Over the last few days, many a geek's Twitter feed has been abuzz with debate about this past week's TED 2010 conference. Whether condemning or defending the price of the conference, tweeting outrage or praise about the presentation made by comedian Sarah Silverman, or expressing glee or dissatisfaction that the "holy" TED was being criticized, we are aware of the debate. Many of us have probably seen tweets by Jason Calacanis, read Robert Scoble's post or seen other quips and pieces on the event.
For a moment, let's shift focus to the conference that was formed in the spirit of TED, BIL. BIL was started by a couple of guys, Cody Marx Bailey, Todd Huffman and Bill Erickson, who decided in 2007 to "crash" the TED conference when it was still in Monterey, CA. They had the right idea: we will go where all the "TEDsters" are. After generating more interest than expected, BIL became an actual unconference, providing space for BIL talks, conversations and networking. BIL has grown ever since.
This year's BIL took place, as always, down the street from TED in Long Beach at the Museum of Latin American Art. BIL featured 20 talks across Friday and Saturday morning along with small group discussions. For $20.00, "BILsters" could attend the unconference, listen to talks and network with other people working on amazing projects around the world. Todd Huffman's talk on The Front Lines of Geek Imperialism highlighted Fab Lab efforts in Afghanistan to teach Afghanis "geek skills" to help them innovate. In a talk on Immersive Storytelling, Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman explored the possibilities of games evolving beyond video games and back into reality. Todd Anderson, a Ph.D. student at Stanford University, shared his project in Light Field Microscopy. A mere glimpse into the content at BIL demonstrates that some of the talks were nothing short of inspiring.
BIL is a positive reaction to TED, providing a space for thinkers and innovators that eliminated the hurdle of attendance costs. Examining TED's cost is a fair critique, but there is a far more important concern that should be addressed: what is TED missing by not including the BILs of the world? Someone who will revolutionize the way we do things in a particular industry or space could have hit the BIL stage this weekend. Will TED ever know?
Naming the conference BIL was inspired by the 1989 time-traveling high school slacker flick, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Bill and Ted work together, traveling back in time to find revolutionary historical figures to prepare a presentation for an auditorium full of their fellow San Dimas High School students. In this fantastic high school moment, Bill and Ted save their band Wild Stallyns, get to graduate from high school and, as we know, get to go on to have a "Bogus Journey." This movie of all places contains the lesson to be learned.
Imagine what BIL and TED could do together in real life.
San Dimas High School football rules!