What a start

June 18, 2010

Well our holiday has started on a… hmmm, interesting note.  Not too far away from home Adele (my wife) bit out a tooth.  “What did she have?” you may ask.  A nice soft Jelly Tot… Go figure. The tooth did give problems in the past and it clearly wanted more attention…

Nevertheless we had a great picnic lunch at Storms River and set forth on the last half of the trip. On the toll road we hit a ridge in the road where they are doing some repairs…  Well, something has gone wrong as my trailer came loose; the safety pin clearly could not hold the stress…  It was quiet a distressing sight: seeing my trailer putting up a massively impressive spark show, then loosing direction and somersaulting into the bushes like a well-trained gymnast…

Well a passerby helped me turn it back on its wheels, and nothing was so broken that we could not drive (without lights since the electrics got torn off…)

Well, we did the rest of the trip safely, heart-broken about the soccer. The kids, however, managed to take our attention sufficiently away from that by flooding the bathroom… Well what do say things happen in threes: the mother (Tooth), the father(Trailer), the kids (Tap) all had a turn yesterday…

And so does our holiday start… with a bang, just like holidays must 🙂


return of the agenda slide…

June 16, 2010

In a previous post I rambled about agenda slides potentially killing your audience. As usual, the context of this statement matters.  For presentations that lasts hours, workshops that run over days, etc. some more guidance on the agenda might be necessary.  In a flexible environment the agenda could be hyperlinks to possible discussion points… However, in my 20-30 minute research presentation a too loaded “agenda” does just not make sense.

I am currently reading “The craft of Scientific Presentations” by Michael Alley and has been reminded of my promise to do another redesign of my “agenda slide” by their discussion of what is called in the book “Presentation Outline” (p. 143). So I’ve spent a couple of  minutes working on version 3 of the agenda slide.

The words can stay the same as previously (repeated here)

“Have you ever felt bored in a presentation? Well today we are going to investigate this further. We will answer the question “Why are the audience bored?”.  I, <John Doe>,  and my supervisor, Prof Way Too Sharp> have qualitatively studied boredom in audiences, so today we are going to share with you: <why people say they get bored> and <what we observed in observed audiences>. I will conclude by sharing with you the <lesson that we’ve learned> by providing some <guidelines> for delivering better talks”.

Notice the following on the example slide:

  • The title doesn’t state the obvious; instead it states the IMPORTANT, which question this presentation address
  • The three main sections of the presentation is presented from left to right
  • Pictures that relate to the keywords of each section are given provide visual interest. (actually the really blue eyes might not be ideal as it draws one’s glance too much as its rather exceptional)
  • Keywords are highlighted and presented in a different color to draw some attention to key concepts.

I guess few people would try and argue for version 1 of the agenda slide…  (rather odd though how many people one sees doing it the version 1 way…). Lets remind ourselves of the progression…

The choice of picture can be challenging and time-consuming. However, it can also be time very effectively spent as the same “picture” could be used to visually link the various parts of the presentation. Bonus!

What is your objection to this way of doing? I guess the most heard ones are I don’t have time, or I don’t have the graphical skills. As an end to this post let’s quickly take a look at these.

I don’t have enough time…  well clearly your ideas is not important to you… I mean you don’t have to sell your ideas to the audience…

I don’t have the graphical skills…  ok, maybe your slide will not look as if its been done by a graphical artist (neither do mine), but there are some simple guidance one can follow to speak a better visual language.  Anybody’s slides can look at least like version 3 here…  afterall I made that one, and my art background is nil. All skills that you too can learn!

What do you think?

Having a clear vision?

June 14, 2010

Paging again through Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick”, I was reminded of the need to have a clear vision.

They reminded me of the speech made by John F Kennedy in May 1961 to a special session of the USA Congress. Of course this is the infamous speech where he asked for funding for the space program that eventually lead to putting a man on the moon. After addressing some other strategic issues he ended his speech in the following way:

(03:02) “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth…
(04:02) it will not be one man going to the moon, if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there”

(for some reason wordpress don’t like me embedding the player, so click through to hear the recorded speech)

Can it be clearer?

In the book the Heath brothers compare this message to if JFK had been a modern-day CEO.  Maybe, he might have said (quoted from p.21 of Made to Stick):

“Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace iniatives”

Hmmm, need I say more…  Don’t think so.

Well, you might not be developing mission and vision statements for the USA, or even for your company, or even for your department. BUT you need a vision statement of your own, one for yourself…


At this point I have to confess my own vision and mission is pretty blurry…  maybe I’ve been under the influence of too many typical-of-today vision and mission statements…

Well, officially I am on leave… maybe its an excellent time to think about a personal vision…

Do you have a simple, clear, consumer-friendly personal vision? Please, why don’t you share it with me and the rest of the world in the comments

World Cup fever

June 11, 2010


Can you feel it?

The World Cup is here! If you can’t feel it, you are either not in South Africa or you lost all your senses.  I need to start with a disclaimer: I am not traditionally a soccer fan, in fact a year ago I knew nothing about the game. Well, I still know little… But I can smell it, I can see it, I can feel it!

So in the spirit I though a soccer post on the first day of World Cup would be in order. Of course being me I needed to take a somewhat geeky look at it 🙂

Here it goes…

Read the rest of this entry »

programming history infographic

June 9, 2010

If you are into programming, you should find its history fascinating. I found an infographic trying to depict the history of programming It features the pioneers in the field of programming, along with the history and current statistics of various programming languages. Also included are some random facts and algorithm diagrams to make the infographic more visually appealing.

Download the full-sized image here. (JPEG Image, 1200×3000 pixels)

If you are into making nice diagrams you could probably learn something from designing infographics by reading the discussion on how it was made here.

Displaying data: Bar charts

June 7, 2010

So you have a mountain of data and you want to display it?  Don’t quite know what to use? Do not despair, in the future i have decided to dedicate at least one post a week, maybe more sometimes, on “Displaying data”.  Today I want to share a couple of thoughts on bar charts.

Read the rest of this entry »

not quite an Easter Egg… but hilarious

June 6, 2010

Easter eggs are “features” built into programs for the fun. Often you find some of them in the About boxes in programs. Now this screen is not an Easter Egg, since it has nothing to do with Google, but is a very interesting, and in my nerdish opinion, hilarious exploit of the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button of Google.

On the Google home screen, type “Where is Chuck Norris” and then hit “I’m feeling Lucky“.  The page above pops up. ROFLMAO.

Of course what happens is rather simple.  The “I’m Feeling Lucky” button of course brings up the first page in the list Google returns.  http://www.nochucknorris.com/ happens to be the first, so the result “looks” as if it coming from Google.

Well done! – and keep working on getting first when just typing Chuck Norris, unfortunately this does not work 😦

Credit: Thanks to @MaleHuman for retweeting @HilzFuld… It brought more than a smile to my face.