In one part of the contest, the teams had to discuss their design. One of the judges asked the Carl Hayden team why they had no Powerpoint slides.
"Powerpoint is what you use when you don't know what to say," answered one of them without skipping a beat.
Ballsy, of course, but the subtext of the story was that the team really had their hands full as they tried to punch above their weight class. They knew what they were doing but there was no shortage of opportunities for them to improvise and the presentation was one such instance.
I was in high school when I read the piece and that's the line that stuck with me. Since then I always made sure I know my material, slideshow or no slideshow.
PowerPoint is just a two dimensional layout program — criticisms of the actual software would be around how easy it is to type this kind of text, or align these kinds of objects, etc. I’m sure thousands of such deficiencies exist but that’s never what you hear about.
> This makes one good point: responsibility for poor presentations rests with the presenter. But it is more complicated than that. PP has a distinctive, definite, well-enforced, and widely-practiced cognitive style that is contrary to serious thinking. PP actively facilitates the making of lightweight presentations.
> This essay reports evidence based on several thousand slides, 5 case studies, and extensive quantitative comparisons between PowerPoint and other methods of communicating information. The results are clear:* some methods of presentation are better than others. And PowerPoint is rarely a good method. […]
> In this question, the tool metaphor does not provide intellectual leverage. Some tools are better than others; some poor performances are the fault of the tool. Saying that the problem is with the user rather than the tool blames the victims of PP (audience, content, presenter).
> Nearly all the evidence of the essay suggests that there is inherent defect in PowerPoint, unless one advances the entertaining alternative hypothesis that nearly all PP users are lightweights and nearly all users of other methods are not. This is not the case; PP has inherent defect.
The key problem of low density is true for most presentations I considered good as well, independent of powerpoint usage. Most of the times, they are essays.
Now that I think of it, this essay would probably work well as a talk (no matter the software).
This point -- that, by comparison at least, most people are uncompelling speakers -- is something that bears repeating.
As a (former) presenter, I found myself constantly struggling to figure out how to get what I wanted to say onto a slide. I'm going to say, I want a projector that can project on to a wall 10 feet high (although I'd probably only use the top five feet) and 15 feet across. I personally have bad eyes, and don't want to resort to anything less than really easy to read text size. It's not just powerpoint, but the physical infrastructure that becomes standard support for powerpoint that becomes the enemy of deep, complex ideas.
It can depend on the context. A presentation that I'll give at an event is mostly fairly worthless as a leave-behind. It has relatively few words and is graphically rich. On the other hand, I sit through a lot of presentations at work where the slides basically are a document (in a form that a lot of people find more digestible than a standard text document). And if the speaker is good, they'll spend their interactive time hitting what they think are some of the highlights. I don't have any real problem with that.
One of the nice side effects is that if someone skims a slide of particular interest to them and they see something confusing/interesting, they can ask the speaker about it even if the speaker didn't bring it up.
Some do good jobs.
Others just read the bullet points.
On the other hand, the bullet points require at least a bit of organization, unlike the stream of consciousness drivel that too many "planning documents" seem to exhibit.
Maybe as a side-effect of telemetry, the usability of PowerPoint and Excel unceasingly improves, to the point that it's impossible to compete with the former.
He makes this exact point however I’m inclined to disagree. Trying to convey complex information using PowerPoint is like consuming all your meals through a straw.
1. The novelty of it for most of the audience catches their attention.
2. It creates a feeling of participation rather than passive observation, especially if they ask a question and I answer it by modifying a cell and re-running it.
3. There's an implied sense of immediacy: The information is so new and cool that I didn't have time to make slides.
I would simply open Excel, connect to the OLAP cube and start dragging & dropping columns while explaining what it was representing. Like: "Here's your sales total, you know that, now we'll break it down so that government sales are in a separate column, now split by state, etc...". People would ask questions they hadn't had answers to in years and I would simply rearrange the pivot table so they'd not only get the number they wanted, but they could see the process of getting there.
I once had an executive stand up, point at the screen and shout: "I want this, right f%^&ing now!"
I've earned paychecks teaching and presenting for more than ten years, and the powerpoint is just passive, as you said. You sit back. Your brain lulls as you wait to be fed information. I'm not necessarily opposed to it, but...
