Presentations – Time

As a huge consumer of YouTube presentations (being an Aussie, I don’t have the money or time to fly over to Europe or the US to physically attend conferences) I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the drop in quality of those presentations, so rather than just whinge about it I thought I’d try to help…

Before I get in to the specifics, you may be asking “what’s my authority on this subject” – too easy…

  • I lectured in Computer Science across a wide variety of subjects from Computer Architecture, to most common Programming Languages and even Artificial Intelligence
  • I’ve worked for 3 Vendors doing pre and post sales work, doing everything from the construction and delivery of Technical Training to presentations to CEOs
  • During my 30 years of consulting I’ve created and delivered many internal training courses around Technologies, Architecture, Agile and Kanban, some of which were delivered across the whole of IT. I’ve also created and run “Train the Trainer” courses

BTW I’m not saying I swallowed the Presentation Bible, but I’d like to think that I’ve chewed a few corners over the years, so these are just my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to reuse, improve or feed back on them :)

At the moment I can think of 3 major areas which could help people:

  1. Time– the subject of this post – all too often, many people seem to be trying to incorporate the maximum amount of information to a presentation as possible, not questioning if this is the metric to use. How about the increase in peoples “understanding”?…
  2. Quality– it’s great that there are so many conferences and topics being presented, but people don’t seem to be given adequate training or preparation, so less than 50% of most presentations are “decent” – just my opinion 
  3. Feedback– many presenters don’t seem to be getting adequate feedback or acting on it as I’ve seen the same people making the same mistakes or at times even getting worse!

Time

The Theme today is Time. It’s a finite resource which we all seem to be short on with the increasing demands of our society. As we all know, although it’s heaps of fun, going to a “conference” is a huge “time suck” as you’re away from work and for most people you’ll spend a day or so getting things done before you leave and another one or two catching up on what you missed. Even if you’re just watching a video, it’s probably not at work, so you’re home and that’s time you could be spending with your family, which means you’re making a sacrifice and therefore expect to be rewarded in some form.

Unfortunately, an emerging trend over the past few years seems to be “excessive presentation”. By that, I mean someone having too much information for a presentation which is generally accommodated by either speaking really quickly through too many slides “I’m going to speak really quickly” or “I’m going to go through this really quickly”, skipping a whole bunch “We’ll skip these” or “These are not relevant for this presentation”, or just going until you run out of time and saying “Oh well, I had more, but my time is up”. Whichever way you put it, the presenter is basically saying “You’re not really worth my effort, so I’ll leave it to you to sort all this out” :(

I know that last statement may be contentious, but I think it is a valid subconscious sub-text, so the first suggestion is to “respect your audience”. As pointed out, they’ve made sacrifices to be with you in a room or hall and you are getting “paid”, either materially or reputationally, so surely isn’t it reasonable that you put some effort in to time management of your presentation? So people can then go away with knowledge which will significantly influence and inspire them because it’s valuable, rather than forgetting it (and you) the next day?

Time Management

We all know and have probably read a lot about Time Management, but that’s usually for Projects or People and Presentations are an entirely different beastie as they’re on such a small and intimate scale, irrespective of audience size. A typical presentation could be anywhere from 15 mins to 1 1/2h and people have set aside their valuable time to learn something from you.

As mentioned earlier though, there seems to be a trend of “speed presentations” that has emerged in the past few years, which generally takes one of two forms:

  1. A Literally Fast presentation! One of the key rules of effective presentation is to speak slowly, but I fear that people are not being told that they’re speaking way too fast or don’t realise they are (which you quite often don’t at first). The easiest check and fix for this is to record audio and or video and just listen back to it and adjust.
    Worst of all is people who speak really fast, yet have no remorse – I’ve literally seen speakers introduce themselves by saying “I’m a really fast talker, so this will be a jam packed presentation…” Really? For who? Certainly not for the audience as:
    • Firstly, they will have difficulty understanding the presenter
    • Secondly, even if they can listen to the presenter, the audiences comprehension will be another thing. If a subject is new to someone, they need more and not less time to understand the true meaning of what’s being said
    • Finally, in doing that, the speaker is focusing on their needs and not those of most of their audience. Shouldn’t that be the reverse?
  2. Too Many Slides! This is probably the more common of the two, but it can obviously lead to people speeding up as they get (typically 1/2 way) through and realise that there’s a lot of slides go get through, so they’d better hurry up! There’s an easy fix for this, and that’s planning your presentation which gets back to time management.

