Live-blogging from TEDxGeneva

When attending conferences, I like to take notes. Usually I don’t take those notes in a particular intention, and ususally I don’t ever read them afterwards. It’s rather a way of keeping myself focussed and memorizing the content of the talks. And perhaps have some references, if the talkperson mentions some books, facts or numbers that I may want to look up later.

Mostly this note-taking is done on some random sheet of paper, which later gets thrown into some folder of random archives – and stays there until I move to another flat and decide to get rid of all the mountains of paper.

This monday while attending the TEDxGeneva conference, I decided to combine my usual note-taking with the emerging practice of “live blogging”, and so I abandoned the paper, and took my notes using that insane web-based collaborative text-editing tool: etherpad.

This not only allowed me to share my notes in realtime with the web. Since the link of the public pad was quickly tweeted around, I was soon joined by a co-writer – CERN intern Daniel Lemon – @dan2k3k4 – who actively participated in the transcription effort.

Below is the whole transcript. Just one last warning to anybody who wants to adopt this method: don’t trust the autosave of etherpad, and always make a copy-paste backup of your content in the end of your session …

live notes on TEDxGeneva
the programme >
december 6th 2010

live reporting:
manuel schmalstieg – @16kbit
daniel lemon – @dan2k3k4

10:08 / tedx intro video is playing…

10:13 Robin Davies (WWF) “Plenty more fish in the sea? Solutions to a global food crisis”

some introductory slides. deforestation :visible to the untrained eye. oceans: issues of over-exploitation are not visible on a picture.
impressive graphic: size comparison of fishing nets vs jumbo jets. .. they can hold something like a dozen jumbos.
katharsis: audience is metaphorically playing the role of fishes: demonstrating the percentage of “small fishes” wasted, thrown back to the ocean.

“the fishing industry doesn’t want to fish in this way”.”they are forced to fish in this way, because of immediate economic considerations”. those methods are due to “economic regulations and constraints”
not only are those methods unsustainable, they are actual un-economic: the fishing industry is “losing 50 billion a year” which are “wasted by fishing in non-sustainable ways”

aside: TED: Turtle Exclusion Device.
simple powerful technical improvement: changing the shape of a fishing hook can limit the numbers of turtles fished (false positives).

Possible economic solution: the “FIRME” business plan. (insert graphic here)
10:30: thank you, applause


10:31 Claudia Gonzalez “Social Media For Social Change”
10:32 (win7 ppt booting)
Introductory video plays… topic: The Global Fund,
20 billion dollars to fight 3 diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria.
many diseases are linked to complex issues, includes water, agriculture
– in the case of those 3, solutions are more simple, methods are known, exist/ have been applied in many countries: e.g. malaria — get rid of moskitoes, use moskito nets.
– campaign example: mother to child transmission of HIV. Slogan of the campaign:
By 2015, we hope to eliminate one of the ways in which HIV is transmitted, in only 5 years we can stop the spread of HIV from mother to child.
“geneva is a great place to do marketing”… “it’s easy to pull a global movement”.
What was our goal?
Put an issue on the agenda -> Get tax payers support -> Expose the brand to 20 million people
(i.e.; governments should put the issue on their agendas, eradicating HIV)
Campaigns: move away from “guilt” strategies, “charity nonsense”. Use a message of hope instead: “you can be part of the solution”. (plays example clips)
Over 250 million exposures
Over 20 million reactions
Over 750,000 signatures
Facebook: Born HIV Free
Slide: using social media platforms. “We eliminated twitter”
– “causes” on Facebook (target audience: 30 yr old mothers)
– youtube (plays animation video, Amy Winehouse soundtrack )
“went to people asking them to be our Friends and support us”
“we had Youtube pushing our campaign in a major way”
“the first livestream concert in Europe was done by YouTube with Paul McCartney” (from Hyde Park, London, 2010)
2.5 million visits on one day for the campaign website.
final slide: reaching “decision makers” (picture: A.Merkel, sad, B.Obama, thinking)
MDG summit, september (2010?)
picture: signatures handed out to G8.

