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Paul 'Scrivs' Scrivens
Always trying to get better. Always learning. Always making mistakes. Still not scared.
Always trying to get better. Always learning. Always making mistakes. Still not scared.

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Interesting approach to giving presentations. I have been considering this as of late as well.
NO MORE SLIDES (5 minutes reading time)

While reading a speech from paper is widely frowned upon, it is not only accepted that people use slides for support, it's expected that you show something visual when you speak. This fairly new practice is justified with old cliches like "a picture says more than a thousand words." The truth is: If we prepare properly we don't need PowerPoint.

An old greek speaker would have been booed off stage if he'd ever used such cheap mnemonic cheats. It was key that you do not only remember your speech (with the help of intriguing architectonic mnemonic), but that you remember it so well that you could deliver it kicking ass.

Is any picture worth a 1000 words?
Yes, I am fully aware that using images can be powerful, but… in all those speeches I've seen, almost no one was able to use the famed "super power of the image" to their favor. Most slides are filled with boring text. And pictures are often just lame, and if they're not, they lack the tension that a good image needs to shine in contrast to well chosen words.

Pictures can have a massive impact, but for most speakers including me (and I am a designer so I should know) it's easier to find the right text than the perfect picture-text combination. And if you think you're picture are awesome, consider the possibility that you might be wrong for a second… In reality choosing the right pictures is a rare and precious talent. Do you really have that?

What would Steve Jobs do?
The best speakers I have heard and seen, are not convincing with their photography, but with their words. The strongest images I had taken with me from the hundreds of speeches I had heard and seen at those conferences were not visual images, but verbal images. For example, I remember a couple of cool things X said at Y, but I don't remember a single image in his presentation. Not a single one.

Now what about Steve Jobs? He definitely used slides.! And those were really good speeches. How in the world could I know better than Steve Jobs? It's 2011, so we need to use slides!

The worst thing you can do
Well, maybe, but the worst thing you can do before a presentation is betting on power of pictures and working on them half the night, working picture stories into something that makes sense at 4am.

To make sense the next morning a speaker needs to feel good when he enters the stage. After sleeping only 3 hours, only very few people feel good (liars and freaks). In my experience, the best thing you can do in preparation for a speech you started to work on too late is sleep in memorizing it and then sleep over it and sleep out of it.

Of course you always have excuses for bad speeches. The Internet, the mail client, the spam filter or PowerPoint are handy scape goats. It's not just PowerPoint's fault if you suck. But then again, it's all connected. Speeches need to be prepared. PowerPoint gives us the illusion that we can get prepared easily and that we are prepared when we're not. Instead of going through that dammed speech until you're absolutely clear what to say it makes you fumble with graphics until the early morning and construct a narrative more similar to a series of zip files than to anything that makes sense to a human mind.

You know when you suck
I don't want to watch any of my speaking videos anymore, they are all nothing but astonishing night mares. But I can't help it. It's as if I had video tapes of that motor bike that almost killed me back when I was a student.

And it's not even necessary to watch those tapes. Just look at people's faces after the speech and their "Oh here comes that guy" face. People avoid a bad speaker because people don't like to lie. If people avoid you afterwards, you know one thing: you suck. The one that you force to talk to you when smoking cigarettes will say things like "I admire the passion." or "That was something else." or "Great speech man, made me think and umm…"

Don't repeat mistakes
I had a couple of speeches that went okay, so I know for sure that I suck when I suck.

After one of my recent speeches in which particularly sucked, I thought about it all and decided that I won't use slides anymore. That would force me to prepare, to sleep and speak naturally instead of trying to force everything into a sliding logic that pushes you forward like a prisoner and holds you back like his ball and chain.

I discussed the idea on Twitter. I got mixed moderate responses:

- "One doesn't need to be that extreme."
- "Just use a couple of pics."
- "Depends on what kind of presentation you hold."

My thought was: Reduce everything you don't need until you have the essence. And the essence of a speech is not fewer word per slides, but well chosen spoken words.

Play it again
To cut a long story short. Writing a solid text and memorizing it as a speech was all I did in preparation to my next invitation. And when I came on stage, I was tense but sure about what I was going to say. As far as I can tell, this was one of the simpler, clearer, stronger speeches I ever gave. I'd probably still feel personally ashamed watching it, but as long as no one else notices and the videos are not passed around like that Miss Southern Carolina video, I guess it's alright.

