Jeff Rodman

Polycom, Inc.
San Francisco, CA, United States

About Jeff


Grandfather to a charming 6-year old creatorlady, stepfather to a smart therapist, father-in-law to a gifted artist, 30-year husband to a smart, insightful, but determinedly non-technical spouse. No other pets.
Soldererer of first transistor age 8, builder of a vacuum tube flip-flop at age 11 because it's hypnotizing to watch the filaments glow
At ten years of age, recipient of the best birthday present ever: an adjustable 400-volt power supply. Fun, useful, and oh so educational.
Electronic engineer (officially, with a degree and everything), 1974 onwards.
Co-founder Polycom 1990 and Specialty Video Systems 1972
PictureTel launch crew 1984
Evangelist for the importance of wideband audio in human speech communication
Composer and pianist since I was this high (holds hand near to ground)
Writer of a new full-size musical, around and about the underground railroad. Titled "Railroad."
Writer and producer of an eclectic and entertaining CD. Lots more material has been begging to be let out but the timekeeper so far resists
Occasional marksman of mediocre accuracy but lots of gusto
Speaker and teacher at a variety of forums, largely on topics of communication and teleconferencing
Philanthropist on numerous fronts although at only a moderate scale
Informal diplomat who often gets along well with people



TED Conferences

TED2014, TED2013, TED2012, TED2011, TED2010, TEDActive 2009

Areas of Expertise

Electronic Engineering, Teleconferencing, Piano, VideoConferencing, Writing and Editing

An idea worth spreading

Questions need to be clear and mutually understood before a solution is sought. An immense amount of waste and hate is generated by questions that are, either by intent or accident, unclear or ambiguous. It's much better to spend time first, understanding the question.

I'm passionate about

The importance of clear speech reproduction in human communication, and how much the telephone gets in the way. Clarity can enforce honesty and integrity.



Talk to me about

Teleconferencing, live theatre, technology, piano and music

People don't know I'm good at

Some cooking bits, especially popcorn balls and sauteed brussels sprouts

Comments & conversations

Jeff Rodman
Posted over 4 years ago
We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it? How could it be MORE worth it?
It's interesting to see there's not a lot of line-drawing in the dialogue below between video games and Parcheesi, Monopoly, and coin flipping. Games is games, is the message I get, and i think it's true. Granted, some of the newer games seem more engrossing. One metric of interest is what would the player be doing otherwise? If the choice is between a person spending a weekend sitting in front of a screen playing Worlds of Warcraft, and that same person sitting in a pickup towing a speedboat to the lake to spend that weekend roaring around in front of a 250hp Evinrude, my inner treehugger says "stay in Azeroth, dude! Slay those monsters!"
Jeff Rodman
Posted over 4 years ago
Has religion outlived it's usefulness?
It's a very different proposition to get a person to change their mind than it is to get them to make it in the first place. If the question were only how a person with no opinion could be convinced one way or the other (as we ask a jury to do), then a comparison of facts, beliefs, events and other inputs would be a reasonable basis to work from. But once a person has made a decision, even tentatively, they have started to form a commitment to that position. If they voice it, their commitment is even stronger - they rationalize it internally, and don't want to be seen as waffling externally. This inertia-of-opinion is the biggest problem, I think, and one big reason for the success of such strongly irrational positions, including religious and political, through the years. By an odd coincidence of timing, I'm working my way through a book I recently discovered, Cialdini's 1994 "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion." A fascinating, well-documented trip through its field, with one chapter dedicated to this particular topic (commitment, not religion).
Jeff Rodman
Posted over 4 years ago
Is there a realistic approach to provide a "comfortable" way of life to every human being on the word? Can the Earth support it?
Humans are individually wired for survival, to Colgan's point below. But the same wiring is probably not suited to human societies and so the physical answer to Javier's question is different from the social answer. But it's easier to come by, so a decent place to start. We can't say whether a comfortable way of life is possible until we've defined "a comfortable way of life." I like Jack Canty's overview. And to put some framing around the scope of things, we should posit that "comfortable" is not private jets, mansions and butlers for everyone, nor is it starving naked in the bushes. It's somewhere in the middle, probably the lower-middle (which leaves me some explaining to do to my beloved spouse). Health support, good food, water, access to move-around space, soccer fields, cellos, and decent wine and stuff. We also need a definition of "everyone." Let's assume the current population; if we have a methodology to answer the question for that, we can scale up and down as the social issues change. With that, I suspect that the planet could support who we have without much more damage, if we approached it in a rational way. There's enough power via solar and wind, there's enough physical space. Yes, that's a guess, but an analytical answer is possible once we have a clear definition (I'll bet someone's done it, actually). So, oops - we're right back to social. Will we approach it in a rational way? The physical answer tells where we need to go; what is still needed is an answer to the question: how do we go there?