Social media: “a powerful way to move the agenda forward”

10:50 (great timing): applause.


“the next person is not here, i wish she was, but obviously she is a little bit busy”.
10:51 Melinda French Gates “What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola”
Melinda French Gates (born Melinda Ann French; August 15, 1964) is an American philanthropist and wife of Bill Gates.

(video playing, link to TEDx website)
video link:
video on youtube:

– Sees poverty all over the world, notices “all the things that they don’t have”.
I’m suprised by one thing, Coca-Cola. Coke is everywhere!
Coca-Cola are able to get Coke to the most remote places in the world. Why can’t governments and NGOs do the same thing?
(mac video froze)
(comment by person behind me: “That must be Pepsi”)
“i ask all of you to not use the internet for the next 20 minutes”.
– how to learn the lessons of Coke and apply them to the “public good”.
1) realtime data: (identification of distribution of “every single can”), “realtime data turns on the lights”
2) “tapping into local entrepreneurial talent” — allows them to reach hard-to-reach places (e.g. in Africa). setting up “micro -distrubtion centers”. they represent 90pc of coke sales in Ghana.
Other example: health extension workers in Ethiopia. distributed system that “changes peoples lives”.
3) advertisement. “people want a coca cola”. they take a very local approach to advertisement capaigns: analyze “happyness” in local communities (south america, africa…). example clip: South Africa hip hop artist — localized in 18 languages, went nr1 in pop charts of x countries.
Melinda compares this to “guilt advertisment” in NGO campaigns.

Examples of “coolness marketing”: toilets in indian villages (shows newspaper headlines), circumcision (pic of Bill Gates + cool teenagers).
Example of usage of local data: Polio vaccination in north-east India.

end of video.


11:11 – Raymond de Morawitz “A Local Food Solution For A General Eating Problem”
involved in local community agriculture: Les Jardins de Cocagne
begins with onstage performance (carries two bags of vegetables, undresses his pullover to go from “winter” to “summer mode”)

Contents of bag: ingredients from supermarket to prepare soup:
Tomatoes from Italy
Zuccinis from Morocco
Cucumbers from Spain
Choux de Bruxelles from Holland
Gargoyle?? from Spain

Background of Jardins de Cocagne:
began in 1978, launched by people wanting to get ecological, biological ingredients.
staff: 5 full-time gardeners, 4 part-timers.
Each year they produce local ecological, biological vegetables.
Unpacks samples of biological foods:
* Mizuna –
* cabbage (applause)
* red salad
* marrow – don’t take too much of this, otherwise at mid-night you will have a “big carraige”

Just vegetables of the season, today we are in the winter. We don’t have any tomatoes in Switzerland in the winter.
Take the bags with these seasonable vegetables to the people who might live in Carouge, Quartier de Paquis etc.
45 sorts of vegetables, we propose a lot of variety of known and unknown types of vegetables. For example: Mizuna – not many of you have heard about this vegetable.

1999: jardins the cocagne was awarded the…
We were one of the first to win the “Sustainable Development Prize” (of the city of Geneva?)

Issues with vegetables from Morocco or New Zealand: we don’t know:
– the pesticides used, in which amount
– the wage of the workers
– the “carbon tax”, used for transport
International syndicate: Via Campessina (phonetic)

Big everyday problem: fight with the “slugs”.
Considerations about the global movement of “community agriculture” (growing in france, japan…)

11:29: end of presentation.
“We would like to thank the non-English speakers for speaking in English today”


Demian Conrad “Visualisation Of Rarity”
A graphic designer, he does things that’s supposed to represent things in a graphical way and it’s not easy. It’s very inspiring.
(is vegetarian, thanks the previous speaker)
Influenced by beauty, type-faces, printed techniques.
goal: pushing the boundaries of offset printing.

Research of rare diseases, 1 in 2000 or more.
Governments are not interested to develop drugs, so they are alone with this rare disease.

