Prose Vs Powerpoint

I’ve been reading with interest the recent heated exchanges between Charles Petzold and Jeff Atwood et al over the comparative merits of Petzold’s text heavy and Adam Nathan’s full color introductory texts to WPF.

I own both books and found each instructive in their own way. And I noticed that Jeff still used his Amazon refer code when writing (what Petzold calls) his hatchet job of Petzold’s book.

I’m not going to echo chamber the arguments and I don’t think either book, is in fact, categorically ‘better’. But something that Phil Haaked said struck me as interesting:

Long passages of unbroken prose are great for getting lost in mental imagery when reading a novel, but it sucks for recall

Which is a spot-on observation. But not of the kind of recall Phil meant…

Nat Torkinton from the very good O’Reilly Radar group blog wrote a funny piece entitled Books Like Blogs which pokes fun at the puerile and simplistic views often expressed on the web. It also includes comparative sales graphs of the 2 books at issue. Worth a read.

But Torkinton highlights the important point that much web content is basically rubbish

If books now need to compete like blogs and traditional tech authors like Petzold lose out because their work is too dry what are the implications for this type of printed media? Will books need to compete in the cut-throat Attention Economy? Will they become shorter as the attention span of those reading and critiquing them approaches zero? Will the blogosphere become the media? Yikes!

I hope not…

And if authors like Petzold are swayed to make their work more glitzy or get replaced by those who do, we will have lost something of great value: the insightful but humble opinion, an increasingly rare combination in the online conversation.


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