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The Military Software Technology

PowerPoint Rant Costs Colonel His Job 194

Posted by timothy
from the truth-will-out dept.
twoallbeefpatties writes "Wired reports that a 61-year-old reservist in Afghanistan was fired from his job as a staff officer after writing a sardonic op-ed criticizing the daily briefings provided by his taskforce, portraying them as little more than a neverending stream of redundant PowerPoint slideshows. This came after attempts to reform the process by giving his superiors a presentation that, of course, included five PowerPoint slides." Maybe he should have presented it as an art project instead of a complaint.
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PowerPoint Rant Costs Colonel His Job

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apparently he's not alone [nytimes.com] in his distaste for powerpoint.

    • by treeves (963993)
      Colonel Tufte [wired.com] certainly agrees.
    • by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:49PM (#33399394)

      Just google, "Powerpoint makes you stupid"

      The first that I had heard about this was from a NASA scientist following the Columbia accident. He said that there were too many variables and choices that had to be left out of slides because there was a limit to how much detail could be displayed given (readable) font size and screen resolution

      This leads to multiple slides to cover a single topic, and the loss of fresh visual memory as the presentation moves from slide to slide.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/29/AR2005082901444.html [washingtonpost.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054)

        Powerpoint also ASSUMES your audience is stupid.

        Too stupid to grasp the facts unless presented as bullets.

        Powerpoint has the presenter making the notes (on slides) that the audience should have made. Essentially the presentation seems to go directly to notes without bothering to stop in anyone's head along the way.

        Cliff notes minus the student.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by T-Bone-T (1048702)

          The presenters you've seen are doing it wrong. The presenter must put important information on the slides but it is still up to the audience to fill in the gaps with notes. I love the 3 slides/page handout because it comes with a handy note-taking area next to each slide.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:08PM (#33399896)
            Indeed, Powerpoint and similar when used correctly are helpful. The problem is that people don't generally know how to use presentation software. Good uses are diagrams relevant to the talk, and a hint as to what the take away is from a section. The problem is that rather than using it as a supplement to the talk, people are essentially putting the entire talk into the Powerpoint and then reading it to the people there. Which is bunk. Personally, I don't use it at all because it's quite a bit easier for me to keep people paying attention if I'm tracking what they're looking like and changing things up as needed.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by interkin3tic (1469267)

              Even if you don't bother learning your own presentation beforehand, powerpoint can be an improvement with the presenter view. You can essentially write exactly what you're going to say on the screen you see, and just put the important points up on the main screen.

              Needless to say, lazy presentations using -any- format or technology will be inferior to a well thought out presentation using a chalkboard or even charades, but I suspect a lazy powerpoint presentation could be nominally better than a lazy chalkb

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Gonzo The Gr8 (952908)

            I love the 3 slides/page handout because it comes with a handy note-taking area next to each slide.

            I hate those things. Unless you are a very concise note taker, there is never enough room for decent notes, and IMHO they make the slide itself way too small. Also, (and I know this is as much the presenter's fault as the format) I HATE when the slides are "made available" electronically by distributing .pdf's of them in that format.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TheLink (130905)

            I daresay many people here read faster than most people talk and comprehend speech.

            Presentations are good for people who have little idea of the subject material. They are also good if entertaining your audience is part of the requirement. People who know about the subject material are fine getting it in formats similar to research "papers, manuals, "errata" or similar.

            Perhaps the Generals don't need to know the details. But the details are often important. Why does a bunch of important people have to waste

        • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:18PM (#33399606)
          "Powerpoint also ASSUMES your audience is stupid."

          No, god damnit, it doesn't. Power point is a tool designed to be used in presentations. It is NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN a substitute for presentations. You're SUPPOSED to put your points in bullets because you're there giving the presentation to elaborate upon said bullet points. The audience is not "too stupid" to grasp what you're talking about. However, if you put three paragraphs of text on one slide and talk at the same time then the audience has to decide whether to listen to you or read your slides.

