TITLE: On Presentations, Slides, and Talks
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: January 21, 2006 2:38 PM
Someone on the SIGCSE mailing list recently requested
a reference for a presentation at a past conference
that had suggested we teach concepts that had "staying
power". He had looked through past proceedings for the
paper with no success.
It turns out there wasn't a paper, because the presentation
had been the 1997 keynote talk by
who that year received the SIGCSE award for Outstanding
Contributions to Computer Science Education. Fortunately,
Prof. Tanenbaum has posted the
slides of his talk
on his web site.
Of course, reading Tanenbaum's presentation slides is
not the same experience at all as hearing his talk as
a live performance. Whenever I come across a conference
proceedings, I run through the table of contents to see
what all happened at the conference. The titles of the
keynote addresses and invited talks always look so
inviting, and the speakers are usually distinguished,
so I turn to the listed page for a paper on the topic
of the presentation... only to find at most a one-page
abstract of the talk. Sometimes there is no page number
at all, because the the proceedings carry no other record
of the talk.
This has made me appreciate very much those invited
speakers who write a paper to accompany their talks.
Of course, reading a paper is not the same experience at
all as hearing a talk live, either. But written text
can say so much more than the cute graphics and bullet
points that constitute most speakers' presentation slides.
And for a talk that is done right -- such as
Alan Kay's lectures at OOPSLA 2004
-- the presentation materials are so dynamic that the
slides convey even less of the talk's real value. (The
best way Alan could share his talk materials would be to
make the Squeak image he used available for download!)
I think that this is why I like to write such complete
notes for the talks I attend, to capture as best I can
the experience and thoughts I have in real-time. Having
a blog motivates me, too, as it becomes a distribution
outlet that justifies even more a job done better.
This is also why I like to write detailed lecture notes,
a lá book chapters, for my courses. I write them
as much for me as for my students, though the students
give me an immediate reason to write and receive what I
hope is a substantial benefit.