I really hope the goal of Edward Tufte’s article in the latest Wired was to whack a beehive, since he certainly succeeded there.  The same mentality is behind the recent lawsuits blaming McDonald’s for obesity.  I’m waiting for next month’s guest commentary that blames Excel for the Enron fiasco.  I find it even more interesting that the majority of blogtraffic I’ve seen is about this article, while there’s very little attention being paid to David Byrne’s article on working with PowerPoint.   

This makes me feel like we’re in OtherWorld – the artists and musicians like Microsoft’s software, while the number crunchers don’t.  Weird…

There’s been a lot of buzz about the story that ran in Wired with the sensationalist titled that “PowerPoint is evil”. I won’t link to it since I think the story is silly. PowerPoint is a tool as are word processors, spreadsheets, page layout programs and other productivity software applications. Most of these apps are enabling in a powerful way. Word processors help make good writes better writers, spreadsheets relieve the drudgery of modeling on paper and page layout tools automate processes in seconds that would take hours by hand. Word processors don’t make bad writers good ones, Page layout software doesn’t make the aesthetically challenged artistic nor will a spreadsheet generate valid models from bad algorithms and assumptions. Likewise PowerPoint won’t make someone un-schooled in the art of presenting a good presenter nor will it make a bad presentation better. Like most tools, if you master the fundamentals, these tools can enhance your productivity but if you don’t they can actually make you look worse than you are.

Steve Jobs once called personal computers bicycles for the mind. The comparison being that humans don’t rank high in terms of locomotive efficiency. In fact, in the animal kingdom, we rank pretty low. If you measure a human with a bicycle, however, you get another story and we rise to the top of the food chain. Likewise with PCs and their abilities to expand on the talents we have. But like the analogy, you get the efficiency of using one if you learn how to ride. PowerPoint isn’t evil and isn’t responsible for bad presentations, poorly trained people are.

[Microsoft Monitor]