June 7, 2013

Wait. Now, I am freaked out.

I hate PowerPoint! Are we supposed to consume this? I feel sorry for everyone who has to get through meetings were information is inflicted on you in that form.

AND: Beyond the horror of PowerPoint, why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?

82 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

Powerpoint is the weapon of choice by the Pentagon Special Sources Operator

Bob Ellison said...

Powerpoint is the source of all evil. Satan invented it and gave it to Microsoft, who then inflicted it upon incompetent managers around the world. Now they teach Powerpoint in public schools. It is evil, evil, evil.

BarrySanders20 said...

Powerpoint enables an administration to be the most transparent ever.

And you can keep your Powerpoint if you like it.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Obama's gonna be pissed when he reads about these programs in the newspapers.

YoungHegelian said...

I feel sorry for everyone who has to get through meetings were information is inflicted on you in that form.

Then you must spend your days feeling sorry for everyone who ever attends ANY sort of business/organizational conference.

PP is to conferences what Word is to writing & Excel is to number crunching. It is simply ubiquitous. All too sad but still true.

I can see from you & my brother that academics often seem to inhabit a parallel universe.

Sorun said...

Those are pretty tame. Powerpoint comes with a lot of word bubble explosion graphics to emphasize how great your program concept is. (If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, you can baffle them with exploding bullshit).

tim maguire said...

Well designed powerpoint is a great teaching tool. Poorly designed powerpoint is not.

chuck said...

Think of power point presentations as background music. The talk that goes with them can be interesting, or not, but in isolation the power point slides are pretty useless as they seldom contain much information and almost certainly no detail.

edutcher said...

Typical government PP presentation.

Too much stuff on the screen. They could profit from Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule.

The Drill SGT said...

Powerpoint is the weapon of choice by the Pentagon Special Sources Operator

I'd link to the PowerPoint Rangers' Ranging rules if I could find them.

PS One of my CS profs did 50 page presentations, but they weren't anywhere near so busy.

Just the high spots.

chuck said...

Which reminds me of the difference between abstract and applied mathematicians. The former talk before a blackboard, the latter use PowerPoint. You can guess who gets the big bucks.

Dante said...

What slide do you object to? The internet connectivity plot looks pretty good to me, with lots of relevant information.

The essential point is if you want to monitor the world, the US is a pretty good place to go. It leaves Africa <--> Europe communications out, though.

Ann Althouse said...

I've never once projected even a single slide, and I've done thousands of presentations during the era in which there has been PowerPoint.

chuck said...

I've done thousands of presentations during the era in which there has been PowerPoint

Yeah, but you're old. Like me ;)

Dante said...

I've never once projected even a single slide, and I've done thousands of presentations during the era in which there has been PowerPoint.

Ah, so it's power point in general.

The first slide, in my view, makes the point that most data goes through the US quite compelling.

The second slide shows, through long lists, the extent of the data one can get access to (though I'm supposing most of that too is meta-data).

I think these two slides are pretty good for instantly getting the idea, and anyone can use the slides. So if you consider the slides as used by potentially many presenters, or as a record of a meeting you might not have attended, I think they are pretty good.

I've seen much worse powerpoint.

elkh1 said...

You freaked out, you are confused, you tuned out, you can't blame them for not being "open".

This is their "hide in plain sight" tactic. Their power points are convoluted, their aim is not to enlighten but to confuse you.

The Power Points may not mean a thing but they scared the daylight out of you. You glazed over and started to believe it's you who are too stupid to understand them. The fact is what they put out is convoluted meaningless crap.

YoungHegelian said...

@Althouse,

I've never once projected even a single slide, and I've done thousands of presentations during the era in which there has been PowerPoint.

That's because academics almost always give detailed, in depth, lectures on a specific topic to their peers. You give a paper at a conference.

In most industries, one gives a presentation, and it's often a combo of lecture & sales pitch, veering towards the "feel-good" generality inherent in the latter.

There are often standard lectures at business conferences that go into academically-proper levels of detail, but they are relegated to "Birds of a Feather" sub-groups, and are long on brain-stuffing and short on the salesmanship.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

A few comments on this PowerPoint presentation:

Pick a font, and stick with it. There can be exceptions to this, but they must be consistent and for good reason.

Pick a font sizing scheme, and stick to it.

Use bold and italics only when it will really help with parsing or emphasis.

