TED, the online purveyors of things you don't know, know they've got a lot to choose from when it comes to finding something to watch at the very moment you're in the mood for some TEDness. Personally, I find the depth of material that the site contains to be a little overwhelming because I'll see a dozen different things that I want to watch and invariably have difficulty watching any of them when I want to (I cannot yet watch and absorb a dozen different videos of anything).
Perhaps acknowledging that the site has a stupefying amount of material on its site, TED has come up with a solution of sorts. If you're jonesing for some TED and aren't sure what you're in the mood for, you can now simply tell TED to surprise you with a selection or few. The new search tool, Surprise Me, simply takes two pieces of information from you and generates a playlist based on what you tell TED you want to watch and what you have time for.
From TED's official blog:
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.
The new search tool recalls the Google feature called "I'm Feeling Lucky" wherein you could simply tell Google to trustily take you to whatever it thought was the best site to answer your query. The ratings come from the feedback that TED watchers give a video, which range among several descriptions such as 'jaw-dropping," "ingenious," and "informative." While users can choose up to three different reaction-ratings when leaving feedback on videos, if you'e using the Surprise Me feature you'll be able to only select one of these. As a side-note, you won't be able to base your Surprise Me search on any of the less-flattering rating words, like "unconvincing" and "longwinded."
Aside from fulfilling your need to be jaw-dropped or inspired, Surprise Me's option to limit your search of videos based on length of time you have available is a great feature, especially since it doesn't just produce one video that's 15 minutes long but will fill that span with multiple videos.