Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Power-Pointing the War

So the New York Times publishes an article about how military officials recognize that Iraq is a major clusterfuck, and it includes the following image:

Reactions have been predictable.
  • Over at Daily Kos, georgia10 notes that, along with the National Intelligence Estimate concluding that the Iraq war has exacerbated the terrorist threat, this picture shows "that the administration is well aware that Iraq is a 'failed state, that 'ethnic cleaning' is taking place, and that a stay-the-course policy has failed to stop the stop the steady march towards chaos."
  • Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin (of course) froths at the mouth about the "blabbermouths" at the Times who betrayed their country by publishing classified material. Because as we all know, terrorists love them some PowerPoint.
Has anybody pointed out how poorly designed this slide is? It's a validation of all that Edward Tufte has been saying about PowerPoint's ruinous effects. Note the strange 'central command' running down the left-hand side; the suspiciously unhelpful color-coded shape symbols; the crowding of information in fonts of nearly the same size; the general ugliness of design; the tagline at the bottom (beginning "Urban areas"), formatted with a bizarre open-ended red border; the inconsistency of scale in the figure (a week at one point, "pre-Samarra" at another); the seemingly arbitary arrangement of information; and the tendency to view the world through bullet points.

Returning to georgia10 at Daily Kos, she seems to love this figure, even hauling out that old chestnut "a picture is worth a thousand words." She's mainly excited because the figure is bad for Republicans, but a well-designed figure would have been a whole lot worse.

PowerPoint, recall, helped get us into this mess (thanks loads, Colin Powell). But even when it conveys important information, it seems PowerPoint can't help but suck.

1 comment:

Your Brother said...

Hey man, nice catch!