Anything that can be manipulated - blackboard, open .doc file projected that you type into, or (maybe best) The Prop - gives a sense of the living tool. It's not the finished product; it's not your Auntie's knick-knacks. It's the living tool. And everybody wants to play with a new tool, even if it's just by asking a question so you'll modify a cell and re-run.
Also, the real-time interaction of changing things in front of people gives them something more: a chance to glance around and take in social cues that are lost while everyone's passively staring at a powerpoint.
Don't know why I wrote all that. Guess I'm preaching to the choir, and maybe I'm just spurring myself to move away from some of my own bad practices... or maybe, I'd love a little experiment, since my money's on #2. Ask a lecturer to give the same presentation, once with a blackboard, once with a powerpoint. And take a survey before and after both lectures (different participants of course) and see if there really is a difference.
Anyways glad you've had some luck with your Jupyter notebooks! (Just looked them up - they seem really cool!)
I like making a static webpage (my colleagues use a TWiki, but you can use your own flavor) for collaboration talks. You just scroll through the webpage, gifs "just work", pictures look great, and you can add descriptive text that your audience can read on their own time.
This is really nice, because if anyone wants to look at what you said later, they don't have to go rooting through PDFs or powerpoints. The whole talk is indexed and searchable, and it's immediately available (with correct formatting) on any internet-connected device.
The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (2003) [pdf] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10316426 - Oct 2015 (1 comment)
Defending PowerPoint Against Tufte - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7119804 - Jan 2014 (21 comments)
PowerPoint is Evil - Lessons from Edward Tufte - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2131 - March 2007 (1 comment)
There's also this, which has some overlap:
Why PowerPoint should be banned - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9606345 - May 2015 (207 comments)
The instructor provides some "lecture notes" ahead of time and/or some other assigned reading, then the lecture session itself is more of an overview, discussion, and/or extended worked example, with lots of classroom engagement.
However, it's more demanding on the audience this way. So it depends on the purpose of the session.
I see that written reports are much better at conveying in depth information than talks, but if there is a talk and a written report - say a conference paper and associated talk - I judge them as two very distinct things.
The paper may be great, but the talk terrible (or the other way around). But the paper will also take me several times the investment to read than listening to the talk.
Like any tool, it can be used well, and serve its wielder, or it can be used badly, where the wielder becomes it servant.
I've used PP and Keynote plenty. I prefer breaking away from them, as soon as possible, but they are pretty good for helping to establish a structured context to a class or presentation.
They just need to be used correctly.
I was just writing about Tufte (who is heavily cited by everyone). He loathes PowerPoint. He gives a pretty good class on how to convey information without the usual PP pie chart BS.
Most of my presentations are actually kind of useless, if provided as class resources. That's because they are simply background props to what I'm saying.
(really, I know metadiscussion is frowned upon, but it's quite striking how many comments I'm seeing state "PP is a tool" or "the deficiency is the speaker's" without touching upon the arguments against these in the piece... there's really something interesting there)
I cant find it. It was probably on arstechnica
> Probably the shortest true statement that can be made about causality and correlation is "Empirically observed covariation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for causality."
Correlation isn't necessary for causation, so ironically the supposed mutilation used to fit on a PP slide - "Correlation is not causation" - is actually far more correct.
The same mistake is also made in Kahneman, Sibony and Sunstein's new book .
Arguably, causation is merely a human word for "A always happens when B happens."
A causes B or vice versa is one of those things where it's true until it isn't.
Causation is frequently used to mean that B will always occur when A occurs. The problem is that no probability is truly 100%.
See the example used in the twitter thread I linked:
> Imagine driving a car, reaching a hill and pumping the gas as you begin to go up so that your speed is constant. The correlation between pressing on the gas and the speed of the car is zero but they're obviously causally related, it's that the agent is optimizing speed!
But more to the point, there isn't a good definition of causation. If you use the "but for A, B would not occur" there are problems. Other definitions also have problems.
This is a deep epistemological problem and I think not as simple as it may seem.
Takes a bit of practice to get into a rhythm, but the result is unmatched.