07 January 2010

On Powerpoint (again)

I have to control myself, as Jason Sigger and Matt Yglesias have both posted articles regarding the military's abuse of PowerPoint--most notably the tendency to over-simplify complex topics into slides which have the intellectual impact of cartoons. This latest round of anti-PowerPoint sentiment comes hot on the heels of Major General Michael Flynn's critique of the intelligence community in Afghanistan. Says Maj. Gen. Flynn:

The format of intelligence products matters. Commanders who think PowerPoint storyboards and color-coded spreadsheets are adequate for describing the Afghan conflict and its complexities have some soul searching to do. Sufficient knowledge will not come from slides with little more text than a comic strip. Commanders must demand substantive written narratives and analyses from their intel shops and make the time to read them. There are no shortcuts. Microsoft Word, rather than PowerPoint, should be the tool of choice for intelligence professionals in a counterinsurgency.
Whenever this topic comes up, I feel like I'm a shark that just smelled a drop of blood in the water, and I wind up ranting and raving. To protect my sanity, I'll just direct you to Jason and Matt, who have an excellent summary, as well as some classic anti-PowerPoint rants:

Me in Small Wars Journal--includes a reply from Admiral JC Harvey of the US Navy

And so forth and so on. Most of these articles contain great links as well, so check them out. Honestly, I'd write more on this topic, but I think quite a bit of it has been done before.


Gulliver said...

I sent the Yglesias people your way, as well as linking to Hammes, SWJ, and Schmedlap. HTH.

(Oh, and belated happy birthday!)

Starbuck said...

Thanks, dude!

Starbuck said...

By the way, while I was writing that article for SWJ, TX Hammes published his PPT article in AFJ.

I cursed because he wrote an excellent article and beat me to the punch ;)

So, in all honesty, his came first...

A.E. said...

Well, you can still one-up Hammes. Do...a powerpoint presentation about reflector belts!