Live from TEDGlobal

People really win: Meet TEDGlobal 2010’s contest winners


Aside from being software engineers, Michael May and Peter Ma (above) have another cool thing in common: they both won a contest to attend TEDGlobal 2010.

Peter Ma is a winner of Snaptic’s first Move Your App! Developer Challenge. An offshoot of Jamie Oliver’s 2010 TED Prize wish, Move Your App! gives prizes for programs that inspire people to get up and move. Ma’s Android app, PickUp Sports, helps you find people in your area to play a sport with, from tennis to 3-on-3 basketball. At TEDGlobal, Ma told the TED Blog he’s working on extending the app in a couple of interesting ways. Watch for news … and read his email Q&A after the jump >>

Michael May has a slightly different story. He won the contest from our partners at WiredUK and IBM with a charming entry requirement: Write a haiku (5 syllables / 7 syllables / 5 syllables) containing the phrase “smarter planet.” May wrote the following:

Infused, integral,
The zen of information,
A smarter planet

and in an email interview, he tells the TED Blog what happened on the day the winners were announced — the Friday before TEDGlobal was set to begin:

MM: It was a surprise, to say the least! I entered and then promptly forgot about it, not expecting to win such an awesome prize. Then on the Friday the secretary at work was walking around the office saying “Does anybody tweet as MikeyFour?” I said yes and she told me she had Wired Magazine on the phone. It turned out they had contacted me via Twitter, Facebook and even tried via the club where I DJ but they finally tracked me down at Shazam, where I work during the day (thanks to some very smart digital sleuthing). A bit of rapid negotiating with our COO and I had changed all my plans for the Monday!

Read more of our email interview with Michael May >>

We’re thrilled that contests like these — as well as fellowships and Associate memberships — can bring more great people to TED, and we’ll continue to make sure our readers are apprised of every opportunity.

Q&A with Peter Ma:

Tell me about your app! How did you get inspired to build it?

Pickup Sports is a mobile and web application that allows posting and finding local pickup games. I’ve always been interested in developing mobile and geo-location technology; after purchased my first Android phone, I was able to improve my development skills by applying it on an actual physical device. I live a very active life, and it was very hard for me to organize pickup games — friends always seem bail out at the last minute. When Snaptic and Hopelab hosted a contest that was sponsored by TED Prize and inspired with Jamie Oliver’s wish, it gave me a perfect opportunity to combine my skills and my desires.

Who were some of your favorite speakers?

All the speakers were very intriguing, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hear each one of them; however, there were a few speakers at TED that had already influenced my life prior to the event. For instance, I’ve grown up playing Peter Molyneux’ games such as Black & White and Fable; David McCandless had always been an inspiring figure to me who had impacted my graphs; and Julian Assange has been my hero for past couple of months. Also, I learned so much more from this event, like Eben Bayer’s idea of using mushrooms as a more environmentally friendly alternative; Inge Missmahl has showed me that there is a greater need for therapeutic services in Afghanistan; and finally Chris Anderson made me realize that there are more efficient ways to learn.

Who were some of your favorite people you met?

I enjoyed meeting everyone at the conference. It would be difficult to pick out favorites, since everybody’s perspective and experience was not only unique, but also captivating. Also TED was able to create an atmosphere where I was able to, for the first time ever, walk into a room of strangers and felt that I respected and trusted everyone.

What was it like to speak at TED U? Tell me a bit more about your topic.

Even though I was very nervous at first, i was very excited at the same time. Fortunately, i was able to surpass my stage fright by rehearsing, and the audience’s friendly and welcoming nature allowed me to feel even more at ease and confident to express my self. The topic was about the “Move Your App” experience, which was to create an Android application that will try to solve the obesity problem. I think I was able to show that using mobile applications is one of the fastest, one of the most cost-effective and still a powerful way to attack a problem.

Q&A with Michael May:

Who were some of your favorite speakers?

First, I want to say that so very many people blew me away, I really feel humbled and honoured to have been a part of TEDGlobal 2010. It’s easily the best thing I have ever won and the definitely best conference I will ever attend.

As for my favourite speakers; there are so many, but several that really stand out for me were:

Julian Assange from WikiLeaks because I had no idea quite how important the site is.
Peter Eigen from Transparency International for having the courage to go it alone in order to expose the corruption he saw as wrong. Amazing man.
Naif Al-Mutawa, who I wished I could have spoken to, because his comic, The 99, is just such an clever and yet simple idea.
Jessica Jackley, whose website, Kiva, showed me how little it can take to make an amazing difference. Just $100. I want to be a part of that.
Inge Missmahl, a lady I met on the first day who was so humble about her work. When she explained more during the TED talk, I was stunned.
Conrad Wolfram simply because I could not agree more. I learned so much useless mathematics at school that a computer would have made quicker, easier and so much more relevant.
Eben Beyer for helping us to find a brilliant solution to the scourge of styrofoam.
David Bismark for a voting system that is elegantly simple and needs to be in place by the next election.
Giles Corbett for covering a topic that is so very pertinent to my day job and yet interesting enough not to remind me of it when I was supposed to be focused on TED!
And finally, Chris Anderson for changing my mind about the videos of kids dancing that do the rounds. I now know they are now part of one of the most important uses of the internet — video and video-centred communities.

Who were some of your favorite people you met?

Well, everyone from IBM, Wired and TED for a start, who were all so genuinely enthused that I had won. That was great, and so welcoming.

Also, Frederik Mowinckel, who took me somewhat under his wing and gave me some great advice about how to prepare for, and cope with, the TED experience, including the TED crash afterwards. I hope one day soon his sustainability investments are powering this laptop I am writing on.

Peter Ma, with whom I had several very lively discussions. That guy has so much ambition and drive it would be scary if it were not for such a good cause.

Walid Al-Saqaf and Tom Chatfield, whose discussion over lunch on the final day was so interesting I almost missed the punting.

Greg for his social and philanthropic software idea that I cannot get out of my head. I want to be a part of his idea.

Stuart Price from Les Rhythm Digitales, whose work I love, so it was a great honour to chat to.

But thanks to everyone for talking to me and considering me an equal in their conversations. After initially feeling very intimidated I realised I had no reason at all to be.

What ideas do you think you’ll bring back to your day-to-day work or to your life?

I am trying to work that out right now. TED is kind of like a hosepipe on full force, flooding you with new ideas and new perspectives. I feel inspired and overwhelmed in equal amounts right now, but I can begin to feel myself processing all the “ideas worth sharing”. I know I want to be part of the change TED has shown me.

Before I came to TED I was facing an interesting transition period in my life. I am retiring as a DJ soon and I have become a Team Leader at work, taking me away from the coal face of being a software engineer. Both changes are leading to, what I came to realise at TED is a creativity slump. I had no certain ideas what I might want to do to address this, and now I have so many ideas the only thing I know is that there will only be a slump if I let there be one.