Invested half a day yesterday at the University of Rome attending a seminar organized by Adalta about the new version of Mathematica, a symbolic calculation software (“and much more”); my other reason was I was curious about the founders, brothers Conrad and Stephen Wolfram, the latter of which stakes big claims for himself, like having invented an overall “completely new kind of science” in his book.
Result was a complete letdown: not only I still fail to understand what – if any – application does Mathematica have outside the classroom (which I am not belittling, mind you), but astonish at the utter lack of preparation and respect for the audience shown by the two speakers.
Poorly designed, unclear slides and a difficult to follow presentation flow lost me several times although I had a genuine interest; the complete disregard for any practical information on the product (i.e. licensing for example) I put down to the “academic” environment where it is not polite to talk about dirty money matters, but then, why was I invited ?
If mr. Wolfram’ presentation was amateurial at best (the effort to show he can do a presentation using Mathematica is pathetic – yes, I can stretch the A column in a spreadsheet to 80 characters, but typing text there this does not a word processor maketh !), prof. Falcolini’s was appalling and felt like it was hacked together ten minutes before the start.
I wonder if professors take the attention of pupils for granted and therefore develop no ability to interest them – that being the case, we should not marvel if the quality of our schools are going down.
I have said before how I believe ANY presenter in ANY situation has a moral duty to show respect to his audience and appreciation for the time they are investing in him: this means clarity of intention, intelligent and value adding use of technology (notice I did not say “advanced” or “fancy”); in general make me feel my investment was a worthy one: inform me, entertain me, motivate me.
This day did none.