          The notes field is there so that you can distribute the presentation to people who weren't there, or to save your audience the time and work of writing down their own notes. This gives you the ability to add information relevant to your presentation that should not be directly discussed. For example, you might simply put an equation and its solution on a slide. You can show your work in the notes for anyone who wants to check this. It also prevents different people from copying down incorrect things. (i.e. your slide says "3.14159" and someone writes down "314159" by mistake.)

          If you have found that your audience is "too stupid" to understand your presentations when you read directly off of the slides then the problem is with you, no one else. Not the audience, and most certainly not the tool. Seriously, bitching that power point results in bad presentations is like complaining that a hammer results in injuries when you smack yourself in the head. Power point is absurdly easy to use, the only reason presentations are bad is because people don't take the time to make good ones, and anyone who calls them on this gets the same treatment of the colonel mentioned in the article. Anyone who criticizes bad presentations gets the axe, and people continue to make bad presentations.
          • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:06PM (#33399874) Journal

            Seriously, bitching that power point results in bad presentations is like complaining that a hammer results in injuries when you smack yourself in the head.

            Brilliant analogy! As a physics prof I've had colleagues express surprise that I use electronic slides at all (I actually use OpenOffice since its maths with OOoLatex is far superior to PowerPoint). However I use them as you describe interspersed with more detailed derivations/examples on the whiteboard and while it took a little trial and error to get the balance between the two right it seems to work very well for me now and the students love have the slides as a framework to annotate.

            • Brilliant analogy! As a physics prof I've had colleagues express surprise that I use electronic slides at all (I actually use OpenOffice since its maths with OOoLatex is far superior to PowerPoint). However I use them as you describe interspersed with more detailed derivations/examples on the whiteboard and while it took a little trial and error to get the balance between the two right it seems to work very well for me now and the students love have the slides as a framework to annotate.

              I'm fairly sure that after one quick experiment with the new technology, if that, they dismissed it as "newfangled technology" with "no discernible purpose in a physics class". Professors are all too willing to dismiss technologies in this fashion, rather than learn how to use them properly to augment their current skillset.

            • by lahvak (69490)

              Yeah, I try to do the same thing, in my case they are math classes. Unfortunately some bright person designing our classrooms decided to place the pull down projection screen in *every single classroom* on the entire campus directly in front of the whiteboard. So I have about 2 feet of whiteboard on each side of the screen available for detailed derivations and examples.

              • I hate when they don't wire the lights closest to the screen on a separate switch. It makes it so you have to have it either pitch black or completely white-washing your screen.

              • Well, unless you happen to be on the same campus, that's not a unique problem! I used a wheeled in whiteboard in a particularly appalling room and fortunately managed to get my class shifted a second time. My challenge for this term is a brand new, very large lecture theatre which uses document cameras rather than whiteboards....should be interesting!
          • by AdamHaun (43173) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:56PM (#33400144) Journal

            No, god damnit, it doesn't. Power point is a tool designed to be used in presentations. It is NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN a substitute for presentations.

            Unfortunately, what PowerPoint slides (and presentations) are being used for is a substitute for every other form of communication. Instead of specs, essays, helpful diagrams, and properly organized data, we have slides, slides, slides, and slides. Usually the slides are explained once in one meeting or conference call and then passed around, giving the illusion that information is written down in a usable form. In reality, if you really want to know what's going on you have to call the author (if they even bother to write their name), wasting your time and theirs.

            You're right that PowerPoint doesn't force people to communicate poorly, and poor communication has many causes. But PowerPoint does make poor communication easier, and 80-90% of people are using it wrong. The argument of Tufte et al boils down to this: regardless of whether it's a good tool or a bad tool, PowerPoint is not the *right* tool.

          • by lahvak (69490)

            You're SUPPOSED to put your points in bullets because you're there giving the presentation to elaborate upon said bullet points.

