Who is the Best Free Software Advocate?

TED is offering an audition for future talks in New York on the 24th of May [1]. It would be good if we could have someone advocate Free Software there. The audition is a 1 minute talk, the speakers who pass the audition may be offered full ~17 minute lecture slots at the next TED conference, and some of the minute long talks will be published on (which has many viewers).

Larry Lessig has previously given a TED talk about laws that strange creativity [2], while this is fairly typical of the type of talk that TED promotes (in terms of politics and presentation quality), a talk doesn’t have to be so well produced to make the grade. Firstly some TED talks seem to be accepted with a lower presentation quality due to the speaker having some special knowledge – a TED presentation doesn’t have to be so slick if the speaker is sufficiently famous or the talk is particularly interesting. Also there are TEDx events which are organised independently, have less international attention, and therefore less competition for speaking slots. Larry gave a more recent talk at the TEDxNYED event about re-examining the remix and lessons that people on the political left can learn from conservatives about remix legislation [3], this talk is much more informal and also unfortunately has a much lower recording quality. But as it’s published on it will still get a large audience.

Promoting Free Software to the TED audience (which includes many senior politicians and other VIPs) would be a major achievement. Even a TEDx talk that gets published on would get seen by a huge and important audience.

Who is capable of giving such a talk? Larry got a standing ovation for his TED talk so it seems most likely that he can give another TED talk without going through the public audition process, but it seems that he has other priorities at this time. Probably most people who have more than 10 years experience doing Free Software development and who have a reasonable amount of experience giving lectures at Free Software conferences could at least manage the TEDx quality and a good portion of the speakers from any of the major Linux conferences could potentially give a talk of TED quality if they spent enough time preparing it.

What methods of funding are available? There are probably very few people who would travel far to give a 1 minute talk, Mark Shuttleworth is one person who can afford to travel for such things and who could potentially give a great TED talk (his story is the sort of thing that seems popular with the TED audience). Would any of the Free Software organisations sponsor someone to give such an audition? I would support having Debian funds spent on travel for one of the better Debian advocates to travel to NY for the audition – I’m sure that there are many other Free Software things that can be done in NY to help justify the expense. Maybe this would be something that is suitable for corporate sponsorship.

Finally it seems like a good idea to create some very short talks anyway. It would probably be useful to have leaders of the Free Software community publish minute-long video talks about their favorite projects anyway. In some ways a short talk is a higher form of art than a long lecture, I think that the best talk I ever gave was my 5 minute lightning talk about installing SE Linux.


TED now has a blog post with a FAQ about the talks [4]. Larry Lessig is the first example they cite of how to give a great TED talk!

Also you can submit a video without attending New York and there is no restriction on publishing the video elsehere. So if you want to make a great 1 minute video about something important you can just send it to TED and see what happens and then publish it on Youtube or one of the other video services too.

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