TED began as an annual conference in Monterrey, California in 1984. It’s purpose: to bring together leaders in the fields of technology, entertainment and design to create a forum for the exchange of ideas. Founded by Richard Saul Wurman, media entrepreneur Chris Anderson took charge of the conference with The Sapling Foundation in 2001. When Anderson became conference curator, the best speeches and performances were added to the website. These online video and audio presentations became so popular that an April 2007 relaunch of the site made this media its primary focus. Though it is an invitation-only event with about 1,000 attendees, the website allows the TED conference to reach a much broader audienceand create a truly global dialogue.

One of three winners of the 2006 TED Prize for her documentary film Control Room, Jehane Noujaim spoke at the 2007 conference and revealed her wish (in addition to $100,000 all TED Prize, recipients are granted “a wish to change the world,” which will ideally inspire the TED community into action). Aware that she sounds like a beauty pageant contestant, Noujaim shares her wish: world peace. She also has a vision: to use film to create a global dialogue that will eventually bring about her goal, revolving around an annual film-screening festival that she calls “Pangea”. Though Noujaim is not involved with the TED project, The TED website itself is a microcosm of her grandiose vision – allowing people across the world to develop mutual understanding by sharing ideas and experiences, visions and goals.

Each video begins with a brief explanation of TED and then launches into lecture, photo presentation or performance on any number of topics. The speakers – all leading creators or experts in their given field – are encouraged to give “the talk of their lives,” ideally in under 20 minutes, though some run a bit longer than that. From creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson’s thoughts on how modern school systems kill creativity to dance duo Pilobolus’s performance merging dance and biology, from chimp expert Jane Goodall’s talk on what separates humans and apes to nature photographer Robert Neuwirth’s photo presentation of earth’s evolution, this site is a fount for knowledgeable conversation and breathtaking entertainment.

Presentation on the site is top-notch, with the ability to jump seamlessly from one section of a video clip to another and links to biographies of the speakers and related talks displayed clearly on each page. The video is high-quality and can be enlarged. The site also encourages viewer participation with a ratings system and a section for comments.

Jill Sobule takes a lighter look at global warming with a song about the phenomenon’s positives. Former vice president and climate advocate Al Gore even appreciated her efforts (check out the end of the clip). Though everyone’s heard Gore’s own views on global warming, the opening of his own presentation is worth a look, simply because watching him joke about losing the 2000 election never gets old.

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