To State Dept, from Twitter, with love...

I am at the US State Department today. We're about to run a TED salon here for 700 invited guests, including senior State Dept staff and a delegation from the White House. It's a first for TED, so I took the opportunity to invite friends on Twitter to suggest what they would say if given 140-characters worth of stage time at State.  Lots of great suggestions (thank you!). Here are my top 10. 

Which do you like best?  Please vote in the comment section, or retweet one of these... or offer something better!  I plan to deliver one of these from the stage in a few hours' time.

deeperplane The US could transform international politics by pledging to honor the interests of people from every country equally with Americans. 

MsDuctTape When will we stop using fear & threat as a national strategy? Rather than prepare for war, can't we prepare for peace?

neilredding How can military violence ever lead to improved relations with the target of such violence? Explain.

jcohen2j What are the odds humanity will ultimately pleasure itself into chaos? What future, non-lethal technologies, are security threats?

primesoftnz No trust, no co-operation? Has the erosion of trust in our leadership reached the "Tipping Point"?

shhg How would you use technology to aid a child in the process of discovering their bent in life?

brian__clough What makes the US think it can lead world peace efforts when it's ranked 83rd most peaceful country?

dcarli What is the worldwide carbon footprint of the US State Department and what are their plans to reduce it and lead by example?

lhtorres Is the State Department prepared to address global poverty as a policy priority and if so why and what new ideas is it supporting?

tomguarriello What does the State Dept. believe is the biggest misconception about America; how are they trying to correct it without preaching?

Using mushrooms to fight viruses?!

Just received the note below from TED speaker Paul Stamets (a mind-shifting talk on the world seen from the viewpoint of fungi).

I believe he's had interest from CDC on his work for possible swine flu protection.  Some will be bemused and possibly annoyed that he's applying for a patent on a mushroom compound. But I'm sure he'd argue that the patent system creates the incentive - and the resources - to do the amazing research he does.  

Watch this space.  This could turn into a really interesting story.  (AI = Active Ingredient).

From: paul stamets 
Date: May 29, 2009 7:44:51 AM PDT
Subject: new patent application of mushroom derivatives dually active against viral and bacterial pathogens


See new patent application just published. Good read.

Lots more data that reinforces this IP.

We are very close to identifying the AI's, and according to my contacts  to be more potent and less toxic than 'any antiviral they have ever tested'.

This and a series of derivative, related patents are likely to issue. NIH has pre-approved us for small mammal studies. We think these new AI's  will be effective against a broad range of viral and bacterial species, due to their unique chemistry.

Thanks to all of you for your support, especially to the U.S. gov't  BioShield BioDefense program, who made this possible !

Cheers !


Zaha Hadid announces the Stone Towers, Cairo

I enjoyed this email today. Hadid's imagination is incredible.

From: "Davide Giordano"
Date: May 27, 2009 11:57:32 AM PDT
Subject: Zaha Hadid Architects announce the Stone Towers, Cairo, Egypt 



The Stone Towers by Zaha Hadid Architects for Rooya Group of Egypt is located in the Stone Park district of
Cairo. Providing office and retail facilities to a rapidly expanding Cairo, the unique 525,000sqm Stone Towers
development also includes a five-star business hotel with serviced apartments, retail with food and beverage
facilities and sunken landscaped gardens and plaza called the 'Delta'.

Hisham Shoukri, CEO of Rooya Group said "There is a overwhelming need in Egypt for developments of the highest
international standards required by the serious and growing investment climate of the country - ultimately
contributing to making it a hub for multinationals in the region. The Stone Towers needed an architect with daring
ideas, innovation, international expertise and experience…it needed Zaha Hadid."

Ancient Egyptian stonework incorporates a vast array of patterns and textures that, when illuminated by the
intense sunlight of the region, creates animated displays of light and shadow.  The effect is powerful, direct and
inspiring.  The facades on the North and South elevations of each building within Stone Towers adopts a
rich vocabulary of alternating protrusions, recesses and voids to enhance the deep reveal shadow lines that
accentuate the curvatures of each building within the development and animate the project throughout the day.  

“I am delighted to be working in Cairo, states Hadid. “I have visited Egypt many times and I have always been
fascinated by the mathematics and arts of the Arab world. In our office we have always researched the formal
concepts of geometry - which relates a great deal to the region’s art traditions and sciences in terms of algebra,
geometry and mathematics. This research has informed the design for Stone Towers.

“With a large-scale project such as the Stone Towers, care must be taken to balance a necessary requirement
for repetitive elements whilst avoiding an uncompromising repetition of static building masses.” states Hadid. 
“The architecture of Stone Towers pursues a geometric rhythm of similar, interlocking, yet individually
differentiated building forms that creates a cohesive composition.”