The best rough indicator of whether you have too many or few slides can be solved by simple arithmetic – just get the running time (don’t forget not to include question time, if that’s a thing) and divide it by the number of minutes per slide. What’s that though? Most will give you a figure between 2 and 3 mps which is only an overall average, so you may spend 1 minute on one slide and 5 on another. I usually use between 3 and 4, depending on the type of presentation I’m giving. The figures you get will obviously flex, but if you had 30 slides for a 30 minute presentation, I’d be worried.

There is one underlying assumption here, and that’s that you’re using your slides as anchors and talking around them, rather than just the points or content. I think we’ve all seen those presentations where someone literally reads the points on the slide to which the obvious question is “where’s the value-add?” and “why didn’t you just send me the slide pack?”. This gets us to the Quality of your Presentation which will be the next topic.

As preparation for that topic, you may want to think about the topic of “cognitive load” ie how much “brain power” is being consumed as there are physical limitations on how long most people can concentrate for.

PS Any thoughts or suggestions most welcome – just comment below…

Speakers

Speakers

crappySpeakersOK, this may open a can of worms, as writing about speakers is akin to saying what the “best” programming language is, so I’d better be precise about what I’m writing about – it won’t be about:

  • The “best value” “cheap crap” speaker you can get for your Mac or PC
  • Nor will it be about anything resembling “home stereo speakers” (although you can use some of them)
  • And it certainly won’t be about “audiophile speakers” as they’re generally overpriced pretentious crap

BEH-K8What this post is about is a set of “Studio Monitors” which I bought for use with my various synthesisers and then discovered of course that they were also about what I was using with my Mac (or PC if you’re less fortunate ;)

If you read my post on Headphones, one if the key points I made was that selecting any “sonic translation device” depends on your hearing (unless you want to be able to impress a bunch of kids ;). You should buy something for the people who listen, so if that’s you, and your partner, and your kids – then they are the only people who’s opinion matters… Snooty guests who may come over for dinner don’t count (unless you’re amazingly shallow).

MacSpeakersRight! Having got all the qualification out of the way, I’ve managed to stumble my way in to what are probably the best value Monitor Speakers for <$500 (AU). How can I say that? It all starts with a guy called Keith R Klawitter who founded http://www.krksys.com/ that have made some amazing studio speakers and headphones (which are the ones I eventually chose in that previous post) but unfortunately (for KRK), Keith left them and became independent (and also happens to own all the patents on the speaker technology he developed). One of the things Keith did was a collaboration with Behringer to develop the NEKKST range of which my choice, the K8’s are part of it, having the following qualities:

  • Ultra-linear 150-Watt reference-class studio monitor
  • Designed by renowned acoustic icon Keith Klawitter, founder of KRK
  • Advanced Waveguide technology creates ultimate acoustic dispersion and extremely large “sweet zone”
  • True bi-amping mode with 2 separate amplifiers for ultimate sound reproduction
  • Ultra-high resolution, 1″ silk dome tweeter for ultimate sound reproduction

The astute will notice the 150 Watts which would probably deafen you if you turned them up full blast at a few feet from you (which they would be), but the whole point of this is that they’re “over spec’d” and that what I’m after is quality and one of the ways to get that is a top spec’d product which is being under utilised. This is certainly proven as the speakers are way better than my KRK headphones which are amazing!

But that’s not really the point for this post. The point is to choose a pair of speakers which are Rolls-Royce in quality for your Mac or PC on a comparatively “beer budget” and if that’s what you’re after, the K8’s are probably what you’re after. Furthermore, if you want some really good Bass response, then  you can always get a NEKKST K10, which although I’ve never heard them, I’m sure would vibrate your SOCKS OFF!

Having been in to electronics and audio since I was about 14, there’s a lot more I can write on this, and probably will, but to give you a hint – here’s a few things to consider:

  • The K8’s and a K10 could form an AWESOME budget stereo which would be beyond what most people have
  • If you’re connecting digital sources, then you have to have good Digital-To-Analogue converters (going beyond just connecting them into the 3.5″ jack on your Mac or PC) to get the best

So stay tuned, as I will write about both of these topics some time. Meanwhile, listen easily, with precision and power :)

Headphones

LotsOfHeadphones.jpg

Its been a while, I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging, and have decided to get back in to it. One thing that’s been on my mind recently is Headphones, and I realise that it’s probably something most people don’t think about much – just go in to a store and buy some for however much money you want to spend, which will certainly work for under $100 (note: all prices are in Australian $).

