Monday, March 22, 2010

I Hate Slides

OK, I admit it, I hate slides. Maybe it dates to when I was a kid and had to sit through many slide shows by parents, teachers, and other adults in my life. Oh, I should say for those of you who are not old enough to remember this, slides used to be bits of film, with a special projectors. That may have shaped my early dislike of a static medium.

Now, today's presentations are much more lively, you can do lots of fun stuff with them. Play videos, animate text, blink tags (nooooo!!!!!) and much more. My company even makes a product where you can collaboratively develop slides.

But, fundamentally slides are a data sink. How do you get data out of a slide? Copy and paste. It promotes a style of presentation that is artfully designed, and final. Sure, you can copy slides back and forth from one deck to another. Sure, you can change how they look, and copy and paste the text into other documents. But try to get the data out of the slides programatically. Or better yet, auto generate some slides from data. Wouldn't it be great to have all your slides tagged for content, or have it in an XML format that allowed you to XQuery for specific content?

The other thing I hate is it encourages people to think they can present a topic if they have the slides. That they don't need to know the actual content, just be able to read the slides and ad lib a bit. Slides should be an end point, a representation of an accumulated knowledge.

I prefer to show code or run demos, but there's usually not a great way to share that kind of presentation off a conference web site. But there's a well established tradition of sharing slides.

I actually developed a really not great version of a slides database back in 2005. It ran on Berkeley DB and had a Java interface. I realize how hard it is to conceptualize this kind of app.
I'm not saying I have the answer either. But I'm really tired of apps that are just about presenting data and don't actually allow any access to that data. How did we get to a point where the static visualization of content was the final point of how to communicate it? Why is our model for content sharing an outmoded form of film production?


Sylvain Carle said...

Check out S5 from Eric Meyer, it's the best alternative I found (yet).

Or ask Mark Pilgrim, he had a nice "non slide" show last week for his keynote at Confoo in Montréal, I'm curious to know how it was done (probably hand rolled HTML5).

Brian Kennish said...

@Sylvain The HTML5 slides Mark used were hand-rolled HTML5 (or more precisely, HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript). They're really neat. We (the Chromium team) should be publishing them soon.

Unknown said...

@Sylvain Yes, I used S5 when I created my slides database. It's a great package.

Unknown said...

One of the presenters at Oredev '09, presenting on Groovy, had a 'slide' deck where each slide with a code example was in fact an interactive console. He'd show the code, then actually run it, interact with it, change it, etc. I'd love to use something like that for my App Engine presentations.

Unknown said...

JessyInk + Inkscape using javascript and SVG seems to be a great option: would be interesting to make it data driven from an appengine app.