“...Written history was fallible”

Unless a person was willing, as Chatterton and Kohler were, to ditch work, and sneak off to Washington, chisel away at mountains of opaque original documents, sleep in fleabag motels, eat street-vendor hot dogs, and run outside every two hours to shovel quarters into a parking meter, he would presume the history books to be correct
The Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson, p. 229

The Shadow Divers is, unintentionally perhaps, a testimonial to the value of having passionate, dedicated, amateurs involved in the exploration of history.

It’s a beautiful story about how a group of deep sea salvage divers who, in 1991, discover the remains of an unidentified WWII U-boat off the coast of New Jersey. The wreck should not have been there, and figuring out what it is and where it came from becomes an obsession — even to the point where they were willing to become real scholars to solve the mystery. And they discovered a universal truth: experts can be wrong.

Over the last half century, various assessors had ascribed three fates to U-879: they first pronounced her lost without a trace; then sunk off Halifax in Canadian waters; then sunk off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. As the divers studied further, they recognized that the current assessment by German naval historian Axel Niestlé - - that U-879 had been sunk off Cape Hatteras - - was correct. But the lesson was stark and by now familiar: written history was fallible. Sloppy and erroneous assessments had been rushed into the official record, only to be presumed accurate by historians, who then published elegant reference works echoing the mistakes. Unless a person was willing, as Chatterton and Kohler were, to ditch work, and sneak off to Washington, chisel away at mountains of opaque original documents, sleep in fleabag motels, eat street-vendor hot dogs, and run outside every two hours to shovel quarters into a parking meter, he would presume the history books to be correct.

Amateurs like these aren’t bound to established orthodoxies, they don’t play by the rules, and they’re driven by curiosity, frustration, and a sense of moral justice for the truth. These guys are heroes to me.

How Web Video Powers Global Innovation

Chris Anderson: How web video powers global innovation, recorded July 2010.

There are a few ideas in this talk by TED founder Chris Anderson (not Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson) that are, as the conference says, worth spreading.

1) The concept of Crowd Accelerated Innovation (at 5:50)

[QUOTE] And there are just three things you need for this [crowd accelerated innovation] thing to kick into gear. You can think of them as three dials on a giant wheel. You turn up the dials, the wheel starts to turn. And the first thing you need is … a crowd, a group of people who share a common interest. The bigger the crowd, the more potential innovators there are. That’s important, but actually most people in the crowd occupy these other roles. They’re creating the ecosystem from which innovation emerges. The second thing you need is light. You need clear, open visibility of what the best people in that crowd are capable of, because that is how you will learn how you will be empowered to participate. And third, you need desire. You know, innovation’s hard work. It’s based on hundreds of hours of research, of practice. Absent desire, not going to happen.

2) Openness (6:55)

This is how TED survives and thrives by GIVING EVERYTHING AWAY:

[QUOTE] So, at TED, we’ve become a little obsessed with this idea of openness. In fact, my colleague, June Cohen, has taken to calling it “radical openness,” because it works for us each time. We opened up our talks to the world, and suddenly there are millions of people out there helping spread our speakers’ ideas, and thereby making it easier for us to recruit and motivate the next generation of speakers. By opening up our translation program, thousands of heroic volunteers – some of them watching online right now, and thank you! – have translated our talks into more than 70 languages, thereby tripling our viewership in non-English-speaking countries. By giving away our TEDx brand, we suddenly have a thousand-plus live experiments in the art of spreading ideas. And these organizers, they’re seeing each other, they’re learning from each other. We are learning from them. We’re getting great talks back from them. The wheel is turning.

3) “Jove” (10:32) a video scientific journal to increase speed/efficiency of knowledge transfer between scientist

This need/idea was entirely new to me and it knocked me off my feet:

[QUOTE] Jove [http://www.jove.com/About.php?sectionid=1] is a website that was founded to encourage scientists to publish their peer-reviewed research on video. There’s a problem with a traditional scientific paper. It can take months for a scientist in another lab to figure out how to replicate the experiments that are described in print. Here’s one such frustrated scientist, Moshe Pritsker, the founder of Jove. He told me that the world is wasting billions of dollars on this. But look at this video. I mean, look: if you can show instead of just describing, that problem goes away. So it’s not far-fetched to say that, at some point, online video is going to dramatically accelerate scientific advance.

4) Global, mobile, video-driven education (15:01)

If you’re like me you’ll suffer, grinding your teeth through a bit of hyperbole at 15:01 - - but be patient, it’s a setup. You’ll be wowed by the Pakistan and Kenya example that follow:

[QUOTE] Here’s a group of kids in a village in Pakistan near where I grew up. Within five years, each of these kids is going to have access to a cellphone capable of full-on web video and capable of uploading video to the web. I mean, is it crazy to think that this girl, in the back, at the right, in 15 years, might be sharing the idea that keeps the world beautiful for your grandchildren? It’s not crazy; it’s actually happening right now.

I want to introduce you to a good friend of TED who just happens to live in Africa’s biggest shantytown.

(Video) Christopher Makau: Hi. My name is Christopher Makau. I’m one of the organizers of TEDx Kibera. There are so many good things which are happening right here in Kibera. There’s a self-help group. They turned a trash place into a garden. The same spot, it was a crime spot where people were being robbed. They used the same trash to form green manure. The same trash site is feeding more than 30 families. We have our own film school. They are using Flip cameras to record, edit, and reporting to their own channel, Kibera TV. Because of a scarcity of land, we are using the sacks to grow vegetables, and also [we’re] able to save on the cost of living. Change happens when we see things in a different way. Today, I see Kibera in a different way. My message to TEDGlobal and the entire world is: Kibera is a hotbed of innovation and ideas.


I think TED has been walking the talk with crowd accelerated innovation for years now and I’ve been fascinated watching its website evolve towards a sharing and collaboration platform even though its core product is video that you consume. I intend to steal the design patterns for embedding, favoriting, sharing, downloading, transcripts (including crowd created transcripts and translations), and rating for the Smithsonian Commons. These features didn’t appear overnight though, they seem to have accrued gradually over time.