This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
I remember reading in "The Agony and the Ecstacy" about Michelangelo causing massive failures because his art was so "realistic". Other artists attempted to simulate this realism only to mess it up. The author argued that Michelangelo's study of the body through a key to the morgue allowed him to draw the bodies much more accurately than those who had never seen the muscles under our skin.
Power point shows can be wonderful things. A few zips and you can make a really impressive show that wows a client and gets them to sign a check. A person watching the show says "Wow, I could do that" and proceeds to create his own. More is always better. Suddenly you have the most obnoxious show on the planet, and the show apparently everyone has seen. The tool (power point) wasn't the problem. It was the idiot creating the show.
I got to move some logs down a hill this weekend. We couldn't get a truck up there so we cut the pieces to the lengths I wanted and we hauled them down the hill. The first one we dragged. Not a great experience. We go my hand cart and tied it to one end of the logs and pickep up the other. It worked, but was still a lot of effort. We went back to the garage to see if we could rig something better. We converted a two wheeled wheel barrow into a log hauler. We balanced the log onto the cart and then walked it down the hill. It required a little effort, but not much. I suppose I could have come up with some other method of hauling the logs. I could have used different tools. The tool did what I needed it to do. It got the logs down the hill with little damage to the logs or the slowly eroding road.
Use the tools you have, but try and use them as effectively as you can.
You might like to look at:
I have a hammer at home. I use it to do a variety of tasks. I pound nails into wood, pry nails from wood, unbend nails, pry boards apart, break glass, and a variety of other tasks. It has unwittingly done a variety of other things, including making my finger black and blue, and creating a heat sink an innappropriate times. Use it well and it does amazing things, use it carelessly and you get out what you put in.
Anyone saying that PP causes bad analysis is ignoring the underlying problem, engineers performing poor anyalysis. You can blaim Excel for the mass of moronic charts currently in the media or you can recognize that the education of the individuals using excel is bereft.
I like to play golf. I have watched more than a few "gadgets" come on the market: Chippers, oversized putters, offset irons, among many others. Each can do the job it is designed to do, but invariably the golfers start having the same difficulty with the "gadget" club that they had before. It is not the tool that is at fault but the user of that tool who fails to understand how it should be used.
Why on gods green earth I am defending a Microsoft Product, I don't know.
Power Point is a tool. It is a tool that is used very badly, very often. That doesn't mean that if you rid yourself of Power Point that suddenly people will start doing good analysis.
May the gods of Open Source strike me dead for defending this miserable product.
I can't consider myself a great engineer. When I read articles like these, I wonder if I wouldn't start carrying around a big fat Throttleman control stick.
Time for another analogy.
There is a casualty in Naval Nuclear Propulsion called the Steam Overdemand. It is possible on a Naval ship to cause nasty things (like the reactor shutting down) to happen by sneaking up on boundaries. If a throttleman very slowly continues to open the steam line feeding the turbines that drive the ship, it is possible to cause either a Partial Fast Insertion or a Scram of the reactor. The solution to this potential source of PIA is to utilize the Throttleman Calibration Stick, otherwise known as the side of your hand, a ruler or any other stick that can reach the throttleman to chastise him for not paying attention to his duty.
We need a lot more sticks in Engineering Disciplines.
Anytime you use Chartsmanship, WHACK!
Anytime you draw pretty pictures to prove you point, WHACK!
Anytime you use PP to perform analysis, WHACK!
I often try and teach using tools like PP, Excel, and Word to do things other than what was initially intended, but that is to make the point that all of them are just tools that can be bent to your will. It is your job as the user to get the tool to do the proper job. You use Excel as a word processor, but it isn't idea. You can use word as a calculator, but it is silly to do so. Understanding what different tools can do lets you accomplish tasks that you wouldn't otherwise have thought possible. It is absolutely vital though that the person using the tool be cognizant of what he is doing. If he is not, it doesn't matter what tool he uses, he will FUBAR it.
I apologize for using profanity again.
Hopefully having conversations with yourself isn't an indication of the onset of insanity.
I retract my negative endorsement of power point as an analysis tool.
I realized this morning that PP has a simple drawing package tied to it that allows the simple creation of FREE BODY DIAGRAMS.
Oddly, you could do the same in Word, Excel, AutoCad, MiniCad, MacDraft, FreeHand, Photoshop, Illustrator, Alibre, SketchUP (Now free from google), and probably a thousand other apps.
Of course you could also use an Engineering Pad, then scan in the resultant drawing to send to your coworkers on the other side of the world.
There are an infinite number of paths to any destination. There are two types of wrong paths -- one that doesn't get you to the destination and one that does get you there but only because you managed to step over the gaping chasm in the road that you didn't see.
The greatest guide we have to avoiding those chasms is the experience of those who have gone before us.
p.s. I really do feel sane. I swear.
Brad, I would like to point out that there are two types of correct paths to any destination: An elegant method, and a brute force method. Certainly a canned drawing program can give you an elegant method of getting to the destination of presenting information. But, it can be just as valid to place a blank sheet of overhead projector film onto the overhead projector, and sketch out a diagram freehand in black ink.
If, indeed, the medium is the message, it can be much more effective to use such a brute force method. Instead of the audience being taught something, and passively sitting and absorbing, the crude sketch can be a powerful tool that grabs the attention by focusing on what is most important in the data. Now a true discussion can arise, based upon that data, rather than the data being overwhelmed by the accoutrements of the presentation.
A truly skillful presentation, with beautiful graphics and music and colors, can quickly mask bad data and interpretation, especially when the audience is uneducated. A simple presentation must have good data, good interpretation, and good mastery of the subject matter.
You are sane. I swear.