I attended TEDx Portland today. The inaugural event (annual events are planned) is Portland’s first TEDx event. TEDx leverages the global TED brand and applies it to locally organized events.

TEDx Portland’s theme was “crossroads”, and every presenter wove it into their presentation in some way. In addition to approximately 10 presenters, there were musicians as well as four official TED videos shown.

I think the organizers did an amazing job. I know it’s tremendously difficult to organize events of this type and size, and even more so when doing such an event for the first time. Although I’m sure that the organizers must have managed their fair share of emergencies, I would say the conference itself went off without a hitch. Registration, venue, food, timeliness, sound systems, all were virtually perfect. The only mistake I saw was one small hiccup with a microphone that was resolved within fifteen seconds. A really amazing job by the organizers.

The venue was the Gerding Theatre at the Amory Building, which seemed perfect for the event. As it was standing room only, I suspect the organizers would have liked slightly more room, but the Gerding Theatre provides a nice, TED-appropriate atmosphere.

The musicians were fabulous too, although as I was live blogging the event, I’ll confess that I didn’t give the musicians as much attention as I would have liked.

I was inspired in particular by the Greg Bell talk, in which he spoke about personal attitude, the power that our language has, and the long time we must invest in and believe in our dreams. I was also inspired by Jim  Riswold and Brian Drucker, two presenters who spoke together on cancer, and cancer medicine. Their talks were moving, and I didn’t capture notes, as there was no way I could capture the spirit of what they spoke about.

I thought Genevieve Bell’s talk on how we need to encourage being bored was important, and although I resonated with what she said, I thought she could have brought more data and research on the topic. Nonetheless, I’m committed to spending some time offline in the coming weeks to allow myself the room to grow bored.

Listening to Scott Kveton talk about the impact of open, social, and mobile on our times was also great. He linked how one individual’s actions in Tanzania plus the power of open, mobile, and social has lead to uprising through an entire region of the world.

I was really taken by John Jay’s notion that every city has its moment in time, and that Portland is having ours now, and we must seize that moment to influence the greater world, before our moment has moved on, and the world focus is on another city.

Here are my notes from talks. I apologize for typos and mistakes. I’m particularly bad with capturing names unless I see them written down. Sorry for anything I mangled!

John Jay’s TEDx Portland talk on the creative community.

John Jay
Executive Creative Director
  • Video
    • Git Kai Village, China
    • In order to pay respect to our parents, we decide to visit the village in China where came from.
    • I visited my grandparents house. Dank, dark, not far from collapse.
    • We stopped at my great grandparents graves: two mounds of dirt in the forest beyond the village. There is no tombstones, no way for anyone to know who lived there.
  • This is a story of transformation
  • Born in a Chinese Laundry
    • grew up in the back
    • my dream was to have a living room, a sofa, a bedroom
    • no heating, no insulation
  • Learned to speak english by watching tv, seeing automobile commercials.
  • Video: evacuating building, in response to Japan earthquake.
  • This lost generation, who lost its soul, has found its soul.
  • We were renting trucks, and getting boxes of diapers and food.
  • Instead of waiting for clients to tell us what to do, we were driving north to deliver supplies.
  • In Japan, Japanese poster saying: “instead of emphasizing with us, focus on your work. that is what will revitalize the coast and town.”
  • In China, going through a transformation.
    • pictures of different buildings, new design.
    • new green city being build
    • every 4 months, China is building a new city the size of Chicago.
    • China has a 162 million bloggers. [photo of elderly woman blogging]
  • Cultural transformation happening in Portland
    • partly because The Creative Corridors of this city. There are many.
    • Ace Hotel, Powells, W+K, Zeba Design, 511 building, China Town, College of Oriental Medicine. Forming a creative corridor through the middle of Portland.
  • Grove Hotel: on the corner of the entrance to China town off Burnside.
    • The Grove will redefine the concept of a hostel. Affordable for all of the young people who are coming here to be part of the creative community. But they can’t find anything afforable.
    • Community: a communal kitchen to inspire creative.
    • Young chefs who can’t afford restaurants, young artists, all on the ground floor through retail space. The upstairs, 70 rooms for international creative community. 
  • Portland’s Creative Corridor has international influence. 
  • Some cautions…
    • Creatives are often the least willing to take risks. Be willing to take some personal risks. Take that job in China, don’t worry that you don’t speak the language.
    • The speed of change demands reinvention in order to stay relevant.
    • “Comfort” is our greatest threat. 
      • It’s the biggest threat to our ability to transform. This creativeness that is in Portland right now, it will eventually move on to some other city. We need to capitalize on what we have now. 
  • See the opportunity for transformation you have in your community and this city and act on that.

