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 24 2011: Having been very involved with the Open Source community in the past, I find it interesting that I've not been concerned with this issue very much. I should qualify that I'm very much of the BSD/Apache open source mindset in which pragmatism plays a large role, not the GNU/GPL side of the open source house which actively promotes a 100% open source world. I respect that viewpoint, BTW, but I don't share it.

    In the world of software, I see open source is very much about the open communication and collaboration of ideas expressed in source code. This source code is run on proprietary platforms (most of the time) and is often used to build proprietary systems (Facebook, Google, etc) but the benefit to increasing the leverage of the collaboration of the ideas is the key benefit of Open Source.

    Applied directly to ideas, I think TED is already there. The ideas are openly expressed and if you watch over time, you'll see that the speakers do influence each other greatly. Ideas are combined, re-expressed, and re-cast all of the time. Even the quality of the talks is going up as the speakers unconsciously hold themselves up to higher standards.

    And even though TED events themselves are highly curated, that's not so different than the role Linus plays in Linux. He—and more accurately the rest of the team working on Linux—are themselves curators. And for those that dislike the particular blend that TED provides, there's TEDx.

    TED's highest goal is to amplify ideas. The pragmatist in me isn't concerned about whether or not the software platform behind the website has its code published somewhere or what codec is used. The concern is to make sure that as many people on the planet have access to the raw ideas as given by the presenters so that they can listen, use, and combine them to make the planet a better place. PDF, H.264 and more have a place in that currently. As long as the TED tech team remains nimble and adopts new ways, I think we're good.
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      Mar 4 2011: I'll just throw a small disclaimer - I did not intend my OP to look like complaining that ted.com isn't based on open-source technology. My intention was to point out that there are relatively very few talks that feature the open source idea. That does not necessarily must be about software, although the software indeed is right now the most successful environment where shared open source development has shown its amazing power. It could be any form of open collaboration, and people should be more informed about the wonderful idea of collaborative development of content and ideas.

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