Over $100 it gets tricky as you have brands like Apple Beats Headphones which are just over-priced crap (and they’re not the only ones). Luckily though, the sweet-spot for good headphones is around $1-200 with the next stop being $1k and over – you just have to know what you’re buying. If you’ve not been in a studio, or created a home studio, you may not of heard of most of the brands I’m going to mention, but all these brands are literally the ones used to produce the music we all listen to.

Roland-RH-5.jpgLet’s start on the “budget end” and for those I’d have to recommend the Roland RH-5s. Roland are probably best known for their instruments and studio equipment, but not so much their headphones. When I bought a pair of these a few years ago I did a lot of research and found them to be the best value for money “entry level headphones” (ie not crap). I think I payed around $100 at the time, but you can now get them for $75 which makes them incredible bargain. Their specifications are better than a lot of headphones which cost twice the price with a frequency response (ie the frequencies they will reproduce) of 10Hz to 25kHz.

The astute amongst you will say “Hang on, humans can only hear between 20Hz and 20kHz” and you’d be (pretty much) correct, but that would be with respect to a 20yo who had not been to any loud concerts (hearing loss in the young is horrendous, also because of in ear headphones). As you get older, that top frequency gets lower, so the average 50 year old tops out around 15kHz so an important thing is to only buy better headphones if you can actually hear the difference. Having said all that, there’s a lot more subtlety to response curves than just the frequencies, just as cameras are not all about megapixels.

KRK-KNS8400.jpg

Unfortunately, my Roland’s met an unfortunate end under someone’s foot (my fault, I’d left them on the floor!) which set me off on my quest for a new pair of headphones. Luckily, it was End of Financial Year here so there were a heap of sales. Looking at the place where I get most of my gear, https://djcity.com.au/, they had a great price on some KRK KHS8400s, reduced from $250 to $180 – done! How do these compare to RH-5s? They are significantly better:

  • The outer pads are larger and made of memory foam – I can tell these will be good for multi-hour sessions
  • Their frequency response is 5Hz – 23kHz, and you do notice the increased bass. Although 5Hz is below our threshold of 20Hz, our bodies can still sense this and all I can say is that the “bass is bassier”. Top end – superb! Can be almost a bit too sharp with some music (probably my only criticism) but I can easily correct for that with EQ.
  • The separation is phenomenal! Instruments are much more clearly placed in the stereo field. I don’t know how they do this, but definitely better than the RH-5’s – part of the art of any acoustic design.

These headphones are basically so good that I’d say even if you can’t get them on sale, they’re still a good buy at $250. It’s also worth noting that some reviewers have referred to the KRK’s as “the best headphones available for under $1,000”.

Sennheiser-HD800What if you want to spend over $1,000? To me, there’s only one brand in this category, and that’s Sennheiser. Call me a “Headphone Snob” (and I probably am, so it’s OK ;), but they are the ones who literally invented the open ear headphone and they are literally setting the standard. In fact, my first pair of headphones that I personally bought were Sennheisers and I kept buying them for a few decades, but they now seem to of become a “premium brand” and I think you can do much better than them in the low cost and mid range area. At the top end though, they still rule for me! At $2,000, the Sennheiser HD 800s pretty much top things out. I’ve never tried them, but could take an educated guess, based on the law of diminishing returns, that they’d only be 10-20% better than the KRKs I’m using at the moment.

One can go further though, and that’s in to the world of “high end audiophile headphones” – with these, we’re talking about cans which you use on your yacht whilst docked at Monaco during “the season”

Sennheiser HE1

This brings us in to the rarefied territory of the Sennheiser Orpheus HE-1s –  with a price of around $80,000… you know these will be no “ordinary headphones”. But are they any better than Sennheiser HD 800s?

Sennheiser HE1 open.jpgThe HE-1s are a follow up to their legendary HE-90s, which were quite revolutionary at the time, although not the first. The HE-1s  are certainly amazing, with a response from 8 Hz (note: my KRKs are lower at 5 ;) to more than 100 kHz (that’s 4 times “normal headphones”!) they have the lowest distortion ever measured in a sound reproduction system: 0.01% at 1 kHz, 100 dB SPL.

Sennheiser HE1 HeadphonesThe interesting thing is that when you look at the original reviews for the HE-90s, they actually weren’t that complimentary: “sounded a bit shy on the bottom—it lacked sufficient body and weight, seemed rather lean through the midbass, and was without a fully natural warmth“. Unfortunately in these days of Corporate Suckupery, Consumerism and “news” organisations which are mostly extensions of PR firms, I don’t believe the reviews.

Stax SR-009SBesides, if you’re going electrostatic, the best bet is the company who invented them, the Japanese company Stax and their ST-009S headphones which will probably be better than the Sennheisers and only set you back $4,325 (don’t know whether that AU or US, but at this level, does it matter?).

