Monday, March 19, 2012

HELLO My Name Is: TED

Update: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dear Diary, the quarterback is taking the head cheerleader to the prom - again. What's worse, I didn't get that job because someone's daddy called a friend from The Club and got him the job instead.


Update: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Well it looks like the cool kids are taking applications to sit with them at the lunch table again. It goes without saying that I will not be applying. Forget the fact that the price went up ten bucks. They're still forcing an application process on prospective attendees; and I still think it's crap.

I can understand not wanting a bunch of shameless self-promoters clogging up the event. I can also understand excluding people that just want to use the TEDx audience to make some sort of statement or protest. But here's the thing: even with the application process, several people reported to me that last year's audience wasn't all that and a bag of chips, and weren't terribly engaged either; with a great number of faces buried in their smart phones the whole time (FYI,  there's a lot of Blackberry in this town).

So apply if you must. Heck, I'll even share the application link for your convenience. If you're lucky maybe the cool kids will let you play with them at recess too. 




Original Post From: Monday, March 19, 2012

So TEDxWaterloo is happening this week. I won't be going. Why not, you ask? Good question. I won't be going because I didn't apply for the privilege of buying a ticket. Why not, you ask? Another good question. I think having an interest in what the event is all about, being willing to take a day off work, and dropping 45 bucks on the ticket makes me worthy enough. The people at TEDxWaterloo disagree.

To be eligible to purchase a ticket to the event you are required to fill out an application. I didn't check every single TEDx event, but I randomly selected half a dozen with "availability" as per the event listing from the main TED site and all had some form of application process. Apparently this is a popular trend with the TEDx events. The main TED site simply has the disclaimer "This event is open to the public. Tickets are available. Ticketing policies vary by event.

For TEDxWaterloo the application asks you the following questions:
  1. How do you spend your day?
  2. Tell us how you are involved in your community.
  3. What do you hope to get from 2012 TEDxWaterloo DIS CONNECTED event?
  4. What else would you like to share with us?
  5. List at least one website that will help us understand you better (such as your blog, your company's website, LinkedIn profile, Tumblr, your Flickr account, writing, research papers, C.V., films and book) 
If you read the whole page those questions were taken from, you'll see a whole bunch of words about wanting people with a "spark" and "energy" and "passion", and they try to be quite clear that your economic situation or standing within the community or any other "accomplishments" are not relevant.

Really? Then why recommend the applicant share their blog, CV, and other potentially non-relevant information and leave a question wide open like #4? How about a single question:
  1. What are you passionate about, and how would attending TEDxWaterloo make a difference?
Even still, this would just turn the "process" into a different form of essay contest. 

I am passionate about a ton of things, and I can likely articulate this in such a way that my application would be accepted. Of this I am confident. However, just because I wrote it down a little more eloquently than the person beside me I get in and they don't? 

Where's the line? Why does there even have to be a line?


Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the event, or any of the speakers, or any of the attendees, or any of the volunteers. All of these people are top notch in my book, and I can really get on board with spirit of TED. I've drank the Kool-Aid and I like it.

All I want is for the person on the right of that red line to have the same chance at getting a ticket as the person on the left side of it. Submit your personal information and if your name is drawn you get to buy a single, non-transferable ticket. Want the best of both worlds? What about a lottery for 90% of the tickets and an application process for the remaining 10%, with some perk offered for those who took the time to jump through the hoops?

From where I sit, I just can't see the event being undervalued in any way by accepting a random selection of interested people. Assuming the people who are even remotely interested are no less diverse than the current body of applicants all your demographic distributions will be met as well. Simple statistics has that one covered. 

Wouldn't it be something if that person just to the right of where the red line would have been drawn gets a ticket, attends the event, and has an experience that changes their life? 

Better yet, what if you meet them there and they change yours?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Day Just Like Any Other? Not Really.

My birthday is almost here again, and while I'm happy to be celebrating another one, for some reason I feel old. I haven't felt like this since I turned 30, and this one isn't even another major milestone. On March 13 I'll be 38 years old, but unlike that guy from the Tragically Hip song, I have in fact kissed a girl. That's not old by any measure, unless you live in biblical times, or you're talking to one of my kids, or the babysitter. So what is it? It's a day just like any other... right?

Well, there is the whole anniversary of Ryan's death. That was understandably the shittiest birthday in the history of birthdays, and the two that have passed since have been varying degrees of happy and sad. Happy because I have so many wonderful people in my life that wish me well and with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time, and sad because my birthday is now an annual reminder of what's missing.

The thing is, it would be a rare occurrence if more than two days went by where I wasn't reminded of him, and what a big void that exists now that he's gone. That wasn't a fat joke Ryan, not completely at least. My birthday is a day just like any other... right?

Last week I was cleaning out the file cabinet and I came across our will. We still haven't changed it. Ryan was to look after the kids should something terrible happen to both my wife and I. That day wasn't my birthday. What about when I came across my snazzy new orange shoes (orange was Ryan's favourite colour)? My first thought was that he'd thoroughly approve of the choice, but be surprised if I actually bought them. That day wasn't my birthday either. None of the other couple hundred days in the year where something like that happens were. So why does this one day have to be different from all the others? It's a day just like any other... right?

You'd think if anything it would be better, what with all the birthday wishes on Facebook and Twitter, the cards, the phone calls, and the now annual steak dinner out with friends. In that sense it is better. At a minimum I appreciate everything and everyone I have around me more and more every year, but it's not a "better" day, it's different, and it's not just like all the others. It's one that's frozen in time and it stands out, not just for me but for the hundreds of people that knew him.

Honestly though, with as many reminders as I get all year, having one that's not just like any other is fine with me. Ryan wasn't just like anyone else and our memories of him shouldn't be like any others either.