Chris Anderson’s TED

By in Blog Posts, Culture, Deep Dives, Education, Facebook Instant Articles, Online Video

What is your favorite TED talk?

Jimmy Wales, Chris Anderson, Sal Khan, and Tim Urban are building new libraries. Houses of ideas, filled with explanations of and perspectives on the world around us. Together they are creating institutes that will house and promote human knowledge as we move deeper into a digital age. Thanks to Wikipedia, TED, online learning, and digital media distribution, kids growing up in 2016 have fascinating new ways to learn about the world around them. I would like to talk about one of those new ways in detail in this post.

The TED stage, as seen from above.

TED is an annual conference curated to feature some of the most interesting, influential, famous, important, and powerful people in the world. It gives these people a simple red stage on which to give an 18 minute pitch of their life’s work. This simple framework, applied over the last decade or so, has built a new-media juggernaut that disseminates fresh perspectives, different world-views, and counterintuitive insights at a scale that would outpace even the most optimistic, enthusiastic, and hopeful 1900’s librarians’ wildest dreams!

TED represents a fascinating new way to share knowledge, expertise, and inspiration online. TED is an annual conference, but it is more widely known as an online library of 3-25 minute talks from the aforementioned conference. Most talks are around 18 minutes. The mission, as stated, is to feature “ideas worth sharing.” Chris Anderson took charge of TED in 2002. You can learn more about how You can read more about the technical details of how TED is run here.

I’ve watched TED talks online on a very regular basis since around 2009. They have informed and inspired me, and have no doubt played a huge role in my enthusiasm for understanding the world around me and reforming education. So given my familiarity with them, and the fact that I’ll be attending my very first TED conference in-person this summer, I thought it would be fun to dive into the history and philosophy of the person who built TED into the magnificent cultural force it is today. The head of TED is a chap called Chris Anderson.

As he built TED around his vision for the past 15 years, he stumbled upon and then brilliantly leveraged a new, different, and surprisingly popular way to engage intellectually online: TED talks.

Mr. Anderson bought TED outright through his nonprofit right around the turn of the century – after building an online publishing business that at one point employed thousands of people and was valued at 2 billion dollars. After the .com crash, he took a turn in his career to pursue more meaningful work, eventually deciding to guide TED full time.

You can watch him talk about that transition in his life at TED in 2002. This particular talk, the 211th publicly posted TED talk, is revealing and informative in a lot of very cool ways. It’s amazing to see how Chris was thinking about growing TED before the days of online video, especially considering how it has grown since.

After testing 6 “talks” online to surprising viral success in 2006, he led TED to invest hugely in online video, a decision you can watch him elaborated on in talks he has given in recent years. Chris makes some powerful distinctions about the power of learning and online video.

As he’s been asked over and over again about the outstanding success of TED talks, he has begun thinking and talking about what he thinks makes TED talks so special. Very recently he’s put together a framework to help people share their ideas through public speaking.

You can see him flesh out those ideas in detail in this talk.

He summarizes the lessons of his new book, which came out May 3rd, 2016, in this talk.

If you haven’t already, head over to and dive into whatever fascinates you. For the last few years, TED has been my favorite way to get introduced to new ideas (you can see many of my old blog posts about favorite TED talks by clicking here) and I hope you find it similarly useful! Thanks for reading.

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