My job as a graphic designer was to find a way to express and communicate in the most appropirate way the rarity of these diseases.

logo of “Blackswan Foundation” (swiss foundation for research on orphan diseases)
analysis of advertisement approaches (shock, participation, compassion)

shows minimal typographic piece: (cover of publication/brochure ?)
found inspiration on a rocky beach …
re-questions his visualization of “Rarity” .. didn’t reach this goal with the brochure.
gets amazing idea, contacts offset printer (Cédric …) who shares enthusiasm of his vision.

Jackson Pollock, inventor of the dripping technique.
idea: interfering with inks straight on the rolls of the printer.
John Cage: retuned piano — change the settings of the printer.

Strange spots on the side of the printed posters/brochures. Asked why and where the spots came from. They said the printer was setup wrong but Cedric liked this error, so we changed the settings of the printer and something magical happened.
Solution: spraying water on the rolls while printing…

(short video on the making of one of the brochures)

Each brochure is unique in it’s own way due to the random manually applied paint dripping and spraying techniques. This signifies the rarity of each disease.

WROP – Water Random Offset Printing
the resulting brochure “has a story to tell”
and creates ” a unique and emotional connection”,
11:48 end of presentation

Time for lunch, we’re running a little late. Some sandwiches and cups of coffee/tea in the other room.
We will come back at 1pm.
Thanks for reading so far..
Don’t forget to introduce yourself to one another! =)

Questions arising during lunch discussoin> can ideas actually rise from this type of collaborative writing ?
And: which talk was more efficient / flowing: Melinda Gates or Claudiia Gonzalez?

Petite discussion in lunch -> Breaking the barriers people put up via dance.
Schools are too classic, they need to modernise the system to teach undergraduates real world scenarios. There is still a large gap betwen graduating from school and getting your first job.


Xavier Comtesse “The Messenger Is The Message”
first graphic: marshal mcLuhan rewamp: A -arrow- B

A can go to B if they are not in the same city. They can send a message or a letter or whatever. A can write a book to B, which can go to C, D etc. Later on someone invented the telegraph, then the telephone, radio, TV, then the internet.

“Can the internet do something more”
Most messages were sent in 2 dimensions, can we send a message in 3D? The answer is yes.
What if we tried to use a four-dimensions-message?
What does it mean to send a message via 4D.

Could A and B work simultaneously on the same message. The message will not be produced by A or B, but together.

It’s like we talk together on the same sentence, one person says the subject, another a verb, another a noun etc. It’s not so easy to produce a sentence together.

Internet is still a time delayed machine. We don’t have that much software to help us.
misheard: “the internet is still a Tinguely-machine”.

oh, already finished, only two slides. surprise.

next talk:
Paul Conneally “Digital Disasters – New technologies transforming humanitarian aid for the better”

Imagine if your life suddenly changed from a beautiful setting to the floods in pakistan or the earthquake in haiti.
All local media was shut down, no radio, no TV, no paper.
Your family is separated, your family is not around. Information is a commodity.

international red cross: universally understood sign, mostly as a positive message.
Photo: columbia, communication across battle lines
A letter from her brother who she thought was dead for years

information: important part of humanitarian work. (as much as water, food medecine, shelter)
from: World Disasters Report 2005.

photo: mobile phone charging station / street business, set up in Haiti.

“New digital tools in Disaster Response” .. “Haiti for me is a game changer” .. “tweets coming in, non-stop” … “how to deal with these individual calls for help”… “the volume of it was totally unexpected” …

Mobile phones = penetration of nearly 100%

How can we really leverage, communicate with everyone and understand all the information coming to us.

Developed by people from Haiti, developed for very basic mobile phones. User appropriate technology.
(and also in Libya)

Mobile phone relay-stations all over Haiti. Able to communicate an SMS blast to everyone.
We wanted to send an SMS to specific locations, to inform them about incoming storms or anything else. We would target this via the different telecommunication towers.
We would only communicate to the live mobile phones, only those that are turned on with enough battery life.
Send messages like “vacinations available for single mothers tomorrow” sent to a specific location.
Hotline number: x733

allows to target clusters of mobile phone stations. = target specific areas.

numbers…. millions SMS sent, 100’000s people reached …
wordpress (website for haitian croix rouge)
Able to setup a wordpress thanks to WordPress.
Tweets went through the roof, 2.3 million tweets in the first few days.
Geo-mapping the information, mapped where the needs where and what was needed.

