Blogging Live from TEDx Raleigh

I’m live blogging from TEDx Raleigh this morning. I’ll be posting notes as each speaker finishes. I’ve never done this before and will probably get distracted, so bear with me.

TEDx Raleigh is an independently organized TED-like event. TED’s annual conferences in California and Oxford UK are described as “riveting talks by remarkable people” and “ideas worth spreading.” Here are some of the ideas I’m hearing, as I’m hearing them.

Dean Hering, OVO Innovation, Chief Innovator at NetCentrics

By engaging their own passions, his company created an experience for those visiting the Michelin exhibit at the Detroit Auto Show. They knew that no one would visit a tire exhibit when new concept cars were being rolled out in other exhibits. Their visitors felt what it was like to experience the ride of different tires through history. Engage through experience.

How to get people engaged. Get them to bring their whole self to work:

  • Encourage appropriate fun.
  • Arouse people’s passion and tie it to something your organization provides.
  • Get people comfortable with taking risk and failing forward faster. If you’re comfortable with risk, you can change the world, or someone’s life.


David HwangThrive and Managed Data Group(MDG

Statistics was never my best subject so I’m sure I’ll miss a lot here. His company deals with big data. Statistics and big data can tell us stories about our world, like which urinal at the airport is used the most. Useful data for his clients. But you can’t always focus only on the data. Data can fool you if you don’t know what other factors are affecting it, like the World Cup going on. We’re not as smart as we think we are – J is for Jackass. Big data is often beyond our cognitive ability to understand — why we need tools to make sense of it.

What’s happening with data? It’s now more accessible to all. It’s also being used by non-humans — computers, robots. We’re in the era of Big Answers. Honestly, this presentation didn’t do much for me, as you can tell by my lousy interpretation, but I’m more of a verbal gal.


Liz Bradford – Scientific Illustrator

The collision of art and science. Art is a tool we use to learn about past civilizations. Art has always been a teaching tool — Leonardo da Vinci, for example. His study of science made his masterpieces possible. Darwin’s illustrations helped him to understand evolution. Pollock’s work as maps of inner reality. Modern art emerged at the same time as the scientific leap into quantum physics. Paradigm shift.

Drawing as meditation. The tiniest things can have infinite complexity – you can get lost in that. She definitely is “in the zone” when she’s drawing. She still remembers drawing sea shells long ago — memories of drawing stick with her. She really sees, in a way that I think many of us don’t, with both aware artist’s and scientist’s eyes.  I remember taking a drawing class years ago, and during that time, I did see the world in a different way, aware of space and contours and shadings. I miss that.

She made a trompe l’oeil painting in homage to Albert Einstein. Beautiful work. Trompe l’oeil is fool the eye, hyper-realistic paintings.

She spent a summer at Dinosaur National Monument – cliff with layers of dinosaur bones. She created a mural based on the bones. She makes educated guesses as to how they really looked. Hardest part – coming up with the whole picture, the big idea. How her mural will affect the views of kids — her favorite part. Artists have created every single image we’ve ever seen of dinosaurs – never thought of it that way.

Art is a tool to discover the world around us, to express outer and inner realities we face, a spiritual and meditative practice. Pick up a pencil and see the world.

My FAVORITE presentation so far. Loved it!


Matt KopaciContact

Convergence is happening between for- and non-profit organizations to solve big problems in innovative ways. Many for-profits are focusing more on purpose — social responsibility, green business — triple bottom line of people, planet and profits. Non-profits using revenue-generating programs and other business strategies to achieve their missions. Hybrid organizations are being created — for-benefit corporations.

Triple bottom line of people, planet and profits are not mutually exclusive, in reality, it’s just the opposite. Certified B corporation – focus on stakeholder interests and using the power of business to change the world.

B corps as a marketing opportunity: Employees are seeking meaning in their work. Consumers are more aware of who’s socially responsible. Managers believe there are factors as important as profit. Tax incentives. Investments are flowing to socially responsible companies. You can take a B corp or Green Plus assessment to see how your business is doing.

Legislation is pending in NC to make B corporations a legal structure. NC already has 15 B corporations, second highest in country, only behind California. We vote with our dollars, our purchases — that’s how we can support B corporations.


Phew, live blogging is hard. Fingers don’t always keep up with the ears and brain.

The second session starts with a video of David Blaine’s talk about holding his breath. What a freakazoid, but fascinating. Very dead-pan delivery about dying and being brought back to life after lots of other exploits. It’s amazing what this guy has put himself through, for what? To break a record? Fame? Because he’s a performer and magician. But he has great observation skills about what’s happening in his body while he’s in the process of dying. A New York magician’s version of Jill Bolte Taylor experiencing a stroke.

