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Why do you engage in TED Conversations and how do you navigate through these large-scale conversations?

Recently, I read an article by Warren Sack titled "What Does a Very Large-Scale Conversation Look Like?" Here he explores new electronic spaces that have large, public, network-based, text-based interchanges ("very large scale conversations"). He points out that at no other point in history have we had a medium (in this case, TED conversations vis-a-vis the Internet) that supports large scale conversations between hundreds or thousands of people that transcend international borders often on a daily or hourly basis. Additionally, watching Clay Shirky's TED Talk about how social media continue to transform not only what we do, but who we are made me think more critically about the functionality and possibilities of group conversations on the Internet. Now, he too claims that we live in a time where the rising usefulness of social networking has the largest increased expressive capability in history. Combined, both Shirky and Sack point to the significant effects technology has on our society.

So the challenge the becomes: how can a participant of these large scale conversations listen to thousands of others; and how can the participant's words be heard by thousands of others participants in the same conversation?

Now, I'm new to TED Conversations, so I'm not as familiar with how the community works. However, for those who have long participated in these conversations: how would you define your interactive experience with other users on TED Conversations? As a user, how do you listen to large-scale conversations? Significantly, are you being heard by others?

As a TEDizen, how do you navigate through the TED Community?

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    Sep 20 2012: Hi, Carla. You will find that, just like in an offline community, people engage in the site differently, depending on their tastes and purposes and the amount of time they have.

    Some people enter with a pressing question, start a thread on it, and then put most of their efforts into that thread or that and a related one. As an example, there are two active threads now about nationalism and ethnocentrism that are connected but not duplicative. Someone might decide to follow those two right now.

    Some of us have particular issues where we have particular interest or expertise. Educators, for example, might be particularly interested in those related to education. Some people here are most pressingly interested in some people's religious views or lack thereof, while others steer away from conversations about religion.

    We have people who are greatly interested in economics, politics, or science and others who avoid those topics because they know little about them.

    And there are some people who are specifically interested, personally or professionally, in the potential of online discourse or communication in reaching understandings among different people. So you will see some threads like yours that are about discourse, what makes conversations valuable, what our demographics are, and so forth.

    The site administration selects some threads they think will be particularly engaging for wide numbers of people and places those on the "featured" list that comes up first. That provides a screen that can be useful to some busy users.

    Sometimes a thread has been started by a young person asking for advice. Some TED participants like being helpful in those cases.
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    Gail .

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    Sep 20 2012: I skim all comments for conversations (etc) that I find interesting. When I find one that says something interesting or different, I go back and read it thoughtfully. This gives me an overview of the kind of persons in the thread and helps me decide whether it is worth my time to enter the conversation.
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    Sep 20 2012: I cannot encompass all of it as it is an ever changing animal usually sparked by the TED guys throwing different TEDtalks up everyday.I'm here because i find these TEDguys a strange bunch of aliens floating on a sea of written words.
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    Sep 20 2012: Since TED is about exchanging ideas, if you post a comment you would probably want to see replies to your comment (idea). If you haven't done so already, activate the option that will send you an email when someone replies to your post. The email will provide a direct link to the reply and show your post that is being replied to, so you can keep up to date easier that way concerning your exchange of ideas with others.

    Also, when you go to the Conversations page from the TED homepage, the conversation list defaults to the "Featured" list of conversations. Click on the "Most Active" link, and you will get a multi-page list of the conversations that are getting the most recent posts in them. That can help you see if a conversation has "died" well short of it's "closing" date.

    And, as Dave mentioned, to keep the conversations in a "logical order" when reading them, select the "Oldest First" option when displaying the conversation, then scroll down it to catch up. The default is "Newest First" when the webpage displays, and that can be confusing when reading posts from top to bottom.

    Those are just some of the things I do.
  • Sep 20 2012: Hi Carla
    I came to TED to introduce a civic-networking website called I try to initiate and participate in conversations relevant to community-building but have also been drawn into other conversations for sheer entertainment purposes. I use the scroll bar to navigate.
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    Sep 20 2012: Indeed, it's pretty much impossible for one person to read/reply to all the threads here.

    Due to lack of time, one way to filter out the "best" messages to look at is to see which messages/topics have the most thumbs up.
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    Sep 20 2012: I spend way too much time on this site... Usually, if I'm watching tv, I'm also writing in a ted conversation, or reading one.

    If you want to spend less time than me, I recommend picking one or two hot topics, that you really enjoy, and already have a nice set of comments... Start at the bottom, read everything, and then just come back whenever you think of it, or get a reply.

    So i guess my answer to your question, of how I navigate the ted community... by the seat of my pants, purely following my curiousity, and desire to interact, and seeing where it takes me.