Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Technology comes full circle

This goes in the category of a small productivity hint to those of you who have to manage or moderate presentations from time to time. One of the challenges is to keep to a schedule; in the midst of presenting, presenters can wax eloquent and use more words (and thus time) than they intended. Assuming you can signal them somehow, how do you figure out whether you're in time trouble or not?

I moderate online meetings from time to time, and I've tried different approaches. For some time now, I've been using a circular slide rule. It's fast, it's easy, it's small (inconspicuous, if you're working in front of others), and the circular slide rule ensures you never have to re-orient the rule. If you'd like to try this approach but don't have a slide rule sitting around, check out Concise. They make a variety of circular slide rules. I'm using a smaller, pocket-sized model they no longer make, but I'd be interested in their 300 today. For this work, though, the 27N or 28N would do quite nicely.

If you're not ready to buy one, consider a home-made version.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Bill Harris said...

It's been pointed out that I neglected to make clear exactly what I do with a slide rule while moderating meetings, so here's the process.

I've observed that many presenters who use slides have a roughly constant pace, measured in slides per minute (or minutes per slide). Slide rules are great at calculating ratios. Say, for example, a presenter has 25 slides to show in 40 minutes. Say that presenter is on slide 11, and we're 19 minutes into the presentation. I can set 19 on the D scale opposite 11 on the C scale of the slide rule. Then I look for the number on the D scale that's across from the 25 on the C scale. In this case, the number is about 43, which suggests the presenter is likely to run over by about 3 minutes. I can then give the presenter a signal early enough so she can respond naturally; if I have to wait until the end, she'll run over, or she'll have to make an abrupt halt.

This doesn't work nearly as well when people change their pace from slide to slide, of course.

I've done this with a program that predicted the ending time from statistics taken on the timing of slide changes, but entering the data was more work than it was worth. I've used a linear slide rule, but the answer can be off the scale, requiring more slide movement. I've used a calculator, but that gives me a one number estimate, while the slide rule shows at a glance the time on the D scale for any slide number on the C scale.

12 September, 2007 16:24  
Blogger Joe Colannino said...

Bill, is anyone importing these circular slide rules? The Concise website leaves a lot to be desired and they seem to charge exorbitant fees for shipping to the U.S.

12 September, 2007 20:28  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

Joe, thanks for stopping by. I don't know of any general importer of Concise rules, although I wish I did. There's a discussion forum on the ISRG (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/sliderule/) mailing list where you could ask more; I do recall people there saying they had ordered Concise slide rules and been satisfied. In fact, that group contracted with Concise a few years ago, I'm told, to make a special, commemorative ISRG slide rule. I suspect that made the shipping less expensive, and there was a comment recently about doing another special order.

You can check out the Slide Rule Universe (http://www.sphere.bc.ca/test/sruniverse.html), too. http://www.sphere.bc.ca/test/sruniverse.html lists some brand new (but no longer made) Concise slide rules.

I have an old one in the same form factor as the Model 200EE shown there. My manual says it was "Designed, Imported, and Distributed by Sama & Etani, Inc., Martins Pond Road, Groton, MA." Over that, there's a glue-on label that says "Sama & Etani, Sold by John Kaiser, 250 West 94th Street, New York 25, N.Y." I suspect neither of those addresses will be useful today, though.

I'd be curious if you find a good way to order from Concise. I wouldn't worry too much about their Web site myself, for I think it's mostly focused on Japanese customers, and I sense they are a small company. It's been my experience that a small bit of patience with language issues like this often pays off, but I make no guarantees.

12 September, 2007 21:38  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

In response to Joe's question, I corresponded with Yamashita-san at Concise. If you want to order a Concise circular slide rule or other product and are not in Japan, send an email to info@concise.co.jp to ask about delivery costs and method. They will be glad to help you.

14 September, 2007 15:53  

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