Notes from Karen Brooks’ TEDx Portland talk on the Portland food community, and the factors that led to our unique foodie culture.

Karen Brooks
Portland Monthly / Foodie
  • While the rest of the country focused on celebrity chefs…
  • Portland’s food scene developed with no leaders. Just a crazy crew of cooks and farmers and truckers.
  • Handmade, fabulous, and cheap.
  • Portland has easy access to the best farmers and farm land.
  • We don’t have access to money.
  • We are soaked to the bone most of the year, we need to find our own rays of sunshine.
  • Our good culture is small scale, extremely local, willfully eccentric.
  • It’s not just what taste good in our stomachs, but what makes our heart feel good: craft, connection, community. feeling respected.
  • Stirling Coffee Roasters, Adam and Eric. Two coffees roasted each day. identified by home town. but also by two words that seem to define it “the chocolate peanut”.
  • Farmer Gene trucks 300 miles each week from farm to Portland to stand on concrete all day long to sell his carrots at the Portland farmer’s market.
    • “Why does these taste so good?” “Because I talk to them!”
  • David, chocolate maker.
    • made in the back of a sandwich shop.
    • happens because of community. someone is willing to rent a space for $200. other people are willing to try to sell them.
    • booming business, made possible through community.
  • Crossroads for food today
    • Obseity, manufacturing, overconsumption, underconsumption.
  • Craft, Connection, Community. — Put these together.

Notes from Mia Birk’s talk on bike planning and community.

Mia Birk
Alta Planning + Design
  • Bike Planning
  • In Texas, my mom marches me down to the DMV on my 15th birthday to get my driver’s license. 
  • At age 21, packing for grad school in Washington, DC.
  • My brother suggests “take my bike”
  • “Miss Environmentalist, why don’t you get off your lazy ass and maybe you won’t be so fat”
  • Sibling rivalry inspired her to do it.
  • She did, lost weight, felt great.
  • In Europe and Asian cities, where there was compact city design, bikes took off. Congestion went down.
  • I wanted to transform American cities into biking cities.
  • I landed the job of bicycle coordinator in Portland.
  • For 100 years we organized our cities around the car. Land use, building design all oriented toward driving and cars.
  • In 1993, few bikeways, few bikers, a culture oriented towards cars. You can’t even find the bike racks.
  • Going to businesses, they couldn’t see the value of bike racks.
  • Obesity epidemic: year by year has been growing massively. Had to create new categories of obesity. For the first time, we have a generation expected to live shorter than the generation previous.
  • In 1996, the city council blessed the plan to make Portland a biking city.
  • We shaved room off driving lanes, and occasionally traded a driving lane for two bike lanes.
    • First one was the Burnside Bridge: traded one lane to get two bike lanes.
    • Earl Blumeneur said “Don’t do it in secret, make it a celebration.”
    • The night before, they painted the lanes. The next day they threw a party. 10,000 people came the next day to celebrate. 
  • Backlash is normal: changing built infrastructure and habits is hard.
  • By 2000 we had over 300 miles of bike lanes.
  • Now consulting with cities across American. Thousands of people now living healthier lives.
  • Business got it into it: 1 parking space equals 1 customer. 10 bike racks (in the same space) equals 20 customers.
  • In 1993, about 1% of Portlanders were biking regularly. Now, in some neighborhoods it is as much as 30% of people biking.
  • Less than 1% of Portland transportation budget. The same cost as 1 mile of freeway. Paid for all 300 miles of bike lanes and bike infrastructure.

