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PowerPoint of Afghan War Strategy

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the powerpoint-makes-you-dumber dept.

Education 233

eldavojohn writes "Disillusioned by PowerPoint at work? Some members of the US Military view it as 'an internal threat.' Marine Corps General James N. Mattis says, 'PowerPoint makes us stupid,' reaching the same conclusion NASA came to back in 2003. But nothing speaks to this more than the spaghetti-bowl PowerPoint slide of the US Military's strategy in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The slide causes anyone's eyes to glaze over with confusion so much that General McChrystal jokingly stated when he saw it, 'When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war.' At my job, I know that feeling all too well."

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233 comments

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How small is it?!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31999894)

CmdrTaco's penis is so small that when he goes down to the glory hole, they think he's a eunich!

PowerPoint makes us stupid (4, Funny)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999898)

"PowerPoint makes us stupid"

Does it really take a General to tell us that ? ;-))

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (4, Insightful)

rliden (1473185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000306)

Does removing PowerPoint make the presenter any smarter or the presentation they've done any clearer? Somehow I doubt having it drawn out on paper will make it any easier for the good general to understand. :p

From TFA:

It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Commanders say that the slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point.

When I was serving in the US Navy I don't remember over-head presentations from photocopies of "well written briefs" being any more entertaining or any easier to understand. Sometimes the situation or mission is complicated. There isn't anything you can't write on paper that can't be put in a presentation or it's accompanying printed notes. This sounds a lot more like finger pointing due to failure or incompetence in the field than it does a software limitation. I find it ludicrous that the blame is shifted from incapable leadership and poor communication to a software tool (take special note of the third to the last paragraph). I also find it boggling that the US military can't figure out how to use both presentation and word processing tools at the same time. Is there a reason a five page report can't be written to accompany the presentation? And they wonder why upper level logistics are a mess.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000646)

Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.

Damn, talk about a lesson this country badly needs to learn. Oh wait, he was talking about Power Point bullets...never mind.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000830)

> When I was serving in the US Navy I don't remember,,,

Ok but; were you a General when in the Navy ?

Although not clearly, you are apparently responding "Yes" to the question I asked in the GP. ;-))

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000356)

"PowerPoint makes us stupid"

Does it really take a General to tell us that ? ;-))

It might take a general to say the emperor has no clothes.

Here's a pro tip: increase your font size to almost the headline size. Does your message not fit anymore? then delete it. Use words and figures instead.

The problem with information packed slides is that the audience is momentarily given lots of information but having too little time to parse it won't recall it later. And they won't be able to concentrate on your words either. instead put details in slide notes and include those on a printed out version.

There is one exception to this rule: the military quad chart. But quad charts are intentionally dense because you are supposed to linger on them for a long long time.

One more thing: Always label the axes on a plot dammit. and then always tell people in words what the axes are BEFORE you tell them what the plot says.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000662)

They actually teach this in the intro engineering classes. Ironically enough with a powerpoint presentation about the subject of make pp presentations. Unfortunately very few of the professors are required to learn this skill, often with the poor practices that you mention or worse.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (1)

llvllatrix (839969) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000518)

I'm not sure if "PowerPoint makes us stupid" or if stupid people use PowerPoint to make themselves look smart. Do buzz words make us stupid?

As the appointed powerpoint/visio dude (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000540)

in my office, I gotta say that this story inspired both fear and awe. The shear amount of dynamic connectors and double backing process ovals should cause our enemies to immediately shit their pants.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (4, Insightful)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000602)

No, PowerPoint does not make us stupid.

PowerPoint exposes how stupid we already are. It shows that we have a swirling mess of semi-interconnected ideas and when we try to convey them, all we can produce is a swirling mess of semi-interconnected slides.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000916)

And at the same time the ease of making a basic Powerpoint presentation (together with "oh, shiny!" factor) makes stupid people confident enough to disseminate their ideas.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000756)

Yes and no. Just like in the civilian world, input isn't necessarily either accepted or valued going up the chain. You have idealistic and apathetic middle management. What neither really understands is that the end result in either case is very much the same -- the idealists don't believe they're wasting time, and the apathetic bunch don't care if they are.

