Monday, May 10, 2010

Bias of the week : They looked OK technically, but they seemed to be rather pushing the Oracle message.

I have been invited to present at a Industry Testing Conference in a few weeks time. I submitted my slides in good time using the Oracle approved slide template. I got this email from one of the organizers this evening.
On 10 May 2010, at 17:41, XXXX XXXXXXXX wrote:

Hi Clive

Thanks for sending your slides. They looked OK technically, but they seemed to be rather pushing the Oracle message. In our experience this often has a very negative impact on the audience, as they object to feeling that they are being “sold to” and tend to turn off. Do you think you could revise them to make them more as a case study and more neutral? We need the final version by 12 May at the latest.

Otherwise, you will be pleased to know that plans for the above event are all in place and we are looking forward to a very interesting event.

>rest deleted as not interesting<>So taking the feedback on board (if you have ever seen me talk you will know selling is not my preferred speaking style) I went through the presentation again and found the following images

  • A Sun 3/160 from 1989
  • A Cray T3E from 1997
  • A Sun E10K from 1996
  • A Sun E15k from about 2003
  • The founder of Motorhead (it is a talk on stress testing after all)
  • A lion eating a wildebeast
  • A slide which shows the workings for a guess at how many lines of code it takes to support you buying something you don't need on Ebay after getting home drunk from the pub on a saturady night
Hence my reply.


I am surprised by that observation as none of the systems in question have been on the price book for at least 2 years. Most discussed are over 10 years old, 1 is over 20 years old, one was never an Oracle (or past Sun) system and that it is the concepts that I am discussing highlight past shortcomings, you might want to have an other look at the presentation. The founder of Motorhead has yet to strike a deal promoting Oracle products as far as I am aware, but stranger things have happened.

Other than the slide template which I am required to use, you might want to take a 2nd look and if you still feel that they "push the Oracle message", then please call me
and explain which bits are "selling Oracle" to the audience and I will make the changes accordingly.

Very happy to cooperate, but for the reasons above, I don't get the "selling" bit and its not my style.

Best regards

So what is going on here. I suspect we have a reviewer who looks at the slides and see images of systems next to the Oracle logo and assumes that I am in some way promoting those systems. There was no reason from someone with no background in Computers and their history, who is just looking at the images to work out that a Sun 3/160 was 1st sold in 1989. If they had read the text next to it they might have got a clue, but they can't be expected to do this. If all your world is a Windows P.C. and you don't know what Enterprise class systems look like and which era they come from, then you can understand this mistake being made. After all, such events have to put up some reasonable defense against sly sales pitches.

The nearest bias I can find is Projection Bias, but it does not fit, so maybe it is just a bit of deletion, distortion and generalization, something we are all guilty of.

The approach I take to writing slides is provide to anchors for topics when I then discuss, so it should be quite hard to get the thread of the talk from just the slides. I do this to make the
talk itself more interesting and engaging, though as shown above there are downsides to taking this approach. Avoiding "death by Powerpoint (or OpenOffice)" is a constraint, not a goal.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Clive

    This might be right up your street, a visual representation of cognitive bias -