Notes from Scott Kveton’s presentation at TEDx Portland

Scott Kveton 
Co-Founder Urban Airship
  • Open. Mobile. Social. – the three areas he’s an expert at.
  • The crossroads we’re at now is that they are in collision.
  • Open
    • Demo: Took a picture. Uploaded it. Tagged it with location. It went out to thousands of followers on Twitter, on Facebook.
    • Three years ago you couldn’t do this.
    • Richard Stallman: the guy is who responsible for open. One of the most principled people in the industry.
    • In 1982, got really frustrated. At the MIT hacker culture, really open. Got pissed at businesses who were not shipping the source code to their software. In 1985, created a set of licenses for open, free software.
    • In 1991, Linus Towards, a college student, created Linux as a hobby. (Linus now leaves here in Portland)
      • He adopted the licenses that Richard Stallman created.
    • Linux is everywhere. Cars, phones.
    • Other kinds of open… 
    • Julian Assange, founder of wikileaks.
      • wanted to promote and force transparency at the government level.
      • release 250,000 diplomatic memos.
  • Mobile
    • 4 B mobile devices. 1 for every 2 people.
    • there’s 900 million people on the planet.
    • a third of all Facebook users don’t have a computer. they only use it on their phone.
    • Android, an operating system for phones. Based on Linux. It was purchased by Google. Now 600,000 Android phones activated every day. 
    • iPhone: a platform for creation. It knows who you are, where you are, who your friends are.
  • Social
    • friendster: v 1.0
    • myspace: v 2.0
    • what was different this time?
    • dinner with friend, december 2006
      • they get seated. everyone looks down and fiddles with their phone.
      • pre-iphone. “what are you guys doing?”
      • “Twitter”.
      • So I sign up…
      • twitter started in the bay area, it had a geographic area, and a certain density, and only later did they spread.
    • with facebook, they started at harvard, and slowly spread out.
    • with 4square, they targeted “bars and restaurants below 14th avenue”. very geographically focused.
  • Mohammed [lastname]
    • Lived in Tanzania
    • Unlicensed vegetable seller.
    • Policewoman confiscated his cart.
    • He offered to pay fine.
    • The policewoman slapped him in the face and insulted his dead father.
    • He went to city hall to protest, and was turned away.
    • He went back, doused himself in gasoline, and lit himself on fire.
    • The protests that resulted were peaceful, but utterly crushed by the police.
    • This wasn’t reported by mainstream western media.
    • But this lit off everything.
    • This wouldn’t have been possible without social media. 
  • social, mobile, open is completely transforming society.

Elliot Mainzer
VP Corporate Strategy Bonneville Power Administration
  • Knows the power grid better than anyone else in America
  • For anyone who has recently driven east, you’ve seen a huge proliferation in wind turbines.
  • The amount of wind energy connected to the grid has increased by a factor of 7. It’s enough to power 7 cities the size of Oregon.
  • Why?
    • We now have laws to require a certain percentage from renewable.
    • There are federal tax credits.
    • We have sufficient line capacity to carry it.
    • Hydroelectric is the perfect backup to the variable output of wind.
  • Huge economic stimulus. Brought new innovative companies to Portland.
  • “That’s Franklin D. Roosevelt for any of you that don’t recognize him” — WOW! We have people who don’t recognize FDR?
  • We see situations in which we have oversupply: electric has to generate to prevent overspill, and wind has to generate all the time to get credits.
  • As wind energy increases…
  • How do we maintain reliability of the system, manage the change.
  • Working on improving wind forecasting.
    • Wind energy can vary massively over the course of several hours, going from max to zero.
  • We’ve tapped out hydroelectric’s ability to flexibly react to demand. So now we’re adding gas turbine to handle flexibility.
  • Now we’re going to the demand side. 
  • If it’s 3am, and you have a surplus of wind electricity, you send a signal to people’s hot water heats to heat up, and soak up some of that extra electricity. (The heat is conserved in the heater, saving the energy that would have otherwise gone to waste or stretched the reliability of the system.)
  • Now we’re increasing the size of the area in we can load balance – spanning from British Columbia to California and New Mexico.

TED.com Video
Ric Elias
  • Imagine climbing through 3,000 feet, and there is an explosion. 
  • The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudsand River. He turns off the engines. He says “brace for impact”.
  • I could see in the flight attendants eyes: terror.
  • I learned 3 things that day.
  • It all changes in an instant. All the friends I wanted to reach out to and didn’t. All the experiences I wanted and didn’t have. I am not saving good wines. I am opening them up and drinking them now.
  • I thought about my ego, and negative energy and relationships with people. I no longer have to be right. I choose to be happy. I haven’t had a fight with my wife in two years.
  • It was very sad. I didn’t want to go. I love my life. I only wished for one thing. That I could see my kids grow up. 
  • About a month later, I am watching my 1st grader in a performance.  I am crying, bawling my eyes out. I realized that I cared about was to be a great day.
  • How would you change if you had that experience?
  • How would you change your relationships, the negative energy. Are you being the best parent you can?

Very interesting discussion on what happens we lack time for boredom.

