So — it gets decided that it would be a good idea to have a blog about the developerWorks Live! briefings written by the folks that deliver those briefings. And, to make it easier on us (after all, we are busy guys — and unfortunately we are all guys), we agree to split the duties amongst several of us. My friend Jeff Miller and my boss (also friend) Randy Powell have done their entries and now it's my turn. And I feel like a deer in headlights. What to write about, what to write about?
Writing. Has anyone else noticed how bad most business writing is (said in my best Andy Rooney impression)? Not books and articles by well-edited authors, but e-mails, and reports, and, yes, blogs. Every day I see terrible grammar, lousy sentence structure, ill-formed paragraphs — the list goes on. I'm no Shakespeare of business writing, and I'm sure there are those that find my writing quite atrocious, but I do try. To me, it seems that much of the business writing I read is written by those that don't really try.
I've become convinced that the blame for all of this bad writing can be laid squarely at the feet of PowerPoint. I came to this conviction from attending a seminar held by Edward Tufte, Professor Emeritus at Yale University, and reading this gentleman's books on visualizing and displaying information. In particular, his pamphlet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint demonstrates how the use of PowerPoint leads to very poor communication and almost zero transfer of knowledge. He includes in this pamphlet a wonderful parody: Abraham Lincoln using PowerPoint for the Gettysburg Address. I highly recommend this pamphlet, and if you're still not sure you want to spend an entire seven dollars to purchase it on just my recommendation, read Philippe Kruchten's review in the IBM Rational library.
While Tufte's issues with PowerPoint are focused on presentations, I think that all of this very, very poor communication using PowerPoint atrophies any writing skills that we have. We are so used to bullet points on a slide, we've forgotten how to construct a decent paragraph.
At this point, if you've ever attended one of our briefings, you have to be thinking "who is this cat to badmouth PowerPoint when he makes his living delivering PowerPoint presentations?" (by they way — my name is Willy Farrell). I'm not saying all PowerPoint presentations are bad. And I'm not saying the PowerPoint presentations we use in our briefings are perfect. But we do think long and hard about how we put our presentations together. And we are always working to improve our delivery styles. Let us know how you think we're doing by attending a briefing and providing your feedback, or leave your comments here on this blog. We welcome your input.
Today's blog title: I'm a big fan of the blues, and one of my favorite pre-war (WWII) bands is The Memphis Jug Band. The first line of their song "Stealin' Stealin'" is "Stealin', stealin', pretty mama don't you tell on me" and I've loosely paraphrased it here to acknowledge that I'm stealing the "Today's blog title" idea from my good friend and wonderful blogger, Doug Tidwell. His blog is a must-read if you want to stay current on XForms, Service Component Architecture (SCA), Service Data Objects (SDO), and lots of other good stuff. It's also a must-read if you like to laugh — he is a very funny guy.
Summertime and the livin' is easy: We usually don't do very many briefings in the summer months (northern hemisphere). We've found that people are too busy having summertime fun to attend a briefing (skip work and stay indoors?!?), so we use the time to refresh our briefing materials and also to create new briefings. Keep an eye on the briefings page for our newest briefings, but also think about attending a briefing you've attended in the past — there are usually new things to be learned.