Josh WhitonTransLoc

Josh, who in the brochure is described as a CEO who is “working on an electric car startup, an urban farm, and a lecture series that he hopes will nourish many an intellect in his neighborhood,” presents us a “carefully crafted portrait of a healthy successful man,” but says that it rings hollow. He spent many years living with severe depression. A psychiatrist prompted him to recall if something happened to him before he became depressed. It had. He lost his religion and became convinced that life was meaningless. It almost sounds like he overthought his way into depression.

His “grand ephiphany” came one day. What if he didn’t know the real truth about the world and life? Life was a mystery again. His depression ended.

We are not alone in our minds. He talks about the monkey mind that happens when you meditate — assailed by thoughts, images, etc. His depression was a disagreement between his conscious and subconscious minds. For him, his depression was a necessary process for him to self-actualize. I’m thankful I don’t feel the need for depression to self-actualize. It seems that choice is missing in this talk, but I guess choice is not an option for someone who’s depressed.



Bob Davis – Backyard Chicken Advocate, founder of the Tour de Coop

Chickens to the rescue! Chickens can save the planet! Chickens can help restore our connection to the earth – get us back in touch with natural cycles.

When in England he saw that many people kept chicken coops at home. Back in Raleigh, one mile from the Capitol, he built a coop. Then he started teaching chicken keeping 101 — 700 people have taken his class. Why is there a revival of chicken coops?

Chickens can change you. A guy he knows sits by his chickens at the end of the day. All his troubles fall away as he becomes present. He found a connection to the earth. Bob does not look stressed.

Home-raised chicken eggs are healthier than factory eggs. Chickens eat insects, weeds and weed seeds. They turn your compost daily and add their own “black magic” to it. Make fishing flies from the feathers of your own chickens.

Industrial Revolution gave us a linear process with which we messed up the planet. Compare that with nature, which runs well without our intervention. Nature is circular — web of life. Birds respond to nature — they sense the change in the length of days.

Chickens might be a good substitute for yoga — being present, connection to breath/nature, stress reducer, plus eggs!

Chickens don’t have an odor. In nature, they sleep in tree limbs — an odor would make them prey. Factory chickens are stinky, but backyard chickens aren’t. They’re not noisy. Hens cackle at about 60 decibles; a dog’s bark is 100. Chickens live into their teens.

I’m learning a lot about chickens. We do have room for them, hmmm. The next Tour de Coop is May 21. I’m intrigued. My second favorite presentation so far.


Richard HolcombCoon Rock Farm

Rich grew up farming and has always loved it. When he came of age, the farming mantra was “Get Big or Get Out,” so he did. He went on to become a software entrepreneur. He was getting tired of that and saw that his kids weren’t having the same childhood experiences that he had; they were watching tv, staying indoors and fighting. He bought a farm out in the country and they spent weekends on it. Soon the kids didn’t want to return to Raleigh. They weren’t fighting anymore.

He talks about how farming has become an industry — big factory farming. Monocultures. What used to be manure that served as fertilizer for crops is now industrial waste. Farmers who don’t have animals purchase fertilizer made from petroleum. Nature never intended cows to live the way they do in factory farms. They’re sick cows; their milk has to be pasteurized. Factory cows live knee-deep in their own poop, side by side in huge lots. 80% of ground beef is doused with ammonia before you eat it. Oh yum. Same deal with factory pigs and chickens who live in fake environments.

There’s a better way, we can fix this — farm to fork movement. Farms can have chickens pecking around in the grass, imagine that! Farms don’t have to be monocultures – his farm is home to cows, pigs, sheep and chickens.

The real cost of factory food – pollution, carbon, water (the Central Valley is an irrigated desert), health care, farm bill (federal subsidies – 40% of factory farm costs come from these subsidies), and military costs (lives/budget) to keep the oil flowing.

Question he gets all the time: but can you feed the world on organic non-factory food? Rodale Institute study – organic farming produces exact same yields of corn and soybeans as conventional farming with less energy expended.

The choice is yours — what are you buying? I just wish organic and real food wasn’t as expensive as factory food. I wish it was in my local supermarket — that depends on the demographics of where you live. I’m conflicted about this all the time.


I had to leave the conference at noon.

working on an electric car
startup, an urban farm, and a lecture series
that he hopes will nourish many an intellect
in his neighborhood.

Author: deirdrereid

Deirdre is a freelance writer for companies serving the association market, who after more than 20 years in the association and restaurant industries, is enjoying the good life as a ghostblogger and content marketing writer. Away from her laptop, you can find her walking in the woods, doing yoga, going to shows, journaling, cooking, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and a glass of something tasty in hand.

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