One PowerPoint, Indivisible | Markdown Presentations for Futureproof Flexibility

A response to PowerPoint Remix Rant by Mike Caulfield.

Mike laments how the long list of specialized graphical tools in PowerPoint is a recipe for making Open Ed Resources that are next to impossible to reuse, remix, and repurpose to other contexts.

Most things work like this, unfortunately, encouraging us to think of our resources in almost physical terms, as pieces of paper or slides for which there is only upside to precisely controlling their presentation. But that desire to control presentation is also a desire to control and limit context, and it makes our products as fragile and non-remixable as the paper and celluloid materials they attempt to emulate. We take fluid, re-usable data and objects, and then we freeze them into brittle data-poor layout, and then wonder why nothing ever gets reused.

As he astutely mentions, presentations are made up of nothing more than text and images, but the PowerPoint format tricks our monkey brains into thinking of them as physical things, indivisible, unified whole “units” of information. By combining your authoring environment with your publishing format, it’s easy, sure, but it also creates a form of dependence on the tool itself. Similarly, combining your ideas with your “styling” in a presentation deck also discourages other collaborators from breaking apart your creation and building upon it in their own work.

Markdown for Presentations (and blog posts, and documents, and emails, and…)

I have adjusted my way of working so that the “master version” of any document I work on either lives in Markdown or HTML (futureproof, open source, interoperable text-based formats), then are “published” into more common formats for different sharing contexts – PDF, PowerPoint, word docs, emails, blog posts, etc.– as needed.


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