Reduce everything you don't need until you have the essence. And the essence of a speech is speaking. I am not going to make any promises, but the chance that in the next few presentations you are not going to see any slides from me is very high.

Note: I am not saying that no one should use slides. You can do whatever the hell you want if you're getting good response. But you should give it a try if you feel like I felt that day. Steve Jobs was great with his slides, but he was even better without them. One of his best speeches was actually read from paper. I bet you hardly noticed.

If you have a button on your site that says your site will remember me if I click it, then your site should freaking remember me.

Whoa, screen recording in Quicktime on Lion is awesome. Just killed a ton of screencast apps.

Dear God of Time,

I humbly ask that you provide me with enough time to create today. I know there will be fires to put out and unwanted tasks to finish, but I wish to create. I wish to do something that has no boundaries and no constraints of what others will think of it. Just allow me some of that time.

I will sacrifice many gummy bears in your honor.

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Something I honestly never think about as a male, but I need to give more consideration to in the future.
I know I have strong opinions on this subject, so I'll try (but probably fail) to keep this relatively brief. I promise to go back to frog photos after this.

Google+ forces you to have a public gender in your profile (although it can be 'Other'). I know they have reasons for this, but I don't think they're good enough.

Many women grow up with a sense of physical vulnerability that's hard for men to appreciate. Our culture's relentless treatment of women as objects teaches them that they are defined by the one thing that men around them want from them—men who are usually bigger, stronger, and (like any human) occasionally crazy. This feeling—often confirmed by actual experiences of harassment and assault—can lead, understandably, to a lifetime of low-level wariness and sense of vulnerability that men have trouble appreciating. A male designer building an interface should try to keep in mind that there are reasons a female user might feel uncomfortable being told she has to broadcast her gender. Sure, someone's gender is usually obvious from their name, but there's no need to force people to draw extra attention to it—introducing myself with "Hi, I'm Randall." sends a different message from "Hi, I'm Randall, and I'm a MAN."

I don't think making this option mandatory is a significant cause of the major Google+ early-adopter gender split, but if you're worried about how few female users your project has, marginalizing their potential worries on your introductory screen doesn't seem very bright.

There are reasons Google+ might want your gender. For one thing, the interface may need to use pronouns, and in some languages there's no way to avoid this. We have a chat-bot in the #xkcd IRC channel which serves as a repository of user nonsense. At some point, we decided to program in the ability to use pronouns, and it was surprisingly complicated:

Now, I went out of my way to support the various options for referral that users asked for (although I drew the line at recently-invented pronouns like "xir"). But even covering the basics in English is tricky, and the situation gets more so in languages like Hebrew. (It looks like Google+ punts on that issue by making all "other" users male in all languages, which is a can of worms in itself.) Yet none of the linguistic issues mean you have to make gender a broadcasted part of the user's profile.

They also (obviously) want to know more about you so they can serve ads; advertisers care about gender. But again, that's no reason to make gender public.

The "other" option is nice, but I don't really feel comfortable setting my gender as "other". There are a huge number of people whose gender is actually best-described as "other", and they come in astonishing variety, even if you set aside the issue of social gender and just ask about biology. This article has a fascinating list of eleven particularly tricky situations that lead to someone having no easy-to-agree-on biological sex:

There are quite a few people who are accurately described by an "other" option, and when they're sometimes struggling for recognition, co-opting their label for anyone who doesn't want to broadcast their gender seems a little off-putting.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of reasons Google+ would want to ask about your gender. But there's no good reason to pointedly make it the only thing in your profile that can't be private—and many reasons not to, starting with basic courtesy. It may be a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but I think it's worth getting right.

(P.S. I know I post a lot about interface quibbles and feature suggestions—and I do use the feedback button heavily—but I don't want to give the impression I'm generally unhappy with Google+. Fundamentally, I really like this system, which makes me want to tweak things in this early-adopter period so it will be as well-designed as possible, so it will survive and be around for me to use for a long time.)

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Um, yummy?
The birds are no longer angry.

From what I gather @ works just like + now. Not sure if this was a hotfix or what, but I can ignore doing + now, you should too.

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I don't take enough Instagrams
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I find it amazing that after 4 days I'm still learning about Google+. Easy to get into and yet impossible to master. Almost like the greatest social game ever invented...unintentionally. Can only imagine what is going to happen when the iPhone app comes out.
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