Thursday, 28 February 2008

Good and bad Powerpoint

There are people who hate Powerpoint because it leads to boring talks (see Death by Powerpoint). I think it's more likely that boring talkers lead to boring talks, but certainly getting the best from it as a presentation medium takes a bit of work.

Is Powerpoint the right format? Why not just talk? Or use slides? Do you have time to put it together? If you're in a hurry, concentrate on deciding what you're going to say, not what it looks like.

Some people like to write out a talk in full and then read it out. This is less effective than a well-executed extempore talk, but much better than a bad one. If you are nervous, read. Reading a text is skill: the key rules are to slow down, leave spaces, leave room for asides that occur to you at the time, and make sure that it is written as a talk: pompous prose sounds terrible when read out.

Almost all talks end up too long. Ideally your planned presentation should run for 75% of the time you have been given: this will allow you to add stuff as you go along. There is a persistent belief that a talk that runs for 40 minutes when practised the night before can magically turn into a 20 minute talk on the day. It can't. If you don't want to run out of time halfway through your second point, you will need to prune the introduction drastically.

If you are going to use Powerpoint, you need to think about delivery. One of the reasons that Powerpoint presentations end up dull is because the speaker talks to the screen with their back to the audience, or sits at the side or the back of the hall. This means that they lose eye contact with their audience and cannot project their voices. You should (if given the choice) stand at the front, facing the audience, to one side of the screen, so that you can see people and they can see you. Be careful if you turn towards the screen or move away from a microphone, because you won't be heard. Your posture should be relaxed so that your voice can resonate, rather than stiff. If you have the slightest inclination to nervously jangle your keys or coins while you talk, it is a good idea to empty your pockets beforehand.

Use F5 Slideshow and the space bar to advance: if you use the mouse you will be trying to use that rather than paying attention to the audience.

I have compiled some advice on content in a Powerpoint Go to Slideshare to see the presentation.

This link might work too:

Sources for sign generators:
Sign generator (book covers)
RedKen (alphabet soup)
Hetemeel (Einstein)
Atom Smasher (computer error messages)
ImageGenerator (MS Office paperclip)

Powerpoint when well-used can be a very effective tool, so it's worth spending some time on.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Copyright for archaeologists

I am still not a lawyer.

Fortunately, there is a lot of good advice on copyright from The Intellectual Property Office.

Ways of managing your Intellectual Property Rights issues

1. Head in the sand

"We don't have any IPR issues because we're just doing research"
"We redraw the OS base maps so we don't have to worry"
"We've never really thought about it"

If you're not worried about IPR then you're not paying attention.
If you are creating or using text, images or data, on paper or electronically, you have IPR issues: maybe you just don't know it yet.

2. Hope for the best

"Nobody's ever complained"
"It's good advertising for them anyway"
"We don't sell our reports commercially"
"It's out of print"

In many ways this is a worse position than the first one: you sort of know that there is an issue and you shouldn't really be doing what you are doing, but can't be bothered to do it properly. IPR litigation is a growth industry; rights holders employ teams of lawyers whose sole job is to track down and fine hapless misusers. Do you feel lucky? Are you sure?

Some clarity about copyright

"My reports are research so I can include copies of maps" WRONG

Copyright law changed in 2003 to amend the old phrasing which allowed copying for 'private study or research': it became explicitly limited to non-commercial research.

‘Commercial’ is a broader term than ‘profit-making’. ‘Commercial’ is in practice synonymous with ‘directly or indirectly income-generating’. It is also clear that the purpose at the time the request for a copy is made is what is important and so some genuinely unforeseen income at a much later date is not relevant to the question. Your intention at the time must be unambiguously non-commercial.
When deciding whether or not something is commercial or non-commercial, is it the proposed use of the copies or the nature of the requesting organisation that is the decisive factor?
As mentioned above, the purpose for which the copies are required is the decisive factor. This will mean that non-profit institutions will need to obtain permission for some copying ...

