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    This is a clickbaity summary of Edward Tufte’s [excellent] work which you should read in preference to this (in fairness the author links to it too). Available here:


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      One man’s “clickbait” is another man’s succinct summary.

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        If the other man comes away concluding that seven people died because of a powerpoint slide, as stated in the “summary”’s title, I can only hope his succinct engineering lessons are applied to a field where lives don’t matter. Tufte’s original work is more nuanced and therefore more appropriate for actual engineers making actual engineering decisions that can hurt actual people. It’s worth having to read a jpeg or whatever enormous hardship the sibling post complains about.

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        I disagree. I find Edward Tufte’s website basically unreadable.

        Problems that I have reading it

        • Two giant images advertising courses at the very top, taking up most of my screen
        • Body of content is actually pictures, not text
        • Body has multiple columns and jumps between layouts making it hard to follow
        • There are slides embedded with tiny print in the references column
        • The block quotes are in a smaller font than the surrounding text
        • Where does the content for “PowerPoint Does Rocket Science–and Better Techniques for Technical Reports” end? This page is so tall that Superman would have trouble leaping over it.
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          I understand where you’re coming from, but it’s worth pointing out that the webpage here is nothing but a holder of pages of the books - which all the formatting you reference is oriented towards. He spends a lot of thought on his layout and I don’t begrudge him not redoing his book as a webpage (with all the accompanying differences), or just presenting the text by itself.

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            C’mon now “basically unreadable”, if you don’t care enough to go through the text don’t. I guess that’s why super summarised articles are read more often than the actual papers.

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              Have you tried reading it on a phone? I imagine desktop is more pleasant, but for mobile, I have to agree that it is basically unreadable.

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            I’ve now read the original. This summary is far, far better.

            The original puts the emphasis on a particular way of constructing high information low comprehension slides, with all the nesting layers, and titles only those opposed to decisions could love. That’s not a problem just with PowerPoint.

            The original cites this way of thinking as the reason PowerPoint always sucks for technical content. He is wrong. PowerPoint “simply” has to be used with low density slides. He is right: I won’t read a dense side now or ever. That doesn’t condemn all PowerPoint presentations.

            I think this slide alone could have been just 3 bullet points, with no sub points. And it could have made the important point that had to be made.

            The problem is not with any particular tool. It’s with engineers failing to communicate what they clearly know, and are trying to say. The summary focuses on the slide design and why it sucks, and that’s why I prefer it.

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            PowerPoint is not at fault. Engineers and Managers at Boeing are at fault.

            When they come to that slide they should say “It is our recommendation, given that this strike is well outside our simulation results, to adopt the most conservative approach: launch a rescue shuttle”.

            Then at the end of the talk, they should say again: “It is our recommendation, given that this strike is well outside our simulation results, to adopt the most conservative approach: launch a rescue shuttle”

            PowerPoint does not absolve you of responsibility.

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              I don’t think anyone is claiming that choosing to use an improper tool for a task absolves you of any responsibility.

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                I don’t believe for a second PowerPoint is an improper tool. You can’t blame PowerPoint for people making crowded slides with too much text, not bothering to summarize key points.

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                  PowerPoint is a great tool. Like every tool, a master will get better results than someone who has not learned the way it can best be utilized.

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                    It’s a poor workman who blames his tools no doubt, but it’s also a poor toolmaker who blames the workman. If you’re the person building the tools, you’re going to be interested in what role you played in the failure case. Sometimes it can’t be solved, sometimes it can. It’s worth looking into though.

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                      Yeah, you are right. Microsoft should definitely learn from this and make improvements to avoid future catastrophes.

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                        Allthough all of the above is true…

                        This still doesn’t change the fact that powerpoint is a tool that facilitates accidents like this. It’s great for business meetings, but certain content should simply not be transferred through certain media formats.

                        Information about engineering projects where there are lives on the line, is one of those types of content.

                        So here’s an idea for Microsoft: Include a vocabulary of common engineering jargon. If there are too many hits per slide, put up a big red notification stating that their warranty is now void and that this presentation should probably be given in a different format.

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                          That just sounds ridiculous.

                          Such a critical meeting should have never been done with PowerPoint to begin with or it should have given more priority.

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                            Or it should have been with PowerPoint but with much much more talking and thinner slides. You know, the sort of presentation people can actually follow.

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                              I guess the corollary to all this is that good workmen make terrible tools.

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                We can blame PowerPoint or Boeing to a degree, but I don’t understand how the NASA officials aren’t the ones to get the 99.9% of the blame.

                It was their job to review that information no matter the font size. Boeing could only be blamed if they outright lied in their answers. If you’re in a position to take a decision, it’s your job to ask questions ad nauseum until you’re absolutely sure you understand everything.

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                  Except you rarely have the time. They probably prevented a lot of other issues that would have had destroyed the shuttle even sooner.

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                Almost exactly 25 years ago, on January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated seconds after lift-off. One of Edward Tufte’s most famous examples of bad charts are the ones used by engineers who argued against the launch, and who failed to convince. It’s a fascinating story, but it has one major fault: it is not true

                (from https://eagereyes.org/criticism/tufte-and-the-truth-about-the-challenger, emphasis mine)

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                  Different incidents. Challenger v. Columbia. Challenger had political pressures Columbia did not.

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                  In a couple weeks I’m scheduled to talk about my crypto library. Given the subject, I am bound to be more than descriptive. There will be normative advice here and there.

                  Oh, and, there will be slides…