Just because you have a graphic doesn't mean you need to use it. There is no need for the company logos, and certainly not on every page. The SSO and PRISM logos would make sense on the title page, but are not needed elsewhere.

Pick a color scheme, and stick with it. Gradients, such as in the title bar can be used to good effect, but should be used consistently.

If you include a chart, make sure it means what it appears to mean. They have a timeline of when various providers were added to the program. But they draw it as a 2 dimensional graph, increasing at a constant rate. But the y axis is meaningless. Either show it as a linear timeline, or show a graph of time verses volume of data collected.

MayBee said...

No one is freaked out about this leak because this is something that should be public and debated. There is little harm that can come to us for knowing this information.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

I've never once projected even a single slide, and I've done thousands of presentations during the era in which there has been PowerPoint.

Even The Blonde does PowerPoint. :O

(actually, she's pretty good at it)

Mitchell the Bat said...

I had a high school Latin teacher who tried to prove the efficacy of the Roman aqueduct by rolling a piece of chalk down a felt blackboard eraser.

It was memorable, I'll say that.

Ann Althouse said...

It seems to me that people making these slides are simply not graphic designers or people with any understanding of graphic design. Yet they are putting up graphic designs. It's atrocious.

At the very least, they should follow the rule of keeping it as simple as possible.

Ann Althouse said...

@edutcher Are you an invented character whose shtick is to misunderstand everything I say?

Henry said...

The New York Times has worked that beat and beat it well:

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

Commanders say that behind all the PowerPoint jokes are serious concerns that the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. Not least, it ties up junior officers — referred to as PowerPoint Rangers — in the daily preparation of slides, be it for a Joint Staff meeting in Washington or for a platoon leader’s pre-mission combat briefing in a remote pocket of Afghanistan.

Last year when a military Web site, Company Command, asked an Army platoon leader in Iraq, Lt. Sam Nuxoll, how he spent most of his time, he responded, “Making PowerPoint slides.” When pressed, he said he was serious.

“I have to make a storyboard complete with digital pictures, diagrams and text summaries on just about anything that happens,” Lieutenant Nuxoll told the Web site. “Conduct a key leader engagement? Make a storyboard. Award a microgrant? Make a storyboard.”

Jamie Irons said...

In his terrific -- and often hilarious -- Land of Lincoln, Andrew Ferguson converts The Gettysburg Address into a PowerPoint presentation.

Extremely funny.

Jamie Irons

Methadras said...

Powerpoint has been outlawed at several companies that I've worked for. They issued mandates saying that powerpoint will no longer be used and that all presentations be done with the persons expertise in mind and that they must do their own presentation work. You would have thought people were just told to eat their first born.

Look, powerpoint as a program isn't bad if it's done right, but the garish use of bad geometrical shapes and clashes of shitty color along with how they are arranged just make you want to kill the guy or gal that made them for being so horribly bad at coordination of all the elements.

YoungHegelian said...

Examining the WP PP presentation in more detail, I can see that the presentation was done for a non-technical audience.

The "slide" where the presenter tells "what you will receive" breaks out the kinds of traffic (email, file transfer, video, etc) when a technical audience would have known that what one gets is all the TCP/IP traffic that goes through those providers.

Almost all network traffic now is TCP/IP, and the reason that NSA/FBI has to examine everything is because, until the data component of a TCP/IP packet is analyzed (which is a relatively -- in computational terms -- slow process), one has no idea what sort of traffic (cell phone, ftp, video, etc) one is looking at.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Dante-

The graphic on the Introduction slide is good, and the content of the text on both the Introduction and Collection Details are fine.

It's the formatting and presentation that are the big issues.

As jarring as I find it, the Professor is much more attuned to visual design and layout than I am.

It probably borders on physically painful for her.

Tibore said...

You hate using it? Try supporting the damn thing.

Thank God we have underlings. :D

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

@edutcher Are you an invented character whose shtick is to misunderstand everything I say?

I was kidding, Madame. Lighten up.

SteveR said...

On a practical level when you are expected to give a presentation that's very much a minimal part of your job, you don't have a lot of time or resources, there is no expectation that anyone will learn much and the audience is highly variable in subject matter expertise, PowerPoint is a great tool.

Expectations are never that great and you'll get your box check.

Henry said...

One of the best advocates for simple presentation design is Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen.

His blog has gotten more eclectic over the years --how many ways can you say "keep it simple" -- but it's still a great resource.

