TED and the ANTI-TED

Bil Across the street from TED this year in Monterey, California will be a competing conference called BIL.

BIL stands for Beauty. Ingenious. Learning.  It is described as an

open self organizing, emergent,and anarchic science and technology conference. 

Nobody is in charge.

If you want to come, just show up.

If you have an idea to spread, start talking.

If someone is saying something interesting, stop and listen.

BIL is too kind hearted to say so, but the implication is that TED is part of the problem it means to solve.  TED is top down, centralized, hierarchical, elite driven, celebrity centered, and, at $6000 a ticket, really expensive. 

It would have been one thing if BIL merely existed in the world.  But to set up shop across the street from TED?  On the very two days that TED is running?  This is agit prop.  This is mischief.  BIL appears to be the idea jamboree it says it is.  But it is also very clearly means to make itself an opportunity for comparison. 


For more on the BIL conference here and here


With thanks to Thomas Hawk for the photo of Lady Birds convening.   

8 thoughts on “TED and the ANTI-TED

  1. Laurie

    Just as we gain understanding of ourselves through relationships with others, perhaps BIL’s participatns will learn more about BIL and TED, by being so close geographically but so far ideologically. It would be an incredible opportunity to observe and write about.

  2. LK

    this is the barcamp model, no?

    essentially the un-conference.

    attended one in vancouver last summer

    the way it worked: there’s a whiteboard with time slots; if you’re interested in talking about something, sign up for a time and a room. bring your laptop, plug into the projector, and do your presentation, with realtime Q&A, etc.

    i must say that i thought it worked very well as a system. the people who were there (and this was on a sunny saturday in august in vancouver) really wanted to be there and were truly interested in getting provocative ideas out there, hearing what others had to say, etc.

    so this takes the idea of the best things that happen at conferences happens in the hallways (i think that was the Idea City line) and puts the best things back into rooms, but allows the best things to self-organize and self-define.

    PS shouldn’t your post have been called BIL vs TED’s excellent adventure?

  3. Anonymous

    I think your comments are, well, little more than a cheap
    potshot intended to stir controversy. You didn’t even get that
    the BIL acronym is constantly changing.

    archist and anarchist methodologies yield different results. The
    overlap between conferences in time and space is slight, and appears
    to be an attempt at synergy rather than competition.

    The hierarchy of TED ensures quality and focus. An un-conference can
    only achieve that through luck or quality of attendees (again
    elitism). So, while TED is indeed bounded by the vision of it’s own
    hierarchy, and limited slightly by the financial elitism, it remains a
    fantastic edge zone for sharing inter-disciplinary ideas. The TED
    price tag works as a way to limit attendance to something manageable,
    and a good chunk of those funds go to the TED Prize good-niks, and by
    making the videos available to everyone for free, goes a long way
    towards counteracting the elitism of the conference itself. Indeed
    they’re planning to increase the rate of releases to a new video every
    day this year!

    BIL would not exist without 25 years of TED demonstrating the power of
    interdisciplinary knowledge sharing and the enlightened self-interest
    that came from disseminating their videos for free instead of trying
    to make more revenue off the conference. The “organizers” of BIL seem to
    acknowledge that.

    Similarly, TED appears to recognize the value that can come from a more
    egalitarian version of their conference. BIL has a strong potential
    for “outside the box” ideas, which over time will positively influence
    the TED crowd. The slight overlap is overtly intended to allow
    interested TED attendees to pop into BIL and get a taste of both
    worlds. Shame on you for suggesting otherwise.

  4. steve

    hee. don’t get me wrong. I think self-organization and the BIL paradigm is the wave of the future. But both conferences are driven by a more pressing paradigm shift towards cooperation rather than pure competition. And suggesting that BIL is really a kick in the balls for TED assumes the latter and suggests you might want to read the ~entire~ BIL website a little more carefully and with different internal assumptions.

  5. Tom Guarriello

    After the last session of TED on Saturday, I went over to visit the BIL conference. Delightful. Different. Fun. In 1990, I was lucky enough to attend several events “hosted” by Harrison Owen, the creator of Open Space Technology, the foundational model for “unconferences.” I’ve also attended eight TEDs. Both models are highly informative and radically different. For me, it’s not an either/or choice. Both have great value. I hope BIL lives on and know TED will. I blogged about some of the anti-TED snarkiness here: http://www.truetalkblog.com/truetalk/2008/03/never-underesti.html

  6. John L

    It’s all good. I created a collaborative book which explored the intersection of religion and technology – forty participants, nomadic, horizontal, participative, nobody “in control” – but there HAD to be a certain amount of definition – just as BIL must have predefined place, ground rules, and people bringing content. The book (www.lulu.com/wikiklesia) won a 2007 SNCR Award and has raised thousands of dollars for charity (Not For Sale Campaign).

    That said….

    I just returned from TED. Sure, it’s “organized” – but the most important part of the organization is what happens spontaneously among individuals during breaks, meals, and off-time. TED is more or less the “excuse” for people of great passion – positive social influencers – to gather once a year and build ideas non-stop for 4 days.

    The connections made at TED, thanks in part to its particular vertical structure, do synergize and cause great world change. Not that BIL doesn’t bring change…

    Bottom line – there’s a place for both kinds of structures (along a continuum). I’m the biggest fan of ventures like BIL, but it’s simply not going to replace the kind of focus I’m looking for at TED. Ideologically, BIL and TED are in fact very close together.

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