That, and most of the PowerPoint presentations are more to show you "did something," than to actually perform a useful function. Very little real training or dissemination of information occurs during such events -- most of that is hands on in day to day work -- but it fulfills a checklist of required activities. PT - check. Cleaning - check. Maintenance - check. Training (via PowerPoint)- check.

Re:PowerPoint makes us stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000980)

PowerPoint doesn't make you stupid, but it gives stupid people the opportunity to bore the pants of the poor b*stards on the receiving end of a bad presentation. You can't blame the tool just because many people have no clue about how to develop a good presentation.

"PowerPoint makes us stupid," (1)

uncanny (954868) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999900)

I think in this case, the chicken (being stupid) came first

I don't know if this is true (4, Funny)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999942)

but it sure would be great if this were the beginning of the end of unnecessary PowerPoint presentations. I can't think of many times when I saw one that was actually helpful.

Re:I don't know if this is true (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000068)

... unnecessary PowerPoint ...

Good sir, you repeat yourself.

Re:I don't know if this is true (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000496)

Good sir, you repeat yourself.

A good point. Stamp out redundancy and do away with it.

Re:I don't know if this is true (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000074)

In the legal field powerpoint slides can be incredibly useful when presenting to juries, when you want to simplify/clarify (or alternately, confuse).

Re:I don't know if this is true (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000470)

In the legal field powerpoint slides can be incredibly useful when presenting to juries, when you want to simplify/clarify (or alternately, confuse).

I believe you, but in that case (no pun intended) it's not an unnecessary presentation. I was referring to the typical corporate setting where someone uses PowerPoint mainly because he/she can without regard to whether it adds anything to what is being said.

On the other hand, I have made only one PP presentation in my life, but it was a good one. It was on typography, given to a group of architects and used it only to show graphic illustrations of why the way they were using type was wrong. PP was perfect for that.

Re:I don't know if this is true (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000848)

There are necessary Powerpoint presentations? When did MS do that complete rewrite? ;)

Afghanistan victory strategy (4, Funny)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999952)

1. bomb Taliban positions with solar powered laptops running Windows7 with powerpoint installed
2. Victory
3. ...
4. Experience horrible unplanned of blow-back.

Re:Afghanistan victory strategy (1)

llvllatrix (839969) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000700)

I thought torture was against the Geneva Convention.

Re:Afghanistan victory strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000758)

3. Cringe in horror as they format and install GNU Linux with Open Source Impress, Firefox, and other free as in beer goodies. Oh yeah,almost forgot, the Taliban doesn't like free(dom) and doesn't like beer.

Knowledge Limited (4, Funny)

SendBot (29932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999968)

That spaghetti slide [msn.com] has a copyright notice at the bottom, "PA Knowledge Limited 2009"

There must be a joke about oxymorons and military intelligence in here somewhere.

The spaghetti slide. (1)

ambrosen (176977) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000106)

It looks to me as if the spaghetti diagram would be pretty useful to work from if it were printed in poster format. As a slide, not so much.

Re:Knowledge Limited (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000192)

Glad to see that the US military needs to outsource to foreign think think tanks. It speaks volumes.

Re:Knowledge Limited (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000354)

Quick google search brings up a consulting firm. I wonder how many bobs they have, and if people get fired in the army arbitrarily on their recommendations.

And why is the military spending money on consultants?

Re:Knowledge Limited (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000448)

Quick google search brings up a consulting firm. I wonder how many bobs they have

You care about the number?

For me it's more about size and shape.

best line of TFA (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31999976)

Senior officers say the program does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters.