            No, you are NOT! This is in my opinion the very worst thing about PowerPoint, it sort of forces everything into a list of bullet points. There is some, in my experience rather small percentage of talks that really are mainly about a list of bullet points, with a little bit of explanation for each of the points, and PowerPoint is very useful for these talks. In most talks, the st

            • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @05:03AM (#33401938)

              If in one part of my talk I concentrate on linear systems, people will generally remember that if I announce it clearly, and will not need a giant slide projected onto the screen to remind them. It's *what* I am saying about linear system, their properties, relations to non-linear system, linearization etc. that's important. NOT the fact that I am talking about these things in some particular order, but WHAT I am saying about them.

              So what are you saying about them? If it can't be effectively summarized in a single slide of bullet points, I assure you that most of it is going to melt into a buzz in your audience's ears. There is a limit to how much information human brain can absorb at once before you have to stop and think about it, which requires tuning out the lecturer.

              There's a reason why PowerPoint is so popular, and that reason is that it allows you to memorize the main points of the representation despite not catching most of the details. Of course, this rises the question of whether it really makes any sense to do the representation at all, rather than just emailing the bullet point list, but oh well.

        • As someone who have given numerous presentations, Power Point can be very useful, but it is simply a visual aid and not intended to "be" the presentation. I always put required detail on handouts, or show whatever program on the projector that I needed to. Many of my power point presentations for a 2 hour meeting were only 5 slides long - I only ever put bullet points on the slide and I NEVER simply read the slides. Like most tools Power Point is abused - if your only tool is a hammer everything looks li
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Minwee (522556)

          Nice set of four bullet points there. All you need is some completely irrelevant clip art and a useless animation and you'll be ready to for the CUA.

          • by aevan (903814)
            You totally forgot sound effects. No presentation is complete without typewriting noises, lasers blasts or something else equally annoying, everywhere.
        • Powerpoint also ASSUMES your audience is stupid.

          Sometimes they actually ARE stupid. Or rather, don't really care. Judging from the colonel's text, this is one of those times. He says he hasn't done anything for months, and the slides never change, and yet they are all required to be there. Sounds like mandatory mental nap time.

          • by icebike (68054)

            There is a certain amount of that in the military.

            The more the better I guess.

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        ...as opposed to repeatedly writing on a blackboard and erasing as you go?

        rj

        • Have you ever tried to attend a class where powerpoint slides were used instead of blackboard/markerboard and presenter?

          One of the big problems with powerpoint is that you usually have to darken the room to use it, which kills personal note-taking, which ruins recall: just writing something down helps you remember, even if you never re-read your notes.

          PP presentations also tend to move too quickly for good note-taking. It's great for presenting overviews, but if you need teach detail, it's far from ideal.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      He displayed testicular fortitude, and he can afford to get fired. I salute him.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        There's guts and then there's stupidity. I'm guessing that as a Colonel, that perhaps he should've known better than to write such a thin as an Op-ed piece. The military is not a democracy and while expressing respect for rank can get one some leeway, certain things are just not to be discussed other than with requisite discretion.

        Being fired like this is almost certain to have zero impact on anything going on. Had he opted to more or less keep his mouth shut he could've at least impressed upon his subor
  • I see people using power point way too much. Professors/teachers use it too much. Most students just download the power point so they do not have to attend class.

    Can we just say no to power point?

    • by Romancer (19668)

      For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general's thought processes as abruptly as a computer system's blue screen of death.

      Sounds like he agrees.

      And DAMN, that's gotta hurt. No wonder he's in trouble, he presented the shit outta that. :)

    • by iamhassi (659463) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:48PM (#33399392) Journal
      I remember reading about this rant (or a very similar rant) awhile ago [slashdot.org] and I was wondering what the repercussions would be.