Copyright Licensing Agency notes on changes to UK Copyright Law

You should still be able to obtain copies of maps for your own use, but if you are paid for putting the report together, by any mechanism, you will need a licence from the copyright holder to include them.

"If it's submitted as part of the planning process the report is in the public domain" HALF WRONG

There are two different meanings to the term 'public domain'. There is a general meaning of 'not confidential', 'open to public scrutiny'; this is true, of course. The planning process is a public process, and reports will be available. Even where report commissioners seek to control access, public bodies may well under FOI or the Environmenatl Information Regulations have to provide access to them. But this is access, to view and read, not to copy. The second meaning, of 'not copyright protected', is a US legal concept which has no direct application in the UK.

"Information wants to be free" DEBATABLE

Information users certainly want data to be free, but then they would say that. Users are in no position to dictate. The question that has to be asked is whether the information creators want it to be free. They have invested time and resources into creating it; they may feel that, having been paid by someone once, they can release it to the benefit of the world. Or not.

It is interesting to note that the most vociferous advocates of 'free' data are HERs wanting to collect the reports submitted to them into a digital treasure trove, yet they are the ones who are most restrictive about what people can do with their data. (see for example the recent Data Protecion Act thread on HER Forum).

It's an estate map from the 19th century: it can't be in copyright. HALF RIGHT

Old manuscript maps probably are out of copyright (although 70 years after the death of the creator might catch some young surveyor's work in the 1880s), unless they were transcribed later (in the 1930s). But if they are held in an archive, you will also need permission to reproduce the photographic image of the map, which may still be in copyright. If it has been published since 1945 it may be out of copyright: photographic copyright is complicated.

I bought an old postcard, so I own the copyright. WRONG

No you don't. It may be out of copyright, but if it's in copyright, having a copy of it confers no rights on you.

Crown copyright means it's public. WRONG

Crown copyright means that its protection runs for 50 years.

I write the report for my unit. It's my copyright HALF RIGHT

Copyright belongs in the first instance to the creator. Unless, that is, you were doing the creating as part of your employment, in which case it is automatically transferred to them (good contracts of employment say so explicitly). There is a slight grey area if you created say a popular guidebook in your own time based on data from your day job. Freelance workers would hold the copyright and would have to explicitly transfer it to the commissioner if they wanted to own it.

One unexplored complexity is that copyright duration is determined by the creator's death date, even if they no longer hold the copyright. Good record keeping long into the future is a necessity to allow rights to be managed.

It may not be my copyright, but I still have moral rights RIGHT

The main moral rights (which are inalienable and held by the creator (only)) are attribution and protection from derogatory treatment. Attribution is the right to be identified as the author; this right must be asserted. Protection from derogatory treatment provides some recourse for uses which are contrary to the creator's wishes. The case law fro this is weak and contradictory.

Joint copyright solves problems. WRONG

Joint copyright (between several authors or between an author and a publisher) makes problems, because the permission of ALL owners is needed to allow re-use.

I can use a photo from a book because it's a good advert so people will buy it WRONG

It may be a good advert. But nobody appointed you as their agent, and you will not get anywhere by arguing you did it for their benefit, when you should have been asking. Politely. With your chequebook out.

I've traced off the OS map, but the new map is mine. WRONG

If it is derived from OS data, it's still theirs. Only if you can demonstrate not only that you could create an equivalent image using no OS data, but actually did so, are you safe.

OS data is public data: I've paid already in my taxes. WRONG

The Ordnance Survey is self-funding: its survey work on behalf of the government and everybody else is paid for by its licensing and products.


This is for general information purposes and is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice. You should seek specific legal advice in relation to any particular matter.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Contract law for archaeologists

I am not a lawyer.

I am not a lawyer, but.

I am not a lawyer, but I have spent many unhappy hours drafting, negotiating and finalising contracts, and dealing with the fallout when disputes arise.

