A colleague recently commented that I spend more on textbooks than most other areas of IT put together and I guess it is probably true. This is something of a paradox you might think; a topic that is ‘leading edge’ and exists on computer screens but yet for which the development team relies heavily on the printed medium.
I’ve been truly amazed at the volume and quality of current publication books that are wholly relevant to BI. Not books on tuning to optimise warehouse ETL performance, or even books that you are already reading like those from Kimball University, but books on really creative things, like design and layout.
The whole art of physical ‘cutting and pasting’ existed way before Ctrl/Command-X/Vcame along and we really have corrupted the art in typical modern ‘bigger, better, faster’ fashion. Fortunately the purists live on and we have much to learn from them. So if you are responsible for delivering reports or BI content to your community I urge you to invest a few hours just researching the design and layout aspects of your information presentation.Â If you’re not already a convert I think you will be surprised at just how much there is to it and probably unnerved about how little you know and some of the basic mistakes we have all been making.
Tufte just has to be on the shelf of any BI presentation designer and everyone I’ve shown this particular volume to has either bought a copy themselves or coveted mine past the point of politeness. The physical presentation in this book is incredible and you find yourself respectfully turning each page marveling at the typesetting and the effort put into its creation. I particularly wanted to mention Tufte because he referenced a PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg Address from Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, which includes a wonderful example of a meaningless slide, the type of which we unfortunately see and endure all too many of.
His point, and that of many others, is that PowerPoint enables awful presentations, ones that send the audience to sleep, after insulting them.
My point, is that I’ve finally decided to do something about it and stop doing PowerPoint presentations (well OK, seriously cut down on them). Being a BI evangelist in a university is a role that involves making a lot of presentations. So I bought another book (no surprise there) which describes the Extreme Presentation Method. I dismissed it initially as a pretty insignificant volume but dragged myself through it this week as I have a presentation to make to CAUDIT on Monday.
So far I have a lot of pieces of paper with scribbles on them, some cards which vaguely resemble a Best Man speech I gave at a wedding about 10 years ago, and not a PowerPoint or bullet in sight!
I’ll let you know how I go but so far I think it might just be crazy enough to work…