Making a professional presentation? Avoid inconsistent semantics

Earlier today AMD posted a copy of the presentation they gave at the 2013 IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference. The presentation itself was exciting and informative, but was marred by a glaring instance of inconsistent semantics on a single slide:

What's wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with this picture?

In the right hand side graph, the reader is led to believe that the taller bar represents a quantity 3.5x that represented by the shorter bar. Clearly, the same semantics don’t apply on the left hand side. I think what AMD really means is that leftmost bar is 1.2x the quantity of the 2nd from the left bar, but that’s completely inconsistent with the right hand side graph. Ideally, the number on the green arrow in the left hand side plot should be 1/1.2 = 0.83.

This may sound like nitpicking, but when you’re one of the 2 leading x86 CPU OEMs in the world presenting at a technical conference, it’s a reasonable expectation that your notation be consistent. One can’t help but wonder if similar internal presentation gaffes have been at the root of some of AMD’s more prominent recent failures.

Unfortunately, errors such as this are quite widespread in industry. Too many engineers place insufficient emphasis on consistency and presentation quality, resulting in confusion and costly errors from decisionmakers. Garbage in, garbage out.

Author: jdrch

ISTJ, Rice Owl, UF Gator, mechanical engineer. STEM, sports, music, movies, humor. Account mine only & unaffiliated.


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