July 7, 2002
11:14 PM   Subscribe

action item: explore the seamy underbelly of microsoft powerpoint. how low can you go? pretty darn low: CLICK TO ADD TITLE (a brilliant joint performance of metafilter member leslie harpold (of the hoopla 500 (yes, that hoopla)) and metafilter member michael sippey (of stating the obvious (and a metafilter proposal))).
link via textism.
posted by mlang (29 comments total)
I apologize for being dippy, but I don' geddit. Could I have a little more explanation of what is so evil, creepy, low about this?
posted by Bixby23 at 11:27 PM on July 7, 2002

  • PowerPoint
  • makes
  • Baby
  • Jesus
  • cry.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:49 PM on July 7, 2002

Bixby23, here's the backstory.
posted by mathowie at 12:10 AM on July 8, 2002

[aside]It's long been my dream to do a presentation to a group of exectuives on how Powerpoint-thinking has destroyed the spark of creativity and ability to think laterally in business, and led to a generation of drones, using Powerpoint.

Almost got away with it at my last job. Significantly, this was about the time that my new boss began attempting to separate by testicles from my body with a rusty hacksaw, which is the biggest reason that that job is now my ex-job.[/aside]

Also : this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:20 AM on July 8, 2002

Yeah, um, is it funny because it's presented in Powerpoint format? Otherwise it's just obvious. The Winona thing (didn't even check the other dude's entry) was recycled jokes from talk shows and entertainment columns and stuff. (Yet another Autumn in New York barb? Oy vey.)
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:25 AM on July 8, 2002

The uses and abuses of Powerpoint are always a touchy subject for people who value content over presentation.

See this earlier thread.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:43 AM on July 8, 2002

You should know that just opening this in Powerpoint isn't enough: you have to run it as a slideshow (F5 on PCs), then click or spacebar through it. Just in case.

The joke, ds, is exactly the banality, as that is the fodder of most PPT presentations. Or more precisely, the mindless and often cheesy dressing-up of banality.

Another data point is that mid-level management is the same everywhere -- including the Pentagon. The US Army Rangers have a creed. Mid-level officers are sometimes derided as "Powerpoint Rangers". Powerpoint is certainly entrenched as a staff tool, in ways that sound incongruous to civilians: try Operate and Employ a Claymore Mine -- which almost goes beyond parody. (Try some of the red WARNING graphs on for size. You are now qualified!) The Pentagon cracked down, supposedly, on Powerpoint briefings a while back.

And thus, the Powerpoint Ranger's Creed. I found a downloadable one on the site I linked above -- but while it was a powerpoint slideshow, the content was a series of "demotivational" posters.
posted by dhartung at 1:52 AM on July 8, 2002

"If Bush pioneered the corporate candidacy, Romney [Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate] has taken it to new heights... His replacement for [carefully scripted policy addresses]? PowerPoint.
posted by acridrabbit at 4:14 AM on July 8, 2002

forgot the endquote, sorry. That article's from the Boston Phoenix.
posted by acridrabbit at 4:15 AM on July 8, 2002

I'll never understand why people feel compelled to spend so much time bashing this particular tool, there's nothing inherently evil about it. A bad presentation is primarily the fault of the developer, not the medium used to develop it, and Powerpoint simply provides lots of ways for bad developers to indulge themselves. I don't see people bashing HTML or CSS because people use it to create crappy, low-content websites.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:22 AM on July 8, 2002

was going to say how html/css doesn't get bashed as much because it doesn't come by default with a ton of ugly/pointless templates/transitions/soundfx but that's really besides the point because people actually do bash bad websites.

besides which part of the resentment is probably (pure speculation here) because a lot of people who work building websites have probably had a boss/client say something along the lines "could you make the website exactly like this powerpoint presentation i have..."
posted by juv3nal at 6:06 AM on July 8, 2002

MrBaliHai, I think people bash the tool because, thanks to PowerPoint, bad and boring speakers are almost all bad and boring in exactly the same way.
posted by straight at 6:06 AM on July 8, 2002

Well-designed PP's that enhance a speaker's message and can also stand alone are exceptionally difficult to make on one's own. Ideally, it should be a collaborative effort between a designer, the speaker and someone distant enough from both the idea and the presentation to cast a cold eye on the proceedings to keep things in line. So often, this rarely happens. It's usually the person giving the presentation (who often doesn't fully grasp the concept of the idea itself, much less any helpful or aesthetically pleasing design skills) who creates it, alone, using the limited and limiting tools at his/her disposal, with no real impetus to improve the visual quality of the presentation.

