Don’t blame the tool
Readers are still commenting on an editorial that talked about PowerPoint software. They blame the speakers for less than compelling presentations, not the tool used to create them. Other readers commented on recent blog entries.
Power to PowerPoint
PowerPoint is a just a tool that can be used well or badly (“PowerPoint Can Kill,” June 14). When a mechanic does not correctly fix a car, we don’t blame the tools; we blame the mechanic. The same is true for PowerPoint. If there are any faults with a PPT presentation, the speaker is at fault, not the software.
The audience for these presentations — other engineers, management, and customers — are always short on time these days. They don’t have time for disjointed communication or streams of conscience. The speaker should concisely communicate his ideas or project to the audience. Bullet points are one effective way to communicate clearly and they help keep meetings on topic. PowerPoint is just one way to create bulletpoint presentation. (Some of us older engineers have even used typewriters to create bulletpoint presentations.)
I got a good laugh when I read the phrase “festival of bureaucratic hyperrationalism” describing PowerPoint presentations for NASA. It reminded me of a job I had on a space program. But PowerPoint wasn’t the problem. The real cause of the difficulties was the customer’s insistence that report formats were more important than technical content.
One of my tasks was to analyze electronic circuits which were poorly designed. I was not allowed to suggest improvements in my report. Instead, the report had to show how good and reliable the circuits were. And it was shocking to discover that “peer review” consisted of a manager making sure the paragraphs were lined up in a rigid fashion. This meant some technical details were deleted so that each page would look “professional.” The result of all this nonsense was that spacecraft got delayed on the launch pad, a situation which cost millions (The media always report this as a “computer glitch” at launch.).
I suspect PowerPoint isn’t the problem at NASA, it’s the bureaucracy.
If you are conducting a meeting using Powerpoint (or any other software) please, please, PLEASE don’t read your powerpoint slides to me. I already know how to read. Use PowerPoint to illustrate your ideas, and layout the details behind your ideas on handout notes attached to each slide.
I have never attended a PowerPoint presentation where the speaker didn’t read verbatim every slide. It seems to be a constitutional weakness among those creating PPT shows. If that’s how it’s being used, printed handouts of the same views would save time, eyestrain, and sleepiness.
Grounding the GFCI
Don Heim pointed out in a letter (May 24) that a ground connection might not trigger a GFCI even if there is a ground fault in plumbing that uses nonconductive plastic water and drain pipes. As you pointed out in your comment on that letter, if there’s no ground connection, then there’s no electrocution and the GFCI doesn’t trip. While this is probably true, GFCIs are rather sensitive. And although tap water is not generally considered to be a good conductor, it’s likely to have enough conductivity to trip a GFCI even though it might not be enough to cause a shock. It would, at least, tell you that your appliance or some other electric device had a ground fault. Other readers have commented on a couple blog entries.
Everyone loves L. A.
In a recent blog (“Suppliers Look for Engineers in Detroit,” May 9 in the blog “From the Editor ’s Desk”), the video shows a Nissan spokesperson talking about the company’s need for engineers. Well, it ’s no surprise they are looking for any and all types of engineers. They recently moved their headquarters from Los Angeles to Franklin, Tenn. Only 42% of Nissan’s L.A. workforce made the move with them. That’s because smart, prosperous people like engineers don’t want to live in secondrate locations. That’s why California has the sixth largest economy in the world even though it has some of the highest corporate tax rates in the U.S.
What was the latest innovative breakthrough that came out of Tennessee? Has there ever been one? What was the latest breakthrough that came out of California? Ever heard of an iPod, iPad, or iPhone? Two lessons here: If you’re an engineer and willing to move to Franklin, Tenn., there’s probably a job for you there. But if you want to hire the best people in the business, don’t locate your headquarters where people don’t want to live.
Is your view of Tennessee base on a bad experience or simply anecdotal evidence? Costs were obviously a factor in Nissan’s decision. California, which certainly has many positives, is simply becoming a place too expensive for heavy manufacturing.
Lawyers aren’t the problem
I’d blame the CEOs more than the lawyers (“Why We Hate Lawyers: Reason #16,258,” in the blog A Skeptical Engineer, March 9). They’re the ones hungry for cheaper imported engineers and technicians. Management just asks the lawyers to fill in the details for how they can legally go about it. You shouldn’t trash the lawyers. Everybody already hates them.
At one company I worked at, job postings for U.S. engineers to replace foreign hires were posted on an inside wall of the CEO’s office. That way, hardly anyone other than the CEO would see them.
The video just shows a case of legal arbitrage and the CEO or management just assigned a workforce (in this case, lawyers) to find a way for the company to work within the law while sidestepping the intent or spirit of the law for financial gain. Or as the blog stated “It may be legal, but it’s certainly slimy.”
CEOs have a fiduciary duty, not to mention a self-interest, to reduce costs. So why be shocked when they do things like this?
Laws should be written to prevent or at least make it difficult to evade the intent of the law. Doing otherwise is a sign of incompetent or collusive legislators.
In the July 29 issue, the Web address for Nanometrics (pg. 28) was incorrect. It should read www.nanometrics.ca
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