NASA / Ed Tufte reference (5, Interesting)

blakelarson (1486631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999986)

A long essay on the evils of PowerPoint by the man, Ed Tufte, regarding the shuttle explosions: http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB&topic_id=1 [edwardtufte.com]

Re:NASA / Ed Tufte reference (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000218)

Its on his posters page, but "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within" is 32 pages of joy.

http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/posters [edwardtufte.com]

Re:NASA / Ed Tufte reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000598)

I see a lot of ad hominem and a lot of Tufte ranting on about how everything should be in pamphlet form instead.

Which is great and all, but that doesn't work for an oral presentation. Instead he's giving a standard Linux answer to the question of how to best present information orally -- you don't need to do that. Which is wonderful, and totally useless advice.

Re:NASA / Ed Tufte reference (2, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000614)

Like any technology, the problem is not the technology but that the technology allows unskilled persons to do work previously done by skilled persons. It is not surprising that the results tend to be of low quality. For instance, as much as we like WYSIG editing, it unleashed a whole bunch of crap on the world. OTOH, it allowed a lot of creativity to be unfurled that otherwise would have been hidden by the cost of entry.

For those who do not know, Ed Tufte writes books about how to display information so that it is attractive and easy to understand. His books are fabulous and should be read by anyone who puts information in front of people. We can't all be experts, but we should try not be incompetent.

When I see a slide like the ones being discussed, I see simply too much information. I often make that mistake as well. A slide is a few bits of information. It is not there to impress people with how much you know. It should be there to help them know what you know. It should not be there to show that you know how to use a graphviz.

I pretty much did not do presentation until I started to use Keynote. The animations were easy to use so I could add and relate information on a slide. Equations can be built, substitutions made, chemicals reacted. This to me is useful. It is not just putting a piece of plastic on an overhead. It is using technology to present information in a way that is useful.

Not bullet-izable (5, Funny)

myrrdyn (562078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31999998)

From the article:

General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Oh, man... the irony

Re:Not bullet-izable (4, Funny)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000114)

Yeah, some require rockets.

Re:Not bullet-izable (2, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000564)

Or, in close quarters, a dagger.

Someday /. will support Unicode. In the meantime... [fileformat.info]

Re:Not bullet-izable (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000964)

Surgery, for example.

Re:Not bullet-izable (4, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000370)

... Thomas X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel, whose title, "Dumb-Dumb Bullets," underscored criticism of fuzzy bullet points; "accelerate the introduction of new weapons," for instance, does not actually say who should do so.

That's not a weakness of powerpoint, it's a weakness of the presenter.
I've given powerpoint presentations, but they were just the front end of a much deeper paper.
The way I learned to use powerpoint was that it should provide enough information for people to know whether or not they want to read your full paper.

Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, who led the allied ground forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, grew frustrated when he could not get Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander at the time of American forces in the Persian Gulf region, to issue orders that stated explicitly how he wanted the invasion conducted, and why. Instead, General Franks just passed on to General McKiernan the vague PowerPoint slides that he had already shown to Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time.

Holy. Farking. Shit.
I imagine this is what the presentation looked like:

  • Shock and Awe
  • ???
  • Oil Revenue

Re:Not bullet-izable (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000440)

The problem is that Powerpoint encourages a decision making process based entirely on the content of the slides, rather then an examination of the information. Going to a PowerPoint presentation leaves you with enough knowledge to be dangerous.

He's right... (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000566)

But I got a flowchart that could rock his world.

To Give The Devil His Due... (4, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000046)

I don't think it is fair to blame this directly on Microsoft. There are, after all, other programs available today that allow you to make terrible presentations. If the talk had been done instead in Apple Keynote, OpenOffice, or any other program, it still would have been possible to make massive, mind-numbing, information-lacking, slides.

For that matter, I'm pretty sure the same was possible before we started doing this with software - it was certainly possible with film slides as well.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (2, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000130)

And don't forget those poster sized flip books that were all the rage in the 80's and 90's before digital projectors became commonplace.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000610)

And don't forget those poster sized flip books that were all the rage in the 80's and 90's before digital projectors became commonplace.

Oh Yeah! That's right! I forgot about those! Multicolored markers, drawing horrible diagrams, flipping pages when you fill one up, knocking the easel over when walking around it, blaming slurred speech on markers when it really was the martinis at lunch..... I miss those days!