And that is the point, of course: with a healthy relationship between the parties, the contract can be signed and forgotten about. There is a temptation for people who have had problematic projects in the past to add on clauses to attempt to pre-empt issues. But there is no correlation (in my experience) between the length and complexity of the contract, the scale and nature of the project, and the eventual satifactoriness of the outcome: small simple projects with long contracts have ended in interminable correspondence and court actions, while big complex projects agreed by exchange of letters have turned out fine.

At one stage the IFA issued a model contract for archaeological work but it proved hard to implement in practice, because developers would shrink at a 30 page document of dense and complex provisions which they couldn't understand, let alone agree, which (it turned out) contained some decidedly unusual arrangements for stewardship of the finds (ownership was handed to the excavators). This model contract is no longer publicised.

It is much better for a contract to reflect the desired substance of the agreement sought. It need not be written in complex language (in fact it need not be written at all, although as Sam Goldwyn said, a verbal [meaning oral] contract isn't worth the paper it's written on). It is worth emphasising that contracts are supposed to be a tool to provide clarity and certainty, and should be drafted with that in mind.

What is a contract?

A contract is an agreement which can be enforced by the courts. Most contract law practice in the UK is covered by common law rather than statute.

There are three necessary elements to a contract:

offer and acceptance (some evidence that the parties have agreed)

consideration (the goods or services and payments to be exchanged (in UK common law a contract must involve an exchange not just a transfer from one party to the other))

an intention to create legal relations (some evidence that the parties wanted to be bound by the contract)

If one of the parties breaches the contract by failing to perform their duties, teh courts can require them to do so. Until recently it was arguable whether any interested parties who were not signatories to the contract could enforce its provisions, but they now can unless the contract explicitly prevents them (Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.

Whose contract?

The choice of contract has to be agreed. This can lead to long arguments if both parties have standard contracts they use; eventually somebody has to give in. Some terms (covering copyright, for example) may not be negotiable and the signatory wil have to decide whether to enter into an agreement which does not reflect their preferred arrangements.

If there is no contract, or no agreeable contract, a simple one can be devised. The disadvantage of this is that the wording may be loose and open to interpretation and some important issues may not be covered. On the other hand, interpretation will be based on what a 'reasonable man [sic]' would have understood by the terms.

Key requirements to a new contract are:

Defining the parties

Particular care is needed when delaing with agents and shell companies: in general the landowner should be the signatory.


Define the tasks , goods and services to be supplied.

Obligations of supplier

State the delivery and acceptance arrangements and any quality thresholds.


The programme should be described. This should be broad enough to allow the agreement to cover works even if delayed for some time; otherwise the terms of the contact may not cover them.


The payment arrangements, and any stage payments and invoice payment period should be stated (rather than included as a unilateral statement on an invoice form). VAT should be explicitly covered.

Terms and conditions

If you have standard terms, they can be written into the contract to form part of it. If both parties do this, it will be necessary to check carefully to see whether there are any provisions in conflict. Note that the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 provides some protection for a party who accepts the other's standard terms.


Somebody sufficiently senior to commit the orginsiation should sign; care is needed with parties who are not landowners. There is no need to sign at the same time. Two copies should be signed, one retained by each party.


Any documentation cited in the contract should be appended as a schedule: this eliminates any doubt about versions.

Contracts and business relationships

Having a clear contract can be seen as a form of deterrence: it shouldn't be needed because it's there. It may take some time to finalise a contract, but you should NEVER start work without some form of instruction to proceed. Archaeologists are helpful people and will want to get on with the work, especially if they have made arrangements for plant and staffing for a particular date. But if you start before the client says so, you are labelling yourself as a naif who can be exploited at will.

Similarly if the client disputes an invoice you must be prepared to suspend work until it is resolved, even if this causes you considerable inconvenience.

