News

Our new “Surprise Me” feature delivers serendipity on demand

Posted by: Emily McManus

Have 10 minutes to spare? Want to spend them on something inspiring? How about something jaw-dropping? Our new “Surprise Me” feature delivers. Just tell us how much time you have (15 minutes? 40?) and what you’re in the mood to watch (Something funny? Fascinating? Persuasive?) and we’ll generate a custom playlist that matches the moment.

Available from the TED.com homepage, Surprise Me factors in talk length, user ratings and the age of each talk to create the playlists. For instance, a visitor with time for 40 minutes of jaw-dropping talks may receive a combination of 18-, 6- and 3-minute talks recently rated “jaw-dropping.” And because a talk deemed jaw-dropping three years ago could be less impressive now (compared with more evergreen labels like “inspiring”) our “serendipity engine” factors in a talk’s “age” as well.

Once you’ve customized your playlist, you can watch it in our new theater-style player, where the talks run continuously. It features three viewing sizes, support for 720p high-resolution video in full-screen mode, and back-end technology that continually detects your bandwidth, adjusting the video quality level over time to ensure smooth playback.

Our hope is that Surprise Me fills a need we’ve noticed. More and more, we hear from people who are “appointment viewers”: They have a specific TED habit — watching talks during their 30-minute lunch break, for example, or on Sunday evenings with their kids. We created Surprise Me with this in mind … It’s perfect for those moments when you have a set amount of free time but don’t know exactly what you want to watch. Just tell us your criteria, and we’ll take it from there… Serendipity: On demand.

A big thank you to our partner Rolex, for supporting the development of this project!