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (2, Insightful)

SendBot (29932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000148)

I think you're missing the point. The concern is with the military having institutionalized an ineffective means of intercommunication, using specifically powerpoint as their tool of choice.

Even if they didn't use PP, it would still be referred to by that name as people used to call all photocopies "xerox" and all inline skates "rollerblades".

The process of "quickly" creating slides in the presentations made conducive by the software creates a false sense of understanding, and that is the issue.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (2, Funny)

miggyb (1537903) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000342)

Microsoft should absoultely take none of the blame for this. PowerPoint is a tool that does have it's useful purposes sometimes. For example, it's absolutely great for printing shipping labels or making last-minute valentine's day cards.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (3, Insightful)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000366)

And of course there is no way that something as simple as occupying a multi-ethnic country can so so complex as to not be understood by a 3rd grader. If something seems simple you most likely clearly don't understand it. I mean the space shuttle is just a shuttle that goes in space right? What is so complex that NASA needs billions to build one. I could buy a used school bus strap a rocket to it and be good to go.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000402)

One has to remember that Powerpoint (or, as you point out, similar tools...it's just that PP is by far the most popular one) is not really used, not really meant to help in passing knowledge or information.

No, is is used by incompetent speakers to hide behind their slides. Any moron feels he can make a nice presentation, when using Powerpoint. But this tool didn't really change that presentations require not only somebody bright, but also with a talent and/or training of a public speaker.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (2, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000524)

For that matter, I'm pretty sure the same was possible before we started doing this with software - it was certainly possible with film slides as well.

To err is human. But to really fuck things up you need a computer.

Re:To Give The Devil His Due... (1)

wtfamidoinghere (1391517) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000626)

Well, that's the problem of being THE tool for presentations and aggressively market it like that. You don't make a presentation using a computer, you make a "Powerpoint". So, it's only to be expected that when shit hits the fan, it's not computer-based presentations that get it, it's PowerPoint.

There's not really a better alternative (4, Insightful)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000048)

When I was in USAF officer training, all the trainees were required to give several briefings throughout the program. We were told that we could use any visual aids we wanted (to include whiteboard, PowerPoint or... who knows.)

All 144 of us used PowerPoint, simply because it was the easiest way to complement what you were talking about.

Re:There's not really a better alternative (4, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000090)

But was it the best way?

Re:There's not really a better alternative (1)

DWRECK18 (1796294) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000624)

I think this all goes back to the speaker. I have taken many public speaking courses and have done several business plan presentations. Every presentation I have done since High School I have used PP. The problem is not the software so much as it is the speaker. I have seen too many people attempt to make their PP Presentations extravagent and have so many transitions and flying images and words that it becomes to hard to concentrate on what is going on. The bad part is, it is the people who are scared to talk in public and want to take the attention away from them and onto the PP slides that do this. I have been able to easily give public presentations and convey my point only to have PP so that my audience knew exactly what they were supposed to be understanding. PP should be used like a certification book. The important topics that you are supposed to get out of the presentation are bullet points in the beginning and then you will further explain and go more in depth about those topics. As I am also in the military I see more and more PP presentations and whomever has created them does not get their point across very well do to all the animation. Such as the if you just give a PP Presentation to someone and say hey thats my plan, now if the PP presentation was done properly, how does this help anyone since you are supposed to be PRESENTING it in front of people.

Re:There's not really a better alternative (4, Informative)

Jahava (946858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000846)

But was it the best way?

It really depends. PowerPoint (and presentation applications in general) offer a very flexible and powerful method for imparting information. You can collect disparate pieces of information together, present it in numerous forms (text, pictures, animations, etc.), and emphasize and accent, among other things. These are all very useful things to do for a variety of situations. The issue with PowerPoint (and office software in general) is the misconceived perception that it should be used by everybody. Some people know how to present, and others do not. Those who do not will make a mess out of anything, including presentation software.

