Every time you use Powerpoint, Edward Tufte calls in a targeted drone attack on a kitten
| Gabriel |
The NY Times has an article on the infamous Afghan pasta Powerpoint slide, and more broadly the military’s addiction to Powerpoint and the efforts of a few brave officers to detox (h/t Slashdot). [Also see a discussion of this slide at O&M]. This ties into a recent paper published in OS and also discussed at O&M on how Powerpoint has structured business culture.
I use Powerpoint (actually Keynote), but my style is to have it be almost entirely figures and use text very sparingly. (Here are a few examples from my undergrad class: ex 1, ex 2, ex 3). The only place I’ll use a bullet list is to sum up the hypotheses at the very end of a theory section before I move on to analysis/simulation. I think a good rule of thumb is that if somebody could read your ppt file and understand what you were talking about, then it’s a bad ppt file. A good ppt file should be opaque out of the context of the talk itself. If you need to share it with someone who wasn’t there, give them a tape of the talk or your notes. This isn’t deliberate obscurantism but a simple heuristic for understanding if you’re falling into the common trap of your audience skimming ahead in your bullet points and getting bored as they wait for you to (verbally) move on to the next point. I’m convinced people fill their ppt with text because they’re afraid of forgetting their talk, but I’m going to let you in on some ancient wisdom that was known to our ancestors but was forgotten sometime around 1998: keep your fucking notes on a piece of paper that only you can see. Because when you put your outline on the LCD projector itself, the terrorists have won.
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