      Unfortunately sometimes you can't just talk one-on-one to everyone and you will have to present information to a large group. Your options for presenting information to a crowd:
      --vocal: just talking for an hour, which is popular in many religions, and we all remember what the sermon was about last Sunday, right?
      --visual text: just endless paragraphs so they can read along which, as far as I can tell, no one does
      --multimedia: pictures, audio and video that attempts to explain in a manner easily digestible, hence Powerpoint

      Sorry out of the 3 options I'd have to go with powerpoint presentations. I'm not sure what the Colonel would prefer, but I'm pretty sure there would be a quiet riot if someone walked in and just spoke for an hour or put endless pages of text up on a overhead.
      • by Romancer (19668) <romancer&deathsdoor,com> on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:54PM (#33399442) Journal

        I think you're missing the point (pun intended).

        He's talking about just relying on powerpoint to give information. To actually have the slideshow mean something without giving it any real information to start with.

        Crap in = crap out. (with pretty graphs and moving icons)

        He complains that just having a powerpoint presentation every 12 hours is not the same as having an actual breifing and discussion of information. It's not that you couldn't use powerpoint to do it, but that you have to have, as a goal, the need to actually accomplish something besides presenting a slideshow. Presenting the slideshow not a goal in itself as he claims that it is treated. He mentions that the slides don't even change. Now that would be a hell I would try and avoid.

        • Yeah my workplace is a power point tragic. One time the annual christmas dinner had power point. I noticed recently that power point is now an acceptable format for resumes at many employment agencies.

          This is where I get off...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tool462 (677306)

        Agreed. The content may have been inane, but that's not PowerPoint's fault.

      • by Kagura (843695)
        I'm in the military. PowerPoint is used A LOT in the military, and that is because it is an excellent tool for a presenter to use.

        A lot of people imagine the worst PowerPoint presenter they've ever had when they rant about PowerPoint being bad... but it's an exceedingly useful tool and this is why it persists today.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          MAybe the need a power point cadence song?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I recently got out of the military. Powerpoint is used A LOT in the military because A LOT of the people being briefed are only able to handle highly formatted, repetitive, infovomit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It IS possible for something to just be terrible and still widely used for reasons of pure inertia and arbitrary (likely unintelligent) mandates. Not everything that is popular is also necessarily good.

          • by Kagura (843695)
            There is no mandate to use Powerpoint. There was a recent Slashdot article that said Generals "demanded PowerPoint", but really... Giving voice-only presentations is a terrible way to get your audience to absorb the information you are trying to impart on them.

            Additionally, for a lot of intelligence briefings, you need charts and maps in order to show hotspots and trends. Unless you think it's easier to update a gigantic real-life map using acrylic overlay (the old way of doing it) and then haul it to br
      • by dsginter (104154) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:16PM (#33399600)

        Unfortunately sometimes you can't just talk one-on-one to everyone and you will have to present information to a large group. Your options for presenting information to a crowd:
        --vocal: just talking for an hour, which is popular in many religions, and we all remember what the sermon was about last Sunday, right?
        --visual text: just endless paragraphs so they can read along which, as far as I can tell, no one does
        --multimedia: pictures, audio and video that attempts to explain in a manner easily digestible, hence Powerpoint

        The delicious irony of explaining the situation with what might as well be a powerpoint slide. Nice bullet points. A+++ would buy again.

      • by professionalfurryele (877225) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:24PM (#33399642)

