Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PowerPoint - Pitching out

"The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within" is a fantastic essay that should be read by anyone using a computer. Do it now. Go on. Off with you.

"PowerPoint promotes a cognitive style that disrupts and trivialises evidence"

When I joined TW I was amazed at the number times the peeps (TWers and Clients) referred to PowerPoint. I was particularly surprised by the term "deck", I hadn't heard it before, maybe I had been living in a bunker.

The idea was to produce a deck for this or that and stick it in front of the right people and something would happen. This clashed with two notions of mine:
1 - having spent time in Scrum land PowerPoint is shunned and replaced with showing off working software or having huge bits of paper stuck on walls showing stuff
2 - the agile principle that the most efficient way to communicate is face-to-face

Reading Tufte's essay just made me dislike using PowerPoint that little bit more. The biggest kick was reading about organising tabular data. This opened some old wounds I had received from trying to present this kind of information in my dark and dull past, just as PowerPoint was starting to take over the world. The impact of having to summarise, and dissociate data is beautifully demonstrated demonstrated by Tufte.

PowerPoint is becoming (or has become) ubiquitus as a way to present and organise information. It is part of school curriculum for the students to present a few slides using this tool. As a parent (gotta love that) this is troubling as my kids will not be learning how to organise and present their thoughts, they will learn how to pitch. I guess I had better procure a few copies of the essay to hand over to the teachers.

Tufte refers to PowerPoint as a "Projector Operating System" this change in language changes the way you use PowerPoint. Taking away the idea that the application is about presenting information deals it a blow that it should not recover from.

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