On a positive note, you should remember that the primary duty of care your organisation owes is to your client, who should be the first, not the last, to hear of your results (even if, according to the IFA Code of Approved Practice for the Regulation of Contractual Arrangements, your personal primary duty is to the archaeological resource).

This is for general information purposes and is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice. You should seek specific legal advice in relation to any particular matter.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Failing projects 3: saving your own project

The previous section dealt with saving a project from outside. But what if it's your project, and you're beginning to recognise the warning signs?

Don't panic, act

or rather

Don't act, think

Have you really got a problem? It is notoriously difficult to predict how much longer an excavation will take. The best way to visualise the timescale is to think that if you stopped digging now, and all you did was record, sample, and close down the site, how many weeks would it take? If your project is in any sort of trouble and nearly halfway through, the answer is likely to be "most of the remaining time". Which means that, unless something dramatic changes, you have very limited scope for further excavation if it is to be dealt with properly. And so the answer is "Yes- you have really got a problem".

This may be a deeply troubling revelation; on the other hand, you should take some comfort in the fact that maybe you can do something about it.

Am I to blame?

The honest answer is "perhaps", but that's not important right now. It may be that the tasking and resources were so mismatched that equating the two was completely impossible. That's not your fault (unless you did the estimating). Or it may be that you were treating the stratigraphy carefully hoping that there would be time to deal with the whole sequence that way. It may be you were unlucky with the weather. But whatever it was, just leave it. The important thing is how you react now; delivering projects when it's easy is easy; it's the hard stuff that's hard to do.

If at first you don't succeed, review your success criteria

Re-read the spec and brief to remind yourself what the key interests are and what you are committed to delivering. You may find that a problematic recent feature can be ignored, or left in situ. Or that full excavation is not expected. There are a lot of clauses about variations and unexpected discoveries which may provide a way out.


If you can't deliver the narrowly-defined success criteria, you'll need to negotiate with your client and curator. Complete honesty is vital to this process: in most circumstances an extension can be agreed, but if the site still ins't finished then you will be stuck.

Pass the buck

Your managers are paid more than you, because they are responsible for your projects among others. Most of the time this is a hands-off role that involves them in little more than tracking and the occasional flying visit. But their most important role is when things go wrong: they are the cavalry. Call them. Tell them you're stuck and need help. If they understand their job, you will find that it ceases to be your problem and has become a company problem.

Tell your team

Keep your staff informed as the strategy changes, explaining the thinking behind it. Do NOT blame it all on head office or the developer or the curator. You should present it as your plan. If you can't do this then you shouldn't be on site any longer: go on holiday. There will inevitably be objections about whether it is proper to depart from conventional archaeological practice. Face them head on.

Don't spread despair

One definition of leadership is "transference of emotion".* What emotion will you be transferring to your team? If you spend your time bemoaning the past, criticising your bosses, and doubting whether the work can be finished, they will end up too depressed to work effectively. The role of the field officer always involves the difficult balancing act of representing the office to the site team and the site to the office staff. This becomes even harder when projects start to go wrong. But don't give in and stay positive.

My indecision is final**

Even the best people need to be told what to do. The worst, even more so. You should expect to be asked at regular intervals all through the day, every day, what needs doing next, how, who by. If you're not being asked that doesn't mean that you're safe. It probably means people are choosing themselves, and they are probably unaware of the wider picture. Nothing destroys a team's morale quicker than uncertainty at the centre (even making wrong decisions is better). If you find yourself saying "I'll have to think about it" more than twice in a day, you need to do some planning. The best solution in the short term is to spend half an hour in the evening, at home in peace and quiet, making a list of the next tasks to follow completion of the current ones. Then if inspiration fails, use the list. All of a sudden it will look like you know what you're doing.


"The fundamental task of leaders... is to prime good feeling in those they lead. That occurs when a leader creates resonance a reservoir of positivity that unleashes the best in people." Publisher's Weekly review of Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis and Annie McKee.

My Indecision is Final by Jake Eberts is an account of the death of the British film industry.