Wednesday, March 12, 2014

slidedocs

In my workshops, we often discuss the challenge that arises when the communication you're creating is meant to be both 1) projected or handed out in a live presentation, as well as 2) sent as a follow up for those who attended to refer back to, or to fill in those who weren't able to attend the presentation. In an ideal world, these would be two separate work products. In reality, however, this often gives rise to what Nancy Duarte calls the slideument, a single document that is meant to address both needs.

The problem, of course, is that by trying to meet too many needs at once, the slideument doesn't address any of them perfectly. If you're interested in my further pontification on the topic and some thoughts on how to address the challenges that arise with the slideument, you check out this blog post.

My interest was piqued when I saw that Nancy Duarte recently introduced a new concept for using slides, which she has termed Slidedocs. The description on her site describes slidedocs as "a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected." The FastCo Design article written about Duarte's slidedocs is titled "Book Written Entirely in Power Point Aims to Reinvent How Businesses Communicate" (article).



With my busy schedule this week, I haven't had a chance to give the 150 page doc more than a cursory review. But rather than wait until I have more time to consume and reflect before sharing, I figured I'd post this now and gather your inputs. What do you think? Will this revolutionize the way we communicate? Leave a comment with your thoughts. I'll add mine once I have a chance to look more closely at the detail.

7 comments:

  1. I like the quotes from a few of the execs about meetings and the traditional PowerPoint presentation. Both Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) have interesting approaches to taking a deeper dive into the content, and making the meeting more of a discussion. It would be interesting to know how other companies approach this.

    I don't know if this will revolutionize how we communicate, but it's a great resource for thinking beyond the traditional PowerPoint. With a lot of great tips for structure and design.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I love the idea, but page/slide 114 ("This slidedoc used to be ugly") highlights some of the challenges faced by those of us who are content creators but not trained in design.

    Duarte notes: "My design skills are limited. I focus on copy first, then find visuals so designers can see what I'm trying to communicate, and then they do their magic."

    That said, I will definitely refer to it as I continually try to improve my content delivery. (And, it was nice to be reminded that Nancy Duarte has a team helping her, and isn't just producing all of this on her own!)

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  3. Hello Cole,

    one small remark at the beginning: I'm no native english speaker. So if something sounds or looks weird, it is not intended and just me struggling with grammar.

    Okay, here's my opinion. I'll have a few quotes from the Duarte Document and my own comment.

    "It’s time for a new medium — a medium that retains presentation software’s ability to seamlessly integrate graphics and words—and quickly travel throughout organizations." (Page 6)
    This already exists for several decades. It's called brochure and is a combination of little text, nicely formated together with graphics and diagrams.
    Interestingly, this format also leads to cognitive ease which keeps your mind from questioning what it currently reads (see http://twobenches.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/cognitive-ease-and-cognitive-strain/ or chapter 5 in "thinking, fast and slow" from D. Kahneman).
    So the message here is: We need a new medium to stop people from actually thinking about our work and instead just spread coloured, nicely-formatted nonsense.

    "Presentation software can be a great publishing tool. The ability to integrate words, visuals, and other interactive elements like hyperlinks and video are a few of the key attributes of a slidedoc." (Page 23)
    Unfortunately, presentation software can also be a terrible writing and thinking tool. When thinking and writing, you want continuity and a flow of logic. So if people start to actually write something in Powerpoint, this will lead to seriously debunked flow of thought, a lot of formatting stupidity and errors in thinking since slides seriously hinder the editing, creating and realigning of thoughts and logic.
    There's a nice Edward Tufte quote from his "PowerPoint does rocket science" article here (http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB): "The rigid slide-by-slide hierarchies, indifferent to content, slice and dice the evidence into arbitrary compartments, producing an anti-narrative with choppy continuity.". While Nancy Duarte does not actually comment on the creation and preparation of reports here, I fear a lot of people will just do that in PowerPoint as well.
    So please, please never use PowerPoint as a writing tool to prepare an article or a document (or even to plan and draft a presentation).

    ... ...

