I want to write a little more about Tufte's workshop on the presentation of information
since it was so great. Edward Tufte is a retired professor of statistics from Yale who has made a second career writing about the visual presentation of information. He has his own publishing company and has written several great books on the subject. He also travels the country giving these day-long lectures.
The main thrust of the workshop is how to best present evidence, whether it's words, numbers, graphs, or pictures. He is concerned with the intellectual side of presenting complicated information, like statistics, in an efficient and effective way; but he's also concerned with the cognitive side of how people process information and the artistic side of the visual presentation. His breadth of knowledge was really impressive. As if being a statistics professor wasn't intellectual enough, he also draws heavily on history, art and art history, graphic arts and printing production, cognitive psychology, and computing and information science. He was a consultant for NASA and showed how the poor presentation of information contributed to the Columbia disaster. He is also a sculptor who has quiet a large collection of landscape art pieces.
Tufte is also an interesting personality. As Corey
alluded in the comment below, he "holds court" for his workshop attendees, which he calls "office hours" but they are really just long lines for his autograph. He also has this crew of minions who make coffee for him and regulate his contact with the public. I thought they were a bit strange. Anyhow, I passed on the autograph, but I did buy two posters
(Napoleon's march and the cognitive style of PowerPoint). I believe I mocked Corey for buying the Napoleon poster, so now I must admit that I'm a Tufte geek too.
The only drawback about his ideas is that some of them are difficult to implement within academic publishing outlets. First of all, some of great ideas he has (like sparklines
) require a software investment that is outside of the budget of your average assistant professor. Secondly, our work is limited by our publishing outlets that do not publish color or high resolution products. His personal solution to this problem was to create his own publishing company, but that's not really an option for most of us. Despite these limitations, I'd say that 80% of what he teaches can be reasonably implemented in academia and other industries as well.