It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." — Steve Jobs
Here's a fascinating list of the all time iOS apps. There's not a health app in the bunch.
We have some work to do.
There is fascinating new evidence showing that the widely used cancer drug, Sunitinib, might be effective for weight reduction. At least in mice. The drug seems to reduce fat mass (the part you pinch), while retaining lean body mass. There will be lots of excitement about these findings, as always seems to be the case when new drug evidence emerges. But be cautious. The road to the $500b obesity drug is littered with the remnants of many [ineffective, dangerous, and costly] aspirants.
NCI has just posted a recording of my recent talk on using implementation science to test mHealth approaches for health disparities. Hope you enjoy. Any comments, thoughts, reactions, or hateration? Find me on Twitter.
It seems that Chick-Fil-A is soon releasing a new, “healthier” line of salads.
The new salads look great. They’ll start at $6.79 and will have “two or more servings of vegetables or fruit,” (well that’s good, because it’s a salad). Sans dressing, the salads will come in at 180-430 calories.
That’s quite an improvement over the current salads, which range from 220-450 calories.
I’m not knocking Chick-Fil-A for calling these salads “healthy.” That’s probably true, compared to their other menu items. But the “health[ier]” fast food product is rarely also good for one’s waistline. Add dressing (which range from 15-160 calories) and from a weight perspective, you might as well have eaten the chicken sandwich.
Somewhere along the line “nanny” has become a bad word…The problem with the “nanny state” mentality is that in the past many health policies have been very effective, so this new kneejerk reaction against health policy may prevent us from passing legislation that stands to significantly impact public health.
Exactly. Let’s stop the nanny name-calling and use our vast amounts of [taxpayer-funded] data to inform our decision making.
Interesting new piece from Kimberly Morland and colleagues that looks at how the Brooklyn retail food environment changed during 2007-2011.
Key finding: lots of smaller food stores closed, many of those were replaced by new stores, and this was all more likely to happen in lower income and racial/ethnic minority neighborhoods.
What does this mean for obesity? We don't know yet.
Having supermarkets nearby might be a driver of diet quality, but there is less evidence that they impact obesity. There's even less evidence that changing the retail environment (e.g. opening a new supermarket) will lead to changes in resident's eating behaviors. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't consider policy solutions to improve food deserts, but it's clear that their impact on our waistlines isn't as straightforward as we might expect.
This is the second post in a series on scientific presentation design.
In a paper, give me enough to draw my own interpretations. In a presentation, give me your interpretation.
If there's anything I've learned in a decade of giving scientific presentations, it's this: the software doesn't make the slides, you do.
It's true, Keynote will help you make better looking presentations than does PowerPoint. But to really unleash Keynote's power (and your own creative energy), you need a broader assortment of tools. Here are mine:
Let's start this discussion with a healing cleanse. Try this:
- Breathe in deeply, expanding your diaphragm, holding your core steady.
- Search your hard drive for all "clip art."
- Select all. Press delete.
- Release the air slowly and resume your activities.
OK, now let's proceed. Good presentations start [and usually end] with good images. I don't mean cartoons. You know the maxim: "a picture is worth a thousand words?"
It doesn't apply to cartoons.
Most presenters can greatly reduce their use of on-slide text by using a strong image-based background. That's right, I'm recommending that you reject the template.
Let's face it. Most templates are hideous. They constrain creativity and are mostly designed for uses other than science. So why do we use them? I suspect most think: 1) they help with marketing, 2) by standardizing the background, people will focus on the content, 3) it's convention, 4) we don't know any alternative testing approaches.
If you believe #1-3, let's talk. Otherwise, keep reading.
Imagine that you're doing a talk on poverty, health inequities, children's health, or global health. How about this as your background?
These images look great, but that's not all. See how each contains open space for text? That makes them ideal backgrounds.
Here's how I used the first image in a recent talk.
(Incidentally, this is a good example of a slide is still way too text heavy. More on that next time).
So, where do you get these great images? There are tons of great search sites for royalty-free images, but I use everystockphoto.com. The site searches a bunch of repositories for stock photos. All are free for non-commercial use (be sure to check the rights statements, but in most cases you can acknowledge the photographer in the slide notes).
Pro tip: Always search for the largest image possible. Large size usually means high resolution. Because your slide is likely to be projected on a large screen, you want to make sure that it isn't pixelated. If it's only available in a small size (say, smaller than 1024×768), move on.
When you get stuck (and even before getting there, check out Note and Point. There are great presentations here, on a wide range of topics. Those in the tech world often have fewer constraints than we do, so ignore the content and focus on the design.
Why use Times New Roman or Arial or Cambria? Just like the right image, a strong font can greatly improve the "feel" — not to mention the readability — of your your slide text.
There's been surge of interest in typography, with enough font options to make you dizzy. Easiest option? Head over to Google Fonts where you'll find tons of font choices (and a nice preview interface). Note that Google Fonts is primarily intended to make it easy to use great typography on the web. To use a font in your presentation, click the download arrow on the upper right side of the screen. Install your font and your presentation will read as good as it looks.
