Wednesday, May 9

Non-informative Information

I was recently asked to help with a Microsoft Excel document and help fix a few graphs. I was presented two graphs, one somebody else in the company did recently that wasn't up to snuff and one the client is used to seeing and was the preferred styling.

First off, I want to make a few things clear before I go on

  1. If the end result is supposed to look broken, I'm not going to be that helpful
  2. Document education for employees that primarily produces documents should be mandatory. Taking their word on it isn't enough if you value the quality of the documents. Keep up with the latest styles and offer challenges to your employees so they stay sharp on the job.
The preferred chart was imported via black magic and was immutable. It was also useless to anybody that wants any real information. For instance the values for each point on the line graph were overlapping each other in the same face and color, completely obfuscating the information. There were dark text colors over dark and dense grid lines and the font size was too small, obviously a meager attempt to correct the overlapping text. I proposed a different styling and again ran into an old time favorite bottleneck - people fear change. The task was to make an identical looking graph with updated data so I spent some time attempting to explain how this chart offers no real usable information. Things desolved quickly once I found out the person overseeing this graphs creation didn't even know what title to give each set of values. A little meeting was held to discuss what exactly the purpose of the graph is and I finally got the information I needed and titled the value sets accordingly. However the overall style preference was still set to overlap the text no matter what I say. I did my best to clear it up, however it looks like crap and was very hard to understand. Eventually the graph was formed with a little compromise and now the crappy graph is polished a bit more and kind of shiney.

I feel bad for thinking this was just a me thing, and I was being overbearing and getting upset unjustly. Dangit people! You should be careful with information and how you present and distribute it. For instance, how many business suits are going to print this graph out and be totally confused, then chuck it in a non-recycling trash bin to be discarded and never reclaimed. How many recalls of this document will be done because of other such mistakes? What client wants to constantly distribute the latest *known good* copy of a document after reporting error after error to the writer?

Grr.. IMHO if its illegable then its crap..

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