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PowerPoint is the Symptom

This article berates PowerPoint presentations for facilitating sloppy thinking.  While I agree that it does, that's kinda like berating the evening news for not thoroughly exploring issues of the day... the problem is that the audience only wants to skim the surface.

As a survivor of corporate mediocrity, it seems that PowerPoint is used because it doesn't usually REQUIRE critical thinking of the audience, who are often times too lazy to do so.


Friday, June 20, 2003


I absolutely love it. 
        * Bullets make us stupid.

I absolutely love it (cont.) 
        * Bullets make us stupid(er).

One of the best, and most justified, diatrabes ever. 

Had an experience just this week, boss wanted PowerPoint, I gave him 6 pages of text.  Told him if he wanted stupid to make stupid hisself.

The entire internet is based on text file RFCs.  If its good enough for Al Gore, its good enough for me.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, June 20, 2003

Very nice. Very nice.

Chi Lambda
Friday, June 20, 2003

You'll find a lot more on this topic here:

I think PowerPoint persists largely because of peer pressure. It's become the expected experience at meetings and conferences, and surprisingly few people can envision how to do a presentation any other way.

Tufte argues that you should give out handouts at the beginning of the presentation, to prevent people from dumbly looking at a screen or taking notes.

Brad Hurley
Friday, June 20, 2003

Hmmmm.... bullet points make audiences more stupid/lazy?

Bullet points are used because they are usually more succinct, easier to comprehend, and serve as scaffolding for what a presenter verbally/physically communicates.

I hear this tiresome argument repeated in various forms -- user-friendly OSes engender stupid users and scripting languages lead to sloppy programs, etc.

Right, blame the tool...

Friday, June 20, 2003

Bullets are great.  Not everybody should care about the details.  I guess they work great of you have M$ type of organization where everybody is enpowered.  When I tell my boss that we should buy X rather than Y because:
- X has cleaner interface
- X has better support
- we have more experience with X

He is happy because he trusts that I have done my homework coming with those bullets.  I'm happy too because I don't have to lose my time explqining the details of both interfaces.

At the end of the day something has to be done not just debated 20 times over.  If you want to be priftable you have to get over the fact that perfect is the enemy of the good enough.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Incidentally, bullets *should* be the salient details of your argument. If you can't create bullets it tends to indicate you don't have concrete arguments.

Mind you, I'm talking about real bullets, like "provides a 75% decrease in server response times" not "makes us all warm and fuzzy if we buy it"


Friday, June 20, 2003

Yeah, that's it...

Drag the entire team into a meeting to present .ppt slides...

When all you had to do was send the {code, document, request, whatever} via email and let everyone read it.

PowerPoint is for people who feel they have to sell something.  Its a one sided monolgue of opaqueness.  Keep it away from me.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, June 20, 2003

The printed shows should serve to underscore an oral presentation.  Rarely are simply bullet points intended to stand alone, when they are it is the fault of the presenter. 

People have been doing this for ages.  PowerPoint just computerizes the process.  Before PowerPoint people would print up 35mm slides and other visual aids when they gave a talk, but no one was citing those visual aids as the death of critical thought.  And the heirarchy of ideas that powerpoint biases its users toward was not called lazy thinking when it was called outlining (incidently, when did structuring your thoughts become a bad thing?).

In investment banks PPT is used frequently as a sort of "poor man's QuarkXpress", since it handles layout very well and is easy to train on.  The presentations bankers produce with it are very dense.  They are not simple bullet points.

PowerPoint persists as strongly as it does because it was included in the Office suite.  Were it marketed individually it would have gone the way of Aldus Persuasion, and if it were created by anyone but Microsoft I also think it would not be widely criticized.  Bashing PowerPoint has been in vogue for a while now since the CEO of Sun started doing it a few years back.  (McNeely wants to see HTML perform a similar function). 

No one had similar idealistic problems with Lotus Freelance.

Ran Whittle
Friday, June 20, 2003

None of this is really making any sense to me. The only time I ever use PowerPoint is when doing presentations in front of large audiences outside of my company. Isn't that the ONLY place you would want to use it? I've never seen anyone use PowerPoint in a company meeting. Maybe i'm just lucky.....

