A major component of the crunchberry project is researching Web sites and communities that have had some success connecting and engaging their users. I am intrigued by TED.com, which has been referred to as the “Youtube for intellectuals.”
Ted.com is centered on video content, specifically talks and speeches by “world’s smartest thinkers, greatest visionaries and most-inspiring teachers.” With the aim of making speeches from the TED convention available to anyone who is interested. I was specifically hoping to learn more about the built-in social network that allows people with similar interests to connect. There seems to be a higher level of discourse on this site and I would like to know what the people behind TEd attribute this to — is it a reflection on the audience, the content, TED’s design, a combination of all these ideas and more?
The user profiles can be basic or detailed — users can talk about their work, save videos, and include information about their expertise and credentials. Upon registration users are given the option to specify: Career Information, Organizations, Current Role, language, associations, universities, area of expertise, website links, gender, create a bio, and complete the statements “I am passionate about,” “Talk to me about,” “An idea worth spreading,” “People don’t know that I’m good at,” and “My TED story.” I especially like “Talk to me about” because it seems welcoming and provides an opening to engage other users with similar interests.
They are also given the option to complete the statement “I am” with up to 10 attributes provided (e.g. Activist, Agnostic, Architect, Artist, Atheist, Athlete, Blogger, Brainstormer, Buddhist, Business adviser, Business leader, Concerned citizen, etc.) Ted.com is giving users several ways to give personality to their profiles – selecting between a list of already specified attributes or by giving them a prompt and then asking them to write about themselves. Users can flag their favorite content and other users as another method of defining thier interests.
The site provides several pathways for making connections between users — their associations with an organization, common interests or common friends (favorite users). I am also intrigued by the credential part of the profiles that addresses one of the barriers we have encountered, readers do not perceive comments as believable. It gives users a sense of who they are communicating with and a clue about whether the commenter is knowledgeable about the topic. This is also addressed by including a history of comments by the user on individual profiles.
The users can interact with the contact is several ways as well. They can rate videos or tag them as “beautiful” or “informative” by checking boxes or they can add their comments which appear in a standard scroll-down-to-view comment list.
TED users can find the most discussed or most watched content so they know what is popular with other users. The left side of the screen allows you to search videos by the most emailed, most discussed most favorited, most jaw-dropping, etc; users can also find talks by topic: technology, entertainment, design, etc.
TED is a great example of a social network that gives the users a lot of options to find content and to interact with both the content and other users. I am hoping to be able to speak with someone behind the scenes at TED to learn more about their experiences designing and maintaining TED.com.
Follow this link to read David Pogue’s blog posts about TED in the technology section of NYTimes.com