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...PowerPoint.

As the article says "NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex information via PowerPoint, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing PowerPoint slide -- so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle. ''It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation,'' the board sternly noted."

(Apologies, but the New York Times URI will time out after a week or so, when they move old information into their unfriendly pay-for archive.)

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
dmw
Dec. 14th, 2003 06:06 am (UTC)
You might be interested in Edward Tufte's writings, in particular this and this and this.
sclerotic_rings
Dec. 21st, 2003 10:04 am (UTC)
If it's any consolation, NASA apparently picked up this foul habit from the United States Armed Forces. Back three years ago, I remember reading an article about how the Army and Navy in particular had gone mad with ridiculous PowerPoint presentations. In particular, far too many ambitious majors and lieutenant colonels looked at PowerPoint as the only way to get attention during briefings and strategy meetings, so one lieutenant general at the Pentagon took things into his own hands and flat-out banned PowerPoint at his meetings. According to the report, several of those majors literally started to cry: they had spent months working on these PowerPoint presentations, and had forgotten how to condense the information they'd gathered in a form that could be explained in two sentences or less.

Speaking as someone who both spent time in the Army and understands better than you'll know about the slick trap PP presents, and as a poor technical writer who found that his audience of MBAs and upper managers couldn't keep up with status reports unless they came with pretty animated pictures, I don't see it getting better any time soon. One thing's for certain: if I ever run a business, PowerPoint will only be allowed for use by those who actually know how to live without it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )