TED Conversations

Pāvils Jurjāns

Director/owner, Knowledge Factory


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Why does TED.com have so little focus on open-source (software/hardware/ideas)?

To my view, what has happened with open-source software movement, is something totally spectacular. Software development 2.0, if you wish. And with great implications on the rest of the economy, if/when the frameworks of OOS will be applied to the hardware development.
What is happening with Creative Commons licence, is equally impressive. And that is also about sharing, reusing and mixing.
I am somewhat puzzled, why such a great organisation as TED is, does not emphasise the importance of the open source movement. Don't want to build conspiracy here, but would that be reluctance to upset sponsors? For example, people from Microsoft have had several talks, while Linus Torvalds or Tim Oreilly or Mark Shuttleworth - zero.


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    Feb 20 2011: Actually, in my experience TED is a ardent supporter of Open Source. Sponsors have no input on whether content or the technologies behind the site are open (see the CC license at the end of every TEDTalk and the license-free nature of all images we capture at conferences.)
    We endeavor to use open source software in encoding and managing our video, although we always balance those decisions with a respect for quality concerns. All our video is currently moving to h.264 -- itself not open source -- but encoded using ffmpeg and x264. As soon as VP8/WebM (or Theora) catches up in efficiency and quality we are ready to transform the library once again.
    To be sure, certain technologies crucial to our workflow require us to venture into the world of closed technologies. We've moved all video recording away from linear media to HD-based capture, but the best tool we've found available to us in doing that records using ProRes. Even so, a slew of tools we've developed internally are based on open source technologies -- users reap the benefits of these although are never aware if their use.
    Linus Torvalds et al likely haven't spoken at TED because of reasons unrelated to the 'politics' of their talks. See Julian Assange's talk for a sense of TED's interest in exploring the openness of ideas. Or watch Larry Lessig's 2007 talk -- far from ambivalent about the worthiness of Open Source.
    If you find that there is a particular aspect of TED.com or TED that neglects an open source technology which is more efficient and/or higher quality than what we're currently using please post the specifics here. I am certain all the developers and media geeks at TED are interested!
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      Feb 21 2011: Hi Michael, thanks for reply from the TED staff.
      I totally agree that the decision of TED to publish the talks, and do it under CC licence is a great, influential move. I'd even say revolutionary. However, my point is that general public needs to get some deeper understanding about the open source initiative. For most of the public, OSS rhymes with "bunch of weirdos working late after their paid hours, to produce some software for other geeks". Since the distribution model of OSS is totally different from the commercial ware, we see very little advertising supporting it. In result, there is very low level of understanding about this phenomena. And I deliberately use word "phenomena", because this is indeed a new kind of socio-economic phenomena, and should be studied as such. I am not trying to play role of Linux fanboy here, but I am excited about the possibility and success of the amazing collaboration that enables the OSS to happen. What enabled OSS could transform also other information-intense fields, like hardware engineering or cretative expression.
      My own eyes were opened, by reading the book "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", which covers the subject in pretty deep detail. I think, this topic deserves at least one quality talk in the TED talks.

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