Genevieve Bell
Interactive and Experience Research Director, Intel
  • Background
    • Had a doctorate in cultural anthropology
    • Designs next generation experiences connected device experiences at Intel
  • Will We Ever Be Bored Again? And why it might matter.
  • Want to make a plea for boredom, and why.
  • At Hong Kong Airport. Every single person had a mobile device in their hand.
  • There’s a promise that there will never be nothing to do again. There will never be a moment of boredom.
  • As a cultural anthropologist, talking to people, she’s hearing that everyone says they are overwhelmed. 
  • Is there anything we can do about that?
  • Charles Dickens in the book The Bleak House, coined the word boredom in 1852. It never existed before.
  • Choice and boredom are interconnected. Before 1852, there was no leisure time.
  • Some philosophers say boredom is a fundamental state of being.
  • If you study people’s brains when they are bored, their brains are literally lit up with activity.
  • There’s some important about the boredom of our childhood.
  • We’re no longer bored on train platforms. 
  • Teenagers are bored. When teenagers get drivers license, they like to get together and be bored together.
  • Devices are very needy. They need to be plugged in, connected, have passwords, be updated.
  • When we get up in the morning we all check some form of digital communication: texts or facebook or email.
  • what would it take to wake boredom up? what would it mean not to be connected? not surfing the internet, not downloading an app. let’s embrace being bored.
  • there’s something about being bored that is incredibly rich. that propels us to be inventive, to be creative. 
  • how do we choose to spend our time.
  • “go out and get bored!”

From Portlad TEDx

Tinker Hatfield
VP Creative Design Nike
  • I’m one of the most anti-corporate people out there. I get in trouble a lot. That’s a choice I made a long time ago.
  • When I first came to Nike, I was switching from being an architecture to being a designer.
  • I had to decide how I was going to approach that crossroads, and I decided “I’m going to be a provocateur, a storyteller.”
  • Luckily, I got hooked up with Michael Jordon. He was a leader and a provocateur.
  • We all knew what he was as a basketball player.
  • You can design for people as atheletes, but something else happens when you get to know them as a person.
  • [photo of him going skiing with Michael Jordon at Deer Valley, Utah]
  • One of my favorite products was the Air Jordon 20
  • At some point, how long do you keep trying to be current and do things, vs. when do you become a mentor and let other people do it.
    • I’ve already come to that point.
  • Michael Jordon loves motorcycles. he’s a high performance athlete. he loves high performance things.
    • there’s a lot of amazing stuff to be inspired by in the realm of motorcycles, from tires to gear to bike design.
    • there were a lot of parallels between motorcycle tires and sneakers: cornering ability, speed, tread design.
  • Air Jordon 20 Outside Inspiration – Trumpet designed by David Monet, here in Portland. Known as best trumpet maker in the world.
    • He built this trumpet, and inscribed in the outside the story of the trumpet player’s life.
    • This was the inspiration for the final touches on the Air Jordon.
  • Talked with Michael Jordon, getting the stories of his life. Put together 20 symbols that each represented something in Michael Jordon’s life. e.g. “The black cat”. the car silhouette: a time when Michael Jordon’s mother sent him to sit in the car all day.
  • Each shoe has 200 symbols on it, each representing something from Michael’s life.

My notes from the Adora Svitak TED presentation video shown at TEDxPortland.

Link to her TED video.

TED Video
Adora Svitak

When was the last time you were called childish?
Childish is associated with irresponsibility and irrational behavior.  Age has nothing to do with it.
George Bush, War are examples of irresponsibility and irrational behavior.
While kids have raised 120,000 pounds for Haiti, written inspiring biographies (Anne Frank).

So childish is not a good word.
On the other hand, maybe some irrational behavior is good.
In anything, before you can do it, you have to dream it.
It has to be imagined.

At the Glass Museum in Tacoma, Washington, they say that children who have no preconceived notions of what glass art looks like can push the boundaries of what can be created. 

Learning between grownups and kids should be reciprocal.
Because this has to do with issues of trust.
Regimes become oppressive when they don’t allow all people to have a voice.
Adults put restrictions on kids.
When expectations are low, kids will meet those low expectations.

When I was 6, my mother bought me a laptop, and I wrote over 600 short stories. My parents encouraged me. But publishers were no so encouraging.
One large publisher of childrens books said “we don’t work with children.”
Eventually I was published.

Kids eventually grow up and become adults.
But hopefully not adults like you.
Hopefully better than you.
Progress is made so that kids can grow up and do more than their parents.

Adults must listen and trust more.
Kids will be the leaders of tomorrow, they will be the ones to push the world forward.