Client:                                      Rooya Group

Architect:                                  Zaha Hadid Architects

Structural Engineer:                   Adams Kara Taylor

Gross Building Area:                  525,000 m2

Site Area:                                  170,000 m2

5 upcoming TEDx events

Our grand experiment to permit locally-organized TED events around the world under the TEDx name, is taking off like a rocket. Last week saw events in Moscow and Tokyo (see pics)... 

...and at least FIVE events are being held just in the coming week. Here they are:

Monday 5/25 TEDxLjubljanaWebsite and Facebook page.   

Wednesday 5/27 TEDxBucurestiWebsite and Facebook page

Thursday 5/28 TEDxSydney Website 

Thursday 5/28 TEDxParis Website and Facebook page.

Thursday 5/28 TEDxSF Website and Facebook page.

Dozens more are planned later in the year. Details of the program here

I'm stunned at the energy going into these events. (Check out the websites above!)  Most organizers appear to be taking the opportunity incredibly seriously and putting in a huge effort to pull off something special that fits the spirit of TED.  If you go to one of these, please let us know what the experience is like.  We're eager to learn what works and what doesn't.

Seeing TED passion spread around the world so rapidly is thrilling. A big thank you and good luck to all the organizers and attendees........  

Countdown to TEDGlobal

I just sent out this email to the TED mailing list. If any new Twitter friends care to make the trip, I think I can promise significant doses of wonder, fascination and inspiration  ...+ connection with an amazing community.

Dear Global TED Community,

I'm writing to convey my excitement about the upcoming TEDGlobal conference in Oxford, July 21-24. Five things you should know:

- This is the start of an annual global conference of equal status with our famous California event.  

- It has the proven TED format of 50 main presenters giving 18-minute talks over four days with everyone watching every talk. (Not to mention another 50-or-so shorter talks and performances.)

- The evocative theme, "The substance of things not seen", is encouraging perhaps the most fascinating content line-up in our history

- Spectacular pre and post conference activities have been arranged and are about to be announced for sign-up on a first-come first-served basis.

- The membership fee is $4500, and the last 90 out of 600 places are still available. 

I will be co-hosting the event with my colleague, TED's European director Bruno Giussani, and we cannot wait. Everything about this event has our team tingling with anticipation: the lineup (partially unveiled here), the surprise speakers not yet announced, the venues, the evening events, Oxford's gorgeous ambience. 

Please take a look at what we have in store

If you're already booked to come, thank you. Start counting the days. It's going to be unforgettable.

If you've dreamed of experiencing TED live, and have the resources to come join us, this is your moment. You can register here.

And if you can't come this time, watch for a rush of fantastic new TED talks from Oxford later this year.

It's been truly thrilling during the past couple of years to see a TED community emerging from all corners of planet Earth. Oxford will be a wonderful celebration of ideas, imagination, innovation, inspiration and the possibility of a better world for all of us.

I hope to see you there!

Very best wishes,

Chris Anderson
TED Curator

From inside the cap-and-trade campaign

Email just received from Fred Krupp, head of Environmental Defence Fund, the organization based on real-world science and economics that famously persuaded the first Bush government to initiate cap-and-trade to tackle acid rain (widely recognized as a brilliant succes), and is now leading the charge on cap-and-trade as the best solution for limiting carbon emissions.   They have some great web resources devoted to explaining the idea.  Lot of debate as to whether carbon tax is better way to go, but EDF is pretty convincing.

From: "Fred Krupp" 
Date: May 21, 2009 10:29:02 PM EDT
Subject: Great news from DC

On a beautiful day in Washington, DC, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has just put the historic climate change legislation on the path to the Presidents desk. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, which mandates a declining cap on global warming pollution, cleared the Committee with a vote of 33 to 25. 

This is a huge step forward - and many, many people working together made it happen. It couldnt have happened without you and your strong support for EDF or the close cooperation of our colleagues in the environmental community and our friends in the business world. The environmental community has worked collaboratively more successfully than ever. And the business community deserves major credit  -  the American Clean Energy and Security Act draws on key provisions of a legislative blueprint negotiated by the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). The bill also won support from labor unions like the United Auto Workers and the Steelworkers, faith groups, and state and local officials.

Chairman Waxman has bridged regional differences to produce a bill that can win broad support in the House and serve as a template for quick action in the Senate. We have common ground. Political leaders representing very different economic sectors voted for this bill, recognizing that it will lift the economy. Its time for the entire House and the Senate to act to strengthen America and leave a world for our children and grandchildren.

The takeaway from today is that there now is a path to President Obamas desk, and working together we will drive this legislation there.

Many thanks for all you have done to get us this far.

