hypnotizing chickens

Great cover story at the NYT on Powerpoint:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti. …“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

Reminds me of a great essay by Edward Tufte I bought a few years back on the topic of how shitty Powerpoint is:

Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?
UPDATE: Tufte on the topic of his Powerpoint essay (Wired.com, Sept 2003)

April 27th

Here’s some events that happened on April 27th:

  • 1124 – David I becomes King of Scots.
  • 1773 – The Parliament of Great Britain passes the Tea Act, designed to save the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on the North American tea trade.
  • 1810 – Beethoven composes his famous piano piece, Für Elise.
  • 1941 – World War II: German troops enter Athens.
  • 1977 – Designer Michael Mulvey emerges from his mother’s womb after a 24-hour labor
  • 1981 – Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse.

The Peter Principle

from Wikipedia:

It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions.

the Japanese Hate/Love the iPhone

Brian Chen for Wired GadgetLab, 26 Feb 2009, Why the Japanese Hate the iPhone:

What’s wrong with the iPhone, from a Japanese perspective? Almost everything: the high monthly data plans that go with it, its paucity of features, the low-quality camera, the unfashionable design and the fact that it’s not Japanese.

Bloomberg Businessweek, 23 April 2010:

Apple Inc.’s iPhone shipments to Japan more than doubled in the past year, capturing 72 percent of the country’s smartphone market, a research firm said.

Granted, some of the missing items from the 3G iPhone Chen mentioned in the Wired article were subsequently added to the 3GS — like MMS messaging, a better camera and video recording — but the Wired article was still way off-base.

Ignorance is also bigger in Texas

From the NYTimes:

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.


Jay Parkinson’s Awesomeness Manifesto:

The vast majority of companies — in my research, greater than 95% — can only create what I have termed thin value. Thick value is real, meaningful, and sustainable. It happens by making people authentically better off — not merely by adding more bells and whistles that your boss might like, but that cause customers to roll their eyes.

Heed to Design.

Tufte on WP7

Edward Tufte on Windows Phone 7:

The WP7S interface has an extra sequence/layer added by big-button opening screens for the new ways of organizing stuff. Compared to the IPhone, most of the WP7S organizing screens have lower content resolution, which violates flatness and leads to hierarchical stacking and temporal sequencing of screens. In day-to-day use, maybe the panorama screens will solve the stacking/sequencing problem, or maybe they will just clutter up the flow of information. Of course Microsoft’s customers are already familiar with deep layerings and complex hierarchies.

I thought similar things when I watched a handful of demos of the new Windows mobile OS. It’s definitely different, un-iPhone, for lack of a better term, but not different in a good way.
It looks like a shell for an eventual mobile operating system, a working wireframe if you will.
On this note, Tufte nails it on the flatness and confusing ‘openness’:

The WP7S screens look as if they were designed for a slide presentation or for a video demo (to be read from a distance) and not for a handheld interface (read from 20 inches). For example, the headline type is too big, too spacious. One design lesson here is that most interface design work should be done at actual final scale and all internal demos should be on actual hardware rather than on pitch slides or big monitor screens. After all, users see the interface only at actual size, and so should interface designers, their managers, and so on up the management chain.

The Goldman Bubble

This piece by Matt Taibbi on Rollingstone.com makes me feel angry and helpless:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.