Friday, June 22, 2012

Amazingly Bad, Acutal PowerPoints from a Government Agency - Annotated!

So, I'm pretty sure I can't get fired for this, since 1) there's absolutely no sensitive information in these PowerPoint slides, 2) the agency itself isn't even actually identified in them, and 3) the fact that they were created by a government agency means that, by definition, they are in the public domain - and I just had to share them because they're so ridiculous. I was actually sent these PowerPoint slides a couple of weeks ago - I can only guess for training purposes - and PowerPoints like this are the kinds of things that make me question my career in public service and set me to fantasizing about switching over to the private sector.

Well, PowerPoints like this, and the astoundingly crappy computer equipment I'm forced to deal with on a daily basis, anyway.

Anyway, on with the annotated show:

OK, this doesn't bode well (white text on a dark background is never a good sign, nor is it ever a good design decision), but it might not be terrible.

Alright, this is going downhill fast. Just check out that clip art, as well as the lack of what we're actually discussing on this slide. The terrible clip art short-circuited my brain, so I need to go back to the first slide to remind myself what this PowerPoint is about. Oh, yeah, unauthorized commitments - which are not an "it," but rather a "they." Also, I'm going to keep a running tally of the number of "confused people clip arts": 1.

Oh, OK, now I understand the point of all this - this PowerPoint is meant to substitute for actual training on the topic. Tell me, non-government employees, do any other employers consider emailing a PowerPoint presentation to constitute actual training? Next to my awful computer equipment, my biggest complaint about working for the government is that there is NO SUPPORT WHATSOEVER for employee development. And I complain about those two things to my supervisor at every opportunity - but there's nothing he can do about it either. As with most things that are wrong with government, it's Congress's fault.

Seriously people - stop using clip art. It may have been acceptable for a brief period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it is no longer acceptable. Ever. At best/worst (depending on your perspective), you can use stock photography, but never clip art. Clip art - not even once. Especially clip art of an obviously mad scientist ordering his large anthropomorphic hammer invention to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world used to illustrate the improper purchase of office supplies - that just makes no damn sense.

Ah, multiple punctuation marks for emphasis - it is at this point that I begin to wonder whether I am being punk'd, and/or whether this document was actually written by a 12 year old girl. I double-check the email chain - nope, this comes from an official source. Brilliant. Also, what does "ratification" mean? Making the unauthorized commitment authorized? Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose? Also, why are we using undefined jargon in a training presentation? More on that below. Number of confused people clip arts: 2.

This is supposed to be a training document, but as someone who does not do contracts 100% of the time, I have no idea what HCA means, and I'm guessing that many other recipients of this document don't either. Training pro-tip: don't use insider jargon or acronyms without defining the terms. Luckily, I can turn to the Internet, which tells me that HCA in this context most likely means "Head of Contracting Agency," though I cannot say with 100% certainty that it doesn't stand for "Handyman Club of America" or the "Hydrographic Commission on Antarctica." I'm still not sure what "ratify" means exactly, though I can guess.

What conditions must be met for what? Ratification, I'd guess, but by now, my mind is seriously starting to wander.

More jargon - though at least this jargon is more widely-known than the previous jargon was/is. Number of confused people clip arts: 3.

Finally, a slide with semi-useful information, halfway through the presentation. Number of confused people clip arts: 4.

Number of confused people clip arts: 5. This stuff just isn't that confusing.

Number of confused people clip arts: 6. What is a "cognizant" management official? Doesn't the fact that the commitment was unauthorized mean that there shouldn't be a cognizant management official? "Responsible" management official, I would understand, but "cognizant"?

Who's the ratifying official, if not the CO? This document doesn't tell me - so much for the training value of this presentation. Also, I must admit that is a pretty sweet "proclamation" clip art (check out that mustache!), though "proclamation" is not the same as "recommendation."

Wait, wait - now I need a ratification package? What goes in the package? I assume it requires all the documents listed in the "documentation" part, but if it's a "package", I'm guessing there's more to it than that - what are the form numbers needed? At the very least, there must be forms! Forms! Nothing can get done in government without the proper form!

Wait, now there's a standard format and checklist? Where, pray tell, might one actually FIND this standard format and checklist? And more definitionless jargon - HCAD. The Internet is less help here - I'm going to guess HCAD means "Hypoplastic Coronary Artery Disease."

Hey, another slide with actual useful information! Woohoo!

I hate to be the one who has to tell you, but you failed at most of your objectives. And your PowerPoint design skills leave much to be desired. The clip art short-circuited my brain on more than one occasion, and the people in your clip art on this slide look like they're suffering from the same problem.

Oh boy, I have so many questions for you, big clip art question mark - but don't worry, most of them are existential.

So, non-government people, do you all have to deal with the same nonsense? Are my fantasies of possibly, someday, escaping early 1990s design just that - fantasies? Let me know in the comments.

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