Tag: presentation

Creating presentations with non-WYSIWYG tools

I work in a company that shifted from being R&D-driven to being project-driven. It is official since this 2013 but we saw it coming: the main pieces of memory are Powerpoint slides since a few years.

Everything is in Powerpoint, from agendas, discussions, presentations to minutes. Even when modelers want to show some results, they put them on a slide deck first …

For presentations I used to use Beamer but installing the LaTeX toolchain on a restricted, company-owned Windows laptop was a long and cumbersome process. I made a first presentation in Reveal.js this week. And I love it!

I prefer Beamer, Reveal.js and similar tools because a) it forces you to think of your message and its structure first and b) it forces you to reuse material that is already produced (rather than creating new things in / for the presentation medium). Therefore the presentation is a real presentation of something that really exists, that was really thought outside of the context of the presentation (and before it!).

The additional benefit (IMHO) of Reveal.js is that you just need a text editor and a browser. All restricted company laptops provide you with these tools.

The memory of my projects remains in my models, my notes and reports. The context, next steps and consequences are there. The project evolution is better understood (in reviews, audits and simple chats with colleagues).

Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food

In the latest TED Prize wish, Jamie Oliver, the “Naked Chef”, talks about teaching every child about food. His wish is:

I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.

Although I have a child and I’m obviously interested in his idea, I was also interested in the simple bar chart depicting the leading causes of death in the USA. In the tiny Flash video, the text is unfortunately barely legible and I was interested in knowing where he got his data from.

Leading causes of death in the USA from Jamie Oliver's TED talk

The answer is really easy: the leading causes of death in the USA are compiled every year by the (American) National Center for Health Statistics and the results are available on their FastStats website. So, for 2007 (the latest results at the time of writing), the 15 leading causes of death in the USA are (ordered by decreasing number of cases):

Rank Cause Number
1. Diseases of heart * 616,067
2. Malignant neoplasms (cancers) * 562,875
3. Cerebrovascular diseases * 135,952
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases 127,924
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries) 123,706
6. Alzheimer’s disease 74,632
7. Diabetes mellitus * 71,382
8. Influenza and pneumonia 52,717
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis 46,448
10. Septicemia 34,828
11. Intentional self-harm (suicide) 34,598
12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 29,165
13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease 23,965
14. Parkinson’s disease 20,058
15. Assault (homicide) 18,361

The exact ICD-10 codes are in this report ; you can find their exact meaning here. Causes with an asterisk are related to food intake, according to Jamie Oliver.

Now you have the numbers, the origin of the data and the methodology used to collect these data. You can watch the presentation:

You’ll find a critique of Jamie Oliver’s talk by Presentation Zen.

Browser hardware acceleration issue?

Browser hardware acceleration is meant to render websites faster by allowing the graphics card (its GPU) to directly display “things” (videos, animation, canvas, compositing, etc.) on the screen. By bypassing software rendering systems, lots of websites seem to render faster. All major browsers jumped on this: Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera (post of 2008!).

I understand that enhancing the user’s experience while surfing the web is something that can be interesting. Hardware acceleration opens the door to unseen compositions, to new types of animations, to new kind of applications. Directly in your favourite browser.

Comment if I’m wrong but hardware acceleration will not lead to fragmentation of the web landscape. HTML5 seems to be the standard behind which browsers developers are adding their acceleration engines.

However, an issue (from the user’s point-of-view) will probably be that hardware acceleration will still help the emergence of a consumer-only web. A lot of your applications will be in your browser, with your data in someone else’s data center. You want your data safe? You need to trust your provider’s security measures. You simply want your data on your hard drive? I think you’ll have a problem here. But I agree it’s not the technical implementation that will be responsible for that.

First LaTeX Beamer presentation seen in a proteomic conference There is another issue I see with browser hardware acceleration. And it’s very down-to-earth. As you often encounter in presentation with videos, the presentation is displayed via a beamer but not the video (a black rectangle is displayed instead). You can easily disable hardware acceleration in most presentation software (if it’s not disabled by default). But, with hardware acceleration fully integrated in the browser, what will be displayed with the beamer if we have to do a demo of a website or simply when the presentation software is the browser? A page with patches of black rectangles? I hope not.

