Monthly Archives: August 2010

My favourite TED Talks

I discovered TED Talks some years ago. I think the first one I saw was Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice. A really interesting one. But at that time I saw it on youtube. I didn’t explicitly go to the TED Talks website, I just saw some talks on youtube, or google video.

Some months ago, thanks to TED’s twitter user, I went passionate about the talks, and started watching an average of almost 1 talk per day. If they start a TV channel, it will be the default one when I switch on the TV. Also I started to visit TED’s website and signed up.

I’d like to share with you my favourite TED Talks list. Enjoy!

The “read it all” challenge

Nowadays we don’t read, we scan. Internet is an amazing source of information, but somehow we have evolved our reading to cope with the huge amount of information on the net, not reading deeply any more, and just scanning. This is no news, as everybody has noticed it, and actually the famous usability evangelist, Jakob Nielsen, wrote about this subject in 1997.

Moreover, all modern browsers come with tabs, allowing you to do parallel surfing, so we read even less from a single page. People tend to have a lot of tabs, spreading the focus, and barely reading any page at all. In addition, this behaviour unluckily infects our way to read things off-line; lots of people have reported problems of focus while reading a book. And better to avoid speaking about e-books.

In 2008 a famous article, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, went a bit further:

The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.

After reading this really long article (I read it, didn’t just scan it, I promise) I was really shocked, and had an idea.

The challenge is simple: during 1 day read absolutely all words of the main text of every single page you open. That is, you don’t need to slow-read the adverts, but try to read all the genuine content of each page. I tried it and it was surprising to see how slow the web browsing experience can be, and at the same time how deeply can you focus in just one thing. Are you brave enough?