Open source software is an important trend these days, but an even more important communication trend needs to be open source thinking.
I think it’s a great project. I also think it’s a great example of how deeply-ingrained the bullet-point orthodoxy is in our collective minds. If you visit their wiki you’ll see a representative example of how the presentation process unfolds at almost every organization:
1. Start with the slide design first. We all start thinking about PowerPoint templates first, but when we do, we rigidly enforce a visual structure on every single slide. What if the best solution is no background? What if visual variety is important to keep an audience’s attention? What if it’s a better idea to apply a design approach that balances visuals and spoken words in a slide/page hybrid? Too bad, because we’ve already enforced closed-source slide layouts.
2. Conform to a bullet point approach. Virtually all PowerPoint templates are set up for bullet points, as in this example. What if a full-screen photograph is best? What if placing the same text on a slide that you read verbally actually harms understanding? Too bad, because we’ve already enforced closed-source slide design.
3. Focus on structure last. Once the design is out of the way, then we look at ways to structure the bullet points that we’ll put on those pre-formatted slides. But what if a story structure is more persuasive than a bullet point structure? What if writing a script first helps distill and focus information to prevent cognitive overload? Too bad, becuase we’ve already enforced closed-source presentation structure.
We all do this. But we don’t have to. We can enforce open-source thinking by flipping the conventional presentation process upside-down and aligning our worldview in a way that helps people understand and that evokes dialogue. I want the Firefox folks to do well, so I’ve invited them to try out a new way of presenting beyond the bullet-point orthodoxy – if they respond I’ll post the process as part of the makeover series I’m doing, as shown here.
Keep your eyes, and your browsers, open to some fresh ideas on how to open up the sources of our collective presentation thinking.