Speakers from a range of backgrounds sought to inspire an audience of 100 at the second TEDxBuffalo conference at Canisius College on Tuesday.
• A “citizen astronomer” whose photo of the sun taken through a telescope in an Elmwood Village backyard won him unexpected attention across cyberspace.
• A landscape architect who encouraged a group of children to build a temporary playground on a rainy afternoon.
• A blogger and IT professional who came up with the idea of supporting small businesses through “cash mob” events and watched the concept spread internationally.
“It’s inspiring to me that one guy can make a difference in that way, and I think you can, too,” said Chris Smith, credited as the originator of the “cash mob” concept. It uses social media to convince as many people as possible to shop at a designated locally owned business on a designated day.
TEDxBuffalo boasted multimedia presentations, artistic performances and videos from previous TED and TEDx events.
Tuesday’s event in the Carol and Carl Montante Cultural Center was a local version of those national TED confabs, which are meant to spread ideas and spur innovation in business, technology, culture and various other fields.
“It’s a conference about what we want to tell each other, what we want to get each other excited about,” Kevin Purdy, the main TEDxBuffalo organizer and a freelance technology writer, said in an interview.
TEDxBuffalo is licensed by the nonprofit TED – the name stands for Technology Entertainment Design.
Purdy and the other organizers spent months finding the mix of speakers, performers and audience members, who were encouraged during the breaks in the program to converse and network.
The TEDx license required the organizers to limit attendance to 100 people, but the speeches were streamed online.
TEDxBuffalo had the theme of “The World in Our Backyard,” but Alan Friedman brings the whole solar system to his backyard.
Friedman, president of greeting card publisher Great Arrow Graphics, is a dedicated amateur astronomer who uses a webcam attached to a telescope to take photographs of the sun, the moon and the planets.
Friedman often colorizes his photos, or inverts the darkness and lightness in the images, and he did this with a photo of the sun he took on Oct. 20, 2010. He titled the striking image of an orange orb, “It’s (Not) the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and it raced through astronomy blogs, online news sites such as Huffington Post and Wired, and won Friedman an interview on the NBC’s “Today.”
Friedman said he hopes this motivates people to get off their couches and into their backyards. “That’s where discovery begins,” he said.
For speaker Joy Kuebler, the landscape architect, positive change came in the form of a “pop-up park” – Kuebler’s idea for giving children the ability to play outside spontaneously and in a place of their own creation.
Kuebler and a group of adult volunteers gathered up tires, pieces of wood and other materials and arranged for children to build the playground this past June on a grassy space at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Dupont Street in Buffalo.
“That day, we empowered kids – we empowered kids to create their own play experience,” she said.
Smith told the audience the “cash mob” was a simple idea that melded his passion for Buffalo and its myriad small businesses with the “revolutionary” tools of social media and mobile technology.
Smith never tried to make money off the idea and said he’s glad to see it spread to 400 cities on five continents in 10 months. “If you set the idea free, it grows on its own,” Smith said.
People can watch a replay of the live stream on www.tedxbuffalo.com, and individual videos of the presentations should be posted within a month.