Beautiful, Pointless Graphs


Apparently the military hates Powerpoint:

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Andrew Gelman's contribution to the debate:

This connects, I think, to my debate with Nathan Yau on the topic of pretty but impossible-to-read data visualizations. I didn’t like the pretty visualizations because, judging them as statistical graphics, they didn’t do a good job of displaying information; Yau liked the visualizations because they grab your interest and motivate you to explore the topic further. The “data visualizations of the year” really are impressive if you think of them as super-cool illustrations (replacements for the usual photos or drawings that might accompany a newspaper or magazine article) rather than as visual displays of quantitative information.