With great power comes great responsibility -- Spider Man

Presentation applications, like any other flexible development environment, carry with them a responsibility that it be used intelligently and purposefully. The ability to display all sorts of information also increases the overall potential complexity of the information. The same generic set of guidelines applies, just like it always has, be it with books, technical papers, charts, graphics, code comments, or any other medium:

  • Know your audience - One single presentation cannot effectively address an audience with a wide variety of purposes and backgrounds. The presentation cannot be broken down into chunks that are interesting to only one group at a time. It's a performance, and it should be performed to a captivated audience. It's very easy to cram too much stuff into a single presentation, when multiple targeted presentations would have been effective and clear.
  • Use the tool appropriately - A presentation isn't a book club. Anybody can read text, and chances are most of then can read it faster than you can speak it. The presentation software should complement an overall presentation, providing supplemental points, overviews, summaries, accents, and emphasis. If you are going to read the slides verbatim, write a document. Furthermore, slides are not meant to be lingered on. Your audience cannot be expected to stare at a projection for 30 minutes to absorb things, nor should you ask that of them. If such deep supplemental material is needed for your presentation, distribute it beforehand or offer printouts so the audience can take it at their own pace.
  • Be purposeful - Every element of a presentation should have a purpose. Additional effects are (minimally) distracting and (potentially) disruptive to your overall mission of imparting information. If a slide transition doesn't increase the clarity of your message, it should not be there.
  • etc...

... I could go on, but you get the point. When used correctly, presentation software can be very powerful and useful. There is no inherent aspect of it that dumbs down presentations or people. The compulsion to "mutilate data" is something that only stems from a lack of understanding of how to present that data in the first place. Give an stupid person a tool, and he'll use it stupidly.

Re:There's not really a better alternative (1)

spauldo (118058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000532)

I wondered why every time an officer wanted to make an announcement he'd send a powerpoint presentation via email.

I started to ignore them eventually. Do you really need a powerpoint presentation embedded in email to say "Our football team is playing against 18MSS today at 5, come support our team"?

Powerpoint has a purpose and is useful, but for some reason USAF officers go overboard with it.

Re:There's not really a better alternative (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000666)

All 144 of us used PowerPoint, simply because it was the easiest way to complement what you were talking about.

I've never heard PowerPoint being described as "the easiest way" to do anything other than give yourself a brain aneurysm. If you honestly felt it was the easiest way to complement your presentations, than I shudder to think what the other options were...

Re:There's not really a better alternative (2, Insightful)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000986)

Well, put it this way.

If I stand in front of a room full of people and talk for 7 minutes, with no outline or visual aids, people's attention is going to drift. (It may do that anyway, but I'm not going to help it along. :P) In my experience, as a listener, there's no organization to a stream of words coming at you - you have to break down and organize the message on your own, which provides additional strain on the listener, and many people would rather just think about something else. By providing a visual representation of the points you're discussing, a listener can associate the details of what you're saying with the listed main point. Also, you can throw related graphics up to keep the audience's interest.

Plus, it helps keep you on-track as a speaker.

I don't know... (3, Funny)

wigaloo (897600) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000080)

...if PowerPoint makes you stupid, but I sure feel dumber having read that article.

And we are winning. . . (0, Offtopic)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000094)

How much does it cost us to kill one Taliban fighter?

Spend the money on researching petroleum alternatives. In the Middle East we're simply building castles in the sand.

Re:And we are winning. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000492)

get a clue.

Middle east oil is being used for two reasons.

1 it's cheaper than US oil right now.
2 strategy.. if we use up all the oil from the middle east first then we sit on a global advantage. the USA has a crapload of natural Oil reserves we are not using. Because it's better to use everyone else's resources before you use your own.

drawback: China starts drilling their country all over the place and discovers a gigantor oil source that makes the middle east look like a puddle.

P.S. we will always be at war, we will always have someone we want to kill. until you solve the fundamental problem with the human race and the fact that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely then it will never ever change.