An interesting paradox: we know it is possible for a single person to create a well-designed website with valuable content, but the people who have that valuable skill often have nothing to do with PP. Is that because their livelihoods don't call for it, or do they recognize it for the limited and limiting tool that it is?
posted by shecky57 at 6:10 AM on July 8, 2002

or do they recognize it for the limited and limiting tool that it is?

that's why people bash powerpoint, balihai: not because it's often used to make idiotic presentations, but because the design and structure of the application promote shoddy thinking. even an executive who actually has something to say will, given powerpoint, turn out a meaningless and information-free presentation.
posted by mlang at 6:25 AM on July 8, 2002

msippey's round one piece (the fbi deal) is so perfect because it demonstrates more than just powerpoint's silliness and ugliness; it illustrates exactly how powerpoint constrains one's thinking and erodes actual content.
posted by mlang at 6:33 AM on July 8, 2002

because people actually do bash bad websites

I never said that they didn't. I said that they don't bash the underlying tools that are used to create them (except Javascript and the blink tag). All tools have annoying features, whether or not you choose to use them to prop up your own lack of creativity is what separates a good developer/speaker from a bad one.

straight: I don't see your point. Are you suggesting that bad and boring speakers would somehow be more interesting if they didn't use Powerpoint and went back to transparencies on overhead projectors or something? The mind boggles.

shecky57: I design websites, CBTs, and PP presentations, as do most of the developers where I work. I don't find PP limiting, I simply think it has appropriate and inappropriate applications like any other tool.

even an executive who actually has something to say will, given powerpoint, turn out a meaningless and information-free presentation

Seems like a bit of an over-generalization to me. I have seen execs give meaningful presentations with PP. Again, I think it boils down to the creativity and presentation skills of the individual, not some inherently evil aspect of PP.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:35 AM on July 8, 2002

I said that they don't bash the underlying tools that are used to create them.

posted by mlang at 6:45 AM on July 8, 2002

I said that they don't bash the underlying tools that are used to create them (except Javascript and the blink tag).

People bash FrontPage all the time, claiming that its built-in templates promote hideous site design. (In some ways I agree: The giant navigation buttons are a crime against humanity.)
posted by rcade at 6:51 AM on July 8, 2002

FrontPage not only promotes horrible site design, but also promoted hideous and painfully broken HTML as well. As I once said on my site:

It's truly a testament to the quality of Microsoft products that Microsoft FrontPage 2000 chooses to use It's truly a testament to the quality of Microsoft products that Microsoft FrontPage 2000 chooses to use <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0"><font face="Arial" size="2">                                             </font></p> instead of <br>.
posted by Danelope at 7:04 AM on July 8, 2002

(Dammit, I tested that post twice before posting to ensure it would render properly. Regardless, the point is that frontpage inserts 45 non-breaking spaces between the font tags above. I hate you, Milkman MeFi.)
posted by Danelope at 7:06 AM on July 8, 2002

is anyone else reading the URL as DickToadTitle?
posted by Mick at 7:26 AM on July 8, 2002

"could you make the website exactly like this powerpoint presentation i have..."

I've been there, done that, and have the scars from flinging myself into busy traffic in utter despair to prove it. What's even better is when they'll go through a few rounds of revision on the PowerPoint, and with each set of changes, fax you a printout of the new version and expect you to closely examine each slide to figure out where you have to make changes to the website.... it's absolutely best when you can do this between midnight and six a.m. on a Monday in preparation for a market-opening conference call.

Ah, marketers... god bless your fluffy blonde heads.

But it's not why I think PowerPoint stinks. It stinks because people's eyes glaze over as soon as you set up the video projector. Whether that's because people are so used to seeing painfully bad PowerPoint presentations, or because a disconnect is created between what's onscreen and what you're saying, thereby making it easy to lose focus of either, why would you want to set up a barrier to people's hearing what you have to say?