Must be sure we can act on the information we take in.

“We are in the street Saint Martin below Bel Air near the hotel. We are dying of hunger. Please bring us aid” – A tweet that was sent to us.

bottom line: “are the technologies accessible to the people who need it?”

example: Kibera News Network: people (with GPS equipment) put themselves on the (open-street-)map

One Person = One Broadcaster (Tweet from Tehran)

example: “storyful”, journalism company:
eventful, wonderful, purposeful, storyful.

Convergence is the key.
We need professional aid to work more closely with local communities.
More people with mobile phones in India than toilets.

120,000 dollars via SMS for Hurricane Katrina
5 years later: … millions via SMS for Haiti
Verfiy information, ensure we are not duplicating.

again the keyword “: working with local communities ” … “it’s about people, not technology….
13:38 end of presentation

video screening from the US:
David Carson : “design and discovery”

How cool is that, I arrive in Barcelona and look up and see just a B. They simplified the design. I went back there a little later on and all I saw was a C. Then I realized it was just the gate I was at.

((mm, great video.. insert link here later))
Graphic design has become a lot simpler over the years.

“The End of Print is now in it’s fifth printing”

the video:


Michael Doser “The Return Of Antimatter”
“somebody complained about the fonts last time … i just like Comic Sans”

E = mc2 …. means, energy and matter are just the same thing…

fact: right after the big bang, there’s 50% matter, 50% anti-matter.
now: it looks like the anti-matter has disappeared ??

analogy,,, money: can be positive, or negative, but it’s the same thing.
it could be the same with matter and anti-matter,, not real difference .. but why did all the anti-matter disappear?

goal of CERN experiments: Make antihydrogen. took 5-8 years.

trap antihydrogen: took 5 years.

next steps: cool it and measure it. (in 10 years?)

November 2010: Alpha Experiment: 38 trapped atoms

photo of the Alpha Experiment : “it’s a big mess, i don’t want to go into the details”.

PLAN B: dropping, measuring the fall of antimatter.
technique: stream of anti-hydrogen atoms, observe how they fall.
“it’s good idea, if you want to do something new, to steal and copy as much as possible”:

Question: what is antimatter good for? How to make money with it ?
* Positron emission tomography (brain scans)
= a tool to study the brain …. or to detect cancers.
* Radiation therapy for cancer.

Money source: the art market.
* (joke: shows painting by Dali, 1956)
* hollywood, “Angels and Demons”
* better idea. Banking: antimatter shares.

Étienne Mineur “The Book Who Would Like To Be A Video Game”
Les Editions Volumiques –

“The most important objects at home are … my books”.
After 25 years of work on screens : back to paper.

1) First item: “Le livre qui voulait etre un jeu video”
lots of sensors… the book knows which page is open.
cheap material: arduino and 1Euro sensor…

Simon game: reproducing the melody by turning the pages.

Anecdote :first prototype had to be very cold in order to work, had to be kept in the fridge.

2) Second item: Book that turns black after 20 minutes;,, made of fax paper, + heating binding mechanism.

3) Duckette;… a video game on REAL paper. (thermo-sensible ink : makes a small duck figure appear)

4) the Book that Turns its Own Pages.
+ the book is connected to the internet and sends information to an IPhone application…. and receives information from the iphone app, and turns the page ….

5) the Night of the Living Dead Pixels
uses QR-codes to interact with mobile phone.. “there’s a video for every page”. dialogue between paper and mobile phone, the systems says “you have to go back, you have to run* …

6) Pirate
board game, using the iphone as a “pawn” (.. a pirate boat). By motion, the system knows in which frame you are. Under development: board game for 2-4 players …

7) opposite: the iPhone is the game board… pawns (figurines) placed on the screen. Dialogue / seduction game.