Here's a classic:

A long time ago, before death by PowerPoint

Dante said...

Here is what I get from the slides:

A) Much data goes through the US, and individuals can't control it, so the US is a good place to collect data.

B) There is a lot of data we can get

C) It's cheap!

Tom said...

The people who are not upset about the release of a highly classified .ppt in many cases are the same folks who want to string up Bradley Manning.

The thing we have to realize is, our Congress authorized this. We The People are giving up our rights without a fight. This no longer the nation who sailed to the New World, crossed the Great Plains, or fought World I and II. We're comfortable and until we're uncomfortable, we wont engage adversity or be vigilant. We're getting what we want: the Appearance of Liberty propped up by a quiet, deadly, and ever-present Police State.

edutcher said...

Tom said...

The people who are not upset about the release of a highly classified .ppt in many cases are the same folks who want to string up Bradley Manning.

The thing we have to realize is, our Congress authorized this.


They did?

A little citation, por favor?

And I don't mean the act passed under Dubya; I mean specific authorization for the abuses we have today.

rcommal said...

To plagiarize my own comments when I saw the graphics issue pop up on Facebook, it could be as simple as bad templates, which tend to propagate like ranbits, guppies and wire dry-cleaner hangers. Graphics like this are ubiquitous in companies and organizations (large, small, for profit and not for profit) and have been for many years. Most presentations aren't put together by or with the help if graphic designers.

Tom said...

@edutcher: http://newsone.com/2537330/nsa-prism-patriot-act/

I think it's been widely reported that these types of electronic survailence are authorized under both the Patriot Act and Revisions and the NDAA.

MayBee said...

When intelligence committee members are informed on top secret matters, they are not allowed to discuss the program. They are not allowed to publicly push back. Any disputes are kept private.

Sen Wyden asked Clapper about this very thing just weeks ago, and Clapper said no, they were not doing anything to collect data about Americans.

rcommal said...

Edward Tufte pdf on PowerPoint:

ftp://ftp.geoinfo.tuwien.ac.at/courses/SeminarCommunication_SS09/The%20cognitive%20style%20of%20PowerPoint.pdf

Alex said...

Powerpoint is just a tool. It can be as ugly or beautiful depending on the talent of the writer.

MayBee said...

Tom- Sensenbrenner said it is not authorized- they are only supposed to track non-Americans, and there was to be a suspicious person attached to a number in the chain of calls.

Nathan Alexander said...

why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?

For me, the context matters.

I am upset when a high-level aide leaks information that makes Obama look good and is not punished, or when the leaks help terrorists change their methods to avoid detection.

In this case, however, I am most upset that Intelligence Oversight guidance and Constitutional principles appear to have been ignored in order to target US citizens...and based on this administration's track record, probably in order to single out conservative groups for political gain. But this knowledge being public doesn't really help terrorists avoid being detected much...if they avoid all telecommunications in order to avoid being detected, they end up impacting their communications so much they can't coordinate effectively beyond 3 people, which is still a win, albeit a minor one.

Alex said...

I can see Ann is in an Apple bubble where everyone hates Microsoft.

Lem said...

Beyond the horror of PowerPoint, why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?

I don’t have and endless supply Althouse... back off, you know I'm outraged... but in this political climate, it doesn’t mean very much.

Bob Ellison said...

I bear outrage toward PowerPoint, but not toward leaks. Spy novels have taught me that these spooks are playing a complex game that mortals like me cannot understand.

rhhardin said...

Noforn means no foreign nationals even if they have clearance.

You don't want it leaking to people who can't absolutely be trusted like citizens.

rhhardin said...

There's the 1980 "festoon" bullshit memorandum generating program that was most successfully upgraded when powerpoint was added.

Carol said...

PowerPoint has been used by goobermint for a couple decades now. Typically they write out what they're going to say, pass out the hard copy, read from the PP slide and everyone reads along.

Gah...

edutcher said...

Tom said...

@edutcher: http://newsone.com/2537330/nsa-prism-patriot-act/

I think it's been widely reported that these types of electronic survailence are authorized under both the Patriot Act and Revisions and the NDAA.


As I said originally, "And I don't mean the act passed under Dubya; I mean specific authorization for the abuses we have today".

Where's authorization for this - now, specifically?

And come back when you learn to read.

MadisonMan said...