        The problem is that Powerpoint, like Word, defaults to making it very easy for the user to do stupid things or does stupid things by default.
        Changing the font size on a slide should be difficult because you should very rarely if ever do it. Fitting more than 4 bullet points on a slide should be hard because you should very rarely if ever do it. There shouldn't be any templates that let you put half a billion graphs and a picture on one slide. Backgrounds shouldn't be complicated and busy by default. There shouldn't be default colour schemes that make Egyptian Hieroglyphs easy to read or reminds people of the good old days of green on black monitors.
        Transitions shouldn't be something one picks out of a line up, they should be something you look up how to do because you have a good reason. Unless you are trying to emulate the wipes from Star Wars then you have no good reason to go wiping slides from left to right distracting your entire audience. The default font for body text on a slide should be big enough that it is not only easy to read but also makes it impossible to write an essay on the slide.
        Most people are crap at giving Powerpoint presentations but can you really blame them? It's a piece of shit that just cant compete with something like Beamer for sensible defaults. It practically begs you to do 500 slides filled with wipes, animations, walls of text, half a billion shitty Excel graphs with crappy hard to understand axes, stupid colour schemes, shitty backgrounds and walls of text and then rush through the presentation like your morning coffee was laced with methamphetamine.

        • by kiwimate (458274)

          Most people are crap at giving Powerpoint presentations but can you really blame them?

          Yes, quite easily, in much the same way as I can blame "sysadmins" who routinely give people admin access to a server because they don't know how to set up access properly. That may be the easiest way out if you don't know what you're doing; if you take a little time to understand the tool you're using, it's just as quick and easy to do it properly.

          It practically begs you to do 500 slides filled with wipes blah blah blah TLDR

          I can see why you think Powerpoint and Word make it easy to do stupid things by default. Your post is a turgid ramble with no coherent structure. If you can't wr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gaffod (939100)

        I do not understand this whole thing. The slide [msn.com] touted in your link as the epitome of what is wrong with PowerPoint slides (what does a complicated diagram have to do with presentations?) looks very useful. It illustrates many relationships between the many elements involved, and illustrates how ANSF, for example, has no effect on the economy or infrastructure or vice versa.

        Admittedly there is too much information in it, it should be split in 2 for showing institution interactions and concepts, and strength

        • by Kagura (843695)
          I think a lot of people are missing the point of the slide. While I am not the creator, I'm certain the intent was not for the slide to be used. Rather, it's probably a slide meant to be briefly shown to the audience while a presenter says, "Take a look at how complicated the decision-making process is. What seems like a small decision or action has wide-reaching implications that are difficult to predict in advance, to say the least."

          I doubt this slide was meant to be useful for longer than the ten seco
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zippthorne (748122)

          Uh..

          That slide is absolutely terrible. For one thing, it won't even be legible for anyone not doing the presentation in an IMAX theater, or at least one with individual screens. Certainly not the poorly focused SVGA projectors that seem to go hand-in-hand with it.

          Further, there's way too much information on there. People won't be paying attention to the presenter while that things up (at the IMAX presentation room, remember). They won't even be absorbing the information in it. They'll be lazily playing

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        --vocal: just talking for an hour, which is popular in many religions, and we all remember what the sermon was about last Sunday, right?

        Maybe your problem is that you're attending church, not the format. Or the speakers are speaking at you rather than to you.

        I have seen many fascinating talks like the "Never Talk to the Police" lecture on the Internet which may had 3 or 4 graphics/slides in half an hour but were never the focus of the talks for more than a few seconds to supplement the speech content. Als

      • by lahvak (69490)

        Actually, none of your three options is good by itself. In order to transfer substantial amount of information to the crowd, you need to combine all three of them. Besides, all three of the individual options can be done with PowerPoint. I have seen may talks where someone put basic outline of their talk on the screen, and then talked and talked and talked. At the end, most people remembered the outline, if anything at all. I have seen talks where the speaker had gobs and gobs of text on each slide, a

  • by Sepodati (746220) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:40PM (#33399294) Homepage

    He should have kept his rant to PowerPoint instead of basically saying he was a part of a worthless organization. You should expect to get fired in any industry when you say that to your boss or the media.

    -John

    • by Walter White (1573805) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:59PM (#33399482)

      [...] You should expect to get fired in any industry when you say that to your boss or the media.

