How naked are you willing to be?

I started thinking about this in the context of facebook and flickr and twitter and blogs and all the various places online you can share what you are thinking, reading, doing, and seeing so I almost called this post how naked are you willing to get online?

365 days project: day 296 and yes this is all you can see

See, new platforms for socialization have many asking new questions: Do you friend your boss on facebook? Do you post the same photos on flickr if you know your in-laws will see them? Do you twitter what you’re really doing at three in the afternoon? Usually the way these questions get asked make it clear that conflict is expected. That you don’t really like your boss, and certainly don’t want him or her to see pictures of what you did last weekend. That what you did last weekend was somehow wrong or inappropriate or damaging to your career. That your in-laws so don’t see the world the way you do, you’d never want to show them how you see through the lens of your camera.

Now, I realize in many ways I’m lucky. My day job counts on me playing with social software. I’m friends with my boss, and not only on facebook. I love my in-laws, and will vacation with them not under duress, but because I genuinely think it will be fun. I will twitter about work or with flickr friends during the day and not think twice about it. If I’m really pissed about something, I have enough sense not to name names. Unless it’s the T, in which case those bastards have it coming. In other words, there isn’t a giant disconnect in my life between who I am at home, at work, and with other people.

I have no tolerance for intricate social maneuvering of the sort where I have to worry about how saying X to Y will effect Z if they find out. I do not miss junior high, not one bit. Other than the obvious naked means:

unarmed, defenseless
lacking confirmation or support
devoid of concealment or disguise
defenseless; unprotected; exposed
plain; simple; unadorned
exposed to view or plainly revealed
plain-spoken; blunt

True, not all of this sounds very, er, appealing. Defenseless definitely sounds bad, but defensive doesn’t sound good. Plain, simple, and unadorned sound good. Exposed to view is okay. Blunt… well, now we’re talking. Plain-spoken. I take that to mean talking like a person because you are one. So if you are willing to do that, I guess that makes you naked.

That not happening at work may be my number one aggravation.

I don’t mean my team. (Yes, really, and not just because sometimes some of them read this blog.) I mean stupid powerpoint decks. With their obtuse, obfuscating jargon and endless acronyms crammed onto slides in tiny point type. I mean the whole operationalizing, moving the needle, getting shared vision, boiling the ocean bullshit.

I mean the worrying about who you are facebook friends with stuff, too. The who can see your photos, and what they’ll really be seeing if they look. The loving or hating or freaking out about twitter’s simple what are you doing?

Why does everyone put up with this crap? It’s insane. It’s annoying. And it’s not really who we are. Cause if that’s true, hell, we all need more help than I thought. Yet we often choose to stay quiet, we fail to call bullshit, because we’re afraid. But naked is who we are. We just forget that sometimes.

Cramming too much crap into PowerPoint isn’t handholding, it’s assault

Last week at work, I was asked for my opinion about a deck-in-progress for a meeting. My coworker was pretty sure she knew what my answer was going to be — it is generally a variation on the theme of delete that. My hatred of PowerPoint is well-known: I think it is where ideas go to be tortured.

But say you’ve got a presentation to do… how do you not be evil? Keep these four things in mind, and nobody gets hurt:

PowerPoint doesn’t have feet, so no deck is ever going to stand on its own

Reading the Cliffs Notes is not just as good as reading the book. If you just get the deck, and not the speaker or the recorded audio or video, you don’t get it all. Pretending otherwise is inefficient and frustrating for everyone involved. Slides are part of a presentation, not the whole thing. Get over it.

Nobody likes a fork in the eye

Ask yourself, would I look at this image if it weren’t in my presentation? If the answer is no, then take it out, because we don’t want to see it either. You do not need an oafish cartoon to “liven up” your slide. If you are using a starburst shape and you are not using BAM! POW! in the way the old Batman show did, just stop it. If you think your slide is boring without these cheesy gimmicks, redo it or delete it. If you think it is the fastest or most entertaining way of delivering your message, great! The good stuff is the only stuff that should be on your slide.

Your age should be your smallest font size

Don’t you wince when you see a slab of text on your screen? If folks in the back of the room can’t read it, it’s too small. If you have more than two complete sentences on one slide, you’ve probably written too much. If you have that much to say, tell me the story, don’t bullet point it and me to death. (If you are wondering how you can fit more than a handful of words on a screen if you are over fifty — you probably can’t, and you probably shouldn’t. You’ve got the experience, so share your wisdom and your vision, not your need for bifocals.)

Ideas matter, decks don’t

Say no to fighting with company-wide templates (especially for internal presentations. We all know where we work, ok?) and other foolishness concerning the way things are supposed to get done. Instead, start off with a pen, paper, and your ideas. Outline what you want to say: think of the key points you need people to grasp, and ask yourself what the story you want to tell really is. Then think of the best way to relay that information. Can PowerPoint help you carry your message, or is that just the expectation? What would happen if, before your next big meeting when you were asked for the deck, you said “there is no deck”? Your ideas deserve better than the rote use of slideware.

IF YOU WANT MORE here are a few classics on the wrongs of PowerPoint:

Verizon irks me

Things I wish Verizon understood:

  • Customer convenience is more important than back-end systems convenience
  • If you direct people to your website, make damn sure it works
  • Don’t punish the customer when your cash cow gets disrupted

I say this even though I’m happy enough with my cellphone plan and my DSL. Verizon’s service is fine, it is their “customer” service that is crappy. Why? For starters, I could not upgrade the two phones on our family plan at the same time, because Verizon built the shopping cart to handle one upgrade at a time, no matter how many phones are on the same account. This is so idiotic I thought I must’ve been missing something, so I accepted Verizon’s annoying pop-up chat invitation — only to confirm that their system really is that idiotic. I ordered the first upgrade phone, and then their website went down.

Of course. So I figured I’d pop into one of their omnipresent stores to get my phone. My mistake — because 1) I’m not waiting around for an annoying clerk to try and upsell me when I know what I want, and 2) I’m not spending money in a store for things that don’t cost me anything online. That’s right: the phone that I get for free, without so much as a shipping charge, will cost me $50 in the store. The in-store phone will be free eventually — I would get $50 back from a mail-in rebate at least four weeks later. Compared to zero upfront costs online (presuming their website resurrects itself), why on earth would I do this? It’s crazy.

Verizon’s website becomes reachable again, and I get my upgrade. Since I’m on a roll now I decide to deal with Verizon again, regarding my unwanted landline. I register on their website so I can make promised changed to my account, only to discover that any changes in service have to be made over the phone. Grrr. I call and wind up listening to a voice on hold tell me I really should be handling this on their website. If only. I carefully enunciate “real person” “agent” and “live person” so the automated system transfers me to a human being.

Now, it must be said that this human being was quite pleasant, and she was even able to help me get rid of my voice line (because I don’t need a phone, on account of the Verizon wireless family plan we have) while keeping DSL service. The stupid things she was forced to do were not her fault in any way. First stupid thing: she is obligated to tell me that “you will not have 911 service.” I laugh — of course I won’t, I won’t have a phone! Then she must also inform me that “you will not be listed in the phonebook.” You don’t say. The very idea that anyone thinks these things need to be called out hurts my head. The final element in this trinity of stupidity is a kicker: I will now need to pay $5 more every month for DSL. Just because. Also, even though I’ve been paying my phone bill via automatic withdrawals from my checking account without any issues whatsoever, my DSL-only service needs to be billed to a credit card.

Verizon is lucky I intensely dislike Comcast, and that they have no real competitition.