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Ryan Gilbert

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With all this information, where do we start?

I love the ideas and knowledge shared in the TED community, but sometimes I feel like the information put out here is daunting, especially because I'm new to the website.

So my question concerns where to start learning with TED, but could also be applied to any subject nowadays, with the abundance of information.

Should we read everything possible, and just take it one step at a time? Or should we pick and choose at random, or go off of recommendations for topics to learn about and listen to?

Is skimming content best, or should we really take the time to listen in order to internalize what the speaker is saying?

I'm sure all of this differs by each person, but I'd like to hear the opinion of others on how they learn from this massive database of revolutionary ideas, or any other subject for that matter.

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    Jun 9 2013: Ryan

    I think you just need to find a benchmark, your true north should be that anything written by anyone with the same last name can be considered to be unimpeachable everything else is superfluous.
  • Jun 9 2013: TED is a valuable source of knowledge, but learning is more a personal quest in spending your time and energy on responses to your curiosity about different subjects. As Fritzie mentioned below, this allocation of time and energy on different subjects is different for different people. It can be over whelming. So perhaps one place to start is to learn about learning first, then hear what the experts have to share, and then decide how you can append your body of knowledge to take advantage of the resource. Here is a wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning

    Something I do to prevent being overwhelmed by all the information on the web about subjects I care about is occasionally look over the wiki for some general things. For example looking at the wiki for Physics. They start with a definition about the general subject, give some back ground, spend time organizing it, then provide a top-down directory to the big areas of the subject. This organization of the subject helps me first get a clear understanding of the definition of the topic, see how it is organized, then enables me to relate what I am currently thinking about or my topic of interest to the general subject so my learning can be long-term.

    When listening to experts talk about specific subjects or philosophies without a clear understanding of how the topic relates to you or other topics you know about, the information kind of free floats around in your brain until it is forgotten. If you can relate it to something you already know, or a curiosity, then the understanding of the material will strengthen your understanding of the subject in general. You may recall teachers ask you to read ahead of classwork so when you get to class you are seeing it for a second time and the lecture is filling in holes and putting things together rather than introducing new topics. Here is another neat one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy
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    Jun 9 2013: You are right, of course, that the best approach depends on the person.

    I can tell you what I did when I first approached TED. I clicked on the Talks link and then looked to the bottom left of that screen, where there is a further link that says View all tags. That is where talks are grouped by topic.

    I have a few dominant interests and listened first to most of the talks under those tags. I listened to two daily and in each case wrote notes and then reflections on each talk, including ideas that came to my mind in relation to the talk, questions I might want to pursue related to the talk, and so forth.

    After engaging in this way with perhaps one hundred talks in areas of particular interest, I became less systematic.

    At that time, I was not participating in TED Conversations and did not post comments on the talks.

    Now more often than not I listen to the featured talk and might engage with people in TED Conversations about one that causes a participant to start a related thread. I no longer take notes on the talks

    If I am particularly interested in what a speaker brings forward, I look at the materials about him/her that one can follow off the speaker's bio on the screen with the talk. Sometimes I have acquired a book by that person in order to hear more of that person's thinking than the short talks allow. For example, I have read books by Kenneth Robinson, Clay Shirky, Steven Johnson, Oliver Sacks, Mihalyi Czikzentmihalyi, Eric Kandel, Daniel Dennett, and Seth Godin. I have read articles by many other speakers.
  • Jun 9 2013: Hi Ryan,
    I'm also relatively new to TED, and often find it overwhelming. It all comes down to what you want out of TED, I think. Are you looking for specific answers? Are you looking to broaden your horizons? Both?

    When I read your question, I thought of how we take action, once our awareness is heightened, and our information increases. It reminded me of this 'Ad worth sharing' on TEDAds:
    http://www.ted.com/initiatives/aws/follow_the_frog.html
    I feel 'armed' with knowledge, but then, it's a question of what I can do with that knowledge...
  • Jun 9 2013: Aardvark
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    Jun 9 2013: first and foremost, understand that we now live, not in the Information Age but in the Opinion Age or, more pessimistically, the Propaganda Age.

    if you read everything, then you will be presented with many views on the same topic so, i guess, it's a good thing but probably an insurmountable goal.

    skimming is no good - a little knowledge is a dangerous thing - even though we are conditioned to t-shirt sized philosophies and concepts these days.

    my advice, start with what you are in to. for example, i come to ted for the conversation threads only. i'm not interested in "talks".