Re: PowerPoint considered harmful (was Re: Barely literate minutes)

Keith Moore <> Sun, 02 December 2012 13:41 UTC

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Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2012 08:40:57 -0500
From: Keith Moore <>
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To: Brian E Carpenter <>
Subject: Re: PowerPoint considered harmful (was Re: Barely literate minutes)
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On 12/02/2012 03:27 AM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
> Yes. It escapes me why we would hamper ourselves by *not* using diagrams
> to explain complicated new ideas. The first time. Not the second and
> subsequent times; that's why we have proceedings.
> It also escapes me why we would hamper ourselves by not projecting lists
> of open issues. True, almost everyone has a little screen on their knee.
> Mine is usually full of jabber sessions for clashing WG meetings, the
> text currently under discussion, etc. I prefer to see the current
> discussion item on the big screen.
> We should also remember that in our community with very diverse ways
> of pronouncing the English language, the words on the big screen are
> sometimes better understood than the words spoken.
> I do agree that the ability to write new stuff on the screen in real
> time was a significant advantage of the old acetate sheet. That is
> clumsy to do with PPT.

I have no objection to using PPT to display diagrams or lists of open 
issues.  And I understand that PPT can be of aid to those (including me) 
who have trouble with understanding the diverse ways that English is 

But I still maintain that there's something about PPT and similar tools 
that tend to degrade interaction rather than facilitate it, and that 
this is tremendously damaging to the way IETF working groups conduct 
their face-to-face sessions.

For example, PPT is much better at conveying short, bulleted lists than 
diagrams.   It's tedious to draw diagrams with PPT, and I suspect, with 
most similar tools.  Most computers still have keyboards which are good 
for inputing text, but most computers don't have an input stylus for 
drawing.  And it's much more time consuming to draw adequate drawings 
with a mouse or trackpad than to draw them on acetate with a pen.

For another, PPT's ability to rearrange slides actually makes it really 
good for working out the order of things to be presented. There's 
nothing at all wrong with using PPT in that way, as long as the slides 
aren't actually projected on the screen, and the speaker doesn't feel 
compelled to follow them closely.   (The PPT files could still be made 
available for download, even in advance, thus inviting participants to 
prepare their own questions and counterpoints in advance.)

Also, there's something about PPT that seems to encourage speakers to 
attempt to capture everything that's possibly relevant to a topic, and 
thus, to fill up all available time, leaving none for discussion.

Maybe this is why the best way that I've ever discovered to use PPT is 
to help me collect my thoughts and organize them into a logical sequence 
for presentation; then to identify the points which are best conveyed by 
drawing and to incorporate those drawings into the presentation; then to 
"hide" all or almost all of the text-only slides.

If we want to work effectively, we must not let our work habits be 
dictated by newer technology, especially when older and simpler 
technology works better.   If slide projectors, sheets of acetate, and 
appropriate pens are no longer readily available, perhaps we need to 
ship large dry-erase boards and markers for those to every meeting.


p.s. I certainly acknowledge the difficulty in understanding different 
dialects of English.  But it strikes me that part of the problem is the 
high level of ambient noise in the presentation environment, resulting 
in large part from having large numbers of people in the room who aren't 
paying (much) attention and who are each generating small amounts of 
noise, say by typing on laptops, or chatting quietly with those sitting 
near them.   This is just one way that people who are just "camping out" 
in a room distract from what is going on.