      Who else here thinks that is exactly what he wanted. He's a Ph.D., stuck in the reserves in a sinecure job in Afghanistan. He just wants to go home.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Why do you think he will go home?

        haha, I just though of Colonial Clink and general hofstedder(?).

        General: "Clink If you disturb me one more time, I will send you to the front!"

        Clink: "Yes General hofstedder"

        Hogan: "I'll go bang your hot secretary now."

        • by sconeu (64226)

          Please, be specific.

          Hofstaeder always threatened to send Klink to the Russian front.

      • Exactly. Just like General McChrystal talking smack to Rolling Stone. These people are not idiots, folks.

    • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:03PM (#33399512)
      Not only that, he specifically called out his own position as having too many and himself as unproductive. I think any of us would get fired if we went to our boss and said: "We have WAY too many software engineers, I can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting one! And I should know, I've got nothing but time to swing dead cats around the office because I haven't been productive in TWO full months! And let me tell you, their no fucking good once you hit a software engineer with one cause the tail breaks right off. You see? I mean look at this fucking thing, what am I supposed to do with a dead cat without it's fucking TAIL?! HOW am I supposed to SWING this thing now, HUH?! Tell me that BOSS man!?!?!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      ".... basically saying he was a part of a worthless organization."

      Strawman.

      he said no such thing. He said they were using power point incorrectly.

      It's not saying you part of a worthless organization if you correct they way someone is using their weapon, or correct them when they don't file document correctly. This is no different.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        There's right ways to do that and wrong ways to do that. The military is not a democracy if your CO doesn't agree or isn't interested in listening you don't have much say in what happens. The military isn't really known for tolerating insubordination. In fact they have entire facilities and commands filled with people that thought they were smarter than the folks higher up the chain. Generally they are places which are quite unpleasant and in parts of the world which are even less desirable than combat zone
      • he said no such thing. He said they were using power point incorrectly.

        Ummmm No I have to go with the parent on this one. He practically says the words "part of a worthless organization".

        More likely it was founded to provide some general a three-star command. Starting with a small group of dedicated and intelligent officers, IJC has successfully grown into a stove-piped and bloated organization, top-heavy in rank.

        Next month IJC will attempt a giant leap for mankind. In a first-of-its-kind effort, IJC will embed a new stovepipe into an already existing stovepipe. The rationale for this bold move resides in the fact that an officer, who is currently without one, needs a staff of 35 people to create a big splash before his promotion board.

        So in other words the whole operation is just to pad resumes but serve no purpose. That is my definition of a "worthless organization".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:41PM (#33399314)

    ...Power point corrupts absolutely

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:44PM (#33399342) Homepage

    You're either with the gargantuan effort to move the drinks cabinet six inches closer to Kandahar [wikipedia.org], or you're with the terrorists.

  • Wasn't there an article on Slashdot some years ago about how the Pentagon was trying to reduce the use of PowerPoint in briefings because of the lack of information content and how they were fostering poor communications? For some reason the phrase "PowerPoint Rangers" sticks in my mind from the article. Apparently, the higher ups in the Pentagon were unsuccessful in their attempts to stave off the use of the software. This guy must have had to sit through one too many PowerPoint presentation with unneces

  • by confused one (671304) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:48PM (#33399382)
    That was good. Not surprised he was fired; but, it was definitely good.
  • I'm not sure claiming you've done absolutely nothing productive for two months is a good idea if you don't want to get fired. Nor is insulting powerpoint. If you think insulting your Commander in Chief in front of the press while in uniform is a bad idea because of HIS sway over the military you surely don't want to even CONSIDER %$#@$ing with powerpoint. Have fun watching 500 slide Army technical presentations with 40 pages of text per slide for the rest of your tour in Leavenworth.
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:49PM (#33399780)

    Our military is being wasted as an occupying army.

    In a war (a real war) the dumbass powerpointers would have their sorry asses shuttled out of the way. In Afghanistan, they're running the show. That's a sign just how messed up it is over there.