PalTalk?

Never heard of it.

Jason said...

When I was a lieutenant going through a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California in 1998, a major on the permanent party there conducting an AAR after a mock battle rolled his eyes and said "We have Powerpoint now, and it's gonna RUIN the Army!"

rcommal said...

"In other words, they want to keep it secret because that's the only way to prevent any sort of meaningful check or balance on executive power."

rehajm said...

Don't blame the tools. Some are more skilled with the tools than others. Which do think gov't is?

I've sat through some horrible lectures, too. Again, don't blame the tools.

Patrick Henry said...

why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed

Because it shouldn't have been secret. Like many things the government does.

Aridog said...

Anybody but me wonder why such classified information is portrayed on Power-Point in the first place?

In non-technical format, no less...like maybe the slides were prepared to be leaked?

My tinfoil hat please....

Oh, and regarding @ Henry's comment...the requirement that Power-Point be utilized for even the most mundane reporting in the US Army now goes far below even the level of Platoon Leader. I won't say where in Army, but I am directly familiar with the requirement for "leads" or "leaders" within an organizational element...e.g., those who lead/oversee 3-4 people.

Oso Negro said...

Say what you will about Powerpoint, but it would not be better to return to the earlier era of transparencies, overhead projectors, chalkboards, or sticks in the dirt. It's just a tool, and no better than the skill of those who wield it.

Rabel said...

"...why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?"

That sounds like Napoleon talking about Snowball, but it'll be fine with me if the leaker is identified and prosecuted. He would be a martyr for the cause of transparent government and the fourth amendment.

President Christie can give him a pardon.

Aridog said...

Jason said...

When I was a lieutenant going through a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California in 1998, a major on the permanent party there conducting an AAR after a mock battle rolled his eyes and said "We have Powerpoint now, and it's gonna RUIN the Army!"

Sounds like someone I know. You don't happen to know if he retired last year, as a Colonel, and started up a blog and consulting business called Leader Business

Rabel said...

"Beyond the horror of PowerPoint, why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?"

That sounds like Naopleon talking about Snowball, but It'll be fine with me if the leaker is identified and prosecuted. He would be a martyr for the cause of transparent government and the fourth amendment.

President Christie can give him a pardon.

Joe Schmoe said...

I love Powerpoint. I really do. I've given hundreds of Powerpoint presentations in the age of Powerpoint. Yes there are timeless design principles you can use to make an effective presentation. I usually stick to a graphic and maybe a line of text per slide. Less is more and it's a shit-ton of work to make less say more.

Yes, the design of these slides is atrocious, but about what I'd expect from our military that is big on standardized process, procedures, and language. I dislike all the code numbers and acronyms like SIGAD and US-984XN. What the fuck is all that about?

bpm4532 said...

Well, yes, it appears a crime has been committed. Several actually.

Now that the information is in the open, it appears to directly contradict past statements by government officials. Given this deception and outright misrepresentation, this may fall into legal whistleblower status.

$20M is likely the operational cost merely for the acquisition of data. Likely the operational cost for analysis is much higher and the Utah data center is likely in the hundreds of millions.

Joe Schmoe said...

Can we also be incensed by tech companies jumping into bed so easily with Big Gummint? I'm not seeing much pushback from them. Google's always trying to suck up to Obama, I guess so they'll avoid audits, patent litigation, anti-trust suits, internet taxes, and the like. But didn't Facebook carry water for Obama's re-election team, providing them with resources and data? These tech clowns need some oversight. They are the new robber barons.

Joe Schmoe said...

conducting an AAR after a mock battle

OMG! You had to conduct an AAR? STBY

DILLIGAS

The Drill SGT said...

edutcher said...
One of my CS profs did 50 page presentations, but they weren't anywhere near so busy.


In defense of military minimalist PPT presentations, I was taught to limit my stuff (General Officer level Decision Briefs) to 4-5 slides, aligned with the Standard Decision Brief paragraphs

Background
Facts Bearing on the Problem
Assumptions
Courses of Action
Recommendation / Decision

Generals have a low attention span :)

Rabel said...

"Can we also be incensed by tech companies jumping into bed so easily with Big Gummint?"

They're claiming that they know nothing about PRISM. That raises a whole new set of questions, doesn't it?

The Drill SGT said...

Joe Schmoe said...
I dislike all the code numbers and acronyms like SIGAD and US-984XN.