TWISI - here's how

TWISI = "The Way I See It". Viral wisdom on Twitter

- quote or vote and you might win one of these

If you want to take part in this fun Twitter experiment, here's how:

1) Go to this page which shows how Twitterers are submitting TWISI quotes in real time. You can sort by date, or number of votes.

2) If you see one you like, vote for it, or, better yet, retweet it. You can do that right from that page. (As well as spreading wisdom, you may end up winning a free T-shirt bearing that TWISI)  If you retweet, make sure you use this format:  
RT @TwisiAuthorName  Quote-quote-quote.  #TWISI    
If that breaks the 140-character limit, edit the quote. (It means the author didn't read the next piece of advice!)

3) If you have your own TWISI, just tweet away, making sure:
- you add the #TWISI tag
- you leave at least 20 characters spare so that people can retweet it without having to edit it.

4) It's OK to use a favorite quote from someone else PROVIDED you credit the author in the TWISI.  (Unattributed rip-off quotes won't win, and yes they will get googled before the prizes are given!.)

btw, REMO is a company run by long-time TEDster Remo Giuffre. It's famous for innovative design, web innovation, community building and great customer service. Remo liked the TWISI experiment and offered to put up this page as a favor to nudge it along.

As for me... I'm just intrigued by which ideas spread, and whether Twitter can play a role.  Can it?  Certainly some of the TWISIs submitted are a little underwhelming. But others are truly delightful or insightful.   Help the good ones bubble up!!  Or write your own!   

P.S. This experiment was sparked by a Starbucks program of printing quotes on their cups that has recently been discontinued. They tell me they like the TWISI idea, however, and may well step in with their own publicity for the best TWISI quotes.  More background here.  

Wolfram Alpha vs Google

The much-hyped new computational engine Wolfram Alpha soft-launched last night. It's been dubbed by some a Google-killer... so, just for fun, I ponied up a few questions to compare the two, trying to focus on the types of specific queries that Wolfram Alpha is designed to excel at.

Click on each of the seven images below for a side-by-side comparison. 

I'm certainly intrigued by Wolfram Alpha.  I'm sure it will find a powerful niche.  But even in its target area of specific answers to data-based questions, a lot of people will be Googling for a while yet.

Here's the take from TechCrunch.

Evan Williams on Twitter's #fixreplies controversy

I had an interesting chat just now with Twitter's CEO Evan Williams (@ev) about the company's #fixreplies, #twitterfail problems this week (in which a status change that apparently impacted just 2% of Twitter users ignited a firestorm.)

I asked him what had driven their decision to change how replies worked. Engineering issues or (as originally stated) a desire to reduce user confusion?

Answer:  Both. 

(And now I'm paraphrasing him, not quoting): The engineering issue was significant in that even though the vast majority of users were on the default option (of seeing only those replies that go to others you follow) the system still had to investigate the relevant status of all of a user's followers every time he/she submitted a reply.  But equally important was the fact that the choices were simply confusing.  Twitter's ethos has always been that if you keep the rules simple and clear, users will do amazing things.  They were noticing that many, perhaps most, Twitter users weren't 100% clear on who would see their replies. (I was among them.) The concept of 'mutual friend/follower' is not obvious and having the extra two choices (that v few were using) made it that much more confusing. Different users would treat replies in different ways, expanding the confusion.  It's not always the case that more individual choice is a good thing for the overall system. Simplicity and clarity are really important for a well-functioning community.

And then the endearing bit: "Look we know we screwed up the way this was handled." But they'd learned a lot from the episode and were determined it be turned to the good, by using the torrent of feedback to build a stronger solution than before.  From what he hinted at, they're well on the way.

The temporary fix is here.  But they'll have something better soon.  (And he also said they would fix a confusing bug in the old Twitter search engine: currently, when you click to reply to a listed name, their @name does not appear in the text-box as it should.) 

If I had to guess, I'd say they'll come out of this OK. They're smart guys, with an obsessive commitment to the explosively-growing Twitter community. Exhibit A: this talk Evan gave at TED this year.

It's not been their best week, but in the immortal words of Friedrich Nietsche "That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."

One step at a time... World Ocean Conference declares support for Marine Protected Areas

TED Prize winner Sylvia Earle just emailed that the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia, which has government delegations from 50 countries, is including the following statement in its closing declaration:

"We resolve to further establish and effectively manage marine protected areas, including representative resilient networks, in accordance with international law ... recognizing the importance of their contribution to ecosystem goods and services..."

Her TED Prize wish was to generate support for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and there's strong momentum building.  We'll be announcing an exciting project before long to advance her wish.  You can track this at or here on twitter:

Her amazing talk is here.