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  4. ... (continued)

    "Believe it or not, this is the same material as the “before” example on the previous page. It’s colorful and broken into smaller, more digestible chunks of information." (Page 32)
    Believe it or not, but the makeover is an excellent example for completely stupid infographic pXXn. Please have a small look at the the original pages on page 31 and consider what you might LEARN and REMEMBER when taking 10 minutes to study them. And now consider the same for the colorful nonsense on page 32-34. Actually, I'd even like to question if the graphics used are matching the text. Based on a short look at the Wikipedia article, the Cat's Eye Nebula (right picture on page 33) is probably what's left from a supernova which occured around 1000 years ago (which does not match the description "during the supernova..."). So as an addition to breaking the flow and continuity, they are also spreading false and debunked information.
    Graphics and visualization are supposed to enrich data and allow comparisons and links in the data otherwise not possible. They are not supposed to distract the reader or convey a distorted, incorrect impresion (which clearly happens here).

    "It goes without saying that your slidedoc should have a point, but you’d be surprised by how many pieces of communication (from e-mail all the way to full-length books) are distributed without the author ever thinking, “What exactly am I trying to do here?” " (Page 40)
    Meaning: People are publishing stuff withouth thoroughly thinking it through everywhere, so you can do too.

    I'll stop at this point. My blood pressure has significantly gone up and the sun is shining outside so there is probably a better way to spend my time anyways.

    Personally, i enjoy well-written books, articles and blogposts very much (all without the fancy "slidedoc" formatting). Also, in many cases, presentations have helped me a lot to understand difficult and complex concepts a lot faster than any slidedoc (or whatever) would have me allowed to.
    I don't mind having a well-written article also formatted nicely in a consistent and easy-to-understand theme. However, the process should always be like this:
    Obligatory: Write a decent, thoughtful and correct article. Revise.
    Optional: Add nice formatting afterwards (if you like, use your favorite slideware tool for formatting).
    Never: Directly write in Powerpoint or spend more time on formatting than on content.

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  5. Hmm. Looks promising. I wonder if it is not too similar to one of them well designed modern textbooks. Still musing over it for the time being though.

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  6. Hello Cole,

    some time has passed since my first comments and since I found some pretty harsh words on the topic, I've decided to go back and think about if I still stick to my opinion.

    So after reading my original comment again, my key points are:
    - I fail to see how the new "slidedoc" category may "Reinvent How Businesses Communicate". The new thing here, if there is any, appears to boil down to creating brochures in powerpoint for business comunication.
    - I would have preferred a more humble tone in the whole topic. Instead of all this "this is a completely new, amazing movement" tone I'd have preferred something like "people seem to be doing this a lot anyway, so we'll add some of our experience to help everyone"
    - There is a lot of - in my opinion legitimate - criticism on fancy coloured graphs, infographics or - as E. Tufte calls it - chartjunk which all appears to apply here.
    - I can imagine a lot of negative effects if you follow the advice from Nancy Duartes ebook. From my own reading, I've failed to see her adress these issues.

    Positive things I would also like to note:
    - I've learned a lot from Duarte's first book "slide:ology", which contains important and helpful advice on layout and design of good graphics. A lot of this is also mentioned here in the new ebook. Overall I'd highyl recommend to stick to the original "slide:ology" instead of the new book.
    - Also, I highyl appreciate that she distributes the whole book in powerpoint format, not only allowing free (as in beer) access but also the possibility to learn and adopt from the powerpoint-file itself.

    I'm looking forward to your own post or comment on the topic.

    Kind regards,
    Daniel

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  7. (I'm posting the following comment on behalf of reader Tom H.)

    It looks like there is some significant opportunity to automatically create slidedocs from R, for those readers using it, possibly as a standard report format. See, for example, http://timelyportfolio.blogspot.de/2014/04/r-as-publishing-engine-cpi-components.html

    That said, I've used slidedocs off and on since about 2002, for invention disclosures, summaries of patent applications, "one pagers" and the like. Frankly, I hate them. No pagination, no text flow, no ability to create fully consistent alignments and layouts across slides (and forget across presentations or users).

    There is always a better solution, and the slidedoc seems to exist mainly to fill a tools gap. Everyone has PowerPoint, but not everyone has DTP software, or an IT environment where you can deploy a shared document (or database) that accepts text and graphics input and has an easy-to-use front-end.

    If all you have is PowerPoint, everything starts to look like a presentation. Or a slidedoc. Maybe there are worse alternatives, but I'd prefer to use the right tool for the job, and PowerPoint just isn't it for rich documents.

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