Death by PowerPoint – yet another perspective

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Many people have noted how annoying it is to go to a meeting and experience the well-know ‘death by Powerpoint’ phenomenon.

But one person who’s made the argument most excellently is Peter Norvig, when he put the Gettysburg Address on PowerPoint.

This simple action encapsulates all of the arguments against Powerpoint so powerfully.

How much less inspiring the Gettysburg Address is in this medium. How much less is it a call to future action. Indeed, ‘how much less’ sums up the Powerpoint version of this famous speech.

We are in real danger of allowing technology to obscure and not enhance our ability to communicate as humans.

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2004 Commencement Yale Class Day Speech, by Ken Burns

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Ken Burns makes some excellent points in this speech, I’ve picked out some highlights – click here to see the entire text (in PDF).

Now more than ever we in the western world should heed speakers like this. Ken speaks of a United States that has inspired many over the years. It would be a pity to see the US become that which it hates, forgetting it’s history and what has made it a great nation.

Nothing could be more dangerous than this arrogant belief, brought on and amplified as it is by a complete lack of historical awareness among us, and further reinforced by a modern media, cloaked in democratic slogans, but dedicated to the most stultifying kind of consumer existence, convincing us to worship gods of commerce and money and selfish advancement above all else.

Now we are poised to fight that war again, and perhaps again and again, this time culturally, where the threat is fundamentalism wherever it raises its intolerant head. The casualties this time will be our sense of common heritage, our sense of humor, our sense of balance and cohesion. The ultimate stakes, though, are just as great as those Abraham Lincoln faced–the Union and very survival of our country.
* * * * *
So, I ask those of you graduating tomorrow, male or female, black or white or brown or yellow, young or old, straight or gay, to become soldiers in a new Union Army, an army dedicated to the preservation of this country’s great ideals, a vanguard against this new separatism and disunion, a vanguard against those who, in the name of our great democracy, have managed to diminish it.
* * * * *
So what do we make of all this? Let me speak directly to the graduating class. (Watch out, here comes the advice.)

As you pursue your goals in life, that is to say your future, pursue your past. Let it be your guide. Insist on having a past and then you will have a future.

Do not descend too deeply into specialism in your work. Educate all your parts. You will be healthier. Replace cynicism with its old-fashioned antidote, skepticism.

Don’t confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren, who taught here at Yale for many years, once told me that “careerism is death.”

Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit Yellowstone or Yosemite or Appomattox, where our country really came together. Whatever you do, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Listen to jazz music, the only art form Americans have ever invented, and a painless way, Wynton Marsalis reminds us, “of understanding ourselves.”

Give up addictions. Try brushing your teeth tonight with the other hand. Try even remembering what I just asked you.

Insist on heroes. And be one.

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all — not the car, not the TV, not the computer, I promise.

Write: write letters. Keep journals. Besides your children, there is no surer way of achieving immortality. Remember, too, there is nothing more incredible than being a witness to history.

Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Convince your government that the real threat comes from within, as Lincoln said. Governments always forget that. Do not let your government outsource honesty, transparency, or candor. Do not let your government outsource democracy. Steel yourselves. Steel yourselves. Your generation will have to repair this damage. And it will not be easy.

Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country — they just make our country worth defending.

Do only, as Emerson suggests, whatever “inly rejoices.” Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means, “God in us.” Remember, most of all, that only love multiplies.
Ken Burns – Walpole, New Hampshire

From: 
Yale Office of Public Affairs

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More on Telstra & Pair Gain …

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The more I find out about this the more annoying it is … It has been a year since this was written, but NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN THE PAST YEAR!

This Week in Asia Pac – A pair in the line is no gain Written by Darryl Nelson, June 2003

Australia’s broadband infrastructure just can’t get the tangle out of the line. A report this week suggests that some 30 percent of customers wanting ADSL are frozen out, not least because of pair gain technology, while another says the cost of cleaning up the mess will be A$2bn. The first report states:

‘A senior executive at one of Telstra’s leading wholesale customers, who asked not to be named, said that Telstra had promised the company so-called “failure rates” – or customers unable to get the ADSL for technical or distance reasons – no higher than 10-15 per cent of all users.

The executive said: “We are experiencing failure rates of over 30 per cent.”

Reasons for failure rates tend to relate to the architecture of Telstra’s copper network and the distance customers live from a Telstra exchange.’

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Australia is a Broadband Backwater

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Daniel’s points are all too true! Australia is a broadband backwater and it is all due to the incompetence of Telstra. They have a number of practices that have worked against take-up of these solutions. So much for the clever country?

