Bookforum on IP

It’s hard to work in the software field without becoming acutely aware of how ill-equipped U.S. copyright law is to cope with the digital age. I’m not sure how aware the general public is of these things. I mean, kids getting sued for downloading music gets some ink, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg of where things are broken. This bit in Bookforum is about the most informative and balanced introduction to the issues I’ve seen.

E.T., phone home

Brian Storms Dear describes meeting Edward Tufte (E.T.), and this bit in particular really captures what bugs me about him. So lost in narcicisstic admiration for the brilliance of his own ideas, he can’t fathom that presenting information suboptimally— but in a way that people expect it— could actually be just fine.

I asked him, given how he’d spent much of this afternoon trashing PowerPoint, what did he think about VCs like Guy Kawasaki urging entrepreneurs to follow a strict 10-page PowerPoint format when pitching a startup idea? Given that he’d spent much of today’s seminar railing against the evils of PowerPoint, what advice did he have for entrepreneurs trying to communicate to VCs?

He looked up to me, annoyed. I’d asked a stupid question, I guess: wasn’t it obvious, his body language seemed to say, that the answer was to dump PowerPoint altogether? He shrugged, continuing to write autographs.

“Just give them something to read on a piece of paper,” he mumbled. “It has five times the resolution!” He went back to signing books.

I paused, wondering if he was going to say any more, but he wasn’t. So I said thank you and walked past the long line of autograph-seekers behind me, out of the huge ballroom, out of the hotel to the parking lot, and drove back to the office, to finish polishing up a PowerPoint presentation for three VC meetings over the next two days.

It reminds me of my impression of Jakob Nielsen, who I sort of met when he was speaking on a panel that a friend had put together at a Seybold Seminar. Kind of a blowhard who chased everyone in the place who had a microphone or camera. Not to say that both of them have not produced useful ideas. They’re just curious egotists who have built cult-like followings in esoteric quasi-academic fields of inquiry.