So, what was the best TED Talk of 2013?

TED Talks are fairly awesome. I have the TED app on Roku, and I’d say I’d jam out about two-three a day, with that number being higher if I’m sick (as I am currently). I wanted to figure out the “best” TED Talk of 2013 as the year draws to a close, but of course, that’s somewhat of an impossible task since the idea of what makes it the “best” one would be entirely contextual and subjective to the individual viewer. Rather, I’ll take a different tack — I’ll present a few interesting pieces of information (relatively speaking) and then link some different and popular talks from 2013. Hopefully that will begin to solve the question of what the best TED Talk of ’13 was.

First off, know that on the metric side, TED tracks TED.com, YouTube, iTunes, embed, download, Hulu, and more. As of two weeks ago, this is the list of the 20 most popular TED Talks of all-time. This is No. 1:

There are no 2013 talks on this top 20 — yet — but there are two talks from 2012 here, and Amy Cuddy on how body language shapes who you are, done in 2012, has already risen to No. 5 overall.

And the Brene Brown talk on the power of vulnerability? It’s doubled in views since last year. The point is — when we get 10-11 months from now, some of these 2013 talks we’re about to discuss and embed could be entering this broader top-viewed-overall list.

Secondly, CNN named its top 10 thinkers of 2013 back in October — and seven of them have given TED Talks. (It’s really eight if you consider that one of three not on the list is Andrew Ng of Coursera, and his partner in Coursera — Daphne Koller — has given a TED Talk.) That’s pretty wide reach.

As for 2013 talks, you can scroll through this list (it takes a while) or look through their YouTube Channel for a better idea of everything recorded/posted in 2013. Just like how that top 20 all-time list covered a variety of different topics — No. 1 was a talk about education, but No. 9 was a talk about 10 secrets of the orgasm — so too it’s good to look at 2013 as a melting pot of ideas. So, for example —

That’s Diana Nyad, taped this month in San Francisco. While the talk has a bit of a Finding Nemo quality to it, it’s still a really good one for this time of year: the holidays can be hard for a lot of people, and the beginning of a new year can seem daunting and confusing (honestly, I feel that way about 2014 sometimes). But this is a good message: just keep going. Don’t give up.

That’s Rodrigo Canales, a professor at Yale, talking about the logistics of drug cartels. I’m moderately obsessed with drug cartels, mostly because I think it would be hard to run a Fortune 500 company out in the open, much less run the equivalent of one where only a few people can really understand what you’re doing. In this way, Canales’ talk was pretty interesting (contextually, to me).

This is from Amy Webb in April 2013 and it’s insane, hysterical, and insanely hysterical — it kind of ties together our collective fascination with romance, coupling, work, and data all in a messy ball of a whole. (Plus, it has a happy ending!)

This Jeff Speck one from September addresses one of the biggest issues of the next 100 years or so — how we make cities walk-friendly so that, as peak oil approaches and then passes, we can still manage to get around the areas where we live (provided other sources aren’t found, or Tesla and related enterprises don’t take off).

This virtual choir thing from Eric Whitacre at TED2013 is pretty stunning.

Here’s a good list from TED’s blog — they do this theme every year — called “Why the eff didn’t you watch these talks?” (There’s a good one on depression in there, and another good one on Ken Jennings and IBM’s Watson computer.) And here’s a rundown of some of the key themes/ideas explored in 2013 TED Talks, including “The U.S. government is broken.”

Ted Bauer


  1. Another TED fanatic! I’m glad I’m not the only one. I used Sir Ken Robinson’s talk as the focus of my blog today. http://61musings.com/2013/12/29/killing-creativity/
    One of my other favorites from this year’s list is “wan Baan: Ingenious homes in unexpected places”. Or “John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!”, which turned me around on the cryptic language of young people. Or “Janette Sadik-Khan: New York’s streets? Not so mean any more”, with the incredible use of creativity to solve a problem every city faces.

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