Signal Activity Designator: The unique code that identities the source system / generating location

elkh1 said...

"why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?"

Because we don't trust the people who are running the secret national security program. Because we believe they will abuse their power and hide behind the national security claims. Because if they were competent, the program would not be leaked. Because if the program is harmless to us, they don't have to make it secret. They can tell us they are running such a program without getting into details, i.e. how things are actually done. Our enemies already knew about the program, we, the little people, are the one kept in the dark.

Becon said...

Beamer is the greatest thing to happen to presentations since brown bag seminars.

elkh1 said...

why does no one seem to be outraged that a secret national security program is getting leaked and exposed?

Haven't we trusted IRS to keep our tax returns private, that our govt. would not target us because of our beliefs? It's amazing that you still trust them to run a secret program, a program that can be used to cover up politicians' malfeasance.

Quaestor said...

I've never once projected even a single slide, and I've done thousands of presentations during the era in which there has been PowerPoint.

Perhaps a new tag is called for. May I suggest neo-luddism?

Amy said...

@annalthouse -
It seems to me that people making these slides are simply not graphic designers or people with any understanding of graphic design. Yet they are putting up graphic designs. It's atrocious.

My husband, the graphic designer, heartily agrees with you.

Quaestor said...

Our enemies already knew about the program, we, the little people, are the one kept in the dark.

I doubt this is true, unless the FSB (the spy agency formerly known as KGB) has been feeding this intelligence to Al-Qaeda just to spit in our national soup.

edutcher said...

The Drill SGT said...

One of my CS profs did 50 page presentations, but they weren't anywhere near so busy.

In defense of military minimalist PPT presentations, I was taught to limit my stuff (General Officer level Decision Briefs) to 4-5 slides, aligned with the Standard Decision Brief paragraphs


You were taught well, Sarge.

FleetUSA said...

Power Point is really dumb but even dumber are speakers who merely read their Power Point lines and call it a speech.

FleetUSA said...

Power Point is really dumb but even dumber are speakers who merely read their Power Point lines and call it a speech.

Smilin' Jack said...

Our enemies already knew about the program...

Our enemies don't even care. Unbreakable encryption is cheap and easy these days, and any enemy smart enough to be dangerous is smart enough to use it.

Kirk Parker said...

Edutcher,

"Too much stuff on the screen. They could profit from Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule."

OK, but they could benefit more from a big huge dose of Tufte right up the *ss.


Oso,

" it would not be better to return to the earlier era of..."

Oh, yes it would.

Dante said...

It probably borders on physically painful for her.

I was thinking her Art History Degree may have upped her expectations. I came from one of these very large tech companies. They love powerpoint. It's in the culture. The powerpoint has a lot of reasons behind it:

A) Once it's on powerpoint, with the company logo, etc., it seems real (as in a real project, real thought, etc.)

B) If you are like me, and absolutely hate boring meetings, it's a good way to get the gist of things. It's good to remember things.

C) It's a form of documentation. You can use powerpoint to collect items that are outstanding, that are agreed to, etc.

Marketing and sales types may care more about visual beauty, but people trying to convey ideas/sell ideas typically don't.

Alex said...

Dante - if you are trying to sell and idea, presenting it in a beautiful package certainly helps. Steve Jobs was the master of it.

Eric Jablow said...

Jamie Irons,

Andrew Ferguson just mentioned PP. The classic version is by Peter Norvig, at http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/index.htm. I love the "Not on Agenda" slide and the gratuitous bar graph.

Biff said...

I am often invited to speak at professional conferences (health care and technology stuff), and if I use slides at all, I only use a few, very simple ones, which really helps me to stand apart from my more bureaucratically minded colleagues.

It is interesting to hear the sound of shock and horror in conference producers' voices when they ask me for copies of my slides for the program, and I tell them that I won't be showing slides. It's as though I told them I would be giving my presentation in Aramaic.

SOJO said...

According to this, Apple was only added in 2012.

Dante said...

Dante - if you are trying to sell and idea, presenting it in a beautiful package certainly helps. Steve Jobs was the master of it.

I get the idea that Jobs didn't have to sell his ideas internally. No powerpoint is going to convince an engineer. It's merely a communications device. And intelligent engineers always probe outside the boundaries.

Jobs somehow managed to get everyone aligned in their creative juices. I somehow doubt it was powerpoint, but who knows.