John Rosenberg
Friday, June 20, 2003

I like Seth Godin's "Really Bad Powerpoint (And How To Avoid It), though when I gave a presentation based on it, the main person I was giving the presentation didn't like it. Not becuase the presentation was bad, but because he wanted to take my bullet points and use them as the basis for a presentation he had to give. HA HA.

I've uploaded it to my site here:

Please don't abuse this download, (i.e. save it to your hard drive & e-mail it as an attachment when possible) and yes, it's within the license agreement for me to distribute this.

My presentation was fun, and memorable. I remember showing a seedling and a giant Oak to represent the amount of growth my project was experiencing. I got a few chuckles from it, and people paid attention to see how the next strange image related to what I had to say.
Friday, June 20, 2003

Nat Ersoz:
>>Yeah, that's it...
>>Drag the entire team into a meeting to present .ppt slides...
>>When all you had to do was send the {code, document, request, whatever} via email and let everyone read it.

Well, if you are going to present it at a meeting, Powerpoint is a natural way to present information.  Like someone else said, it's the same slides that people have been showing for ages.  If it's the meeting you object to, and it sounds like it is, then don't have the meeting.  Most likely, you'll discover that Powerpoint is no longer the tool you want to use.  But don't blame Powerpoint.

Friday, June 20, 2003

.... hence the title of this thread - PowerPoint is the Symptom.
Friday, June 20, 2003

The big problem with ppt is that the information is lost
after the presentation. The points are usually contextless
so if anyone reads them later get nothing out of it.

Plus none of the information interlinks. You are not building
a web of information that has lasting value. People spend gobs of time building a one time  presentation that is just gone afterwards.

Better to build a wiki that forms a web and that can also be used for presentations. Even webs sites build over a SCM or too complicated for people to use. Editing needs to be integrated into the environment, not be a separate step.

Friday, June 20, 2003

All possible in powerpoint, valraven.

* You ignorant.
* V.R. -> Stupid Cunt

Friday, June 20, 2003

Another unsigned troll post.
*  Grow up
*  Learn some manners

Ran WHittle
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Can someone delete the last two posts?

On the original topic - I am at university at the moment and I find that I always tune out when a lecturer does a powerpoint presentation. Unfortunately, most of the lecturers use powerpoints now, and the notes you get are just printouts of all the powerpoint slides.

My favorite way of lecturing is when they just grab a stick of chalk and write on a blackboard. This is so much more effective for some reason.

Daniel Searson
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Me, too. When someone uses a blackboard, you follow the process of something getting developed. The presenter's writing and speech are always synchronized, I mean, he can only speak about what he's writing while he writes. If on a ppt slide something pops up and is explained thereafter, by a presenter standing 2 meters away, you lose the context as you don't know where to look (at the screen? at the presenter?). That's confusing.
Additionally, the amount of information presented at a time and the depth of explanation is much better when the presenter is speed-limited by the time writing on a blackboard requires.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Selling a textbook for undergraduates in CS is very very difficult if you do not have a ppt or pdf with the whole course on slides for the lecturers.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, June 23, 2003

Power Point is a marketing tool. Use it to sell, outline and strategize.

Sales Guy
Monday, June 23, 2003

PowerPoint should be used to summarise and illustrate. The problem arises because people are not used to public speaking, be it 5 people of 5000 people.

The slide should act as no more than a pompt for someone with a good grasp of what they are talking about. There is nothing worse than someone who has never even seen the slide show before just reading back what is on the screen without adding anything to it.

Pete J
Monday, June 23, 2003

"Getting rid of Powerpoint" is a cargo cult. Gifted speakers can get away with no visuals (e.g. look at the Dave Snowden talk over at , Realplayer required, sorry). Taking away the visuals is not going to make that chappie from engineering suddenly a great speaker. Chances are it will be even worse. You're not going to teach a brick to swim by tossing it in the water.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, June 23, 2003

I can only feel sorry for people who have to listen to such crappy speakers that they now hate Power Point.  In college I loved the ppt slides.  You can print them(one slide on a page) and just write notes around the couple of bullets.  When the teacher wanders away from them just write on the back.  Very easy to study for exams - a glance at the notes and all keeps coming back to me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

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