A user’s guide to TED talks

Redditors know you want to watch TED talks. Now they make it easier to find the best ones.


Kevin Morris


Published Sep 15, 2011   Updated Jun 3, 2021, 2:45 am CDT

What’s the easiest way to feel a littler smarter everyday? For millions, it’s loading up a speech from a speaker at a Technology Entertainment and Design conference — what’s become known as a TED talk.

The monthly conference invites academics, artists, entrepreneurs, celebrities and luminaries to present their “ideas worth spreading” in 18 minutes or less. The speeches are recorded and posted free online as videos. The non-profit conference describes itself as a “clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers.”

But can there be too much brilliance? TED has produced about 900 videos since it began posting them in 2006. At an average of about fifteen minutes each, that’s about 225 hours of content — or ten full days.

If you’re short on free time, how do you know which videos to squeeze into your schedule?

That’s where users of social news site Reddit come in. Yesterday, reddit user HonorAmongSteves polled the community for the best TED talks of all time.

Here are just a few of the top submissions.


Hans Rosling’s moving demographic statistics.

“With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called ‘developing world.'”

Bonnie Bassler on how bacteria talk.

“Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria ‘talk’ to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks.”

Dan Gilbert: Why are we happy?

“Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our ‘psychological immune system’ lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.”

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity.

“Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.”

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

“Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one.”


Redditors didn’t stop at just linking to videos, however.

In the same thread, one provided a spread sheet compiling the most shared and visited TED talks.

Then another took the same and whipped it into an easy to sort online list.

That’s as good a  starting point as any — if you have a few hundred hours to kill.

Photo by jurvetson

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*First Published: Sep 15, 2011, 8:10 am CDT