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You know, when Chris first approached me to speak at TED, I said no, because I felt like I wasn't going to be able to make that personal connection, you know, that I wanted to. It's such a large conference. But he explained to me that he was in a bind, and that he was having trouble finding the kind of sex appeal and star power that the conference was known for --
so I said fine, Ted -- I mean Chris. I'll come on two conditions. One -- I want to speak as early in the morning as possible. And two -- I want to pick the theme for TED 2006. And luckily he agreed. And the theme, in two years, is going to be "Cute Pictures Of Puppies."
"Dear Sir, Good day, compliments of the day, and my best wishes to you and family. I know this letter will come to you surprisingly, but let it not be a surprise to you, for nature has a way of arriving unannounced, and, as an adage says, originals are very hard to find, but their echoes sound louder. So I decided to contact you myself, for you to assure me of safety and honesty, if I have to entrust any amount of money under your custody. I am Mister Michael Bangoora, the son of late Mister Tiamu Bangoora --
but was killed during a civil war. (Laughter) Knowing your country to be economical conducive for investment, and your people as transparent and trustworthy to engage in business, on which premise I write you.
This fund was supposed to be used for the rehabilitation of water reserves all over the country, before the outbreak of war. When the war broke out, the rebel leader demanded that the fund be given to him, my father insisted it was not in his possession, and he was killed because of his refusal to release the fund. Meanwhile, my mother and I is the only person who knows about the fund because my father always confide in me. I quickly made an arrangement with a Red Cross relief worker, who used his official van to transport the money to Lungi Airport, Freetown, although he did not know the real contents of the box.
The fund was deposited as a family reassure, in a safe, reliable security company in Dakar, Senegal, where I was only given temporary asylum. I do not wish to invest the money in Senegal due to unfavorable economic climate, and so close to my country. The only assistance I need from you, which I know you would do for me, are the following: one, be a silent partner and receive the funds in your account in trust; two, provide a bank account under your control to which the funds will be remitted; three, receive the funds into your account in trust; take out your commission; and leave the rest of the money until I arrive, after the transfer is complete. Sincerely, Mister Michael Bangoora."
Yeah, I was hanging out with some Google guys last night. Really cool, we were getting wasted. (Laughter) And they were telling me that Google software has gotten so advanced that, based on your interaction with Google over your lifetime, they can actually predict what you are going to say next.
But they said, "No, but don't show anyone," but they slipped up. And they said that I could just type in "What was I going to say next?" and my name, and it would tell me. And I have to tell you, right now, this is an unadulterated piece of software, this is a real Internet browser and this is an actual Google site, and we're going to test it out live today. What was I going to say next? And "Ze Frank" -- that's me. Am I feeling lucky?
I filmed myself dancing to Madonna's "Justify My Love." On a Thursday, I sent out a link to a website that featured those clips to 17 of my closest friends, as part of my -- an invitation to my -- an invitation to my th -- th -- 26th birthday party.
I'm obsessed with email. I get a lot of it. Four years later, I still get probably two or three hundred emails a day from people I don't know, and it's been an amazing opportunity to kind of get to know different cultures, you know? It's like a microscope to the rest of the world. You can kind of peer into other people's lives, and I also feel like I get a lot of inspiration from the average user. For example, somebody wrote me. They said, "Hey Ze, if you ever come to Boulder, you should rock out with us," and I said, "Why wait?" And they said, "Hey Ze, thanks for rocking out, but I meant the kind of rocking out where we'd be naked."
Which really allowed us as speakers to get there, in the trenches, and practice at home so that we would be ready for this experience. And I gotta say that, you know, it's really, really great to be here.
"I'm trying." You know, I don't know if you're all aware of this, but the video -- the video game market, kids are playing these video games, oh, but, supposedly, there's tons of money. I mean, like, I think, 100,000 dollars or so a year is being spent on these things. So I decided to try my hand. I came up with a few games.
And Chris had said in an email that, you know, we should really bring something new to TED, something that we haven't shown anyone. So, I made this for TED. It's "Christian." It's the third in the series. I'm hoping it's going to do well this year.
Tech joy, to me, means something, because I get a lot of joy out of tech. And in fact, making things using technology -- and I'm being serious here, even though I'm using my sarcastic voice -- I won't -- hold on. Making things, you know -- making things actually does give me a lot of joy. It's the process of creation that keeps me sort of a bubble and a half above perpetual anxiety in my life, and it's that feeling of being about 80 percent complete on a project -- where you know you still have something to do, but it's not finished, and you're not starting something -- that really fills my entire life.
And so, what I've done is, I started getting interested in creating online social spaces to share that feeling with people who don't consider themselves artists. We're in a culture of guru-ship. It's so hard to use some software because, you know, it's unapproachable, people feel like they have to read the manual. So I try to -- (Laughter) -- I try to create these very minimal activities that allow people to express themselves, and, hopefully -- whoa, I'm like -- on the page, but it doesn't exist. (Laughter) It's, like -- seriously, though --
Online drawing tools -- you've probably seen a lot of them. I think they're wonderful. I think it's a chance for people to get to play with crayons and all that kind of stuff. But I'm interested in the process, the process of creating, as the real event that I'm interested in. And the problem is that a lot of people suck at drawing, and they get bummed out at this, sort of, you know, stick figure, awful little thing that they created. And eventually, it just makes them stop playing with it, or draw, you know, they draw penises and things like that.
So, the Scribbler is an attempt to create a generative tool. In other words, it's a helping tool. You can draw your simple stick figure, and then it collaborates with you to create, sort of, like, a post-war German etching.
So you can -- in fact, it's tuned to be better at drawing things that look worse. So, we go ahead, and we start scribbling, and -- so the idea is that you can really, you know, partake in this process, but watch something really crappy look beautiful. And here are some of my favorites. This is the little trap marionette that was submitted to me. Here we are, very cool.
But, I think, it's a -- it's a really fun and wonderful thing. So this is called the "Fiction Project." This is an online space, which is -- it's basically a refurbished message board that encourages collaborative fiction writing. These are haikus. None of the haikus were written by the same person, and in fact, no line was -- you know, each line is contributed by a different person at a different -- at a different time. I think that the "now tied up, tied down, mistress cruel approaches me, now tied down, it's up." It's -- it's an amazing way, and I'll tell you, if you come home, and your spouse, or whoever it is, says, "Let's talk" -- that, like, chills you to the very core.
But it's peripheral activities, like these, that allow people to get together, doing fun things. They actually get to know each other, and it's sort of like low-threshold peripheral activities that I think are the key to bringing up some of our bonding social capital that we're lacking. And very, very quickly -- I love puppets. Here's a puppet. It dances to music. Lotte Reiniger, an amazing shadow puppeteer in the '20s, that started doing more elaborate things. I became interested in puppets, and I just want to show one last thing to you. Oh, this is how you make puppets.
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Performer and web toymaker Ze Frank delivers a hilarious nerdcore standup routine, then tells us what he's seriously passionate about: helping people create and interact using simple, addictive web tools.
Ze Frank rose to Internet fame in 2001 with his viral video “How to Dance Properly,” and has been making online comedy, web toys and massively shared experiences ever since. Watch his newest: "A Show." Full bio »