    • by blair1q (305137) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:03PM (#33399868) Journal

      They run the show in every war. The thing about Afghanistan is that it's not a war so much as an attempt to start an economy and a cultural revolution while policing random thugs.

      Which means the people at the rear don't have anything of substance to work on, and are engaged in continually statusing each other on the things they put in place years ago hoping to accomplish the mission they knew was a marathon of cyclic behaviors, not a race to beat the Rooskies to Berlin.

      It sounds like they could combine the information flows and reduce the HQ by a significant number. But unless the person on top of them does that for them, they're going to continue the status quo, making only incremental improvements, because those show up as just as many bullets on their promotion packets.

      Hopefully either Petraeus or POTUS will jump into the circle and make some changes.

    • Had PPT existed in WWII, they would have used it, too. The same problems existed then. Read Catch-22, Heller satirizes a lot of the same sorts of issues with bureaucracy in the military from 50 years ago.

  • I'm a blue-collar guy who is currently enrolled in a part-time MBA program that is designed for working adults, and the rest of them are white collar. Whenever the courses require PowerPoint, the slides flow freely and in dizzying density and volume.
    I, on the other hand, gave the best presentation of my life without a single slide, and even when I need to use them, I limit myself to 3-5 slides. Working on team projects, I often need to talk down my colleagues who think that more slides = better presentati
    • by Lifyre (960576)

      Amen, I'm military, a grad student, and I've taken public speaking classes. Power Point is a great presentation tool, however it is so easy to abuse that most people don't know how to use it. The rule of thumb we were given in my speaking class was you should have no more than 1 slide per minute of presentation. It should be used as a summary of your talking points and for posting facts so accurate notes can be taken.

      I actually use it quite extensively for click by click how-to's teaching said officers h

      • I'm really not convinced that it should be used as a summary of your talking points, either.

        I think it should be used for showing graphics. Whether those are photographic images or charts or maps, though not necessarily static graphics. Animation is ok for certain uses, if it means that less detail needs to be on the screen at any given moment.

        In short, It should be used for showing things that everyone in the room needs to see in order to discuss the topic at hand. More than that is a distraction.

  • Obligatory... (Score:3, Informative)

    by humphrm (18130) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:42PM (#33400078) Homepage

    ... Damian Conway Presentation Akido plug... if you've never caught one of his talks, you must. There isn't much info on the web, because he never releases the presentation slides (the slides should back up the speaker, not replace him/her) and only a few people have written reviews of his talk (here's one [canspice.org].

    The one thing about Damian, he practices what he preaches. In his other talks about Perl, he follows his own rules. The slides are a tool, not the focal point. You really want to listen to what he says, and the presentation screen adds some spice, but doesn't distract the listener from *him*.

  • Didn't ring true to me when I first heard it, and still doesn't now. Presentation software is only a tool, and a symptom of the real problem whatever that is. Why not bash overhead projectors, or similar displays? Or the custom of presenting slide slows? How about picking on chalk or dry erase boards? The real problem is doing a bad job of giving a lecture or holding a meeting. Meetings are frequently fingered, justifiably, as badly done and a waste of time.

  • I'm in the USAF... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeian (409916) on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:33PM (#33400352)

    ... at least once a month, I get an e-mail informing me that there's a commander's call, or some such event.

    It never actually says this in the e-mail body, though. The actual date, time, and location, is in a single-slide Powerpoint file, attached to the e-mail.

    Powerpoint isn't the problem, people's over-reliance on it is the problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oneiros27 (46144)

      Only once a month?

      In the agency I work for, we used to get noticed of meetings / workshops / retirements, etc. at least once a week that way. (Look, I can insert clip art!) Luckily, it's gone down in the last year.

      Unfortunately, my mom's a recently retired staff officer from a DoD organization, so I still get notices of newborns, holiday parties, etc, as those one-slide power point files.

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