It's a military and economic strategy.. when we pass peak in the middle east, the USA will start to own the world.

Muahahahahahaaaa.....

I agree. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000500)

I never understood this about our army. We spend SO MUCH MONEY just to kill one Taliban. We need 200K troops just to deal with 1000 fighters. Why is our miltary so inefficient at doing the job of fighting? I thought one of our fighters was the equivalent of 15 Taliban? We apparently need 20 soldiers, which are supported by 5 each, using expensive gear, to eliminate one poorly armed, poorly trained enemy. God forbid these guys rise up in mass, we won't have enough troops to maintain the 1000:1 ratio it apparently requires for us to win.

Re:I agree. (2, Interesting)

CuriHP (741480) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000628)

The problem is in the first statement. You don't understand.

This is some RTS game on a limited map. In an active engagement, US troops are more than a match for insurgents. But when the enemy can hide anywhere and more anywhere, you must defend everywhere. You need a force that can counter them anywhere they might appear. Hence, you need a much bigger force.

Re:And we are winning. . . (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000632)

How much does it cost us to kill one Taliban fighter?

Less than $2 for the .223 round.

VERY VERY OLD NEWS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000098)

from 2009.

Post some news instead of drivel.

Yours In Kiev,
Kilgore Trout

Re:VERY VERY OLD NEWS (1)

LordBmore (1794002) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000146)

Post some news instead of drivel.

You must be new here...

Re:VERY VERY OLD NEWS (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000530)

The NYT story:

Published: April 26, 2010

I am reminded of a famous anonymous quote... (3, Funny)

Old Sparky (675061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000118)

"Powerpoint absorbs huge amounts of time that management, marketeers, and other suits might otherwise
  spend doing real harm."

It's not powerpoint (2, Insightful)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000122)

Powerpoint isn't the problem, it's large organization management and people who don't want to (or don't have the time) to get into the details..

This is the nature of "summing-up" and presenting to people that do not understand what is being spoon-fed to them.

marine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000126)

makes you stupid. Don't blame powerpoint.

powerpoint is the real enemy (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000166)

i left the army 10 year ago, but i remember powerpoint even then. officers would spend hours making slides for command and staff and other briefings. they would draw maps and all kinds of pictures from scratch. it was amazing to watch, and i'm glad i never had to do any of it

Alternate Slide (0, Troll)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000176)

How about a single slide:

"Kick Bad Guy's Asses"

Re:Alternate Slide (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000226)

Who is this bad guy, with multiple asses?

Re:Alternate Slide (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000638)

Who is this bad guy, with multiple asses?

The Tali-buns.

Re:Alternate Slide (1)

Lord Pillage (815466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000694)

Don't you see, he was making a Jeopardy type question.

"I'll take Ayn Rand's Military for $600, Alex."

"Kick Bad Guy's Asses"

*beep* *beep* *beep* "Who is John Galt?"

I know that slide... (5, Informative)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000182)

... and it has nothing to do with the complexity of the STRATEGY.... it's meant to give commanders an indication of the insanely-complex interrelations between various factors/actions. It's actually designed to represent the SITUATION in Afghanistan and to illustrate that simple notions of cause and effect aren't quite as simple as you'd like to believe. The slide is nothing more than a model of a very complex situation.... and it's actually a damned good one too.

Check out the larger version of the picture [msn.com] and take a look at some of the headings.

Look at the top right of the dark blue portion, where it says "targeted strikes", if you start following some of the arrows, you see (as you should expect) that targeted strikes will have an effect on "Insurgent Damages and Casualties" and that such an effect will also have an effect on "Fear of ANSF/Coalition Repercussions", which will also have an effect on "Insurgent recruiting/manpower".

There's no description of strategy there, and if you sat down and tried to think about the repercussions of specific actions taken in an area filled with insurgents and a populace that is sometimes sympathetic and sometimes not sympathetic to both the coalition and insurgents, a lot of the interrelations would seem pretty obvious - ie. if you spend too much effort killing insurgents, you run the risk of increasing their ability to recruit, because the population will begin to fear and resent you.

