Monthly Archives: June 2002

Why the world is broken – Part 2 – Microsoft Powerpoint

Why the world is broken

Part 2 – Microsoft Powerpoint

Microsoft Powerpoint is perhaps the best demonstration of the dangers in choosing to ignore the wise addage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
There was a time when corporate seminars were simply tedious, dry events lacking any sort of soul or joy.
To lighten the mood, some foolhardy souls attempted to make jokes during the seminars; Putting a slide of something inappropriate, like a naked woman, amidst the others for example. The joyless half-hearted murmer of laughter that would follow was enough to convince the joker never to try anything like it again.

Someone must have realised this, and thought to themselves “Jesus these events are tedious as hell….but I can’t help feeling they could be made even worse. So bad that people would rather stick pins in their eyes than attend them.”.
This flash of genius led to the development of Satan’s deadliest tool yet…Powerpoint.

Today I witnessed something that truly scared me. The speaker attempted to make the “inappropriate slide” joke…but with Powerpoint. Even with real slides, where the idea of a dodgy one getting in the batch is at least feasibile, this joke usually falls flat. With powerpoint it reaches new levels of desperation and despair…

No-one can just stand up and talk anymore. They have to set up the video projector, reboot their laptop several times to get the resolution/settings right, load up their powerpoint presentation and then go through every tortous, vaccuuous, slide, one by one. As each meaningless sentence appears on the screen behind them, they have to try and come up with a monologue that captures the interest of the audience, whom by now have, at best, fallen asleep, at worst, hanged themselves. Of course to get even this far they must have already spent a surprisingly long time tinkering with it, changing fonts, colours, patterns, clip-art and animations without once enhancing the actual content.

You see, nowadays, content just doesn’t matter. Style outwieghs substance every time, and everyone is fiercely proud of how stylish they really are.

To ensure the next generation don’t start getting clever ideas about…well anything really…the government has taken drastic action. They’ve put powerpoint in the schools. Sheer brilliance.

By the time you child is old enough to read they will already be starting to wonder why the pages of the book don’t have “themes”. “Why is the whole book in the same font ?”. “They haven’t even put any clip-art in – duh!”.
Give year-6 (4th year/10yr old) kids a project on the Tudors and they’ll spend 10 minutes looking stuff up on the net and a week getting the powerpoint presentation right. Who cares if they even know about Henry VIII at the end, as long as they have demonstrated “good IT skills” by picking the right graphics and colours, they can put their names down for the MBA and uncle Tony will be happy.

Why the world is broken – Part 1 – Miss Management

Why the world is broken

Part 1 – Miss Management

Who is Miss Management ?
She is the godess of incompetence, superfluity, and prodigality.

Originally, the idea of “management” was to oversee, plan, and ultimately take responsibility for something. It’s quite a good idea in many ways and good managers were often able to take something sick and weak, and turn it into something strong and useful.

Nowadays the meaning of “management” has changed. It now refers to a seemingly mandatory layer of staff in an organisation whose job it is to have meetings, discuss things that they don’t understand, draw pictures and find ways of disposing of company cash and assets.
Here’s a true story to illustrate:

A while ago I was doing some contract work for a very large media/technology company (TV, telecoms, networks etc etc etc). This company had an excellent set of IT staff, who all appeared to be keen and competent, and so I was curious about why they felt the need to hire me to do what was a very simple job.
Being a contractor I didn’t have a desk of my own, and so was shuffled around to desks of the ill, deceased or fired.
One day I was positioned near a bunch of right managers, one of whom had just come back from an outdoorsy management training weekend; lots of climbing, canoeing and team-building type activities by the sound of it. Group hugs. Emotions. Workshops. Role-playing…. that sort of thing. She was saying how much she was looking forward to getting back to work so that she could put her newly developed skills into action.

