Saturday, February 27, 2010

TEDx Gurgaon

TED India was a total waste of time. I was super excited to be watching the live streaming from the conference and was able to watch about 59 minutes of it. The guy talking discussed the miracle of the TATA Nano, a cheap car for the masses. How is that innovative? He said it would change India. I agree. If it takes off, India will become the leader in the worst infrastructure, worst air pollution in the world. There aren't adequate roads to handle current traffic, let alone adding more. Building a fossil-fuel based car feeds the human addiction for oil. If the TATA Nano had been powered by hydrogen fuel cells, THAT would have been innovative and disruptive. The Nano, to me, is just another cheap car. I want those 59 minutes back.

Today, I attended TEDx Gurgaon.

I walked up to "Registeration" and told them it was misspelled. The women just smiled at me, never intending to fix it. 

Attendance was about 100 or so people, more than Barcamp last year... The first announcement was that "hopefully more people will arrive before lunch."

The first presentation was a video of Chris Anderson discussing why TED was formed and why he was excited to be a part of it, followed by a folk dance performance, Kishore, CEO of Linkaxis and considered one of the forefathers of the Open Source movement in India, presented the first talk about photography. As a self-professed "geek", his talk came from the view point of technology, not art. I didn't agree with many of the things he said, because as an artist, I think of photography as a raw material, much like paint. One interesting point that he mentioned (and something I would have liked him to expand upon) was that more cameras are sold by cell phone manufacturers than any camera company. That got me thinking about how competition is becoming disruptive. Your competitor tomorrow most likely won't be coming from within your industry. Another example is the music industry - who would have thought that a computer manufacturer (apple) would dramatically change the distribution channel and grow what was considered to be a dying industry, which, admittedly had an archaic business model that had to be forced to change. Something the newspaper industry still has to learn.

I'm working with a print publication in the States that wants to merge an online blog with the online version of their magazine. I'm thinking that this is a good opportunity to build my vision for Journalism 2.0. This requires the integration of all the aspects of internet technology to build an interactive site that enables readers to not only experience the news through multiple media types (read/watch/listen), but also share their own content, comment, forward, and expand. The newspaper industry needs to figure out a way to monetize this in order to pay for their content development (which goes back to a previous post about startups). Banner advertising is cheap. Really cheap. And you need to have enough eyeballs to generate a decent cost per thousand impressions (CPM). How do you package that and sell enough ads as well? Niche markets (like the readers of this magazine) can ask for a higher CPM due to its demographic, but it still won't be enough... How else can we monetize?

Microsite sponsorships can be one way. Either a topic, stream, or maybe even a particular writer. Online events with live streaming could be another. Downloadable deliverables could also be monetized. I'm struggling with what to do to make more revenue... I'm thinking subscriptions for archives and additional content (like special reports), and access to other services... anyway...

A 15-minute break was announced, which became more than 45 minutes. IST (Indian Stretch Time) strikes again. I have to say, they had excellent music playing during the wait time: Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gay, Etta James... very pleasantly surprised.

Priyas Abhinav, an "urban geographer" and "city spinner" was next... His first slide said "If you know where you want to go, we'll be sure you never get there", which looked interesting. Unfortunately that was the highlight of his um... ah.. speech. (If you were there, you know what I mean.) He presented a video of himself wearing some f*ked up shoes that blink when you're in a place the shoes have never been before (WTF?), then finished.

Osama Manzur wants to change the world as CEO of Digital Empowerment Foundation. Reach the people in rural communities in ICT. Okay, this was definitely worth my time.  Osama brought up specific examples of how bridging the gap on the digital divide makes sense for literally half of humanity. I'm with you, girlfriend. Let's talk. Unfortunately, I had already given away all of my business cards, and this guy was the only one who was business card worthy, but I got his.

After that, I was bored. They played a bunch of videos from past Teds, including Pranav Mishra's presentation of Sixth Sense (I couldn't tell if there was a commercially available product yet, though). Then Atul Chitnis was introduced. Now, I was told that this was going to be good and I had looked forward to it, but it was clear that he missed the "good old days" of bulletin boards and forums. Sad really. He felt that the new, cool kids on the block like Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social media were worthless and that there were no conversations of value was being done because most of them were populated by "marketeers".

Excuse me. I so wanted to retort, but I promised people I'd behave. While I realize the dude is very well respected for his work in Open Source, he needs to leave my shit alone. Social media is here to stay and it works as people want it to... today. This isn't the 80's anymore. I had a bulletin board back then, too. Either you learn the new shit or get out of the way.

By this time, not only was I bored but I wanted my hour back. (What happened to presentations only being 18 minutes long?) We got tea, then left. Next month, we'll be presenting at the National Seminar on Open Source Opportunities in Entrepreneurship. I'll be talking about how to start up a startup. We'll see what people think of it...


  1. Interesting read. Some of the TEDx, independent, events are completely worthless. One took place at my university (BITS - Pilani, Dubai), here in UAE. Which was a complete waste of time. Surprisingly we did not have a single technical talk, most were motivational speakers and one photographer (which was the only worthwhile talk).

    This time I'm looking forward to TiE Delhi Summit on the 21st of Dec 2010.

  2. Well, duh, TEDx isn't supposed to be technical; it's supposed to be a place to showcase people who have thought outside the box, and found solutions to problems by thinking differently. That's the mechanism that the conference is supposed to explore and inspire.

    Clearly, only Osama brought it during this TEDx; Kishore and Pranav could have done the same. Based on their reputations, I wanted to hear about how the founding of FOSS had changed the IT industry here in India, whether the % of companies using Open Source had increased and what they were doing with it on the international market. THAT would have been interesting... :-)

  3. Hi. Jeanne .I saw and read your blog carefully.But what I personally think is that India is still better then some other countries in terms of Creativity and their quest to harness it with limited resources they have . At least they are trying to organize any such event but I really wanted to participate in any such event at South-Korea while I am working a s a Researcher here at Korea.I know that normally break exceeds at India.But you may be hurting the sentiments of Indians by saying Indian stretch Time for Indian Standard Time.You said that you wanted your time back but what can be done by repenting later when the time has already passed away.I think that rather than attending TEDx you should focus on India's Spirituality which teaches to "Live in the present,to live in the moment ,to Care and to appreciate than merely complaining.Moreover,If you would have focused on positive aspects then your blog would have gained appreciation from Indian's also.Anyways,events like TEDx are in infancy stage at India.You should not compare them with TEDx of States 'coz there are not enough funding and resources at India.So I think the spirit of Organizers deserve a BIG APPRECIATION rather than harsh comments.
    Wishing you good luck for all your future endeavors.


    Ashish Sharma
    Asst.Researcher(Climate Modelling)
    GIST - South Korea

  4. Ashish:

    Thanks for commenting. My blog is written from the perspective of an American living and working in a foreign country. Of course I will compare my experiences in other countries to what I see here. I have visited numerous "third world" and "developing" countries, including ALL the BRICS. India, by far, is the most disorganized of the bunch. Add to that the severe lack of infrastructure, the corruption, unethical business practices and you have exactly what I see here.

    I build businesses. India is by far the most challenging to build them in. Americans look at a problem and discuss it, try to fix it. My experience here is that people just accept the way things are. It's a total disconnect between our cultures. While I may love this country, it has deep, systemic problems that will require an entire political change, courageous politicians that are willing to sacrifice their filthy lucre for the good of the people. Until then, India is doomed to never reaching its potential. That's just my opinion. Yours may differ.