Don't look at the slide as a whole... just look for an entry on the slide that represents an action, and follow the arrows which show what the effects of that action are.

Re:I know that slide... (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000466)

The arrows don't come with information showing what the effect is, or how it is produced. As a result it is an incomprehensible mess. By color-coding and adding titles over regions of the infographic, important stuff is obscured.

Re:I know that slide... (1)

wcbsd (1331357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000590)

I use slides like this every once in a while, and they are, when used correctly, very effective. The point of a "spaghetti diagram" is to illustrate the complexity of a situation, not to explain it.

Participants should see a slide like this and think "Good Lord, that's complicated!" when a speaker wants
to drive home a point like "with better standards, we can simplify this a bit," or "this is far more complex than a simple slide can possibly convey, please be aware that I'm deliberately simplifying."

It helps the audience appreciate the depth of a situation without requiring that they understand every nuance - something I find useful when dealing with executives or nontechnical folks, and something I'd guess that the military often needs to do with the media - or us, for that matter.

Re:I know that slide... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000792)

It is load of crap! Don't try to justify by pissing on it.

Alexander the Great pulled the sword and chopped the "puzzle" in pieces rather than pondering on the strategy to solve it.

ACTION!

Different problem - graph or powerpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000194)

The graph at the start of the article may be complex to the point of silly but it does not do a good job of illustrating what is bad about powerpoint. To me it actually does convey something quite effectively - an image of complexity. I don't need to follow the strands of spaghetti to grasp that.

Powerpoint is bad because it puts a presentation into a straight jacket. The presenter comes to identify the presentation with the sequence of slides, when in fact the most important part of should be his connection with the audience and what he is trying to convey. Having the presentation so firmly organized prevents the spontaneity and interaction that makes a presentation interesting and memorable.

What a chart! (2, Informative)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000216)

Wow, someone needs to learn how to use GraphViz:

http://www.graphviz.org/ [graphviz.org]

*avoid edge crossings and reduce edge length

Military addicted to power point (1)

LeepII (946831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000222)

During my service we were forced to use power point for every lecture. Our CO stated that training without power point was not training at all!

Re:Military addicted to power point (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000516)

That explains a lot.

Crutch (3, Insightful)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000234)

Its not that Powerpoint makes us stupid so much as it is a Friggin crutch. Powerpoint presentations CAN be done well. The problem is, mostly idiots make the presentations, read directly from the slides, and use whiz bang animations to make up for content...

I would make note of several other crutches that should be great but are created by idiots.

Most site index engines, for an example try to find something useful on Symantec's website using their built in KB search.

Photoshop, you got to love all the "professional photographers" who simply apply the latest filter from their torrented CS.

WYSIWYG, pick any, you know what I am talking about here folks, if you don't...well you probably are part of the problem.

Social Media sites, the abuse never ends...I'm looking at you farmtown girl and political right/leftwing nutjob friends.

Any of these items should work and be great tools but there are just too many idiots in the world who dont want to put effort into anything. These people will exist whether the crutches are there or not, but they sure as heck will waste a lot less time.

Prezi (1)

OpenYourEyes (563714) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000284)

When the web was new and I had to make presentations like this, I would do HTML pages (with bullets) instead of powerpoint slides. The big difference was that I would also provide lots of links to additional information and details on each point. It took longer to write (both because of the additional information, but mostly because we didn't have great tools to assist), but was more engaging with the audience and did provide the additional details that a bullet-list-slide didn't.

Nowadays, I might think about using something like Prezi [prezi.com] for some of my briefings. While it does allow a linear path through a presentation, the information is layed out spatially and allows zooms and pans both through the path and independent of the path. This makes it pretty easy to provide additional information and show the relationship between some of the points. It does allow bullet points, but mostly so it can mock their use.

Powerpoint Used Stupidly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000314)

Powerpoint used stupidly spreads the stupidity on to others. It can be a great tool, but more often than not is abused by people who are clueless when it comes to communication. People frequently use the tool as a crutch because it's fairly easy to slap something together.