Why do I blog this? I enjoy reading about the (technical) details of (browser) hardware acceleration. I am very interested in general in all the new developments in IT regarding the use of GPUs and graphics card computational power to solve current issue or allow future developments. But I’m also using these (new) technologies everyday. So I don’t want that technological improvements on one hand turn to cause trouble on the other hand.

Let my dataset change your mindset

In the previous post, I shared a video of David McCandless giving a talk about information visualisation. One phrase caught my attention and a bit of research lead to a very good discovery. The phrase and context is (emphasis is mine):

We need relative figures that are connected to other data so that we can see a fuller picture, and then that can lead to us changing our perspective. As Hans Rosling, the master, my master, said, “Let the dataset change your mindset“. And if it can do that, maybe it can also change your behavior.

Who is Hans Rosling? A Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and Director of the Gapminder Foundation (from Wikipedia). Nothing fancy nor anything related to information visualisation at first sight. Except that the Gapminder Foundation is “a non-profit venture promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals“. So what? Gapminder also “pursue[s] the development of the Trendalyzer […] [seeking] to unveil the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics“.

And this software is really great (see screenshot below but, above all, in all Rosling’s videos): from one single interface, you can gather lots of different types and sources of data (about the development of the countries of the world) on the same chart and it nicely display them along more than the two dimensions of your screen. Bubble sizes and colours represent other dimensions. And the whole thing move with time (years).

Trendanalyzer screenshot

What is also very interesting is that you can play with Trendanalyzer (in Gapminder world) and download the data behind it. In addition, Google acquired Trendanalyzer and offers some of its components as a “gadget”: Motion Chart.

The beauty of the software is nothing without appropriate use. And in all of his videos, Hans Rosling makes appropriate use of data visualisation, succeeding in converting messages heavily relying on statistics and various sources of data (not something usually visual attractive) in simple visualisations. As David McCandless said: “It’s effortless; it literally pours in”. By visualising it in such a way, it’s more easy for the dataset to try to change your mindset.

Because the tool isn’t everything. With its help, Hans Rosling is trying to convey messages. And if you watch any of his videos, you’ll see that he effectively succeeds in doing it wether it’s to make you stop talking about “developing” countries or to make you think about the role of the end of poverty in the growth of world population, for example. In his Six Minutes blog, Andrew Dlugan summarises Hans Rosling’s technique in 6 points:

  1. Explain the data axes
  2. Highlight subsets of data
  3. Dig deeper to unwrap data
  4. Place labels close to data points
  5. Answer the “Why?” questions
  6. Complement data with energetic delivery

Hans Rosling presenting The seemingly impossible is possible at TED 2007

Althought some of these techniques were taught or discovered by own practise during B.Sc./M.Sc./Ph.D., the combination of them make a presentation very effective, even in front of a small audience.

Why do I blog this? I watched all Rosling’s videos in one go. Once the current presentation was over, it was difficult to resist to watch the next one. From a general perspective, I’m very interested in all means to ease the way people can grasp huge amount of data and to maintain their interest during presentations. From a more practical perspective, I’m starting to deal with some amount of information for various projects and I’m looking for attractive ways to show them. And I was about to forget Hans Rosling is professor of Global Health, a field close to my current one: Health Economics. You couldn’t dream of a better thing than learning more about your field with interesting ideas and appealing presentations.
What triggered the redaction of this blog post is the release of a 55-minute documentary about Hans Rosling’s life and thoughts on YouTube.

Ignite presentation style

Being away from presentations to my dismay since a few months, I always enjoy reading the Presentation Zen blog, Garr Reynold’s blog on issues related to presentation design.

Recently, Garr came back on the Ignite presentation style with a presentation from Pamela Slim. Here is a video recording:

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AfDpaI73Pw%5D

I maybe liked this presentation for its content but above all for its style … At Ignite, you can have a maximum of 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds (so max. 5 minutes talk). I like this kind of challenge. Unfortunately, there is no planned Ignite event in Western Europe soon where I would be able to watch this live.

Finally, I still have to find a way to use this kind of presentation (large images, few words) in a scientific communication (who said PhD dissertation?) where precise facts and figures are often more important than concepts or message. Maybe just because scientific presentations are often meant to share measures, quantitative observations, statistical data, etc. For a communication that will show a review of the literature on a subject, this style would fit better.