8) ipad demonstration..

9) ipad card game / battle : whte ink vs black ink. gorgeous imagery.

Some information gathered during informal talk:
– patents are pending, that’s why some things could not be shown in detail.
– main principle for the card recognition: conductive ink .. is transmitting the body energy to 5 different points = recognized by the pad as fingers.
– there’s a limited recognition capacity / resolution / for those finger positions. limited API. but Apple actually has another, very secret API, that has much more detailed capacity .. able to track at the pixel level. E.Mineur will have to go to Cupertino, and try to concive Apple to open that API for them…

break, time to load the battery…..

16:07 / last session.
Ivan Löbl : “Biodiversity: Where are we going, or a plea for utopy?”

– we have still poor knowledge about the living species on the planet, only 10% are known.
– palearctic region: covers most asia, europe, north africa.
– published 6 reference volumes,, “Catalogue of Paleoarctic Coleoptera”, 5000+ pages, 100’000+ species of beetles from the Palearctic region…

– average age of experts (in biodiversity?) is above 50 yrs. in biology: 2 main poles of interest:
* functions, how live works
* forms, how live looks like : includes the study of ecosystems, biodynamic systems and evolution.

– 50 (15 years ago?) both fields were are the same level. biodynamic
20 years ago, students (in Germany) could get training of “systematics of insects” at 11 universities. now only 5 are left.

– what is behind the extinction of experts?
– molecular biology.
– short term projects are better supported than long term projects.
– “technocratic” methods of evaluating publications.
– “citation index” : encourages students to join the most popular fields of study .. their works will have better chances of getting cited, hence getting points.

And now something completely different….
Nicolas & Loris Falquet: “Innovation And Aesthetics In Sports Filmmaking”
(showing some movie)
“you guys are completely crazy”… “better and better each year” …
“support from the tourism industry”
Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs (TED Talk video)
“TED was the launchpad for my life’s next decade”…
launched a call to bridge art, design, prosthetics.
Matthew Barney, Cremaster cycle.
“it’s a conversation about augmentation”
Keywords: Body augmentation, trans-humanism.

(dammit, the pad ate the rest of my notes… reproducing the below notes from memory)

Raphaël Domjan: “First Solar Boat Expedition Around The Globe”

skype talk from solar-powered boat…
Biographic info: founded an internet provider company, ca in 2000.. first ISP that had their servers completely solar-powered.. installed solar cells on the roof of parents house.
Idea of solar-powered boat (Planet Solar): reading too much Jules Verne as a child.
Is on the way to the climate summit, (COP 16) in Cancún, Mexico
then: Panama Canal, Atlantic, Suez Canal, Monaco …
“i think i will stop now, because this satellite connection is very expensive”

Jean Troillet: “The Only Victory Is Life”
Intro video: impressive himalayan snow scape.
ca 1986: his first trip to Himalaya summit.

Develops new, minimalstic technique of climbing: very reduced equipment, no oxygen supply.
Climbing by night and resting by day: this forces you to walk, in order to keep warm.

return to himlalaya, attempt of climbing during winter: average temperature is -50 degrees, strong wind. only one sleeping bag for 3. finally they reach the top, take pictures for 10 minutes. one of the companions is exhausted, asks to lie down: would mean death by freezing. “it’s a very soft death, you don’t feel anything”.

another time: takes a snowboard with him. climbing with a Sherpa who went on the top 20 times. Near the summit, Sherpa decides that they arrive too late, too dangerous: returns back without reaching the top. cannot use snowboard because of darkness: too dangerous with low visiblity, every mistake would be fatal. Meets a japanese climber on the way back, shares a cup of tea.

Other trip: windy mountain corridor, rocks falling. team decides that it would be impossible to return that way, falling rocks facing their back. Meet a team of 3 Italian climbers, who decide to go that way. Next day: Italians return, one of them dead. The body is carried back to Bergamo for burial.

End of talks, end of day… beer time…