The solution is to educate people on the appropriate uses of Powerpoint and how to use it well.

Powerpoint is trying to solve a problem (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000336)

Powerpoint is trying to solve a problem - that of communicating a lot of complex information efficiently. Which, let's be honest, is a very common problem.

The issue that comes out of it is that a lot of people are absolutely lousy at effectively communicating complex information. Powerpoint allows them to pretend that they are communicating - when in actual fact they're not. They're just droning.

I think a part of the solution here may be education - but I don't mean "educate people at college or when they're in the workplace". Effective communicating together is such an important part of modern society that I think it should be consciously taught at school. I can't speak for others, but most teaching I had in university didn't even attempt to teach techniques to get ideas across - we were just given a brief and told to "prepare a presentation".

Given the quality of some of the presentations I've seen over the years - from managers, trainers and lecturers alike - I'd say that nobody is really being taught how to get ideas across. Maybe nobody knows how, and so there's nobody to teach anyone else.

we lost (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000352)

"When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war."

Seeing that BOTH sides have already lost, we'll never understand the slide.

Over-distilling of information (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000364)

When I worked on a defense contract, all material was expected to be in PowerPoint slides. I even had a customer reject a JPEG image because he "couldn't open it" and had me put it in a PowerPoint container. The effect was to spend time excessively distilling information into a slide format that was meaningless without context. A good presentation requires speaking to go with it and does not stand on its own. Unfortunately, people have forgotten the value of a good report with a nice abstract to start for those who want the distilled version.

GEM (2)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000396)

My bad - I RTFA and this is the gem in the piece:

Commanders say that the slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point. Imagine lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court in slides instead of legal briefs.

Unknown quote.. (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000482)

I recall once hearing a US Army General say during the Iraqi war that "If the copier had been invented prior to WWII, we'd all be speaking German."

Surely running a war is this complex (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000498)

This seems like a good summary of what the Commander-in-Chief needs to understand.

It may look like indecipherable spaghetti but we'll have something like a 3D browser representation with a page for each concept in our minds. Do we look at the internet and say "OMG that's too complicated"? 7+/-2 [yorku.ca] , remember?

So the problem is primarily trying to put too much information on to one page.

It also reminds me of Ender's Game where a certain victory was achieved by denying the player the big picture... so they could focus entirely on the process.

Who's problem? (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000550)

Is it the problem of PowerPoint or the one creating the presentation? It seems to me a case of blaiming the technology instead of the user. PowerPoint doesn't create a strategic genius by magic. But i am 100% sure Clausewitz could have created a great PowerPoint presentation "about war".

PowerPoint? (4, Insightful)

LarryRiedel (141315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000574)

But nothing speaks to this more than the spaghetti-bowl PowerPoint slide of the US Military's strategy in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Projecting a diagram onto a screen does not make the diagram a PowerPoint slide. The complexity of that diagram has nothing to do with PowerPoint.

Re:PowerPoint? (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000900)

+1 insightful

I saw this last night.... (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000654)

Though I don't think "Powerpoint" or "open office impress" is the issue, I can see the point. We have become too reliant on a screen full of information. Of course, this is nothing compared to the chalkboards of yesteryear!

Umm... (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000716)

What's a PowerPoint?

War is complex, so you get a complex slide (2, Insightful)

MarkLR (236125) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000768)

I think the point of that slide is to show that the war is complex and judging by the laughing it worked. It's basically like Primer in this XKCD [xkcd.com] comic, the point is not is understand the picture but to see that its very complex.

Well Duh. (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32000864)

Of course it's crap. They should be using Microsoft Project instead! Right tool for the right job & all that.

The Fine Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32000988)

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

* Slides that are too complex
    * looks like bowl of spaghetti

* Slides that do not convey important information
    * It does not show the intricate relationship
        between the parties

* Too much time spend on making them
    * Ties up "PowerPoint Rangers"

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