Yesterday I attended TEDx Brussels.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment en Design - The x stands for "independently organized"
It's a series of conferences for "free spirits" to spread ideas worth spreading and to inspire you with insights that are not necessarily inside your normal area of expertise.
The theme in Brussels was "Burn the Box" meaning it's not enough the think outside the box, you have to be willing to burn it if necessary.
Mixed feelings about the conference.
Yes, there were some really good talks like "open everything" by Michel Bauwens about the need for open information, open standards and product hacking , the great talk about information visualisation by David McCandless and the super wacko talk of R.U. Sirius.
And yes, most of the speakers are undoubtedly experts in their field (although some of them clearly wondered why on earth they were invited to speak)
But there's something eery about a group of smart and established people shouting "Burn the box" or "we're so cool because we dare to think different" and most of them were soooooooo full of themselves.
example: During a coffee break I asked a theoretical physicist what he was working on and he replied "you wouldn't understand" ....
If you have a good idea, just talk about it and leave out the attitude.
Attitudes like Nicholas Negroponte who talked (of course) about his OLPC project : no doubt he's a man with a vision and he achieved some amazing things but his talk was full of bloat and cheap shots at Microsoft. Don't devalue your competitor (or even your enemy), the only thing you achieve is devaluating your own message.
Attitudes like Conrad Wolfram who talked about how ridiculous it is that students still have to do math calculations on paper when there's something like a PC (with Wolfram Alpha) these days.
I completely disagreed with him. It's like saying to an artist he's stupid for still trying to achieve a impressionist style with oil-paint and a brush when we have photoshop filters for that now ...
Of course you should use a PC for mundane calculations but I am very glad I had to do so many math on paper without a computer in high school: it really showed me the beauty of math, how one can approach a problem from so many different angles and how one can translate a chaos like concept into comprehensible structured steps.
Wolfram Alpha is pretty cool, but it's little more then a multi-trick pony that you have to give the correct and narrow input to get the results you want.
Or attitudes like the way TEDx Brussels had set up their communication (you can't just register, you have to be invited) or the pumped up writing in their tweets like this one (yes, Djamal Laroussi can play the guitar, and yes there was some cheering - but going wild? It was more like Antony Bosschem said: it's like a dad who wants to act cool for his son)
To repeat myself: if you have something worthwhile to say: just say it to whoever wants to listen and leave out the bloat.
I find I get more insight and brain tickles spending some time following the various links and comments that float by on twitter then a full day at TEDx.
That's why i like the barcamp concept so much: it's like TED, without the attitude. Presentations there a more "burning the box" then the ones i heard yesterday.
So if you really want to get your mind be blown away, get your ass to Gent on december 19 for the next barcamp - you won't be disappointed.