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I spent most of yesterday working on cutting a 35-page paper down into the 15-20 minute talk I’ll be giving on Friday at a NITLE symposium on collaboration in the digital age, on a panel with Laura and Tim. Usually I find such cutting painful, but I was able to get through it fairly quickly. (That said, I am at the upper end of the time-frame, and if I were asked to whack out another two pages, I’d find it excruciating.)

Last night, I started building the slides to go along with the talk, and the irony was somewhat inescapable, as yesterday’s five years ago today post was in no small part about my skepticism at the announcement of Keynote. Did we really need “a happily Apple-y PowerPoint,” as I put it then, or should the goal really be less PowerPoint in the first place?

My answer today is yes, on both counts, in no small part because Keynote is less than PowerPoint: less bloated, less ugly, less of a pain. I’ve only really started using slides with my talks in the last year, and part of the change for me has been working through a non-sucky way to use them. My slides are simple: black text on a white background, no transitions and only the occasional very plain build. I never treat them as cue cards or, god forbid, a script; except for some quotations I want to call attention to, they never replicate long passages of what I’m saying; they aren’t endless bullet-pointed lists. And as such they’re pretty useless without the talk; they’re more for punctuation, and the occasional illustration, than they are for conveying ideas in any expository sense.

The slides, in effect, are utterly non-necessary, which makes me wonder whether I should bother spending the time on putting them together. I tend to find, though, that they help keep the audience focused on my ideas; the words “social interaction” on the screen can drive home the point of a sentence in a way that no amount of vocal emphasis can really manage.

So five years on: yay, Keynote! But less.

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