesn’t put me on the outer with the organisers), but I just hope third time round I walk out burning to make a difference somewhere.
Then it’s up to me spread something.
It is getting to that time of year when the industry analysts get out the crystal ball and start to highlight some key trends and forecast for 2010. First cab off the rank is Gartner, and this is their top 10 strategic technologies for 2010:
- Cloud Computing
- Advanced Analytics
- Client Computing
- IT for Green
- Reshaping the Data Center
- Social Computing
- Security – Activity Monitoring
- Flash Memory
- Virtualization for Availability
- Mobile Applications
The list is considerably different from Gartner’s forecasts for 2009 — Green IT, which was named as the number one priority in 2008, and dropped down to number 10 in 2009, is now back at number four. Virtualisation was number one in 2009, now at number nine. We assume Advanced Analytics is another name for Business Intelligence, which sees it climb from number nine last year to number two. Other technologies dropping in priority include enterprise mash-ups, servers beyond blades, specialised systems and unified communications, which all fall out of the top 10 list.
Gartner goes on to say that CIOs will be challenged to balance cost, risk and growth in 2010. The demand on IT organisations will be greater transparency and accountability. Gartner predicts few IT leaders will receive budget increases in 2010, which may mean more of the “mend and make do” approach.
It is agreed that 2009 will go down as the worst ever year for the IT industry, but 2010 will see spending increase with 3.3% growth. Gartner’s Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research, said: “2010 is about balancing the focus on cost, risk, and growth. For more than 50 percent of CIOs the IT budget will be 0 percent or less in growth terms. It will only slowly improve in 2011. While the IT industry will return to growth in 2010, the market will not recover to 2008 revenue levels before 2012.”
Sondergaard adds that business intelligence, virtualisation and social media will continue to dominate IT leaders’ agendas in 2010.
How much of this holds true, only time will tell. We’ll update on what the other analysts say for 2010 as soon as the details are published.