Saturday, January 28, 2006

PowePoint-like presentations

I've thought about PowerPoint-like (Keynote-like) presentations for years. Probably because I've been around congitive psychologists quite a bit, I decided that the slide and corresponding speech should present the material -- maybe as cues -- in a decidedly different way, that way the audience could choose whatever works for them: aural or visual, text or graphics. This might be a totally wrong way of approaching talks, but it's worked for me.

I'm not sure why, but I've had three PowerPoint-related epiphanies at HICSS conferences: one was during lunch talking to a guy who was adament that slides should be essentially a transcript of what is spoken. He was a cognitive psychologist, and I was really disappointed :)

The second time was at the HICSS dinner/luau someone the same day I'd given a presentation in the Digital Documents track. A fairly well known guy, although I can't remember his name, said that I had the best slides of the track. This was after he'd had a few mai tais, but I still take it as a complement :)

The third time was at a HICSS plenary presentation by Elizabeth Monk Daley called "Expanded Concepts of Literacy". She was the dean of USC School of Cinema-Television. What I remember about her slides are there were almost no words. I remember stick figures, and slides that reminded me of storyboards.

Besides the Tufte stuff that I've blogged previously, you might want to look at the following:

  • A short interview from 2004 with Don Norman about PowerPoint usability. He says "Tufte misses the point completely."
  • Dick Hardt's talk about identity on the net. If you click on one link from this posting, make it that one.
  • A talk by Larry Lessig that illustrates the "Lessig Method" of PowerPoint presentation.

Workplace issues and opportunities

How do you design office spaces for knowledge workers? The big idea seems to be balancing quiet-and-privacy with collaboration-and-availability.

Work environments for software engineers have been studied more than you'd think. contained a "Death to the cubicle!" rant this past summer.

The most famous study I know of is "IBM's Santa Teresa Laboratory - Architectural Design for Program Development". Scroll down the document to see illustrations of floorplans and even furniture layouts. A "Joel on Software" forum about office space contains more links.

Steve McConnell's 30th chapter of Rapid Development (the CSci 152 textbook) is a really nice summary. McConnell also has insights about "people-related classic mistakes" in chapter 3.3 and 12.4 "problem personnel"). He summarized his ideas in his "Dealing with problem programmers" column -- here's an excerpt and a link.
  • It’s rare to see a major problem caused by lack of skill. It’s nearly always attitude, and attitudes are hard to change. If the problem is caused by lack of ability, that is even harder to change.
  • The longer you keep a disruptive person around, the more legitimacy that person will gain in the eyes of other groups and managers, the more other people’s work will be affected, the more code that person will be responsible for—overall, the harder it will be to remove him from the team.
  • Some managers say that they have never regretted firing anyone. They’ve only regretted not doing it sooner.

Besides working in our offices/cubes, what else do we do? Schedule, agendize, and attend meetings! STSC CrossTalk has a very interesting article from 2004. Here is the abstract and link:

Every one of us has spent many hours, days, maybe even years in meetings. We all have experienced good meetings and bad meetings. Do software engineers spend large portions of their time in meetings? What factors make such meetings successful? This article presents the results of an industrial measurement study conducted to determine why some meetings are successful while other are not.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Science and engineering with MS Office's Excel

I'm not a big Excel user, and haven't used numerical methods to find roots of an equation in about 20 years, but I do like it when people use software or hardware in ways they weren't necessarily intended. For example,

Saturday, January 21, 2006

GPS games

You probably know about geocaching, but you might not know about location-based games: "GPS games get players off their couches and into the real world". I think (but not sure) that it is implemented using J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Jim Tomayko

Jim Tomayko was my boss/mentor/sponsor during my sabbatical at the Software Engineering Institute at CMU. He was a NASA historian and seemed to know just about everything about NASA computers and fly-by-wire aircraft. He was a leader in software engineering education, particularly at the masters degree level.

Jim died this month: obituary and a tribute from CMU.

Since he was a private pilot he probably would have liked this video taken from the cockpit of a jet landing at San Diego. You can hear the ground proximity warning whistle, and the automatic altitude call outs.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The federal reserve and higher education

An economist at the St. Louis Federal Reserve has some things to say about productivity in higher education. I don't think he's a fan of student evaluations:

... the use of student evaluations to judge the quality of faculty may lead some faculty to abandon good teaching practices and augment their evaluations through alternative means, such as leniency on grading, on assignment deadlines and on student absenteeism.

or tenure:

Tenure prevents significant staffing changes in response to changes in student demands; tenure also prevents lower quality faculty from being replaced by higher quality faculty.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Memory leak?

It looks like my new phone, a Sony Ericsson Z520a, might have a software problem: a memory leak. Cingular has quit selling it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Classic computer science books, again

Way back in September I posted about the ACM bringing back classic out of print books.

Now that the nominations are in, you can campaign for your favorite books. Voting starts next week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some potentially interesting talks

The Lyles Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship has three speakers coming in for the spring New Valley InForum series: Rebecca Ryan, Tiffany Shlain, and Lynne Twist.

Also don't forget about the second half of the Valley Town Hall series: David Spiegel, Jan Crawford Greenburg, Mark Arax, and Jon Meacham.

Know someone on vacation in Waikiki?

Have them stand in front of the webcam at the statue of Duke and wave to you.

You can do the same thing with the Cayucos web cam, but it's not real-time like the Waikiki one. The Cayucos webcam is a geocache site.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Joel on Java

One of Joel Spolsky's recent rants is about university computer science departments teaching Java, and why they shouldn't. Here's a provocative statement to ponder:

I've seen all kinds of figures for drop-out rates in CS and they're usually between 40% and 70%. The universities tend to see this as a waste; I think it's just a necessary culling of the people who aren't going to be happy or successful in programming careers.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In Google we trust

The almost-always interesting Simson Garfinkel isn't keen on trusting gmail.

More cowbell

That's what we need, more cowbell. Wikipedia has the details.

Jake Shimabukuro, someone with talent, might disagree :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Airplanes and Byzantine faults

If you've taken a software engineering from me you might remember that I talk about safety critical systems (such as avionics), super low failure rates of less than 10^-9 per operational hour, formal methods, and maybe even Byzantine fault tolerance.

In early August 2005 a B777 flying from Perth to Kuala Lumpur had software problems. The FAA issued an emergency AD (airworthiness directive) later that month.

This incident was noted and explained in at least two posting on the Risks Forum:
in volume 24 issue 03, and in volume 24 issue 05.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Swimming with the sharks

Here's a way to end the year: Swim with a 17+ foot long great white shark off the north shore of Oahu. This story from the Honolulu Advertiser includes a link to video. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has a story, but no video.