KRK KNS-8400-angleWhere does that leave us? Well, with me and my KRK KHS8400s – I’ve been wearing them for around 5 hours today and they’re still comfy. They may not look as snazzy as all those high-end headphones, but for my ears they’ll do as I’ve been listening to Blade Runner 2046, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, Dream Theater, Tron, Bach, Louis Armstrong and A Clockwork Orange and all I can say is that they produce the best sound that I’ve heard so far, so they’ll be good enough for quite a while, as long as I don’t leave them on the floor…

An Architect’s Journey in to Design Thinking

BeautifulCar

After a bit over a year, it’s time to get the band together again, and start doing some blogging. What have I been doing in the interim? Stuff… and I’ll probably go through some of that later, but my main journey recently (for most of this year) has been around Design Thinking.

Yeah, I know, everyone was raving about Design Thinking years ago, but as an Architect I thought “Oh, I get that, it’s thinking like a designer…” I did that when I did Architectural Design roles, but I didn’t really get it. Now I do though and the best place to start is with the UK Design Council “Double Diamond”

DoubleDiamondEvolution

The first diamond is The Problem and we’ll get back to that, but the second diamond is The Solution. Unfortunately, in Architecture and much of IT we’ve made a nice cozy home in the second diamond of The Solution which is probably why things are in such a deluded and confused state in IT – we’re coming up with Solutions when WE DON’T EVEN KNOW THE PROBLEM!

Feel free to post comments down below and I’ll respond and maybe even change what I’m writing based on any feedback.

 

The REAL Battle Of Mobile Bay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia… Enjoy ;-)
Battle of Mobile Bay
Part of the American Civil War
Bataille de la baie de Mobile par Louis Prang (1824-1909).jpg
Battle of Mobile Bay, by Louis Prang.
Date August 2, 1864–August 23, 1864
Location Mobile Bay, Alabama
Result Union victory
Belligerents
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
David Farragut (Navy)
United States Gordon Granger (Army)
Confederate States of America Franklin Buchanan (Navy)
Confederate States of America Richard L. Page (Army)
Strength
12 wooden ships
2 gunboats
4 ironclad monitors
5,500 men
3 gunboats
1 ironclad
1,500 men
1,000 Samsung Galaxy Note 7‘s
Casualties and losses
151 killed
177 wounded
1 ironclad sunk
13 killed
22 wounded
1,587 captured
1 gunboat captured
1 gunboat destroyed
1 ironclad captured

 

The Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864 was an engagement of the American Civil War in which a Federal fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, assisted by a contingent of soldiers, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Admiral Franklin Buchanan and three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay that was a central Confederate storage area for their mobile phones which were essential for communication amongst the Confederate forces.

The battle was marked by Farragut’s seemingly rash but successful run through a minefield that had just claimed one of his Stainless Steel, Single Block monitors, built with the help of the British genius Sir Jonathan Ive, enabling his fleet to get beyond the range of the shore-based guns. This was followed by a reduction of the Confederate fleet to a single vessel, ironclad CSS Tennessee.

css tennessee engages the unionTennessee did not then retire, but engaged the entire Northern fleet. Tennessees armor enabled her to inflict more injury than she received, but she could not overcome the imbalance in numbers and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7‘s which were being lobbed on to her deck. She was eventually reduced to a motionless hulk and surrendered, ending the battle. With no Navy to support them, the three forts also surrendered within days. Complete control of lower Mobile Bay thus passed to the Union forces.

Mobile had been the last important port on the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River remaining in Confederate possession with a supply of Mobile Phones – mainly Apple, with some of the more recently introduced Google Pixel phones, so its closure was the final step in completing the blockade in that region and severely reducing the Confederates capability to communicate.

This Union victory, together with the capture of Atlanta, was extensively covered by Union newspapers and was a significant boost for Abraham Lincoln’s bid for re-election three months after the battle.

Tennessee being bombarded by Samsung Galaxy Note 7‘s

This lead to one of Lincoln’s most memorable quotes:

“I Destroy my Enemies when I make them Friends, and give them a Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Abraham Lincoln Galaxy Note 7

Abraham Lincoln posing with a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which he fondly remembered as “The Union Buster” after the Battle Of Mobile Bay.

funcjure

funcjureI’ll soon be starting a new permanent job, and in preparation I’m making it clear what is my prior intellectual property. In this case, it’s not so I can make “oodles of money” in the future, but it’s actually so I can release it as Open Source.