Daniels Blog:

It says that by 2008 only 13% of Australians will have broadband.
It’s not surprising really, Telstra can’t even ADSL enable my 3 year old estate that is less than 20 km from the CBD of a major city. The report by IDC sites a service in France: ‘consumers could get a bundled service offering free phone calls, 2Mbps ADSL and TV ‘for about a third of the price of what you could get in Australia’

I think the root of the problem is simply Telstra. It should never have been privatized, now instead of providing a community service, it is concerned with meeting shareholders expectations. Instead of ADSL enabling my housing estate which would have taken a long time to repay the outlay, Telstra opt for the minimum requirement of just ensuring basic telephone services.

Most Australian’s don’t really understand why geeks and IT professionals hate Telstra so much, some of our friends think that I’m being totally unreasonable when I say that Telstra has made Australia a primitive technological nation. What these people don’t usually see is the high cost of basic services (how often does Telstra put up your phone bill?), the late adoption of services and poor customer service. “

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ALP Politics in Australia Getting Weirder …

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Just when you think politics here is settling down to the usual pre-election party favour handout phase someone somewhere does something entertaining.

This last week it has been the adoption of ex Midnight Oil front-man and sometime greenie, Peter Garrett, as an ALP candidate for a safe federal seat in Sydney. As a person who has always appeared quite idealistic it will be interesting to see what happens with Mr Garrett as the ALP party machine does its thing.

Will he hold up to the pragmatism (a.k.a. ‘moral vacuum’) that is party politics, or will he snap? I do hope it goes better than last time they co-opted someone (does anyone remember Cheryl Kernot?)

One thing is certain, Peter Garrett, with his past as a rockstar who made a variety of ‘alternative lifestyle’ choices, is bound to remain popular with the media and entertain many of us over the next little while!

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John Howard, Australia and the United States

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I keep wondering when John Howard will go to the next logical step?

First we became the deputy sheriff for the US in Asia, then we went to war by their side in Afghanistan and Iraq, now we are making a free trade agreement with them.

Surely the next logical step is Australia becoming a US state. Perhaps then we could remove some layers of government here?

For example, we could abolish the state governments and turn the Australian federal government into another US state government. It’s not such a silly idea really!

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5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: some interesting ideas for the ambitious person

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Found this site in my wanderings the other day when I was supposed to be studying for an exam. It is based on a book called The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers by James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith and more info can be found at www.5patterns.com.

The basic premise of this book is that people who have extraordinary careers display some common patterns:

  1. Understand the Value of You
  2. Practice Benevolent Leadership
  3. Overcome the Permission Paradox
  4. Differentiate Using the 20/80 Principle of Performance
  5. Find the Right Fit (Strengths, Passions & People)

There are some really good ideas here and a quiz you can do to see if your career will be “extraordinary”. Personally I’m always up for a quiz!

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More on getting ADSL in Sydney – evil Telstra still trying to stop me

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The next installment in my continued quest to obtain late 20th century broadband access in the 21st century …

Phoned Telstra and was advised “you have pair gain there is nothing that can be done”. They essentially told me to go away and stop bothering them.

Wrote email to Justin Milne, Managing Director, BigPond (Telstra internet department) asking why I cannot get modern technology when I live in the largest city in Australia.

So far no response, but did a little research & found a great site that explains some of the ways to keep up th fight. It is on the dataco.com.au web site Telstra :

When NO can mean YES. I’ll be trying some of these suggestions and will track my progress here.

In the meantime, I’ve also discovered a lot of people who hate Telstra, this includes (but is not limited to:

RESULT: As soon as the wireless networks that do not rely on Telstra come of age I will be an early adopter. Telstra is a business that ignores their customer’s needs & as such they will become a dinosaur – we may just find Telstra’s fossilized remains in the not too distant future?

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MBA – still value for money?

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The other day a friend who has just completed an MBA from a prestigious university was disconsolate to read an article by Tim Dodd in the Australian Financial Review (AFR, 17 May 2004) titled “MBAs are losing their cachet”.

Dodd argued that employers prefer people whose postgraduate studies were in a specialised field rather over a generalist MBA. This is all well and good, but I am fascinated by the idea that any pedagogical activity at all occurs in a management school, specialised degree or not.

Based on my own experience you can earn reasonable marks based upon judicious quotes from the Harvard Business Review and a day or two of swot before the exams. And do not get me started on the idea of ‘syndicate groups’. These are supposed to approximate team work in the real world.

But, in fact, they approximate the worst of all possible worlds. In syndicate groups no one can hear you scream!

Syndicate groups do not approximate work as there is no hierarchy underlying the exercise & no external definition of verities. Thus it is truly an exquisitely painful experience – there is the mismatch between people early in their degree and those who just want to end it all, not to mention those with children and full time jobs.

All in all postgraduate management studies are a good thing to have in one’s past!

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