Tag Archives: words

Tufte-isms: Great words from a man of great graphs

Engineering is a marvelous thing.  We get the joy of creating the amazing things that make life better and often more interesting, or at least more entertaining at times.  We don’t live in a vacuum, though, we the engineers, and as such we need to be good communicators.

Enter Edward Tufte.

If you’ve not been to one of his presentations, I highly recommend you put one on your schedule — he is the master evangelist of the power of quality graphics.  His point being that the data, no matter how good, is worthless unless you can convey the messages within.

What brings him up in my mind today, is an entertaining article from IEEE Spectrum in which the author talks about not the graphs of Tufte, but rather the words of Tufte.

Worth a read here.

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What does the FU in IFU really stand for?*

I really had to wonder this a few days ago as I removed a new smoke alarm out of the box because I was replacing the roof on the house. (yes, California is a funny place)

Replacing a smoke alarm seemed easy enough. What could it take? Just a couple screws, a battery, and I’d be In Like Flint.


Here’s the trick question of the day: “Which comes with more instructions: a $9 smoke alarm or a $400 iPhone?” Right– it’s the smoke alarm. Feast your eyes on this:

On the left are in the instructions for the smoke alarm (all in English), and on the right, the iPhone’s. Okay, yes, I admit that I didn’t unfold the iPhone instruction packet, but there’s not much there even if I did.

My question is, “WHY?!”

Really. Do we really need this many instructions for a smoke alarm? Well, my guess is that the lawyers say, “Yes.” Every possible misuse had to be accounted for and warned against. Every accident that ever occured where a smoke alarm might not have done its job perfectly resulted in another sentence, another picture, another set of guidelines to achieve a successful smoke alarm experience.

And the iPhone? Actually, I’ve never read that little booklet, and my experience is incredible. I’m scared to think how good it might be if I actually read the instructions.

* [Feel Useless]

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