Tuesday, January 12, 2010

If Obsession (with a new idea, book, author...) is a crime, let me be guilty

It seems to me that finding a new favorite author, artist, musical group or even idea follows the same stages as falling in and out of love. (not the stages of grief, but similar).

The example I would use is my recent dalliance with the information presentation and design ideas of Edward Tufte.

Stage one: Falling in Love.

I never knew that anyone thought this way about data presentation. Tufte's ideas are terrific and visionary. Every pearl of presentation wisdom that comes from his mouth is exactly the right answer and perfectly fixes everything.

Stage two: I Am Not Worthy of This Love.

I'll never do anything even a tenth as well as Tufte. His figures produce epiphanies of insight and mine cause the viewer to suffer headaches and nausea and some to go irrevocably insane. I should just stop presenting any data to anyone in any form ever.

Stage Three: The Blinders Come Off.

I can't stop doing any presenting. Tufte seems a little rigid in his outlook on things. I may not be Mozart but Salieri had some good tunes also. My figures are good enough to get the point across. These other presentation design guys over here don't think Tufte is the final answer on data presentation.

Stage Four: The Breakup

Yeah I used to think Tufte had some good presentation idea, but he was too rigid in his standards. My friends say they never really liked him in the first place. I am so glad I am over that and can get back to work. Stephen Few has some good ideas on data presentation, I just might check that out.

And so the cycle continues.

I think you could apply the same formula to a favorite author that you just discovered, a new political philosophy, management fad, computer program, TV show, new girlfriend, or any other subject of fascination. My goal in life is to get through the cycles as fast as possible to preserve a healthy skepticism and keep a measured perspective. Skepticism is the best philosophy, I love it the most. (... here we go again.)


Howard said...

I mostly agree but stayed in stage 3. I think his first book is his best (not sure if you're up to that yet).

Rocky phrased it well to me when I first discovered Tufte, he's great for what he does. Then I realized that not every kind of presentation is a data rich topic and that's ok. I do think that PowerPoint is used too much and often a different kind of presentation with a handout as a document instead of in bullet point form might be a better option.

Howard said...

I also like Presentation Zen, Information is Beautiful and slideology