One should use video sparingly, but it can be hugely effective. My favorite design device — setting a video as my slide's background. The video moves in the background behind [just a little] text. I often use this to show people using our digital health technologies, while descriptive text appears in the foreground.
Let's say that you'd like to include some stock video from YouTube. Of course, they don't make it easy to download videos (given concerns re copyright infringement). So what to do if you want to use video in a non-commercial scientific talk?
Pro tip: Add "pwn" in front of the regular YouTube URL (e.g. youtube.com/lorem becomes pwnyoutube.com/lorem).
Now that you have the right toolbox, you're almost ready.
Coming up next: 5 rules for making high-quality scientific presentations.
I was really pleased to deliver a talk yesterday as part of the NCI Webinar Series on Advanced Topics for Implementation Science Research. My presentation is based on a paper our team published last year, detailing our use of the RE-AIM framework to guide the development and evaluation of Be Fit, Be Well — a 2-year trial of a digital health intervention for weight loss and hypertension management in community health centers. The talk video will be up soon, but in the meantime, you can find the presentation slides here.
This is the first in a series on scientific presentation design.
I only have a few pet peeves. Stop snickering, honey.
Here they are:
1. Flip flops.
2. Use of the term “emails.” “Email” is plural.
3. One doesn’t “use tracked changes.” One simply tracks his/her changes.
4. The assumption that everyone uses PowerPoint. Even if most do. You see, in my opinion, no one should.
Much has been said about the abomination that is the PowerPoint slide deck. Academics are particularly PowerPoint challenged. We generally think it’s okay to splatter the screen with rows of data, as long as we preface the reveal by saying, “this is a busy slide.”
Step 1. Get Keynote. Lose PowerPoint.
There are many good reasons to use Keynote over PowerPoint. Much has been written about the technical differences between the two. But here’s the key issue:
Keynote presentations look better.
No, really. Remember Al Gore’s little Academy Award-winning documentary [that everyone said was done is PowerPoint]? Nope. Keynote. Keynote is like a Monet to PowerPoint’s Thomas Kincaid. It’s like the skies of Phuket compared to those of Beijing. It’s like Duke versus UNC. Get my point?
So get Keynote.
But here’s the problem. PowerPoint-centrism is rampant. I give about two dozen talks each year and it seems that, independent of venue, organizers are becoming increasingly rabid about getting my slides early so they can “load them into PowerPoint.” When I’m the main course, I usually go all Jennifer Lopez and insist that I be able to present using my Mac. Otherwise, I’ll surrender. That brings me to problem #2.
Keynote doesn’t play nice with PowerPoint. It isn’t for lack of trying – Keynote can export a PowerPoint file. But it’s sort of like when you try one of those fun “DIY projects. [Usually] it just doesn’t turn out right. After hours of preparation to get my slides looking just right, there are few things worse than seeing them after a PowerPoint export. So here’s my Keynote to PowerPoint workflow.
Step 2. Export as a PDF.
Keynote allows you to export your slides as a PDF. Use the settings shown below to ensure that you have the highest resolution export, minus all of the extras. Note that at this point, you will not be able to modify your presentation. So do this when you’re absolutely finished editing your talk.
When I create a presentation that includes some animation (which you should probably limit as a rule), I will check the “print each stage of builds” option. This is really important for a reason that I will mention in just a moment.
During the export, Keynote will create a PDF file that is essentially a snapshot of each slide from your presentation. The file size will be huge, especially if you’ve used high resolution images. If you want to know why, bug me. For most though, it’s enough to know that from here on, your file sizes will be much bigger than normal.
Step 3. Make a new Keynote file from your PDF
Next, go get this program: PDF to Keynote. Amazingly, this program is free. This little app will take your PDF and turn it into a Keynote presentation file.
Open your .pdf in PDF to Keynote. For most, the settings below should work wonderfully:
Press Command-S to save your new Keynote file. Name it something that will allow you to differentiate it from your original Keynote presentation.
Step 4. Export a PowerPoint file from Keynote
Almost done. Now, open the Keynote file that PDF to Keynote just created. Choose Export, and choose the PowerPoint option. You will now have a .ppt file that includes a perfectly formatted version of your original Keynote presentation. It will show beautifully, everywhere.
Why all the run around?
It’s actually a pretty complicated programming task to allow interoperability between apps as sophisticated as these. So in the meantime, what we’re doing is creating images for each page of your original Keynote file and, only then, asking Keynote to export a .ppt. You can’t mess up exporting a bunch of images (at least not too badly).
This may seem like a lot of work, but trust me — it’s worth it.
A note about transitions, animations, movement, oh my.
I’ll talk about animation in an upcoming post. For now, keep it simple. Let’s say that you are using an “Appear” animation to make bullets show sequentially. When you export the PDF, Keynote will create a separate page for each step of the animation. So for the “Appear” animation, you’ll get 2 pages — one without the bullet and one with it. Once you’ve exported your PowerPoint file, it’ll be the same. So in your presentation, you’ll simply advance through your animations — much the same way that you would anyway. However, if you use more complex animations, you’ll need to do a lot more clicking. That’s why I recommend keeping it simple.