The dangers of PowerPoint

Every time you make a PowerPoint, Edward Tufte kills a kitten. – Mark Goetz

I picked this up as a ‘re-re-re-tweet’, and the original sleeper post from last November called “My new wallpaper” has a cool wallpaper design worthy to go onto a geeky t-shirt!

Oh, and here’s a blog post “Dilbert on PowerPoint Presentations” which collects 24 strips on the topic.

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Getting sequences right

The M*A*S*H episode “The Army-Navy Game” illustrates the importance of getting sequences right in technical writing. Blake and Trapper John are trying to defuse a bomb:

LT. COL. HENRY BLAKE (reading instructions)
And carefully cut the wires leading to the clockwork fuse at the head.

TRAPPER JOHN (cuts the wires)

LT. COL. HENRY BLAKE
But first, remove the fuse.

The rights of the reader

Some lighter fare today from Daniel Pennac. The French novelist formulated “10 Rights of the Reader”, plus one warning. They are aimed at readers and writers of fiction, but no doubt readers of documentation take several of these liberties, too:

2. The right to skip.
3. The right not to finish a book.
8. The right to dip in.

Find all of the rights on a cool poster by illustrator Quentin Blake, available as a PDF from Walker Books. For more about the “bill of reader’s rights”, check out the review in the British Guardian.

Two things to know about art and process

Know how to start. And when to stop.

– Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, p. 207.

In her book, Tharp comes to terms with creative processes. Yet this particular insight applies also to successful processes. (And I don’t mean knowing when you’re deadline is…) It translates directly to Steve McConnell’s power of process: Know to start with some “thrashing”, i.e., unproductive work. And know to stop before trashing and project efforts drown out any productive work you might achieve.

To read up on Steve McConnell’s ideas, see his article “Power of Process“.

I first heard about McConnell and how he’s relevant for tech writers in ITauthor’s blog post “It’s not about writing … it’s about shipping“.

Not having way…

“Some people have a way with words….some people….not have way.”
Steve Martin in Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life