She, and her suited colleagues, then spent the entire morning on the phones to various people arranging meetings to discuss “compliance”. As if this wasn’t irritating enough, I overheard them saying that Cap Gemini were being brought in for a meeting. Why ? I thought. Why bring in vastly overpriced consultants when you have such a good team of *genuinely* skilled teccies ?

Later that day the entire IT department was taken into a meeting and told that the company was downsizing and 50% of them were being fired! Perhaps they needed to fund the hours-worth of consultancy with cap-gemini ?

Since then the company has announced even greater losses and is in even more trouble. I just love the idea of management sitting in their massivel expsnsive offices wringing their hands saying “But we’ve spent 100s of millions on consultants and strategy groups and we’re still loosing money! How ? Quick, hire more accountants!”

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Today England play Nigeria in the world cup.
Like many people thoughout the country I am off sick. However, there are differences between me and everyone else:

  • I am ill
  • I will not be watching this tedious cack.

Instead I shall watch bob the builder and eat an onion bagel.

Today is extreme computing 2002. I can’t stay too long unfortunately – pity… Good timing tho’ – works network is unavailable from the outside world while they do some mucking about with power-feeds so going out sounds even better. It’s like loosing a leg when that network’s down…
# ping x.x.2.89
PING x.x.2.89 (x.x.2.89): 56 data bytes


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How embarrassing. Eastenders was put back an hour for match of the bastard day. This was the last straw, so I phoned the BBC duty office (08700100222) to complain – apparently they log and pass on all comments.

The bloke on the end of the phone did not seem to be that interested in my opinion, that match of the day should just fuck right off, and so it got slightly personal:
“Look, I’m not having a go at you, it’s just that there
are lots of licence payers who don’t like football, and who don’t give a toss about the queen.”

“But there are lots of licence payers who do like football and if we didn’t cover it then they would complain.”

“Come on, you’re scottish – surely you must agree that the jubilee is a total waste of time”
“actually I’m Irish”
“Oh shit. I’m so sorry.. that was stupid….but anyway, as an Irishman surely you must agree…hold on…Rupublic of ireland or Northern Ireland ?”
“Northern Ireland”
“Look, I’m really, really sorry. I fell like a right twat now”
and so I do. I blame the two bottles of wine.

Sorry man – but it turns out I’m a right wanker…

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Now and again it’s nice to spend a long time away from the telly, engaging in mentally stimulating activities.
But today was not such an occasion. I shamelessly watched an hour and half of big-brother action. Michele was out on a case, leaving a perfect opportunity to do all of the things you can’t do when your wife/husband/parents aren’t there (like looking for your christmas presents, pissing in the sink and eating things out of their containers with your hands) but I did none of that. Just watched a shameful amount of telly.
Being a voyeur, Big Brother is excellent entertainment, however I feel sorry for those TV-watchers who like to keep themselves to themselves… today they had the choice of football, religion, the queen, football and big brother….

But despite this orgy of disgusting vegetation I did have a play with the Nokia cables kit that I bought a while ago. What a cool toy. Managed to unlock my wife’s 3330 and my 6210 with no hassle. Also, after hanging around in some seedy areas of IRC I managed to get hold of some good software for mucking about with logos and ringtones off of some shady bot on the east-side of EF-Net. Regardless I still rate Gnokii as the best toolkit around for legit mobile manipulation.

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Three football matches on TV this morning. Ben is staying here and he’s “into the footy”, so they’re all being watched. I go to have a bath – one of the greatest pleasures in life, a long, deep bath, radio-4 or maybe a book… so I turn on the radio. Ah, a programme about ‘Socrates’; sounds interesting!

But, hold on. Something’s wrong. We don’t appear to be discussing critical reasoning…in fact it sounds like…oh god surely not…yes…FUCKING BLOODY FOOTBALL. There’s no escape. As Charlie Brooker said in last week’s Guardian, “What an appalling time this is for non-voyeuristic, unpatriotic, football-hating Britons”.

Oh yes, is open for business.