Webmind: Data mining 24,000 TEDx talks

Ecologist Eric Berlow, founder of Vibrant Data Labs (“Data for Social Good”), and physicist Sean Gourley collaborated to map the spread of ideas using TEDx talks and YouTube data.

They mined the data associated with 24,000 TEDx talks, from 147 countries, in 50 different languages, and share their findings in their own 7 minute TED talk.  (hat tip to ideaconnection for the link).   Here it is:

(if video not displaying, click here to watch on YouTube)

Here’s some of the things that stand out for me about their work:

  1. Content: The richness of data content available; including talk transcripts, viewer comments about the talks, viewer demographics..
  2. Process: The process they used identifying valuable content, data capture via TED/YouTube, data modelling and analysis, data presentation…  not a trivial exercise!
  3. Relationships: The greatest value of their work was the relationships. observed and potential, that seemed to mysteriously emerge out of their work… relationships that may surprise you
  4. Collaboration and Innovation: Two high capacity individuals, with diverse experience, working together, to connect ideas… what innovation is all about!
  5. Webmind: The motion graphs and visuals, emerging out of the connected data, eerily take me to science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer‘s World Wide Web trilogy, and “Webmind”, a sentient web presence (beyond human design) that emerges out of the WWW/Internet.   Sawyer’s trilogy is reviewed previously by me on this blog, here.

For me, Berlow and Gourley’s data mining research begs the question: Do we really know what’s going on, as a global collective?

Your thoughts?


  1. Susanna Jani says

    Hey Ben: Thanks for posting this most interesting video. You have a real knack for discovering and showcasing unique, relevant pieces. Makes you a miner of the best sort! I look forward to your next post.

  2. Why thank you Susanna. And, I take being called a miner as a complement. Maybe data miners are the new miners, yet there’s something ‘salt of the earth’ about traditional miners that appeals to me, too. Great to hear from you. 🙂

  3. Thank you for the post Ben – I can already see the vast potential of Berlow and Gourley’s web mining research – and no, I do not think we know what is going on as a global collective, but with the emergence of research such as this we will begin to know more.

  4. Agreed, Peter… it’s the ‘potential’ of this, and similar research… for public good (or not). Thanks for your feedback.

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