Can I have an Ox please?

December 7, 2011

by LIOR ZOREF @lior

imageA week ago I started my journey to prepare my TED talk using crowd wisdom, your wisdom. I received hundreds of ideas and insights from across the world. A week ago I sat in front of a blank paper. This week I have all the ideas I need to create the final presentation.

Wanted to share one example with you that started in this post I wrote 3 days ago. I asked for your help with ideas that would help demonstrate the talk main idea in a simple way. Such that would create a Aha moment.

20 minutes after turning to the facebook audience I was flooded with good ideas.

The most outstanding idea came from a 16 year old boy !.

He suggested I recreate the famous experiment which was the basis for the theory of the Crowd Wisdom.

In this experiment, which took place in a middle of an English village back early in the last decade, an Ox was on display, and the villagers were asked to try and guess the animal’s weight. Neither one of the participants in the contest was able to hit the exact mark. However, when the researcher Francis Galton collected all the notes with the weight guesses calculated, he discovered that the mean amount of all the estimates was equal to the exact weight of the Ox.

The 16 year old boy suggested that I recreate that old experiment. In order to do so, I’ll need to have an Ox on stage!…. But instead of writing the guessed weight on notes, the audience will send it through their smart phones, through a short url.

After a few minutes I will present the mean weight as received from the crowd and compare this to the real weight, sealed in an envelope.

As I was so intrigued by the idea – I sat down and wrote this email:


Subject: A crazy/fun idea for my on-stage presentation


As I’m building my presentation for TED 2012 using crowd sourcing, I asked the crowd for creative ideas that will help me demonstrate crowd wisdom during my talk.

I received more than 100 amazing ideas but one of them stood above all. It came from a fascinating 16 years old teenager.

It all starts with an old story from 1906 that was the foundation for wisdom of crowds theory. 

You probably know this story, but here’s a summary just in case:

The British scientist Francis Galton stumbled upon an intriguing contest in his village. An Ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal’s weight. Nearly 800 participated, but not one person hit the exact mark. Astonishingly enough he found out that the mean of those 800 guesses was the exact weight of the Ox. This insight presages the idea of crowd sourcing and the wisdom of the crowd.

Now let’s get back to the idea for my presentation. Take a deep breath…

I want to recreate this experiment on stage, but this time instead of using pen and paper, crowd wisdom will be collected using smart phones.

To do that, I need an Ox on stage ! J

(It could be another big animal, but if we wish to be true to the story, we’re talking about an Ox)

I need it for just 30 seconds in which I’ll ask the audience (including everyone watching the live steam) to use their smart phones, enter a short url, and then enter their weight estimate.

After a few minutes, I’ll show how the mean of their estimate is accurate. In order to have a backup plan, I’ll start this process 24 hours ahead of time (using HD video of the Ox) so that I’ll have a backup number just in case.

I know it might sound a bit crazy. But I feel that this demonstration will have a big impact on the audience and will also be so much fun…

So can I have an Ox please?…  J




Yesterday afternoon, I pressed ‘Send’

An hour has passed by – no response.

Another hour gone by, still no response.

23:00 hours Israel time – nothing.

I went to sleep and here is what I dreamed of:

My TED contact people receive the email, hold their heads and mumble “The guy is losing it!”

An urgent meeting is convened. They are all sitting in the meeting room and decide to inform me that they are sorry but I can’t speak at TED. An Ox? Come on. We were wrong to consider you worthy of lecturing. Sorry, don’t call us, we will call you. This is when I woke up from this nightmare.

Went back to my PC, opened my mail and…sure enough, the TED team really liked the idea Smile The stage logistics manager is already on it, trying to look into the Ox challenge.

I’m not sure we will pull this through eventually, but even if we do not, one thing for sure, I will not be wearing red clothes on stage 🙂


(link to comments in facebook)

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