So what I’ll be explaining here is not something I’ve finished, but an idea which I’ve actually been playing around with for a year or so, but never gotten around to fully implementing. This will also help bring together my thinking on this and hopefully inspire me to really get going on this project :-)

 

What is funcjure?

funcjure is a “functional syntax wrapper” around Clojure. What do I mean by that? Well, Clojure is a great language, especially if you’re either used to or prepared to adapt to prefix notation. ie instead of typing 1+1, you type (+ 1 1) which although relatively easy to understand, can get a bit harder as things get more complex, like 9+5*7/4+62/6 which would translate as (+ 9 (*5 7) (/ 62 6) etc…

The logical question is Why? (do I have to type prefix notation) The Clojure and Lisp people will say “well, that’s the way it is, so just get used to it”, which I’m fine with as I wrote my first Lisp program over 3 decades go. Even still, I would prefer to use infix notation (which is what we’re taught for maths) and see no reason why we shouldn’t as computers are great at doing the sort of rote translation required to convert infix to prefix notations.

Clojure is a great language, which also has a fantastic ecosystem and community, and is written in Java which has a HUGE ecosystem. Furthermore, Clojure can call Java code, which has helped tremendously by giving Clojure “out of the box” access to so many libraries and products. Finally, because Clojure is a Lisp, its strong point is Symbolic Manipulation which is exactly what is required for translating infix to prefix structures in order to implement funcjure!

What would this look like? Let’s take some typical Clojure and then show what it would look like in funcjure:

"Hello World!"            ; Minimal "Hello World!"
; "Hello World!"

(println "Hello World!" ) ; Standard "Hello World!"
; println("Hello World!)
; Clojure((println "Hello World")) ; Execute some Clojure code
(def a "test")            ; Define a variable
; a="test"

(def mylist '(1 2 4 5 6)) ; Define a variable list
; mylist='(1 2 3 4 5 6)

(println a mylist)        ; Print our variables
; println(a mylist)

(first (rest '(1 2 3 )))  ; Get the 2nd element of the list
; first(rest('(1 2 3)))

(.println System/out "Hello World from Java!")
; System.out.println("Hello World from Java!")
; or Java(System.out.println("Hello World from Java!"))

(defn factorial           ; Now let's do the classic Factorial function
  ([n]                    ; when only one argument is passed in
    (factorial n 1))
  ([n acc]                ; when two arguments are passed in, with recursion
    (if  (= n 0)  acc
    (recur (dec n) (* acc n)))))
(factorial 6)             ; And test it
; factorial(n) = factorial(n 1)
; factorial(n, acc) = if((n==0), acc, recur(dec(n), n*acc))
; factorial(6)

The overall purpose is to make code much more accessible and ‘natural’ to write as we’re essentially taught infix notation as our “second language” when we study even the most basic mathematics. None of this is really new – in the beginning, things look like our old friend BASIC, with direct assignment and loose typing, which easily map to Clojure. You’ll also notice that access to Clojure and Java is provided by the respective functions. Speaking of functions, these are written similar to Prolog and other languages (eg Erlang) which allow for “pattern matching” in function definitions. In the beginning, the capabilities would be mapped directly to Clojure (as shown above), but eventually it would be nice to go to a full Prolog style, so the factorial function could be written like

factorial(0) = 1                ; The base termination case
factorial(n) = n*factorial(n-1) ; Iteration by recursion

which I think is way more elegant.

That’s about it for this post, as this really contains the base concepts for what I’d like to do. There’s obviously a lot more scope and subtlety to this, some of which I’m aware of and probably a lot more which I’m not, but I personally would much prefer to use a language like this and have access to Clojure and Java when needed for efficiency or easy code porting.

What do you think? All comments / suggestions / critiques would be gratefully accepted as I haven’t really done much more work than this, other than having a 1/2 working translator for this syntax which I’m going to (hopefully) get to work on in the next few weeks before I start my job.

Watched Over By Machines Of Evil

Machines Of Evil

I dread to think (but
cannot help!)
of a cybernetic dystopia
where mammals rule computers rule mammals
living in a sad world with no humanity
algorithms polluting
our water
and our sky.

I dread to think (but
cannot help!)
of a cybernetic garbage dump
filled with dross and electronics
where deer are killed
by protective drones
as if they were objects
with no remorse.

I dread to think (but
cannot help!)
of a cybernetic boot
stomping for continual labor
detached from nature,
detached from mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of evil.


The above is the exact opposite of “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace” by Richard Brautigan. And no, I don’t actually think of that as our future, but more of a warning of where it could go if certain human dynamics in our world system are left unchecked ;-)