Cyber Tips from Tufte

As we humans collectively dive down the rabbit hole of the Internet, the pressing need for truthful and coherent information design follows closely at our heels. Luckily, Tufte has gone on ahead of us. After hacking through the swamps and combing through the samples in his net, E.T. has some strongly held opinions about what's good, what's not. He spends a few minutes at every seminar recommending books, videos, courses and Internet addresses--and, of course, telling why. Here are some of E.T.'s likes, and why:

  • -- This is a "meta search engine" that searches other search engines. The best any one search engine can possibly sample, and keep reasonably up to date, is 6% of what's available on the Internet. "Always use more than one search engine," E.T. advises.

  • -- The best way to clean up the junk that accumulates, unsolicited, on your hard drive.

  • -- The best place to go to learn about interface design; replete with its own "Hall of Shame."

  • -- A well-designed Web site and the best place to go for out-of-print books. It's also an essential tool for just about any second-hand bookshop in the world.

  • -- A site designed by "M.I.T. know-it-all" Philip Greenspun that offers "everything you'd ever want to know about photography."

  • -- This site is devoted exclusively to searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Because of the volume of data that is amassed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the site has built what is essentially the world's largest super computer. "Since the neanderthals in Congress can not see fit to fund what could turn out to be the greatest discovery ever," Tufte explains, "it's all financed privately and depends on a network of millions of volunteers to give up their computers each night to crunch the numbers. If extraterrestrial life is discovered by your computer, you get your name on the scientific paper announcing it."

  • -- Officially known as "Arts and Letters Daily," this well-designed site is what Tufte calls "the literary intellectual's Yahoo."

    -- Alan Bisbort

    Tufte's Tips for Successful Presentation

    Because there are nearly six billion people on the earth and only one Edward R. Tufte, chances are not everyone will get to see him in person. For those, here's an abbreviated version of the last hour of his course, during which he deconstructs his own performance.

    1. Show up early: Something good is bound to happen.

    2. Lay out the problem:who cares about it and what the solution is.

    3. When presenting complicated material, follow PGP (particular/general/particular).

    4. When you talk, TALK: avoid the obvious reliance on notes.

    5. Give everyone in your audience a piece of paper.

    6. Match the information density in your presentation to the highest resolution newspapers [The Wall Street Journal has the highest resolution of all].

    7. Avoid overhead projectors. Keep the lights up in the room.

    8. Never apologize.

    9. Use humor, but make it relevant and never irritating.

    10. Use gender-neutral speech.

    11. Practice intensely beforehand.

    12. Meetings, bloody meetings: A very low rate of information is transferred at meetings for the time and effort involved.

    13. Take questions, but NEVER condescend to the questioner. Keep in mind that most questions arise from personal concerns.

    14. Express enthusiasm about your material, but only if your enthusiasm is real.

    15. Finish early.

    -- Alan Bisbort

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