If you need to show off a pie chart or whatever during your talk, something that can only be well-represented visually, go for it. But there's no excuse for taking the entirety of what may be a fine talk and compressing it into a lot of little three-bullet PowerPoint screens. If your talk contains more information than is in the PowerPoint, people will miss it as they nap between fast scans of each (if you're lucky) slide... and if your talk doesn't contain more information than is in the PowerPoint, why are you up there yammering anyway? Hint: "to show off my mad artistic PowerPoint skillz" is not an acceptable answer.
posted by Sapphireblue at 7:28 AM on July 8, 2002

I have to use PP quite a bit to create engaging presentation for young children. All the transitions, sound effects and gee whiz works really well for my audience. In fact, I am constantly coming across short comings in the programs where it does not do that stuff enough. I wish there was a better alternative for my situation, but as was pointed out, there aren't really any competing products. I am diddling around with Flash, but have not gotten as much out of it yet.
posted by piskycritter at 8:32 AM on July 8, 2002

Of course people bash Frontpage, just as many bash Dreamweaver and Golive. Doubtless someone somewhere bashes BBEdit.

The comparison – based on gadgetry used – between the web and Powerpoint is inappropriate: it’s very easy to get to the molecular structure of a web page, to work from the ground up, but no one will ever set to producing a show starting with <ppt> </ppt> tags.
there's nothing inherently evil about it.
The tools that Powerpoint puts right front and centre before authors – all the wacky transitions and distortions, all the ways to bury information in layer upon layer of gummy decoration and shrill emphasis, all the pointless tarting up – are, naturally enough, the tools that get used. It’s not a huge leap to suggest these gewgaws are designed play to an inherent fear on the part of presenters: the desperate desire not to be boring, to do something a little different. The whole point of presentations, after all, is to make an impression, and when the subject being presented to a room full of people in suits is second quarter earnings or price fluctuations in bull semen, that fear is going to rule all.

Tools and method that would help present information in a lucid, engaging way, however, are nowhere on the screen. I once guessed that someone at MS worked out a way to seed random kerning and width values into Powerpoint type, as nothing else could explain the ways it fucks up text: it’s rather as though a very impatient child were requested to fling letters into row. Add to that the shrieking bandsaw jagginess of type at any size, the near complete absence of access to typographic courtesies that have been kicking around for half a millenium, and the cheerful insistence on the part of the templates that authors abandon any sensitivity to the contrast and interoperation of tone and colour necessary to unimpeded reading, and you’ve got the makings of a mess. Several thousand times a day. Right now, even.

posted by textist at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2002

I don't see people bashing HTML or CSS because people use it to create crappy, low-content websites.

That's because those problems are a result of Flash, not HTML/CSS.
posted by anildash at 9:49 AM on July 8, 2002

I think pink is a naughty color Damn people, I think the site is meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Don't take it as some kind of insult, it's a fun endeavor to undertake seeing who can make the worst possible projects from an old overdone program. Get over it.
posted by prototype_octavius at 10:56 AM on July 8, 2002

i love powerpoint, but this:

So often, this rarely happens.

made me really happy. i'm rooting for harpold, by the way.
posted by carsonb at 12:41 PM on July 8, 2002

oh, and mlang, your parenthetical notation is breathtaking.
posted by carsonb at 12:41 PM on July 8, 2002

Not only presentations are in Powerpoint these days. The company I work for does most of it's training* in .ppt's which is baffling, considering it's delivered to us over a browser-based intranet. Wouldn't HTML/CSS or even Flash based modules be easier, both to create and to deliver? and more aesthetically pleasing?

This is not to mention the fact that most vendor reps put on a Powerpoint presentation whenever they visit, whenever we see them setting it up it's usually a cue to make a pot of coffee. The reps always seem as bored as we do, reading through their little slideshows with all the enthusiasm of a busdriver announcing local stops. They hate it, we hate it, everybody hates it except for Microsoft and the public schools around here which seem to require the kids to learn it, if my customers are any indication, thus guaranteeing more bad slideshows for generations to come.

*at the rate of about 4 or 5 modules per week, which may partially explain the depth of my antipathy
posted by jonmc at 5:51 PM on July 8, 2002

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