Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

A New Location for an Iconic Conference–and Here Come the TED Fellows

The well-known Technology, Entertainment, Design conference–better known to its techie fans as TED–will make its move from Monterey to Long Beach, in California, starting tomorrow night.

It’s a big change for the longtime gathering of digerati and others who have come to love its eclectic and outward-looking program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

First held in 1984, Chris Anderson’s Sapling Foundation bought TED in 2001 from its founder, Richard Saul Wurman. TED has since grown to include an international conference, TEDGlobal; media initiatives, including TED Talks and TED.com; and the TED Prize.

TED2009 is titled “The Great Unveiling.” And BoomTown is glad to be attending after several years away, especially since I always learn something new at TED (and I have a lot to learn).

It certainly has a varied lineup of speakers again this year, such as Microsoft (MSFT) Co-Founder Bill Gates, neurological anthropologist Oliver Sacks, writer Elizabeth Gilbert, tree researcher Nalini Nadkarni, Web political phenom Nate Silver and many others.

But I am perhaps even more intrigued by the introduction this year of the TED Fellows program, initially 50 individuals picked because of the “world-changing potential of their work.”

They will be invited to participate in the TED community each year, and some of the fellows will come for longer stints to future conferences.

The fellows program is supported by the Bezos family, the Harnisch Foundation, private donors and Nokia (NOK), with additional in-kind support from Kodak (EK), Lightscribe and One.org.

According to the press release, the fellows program was inspired by TED’s Africa program in 2007:

“The TED Fellows program will focus on attracting applicants living or working in five parts of the globe: the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East, with consideration given to applicants from the rest of the world….The program focuses on innovators in technology, entertainment, design, science, film, art, music, entrepreneurship and the NGO community, among other pursuits.”

Said Tom Rielly, TED Community Director, who is responsible for the program: “TED will help them communicate their ‘ideas worth spreading’ to a much larger audience.”

Given the troubles all over the world these days, we could all use a much broader perspective.

You can read the longer list of fellows, who seem to deliver just that here, but some of the first participants include:

• Erik Hersman and Juliana Rotich, co-founders of Ushahidi.com, a Web site for citizen journalism, covering crises such as the Kenyan post-election violence

• Faisal Chohan, CEO of Cogilent Solutions and founder of BrightSpyre.com, the leading job portal in Pakistan

• Juliana Machado Ferreira, Brazilian CSI: Wildlife biologist who uses genetic markers to track, interdict and convict illegal songbird traffickers

• Gerry Douglas, founder of Malawi’s Baobab Health Partnership, which builds touchscreen terminals that allow non-doctors to diagnose, treat and correctly prescribe drugs for people with HIV


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work