December 28, 2010

17 locks



A friend of mine is one of the top computer security experts in the country. He's part of a team of professional hackers and researchers at UC Santa Barbara that was recently interviewed in the Santa Barbara Independent.

While the article was fascinating and gave a rare inside glimpse into the world of cyber crime, I have to confess that my favorite part was Giovanni's "17 locks" analogy. From the article:

"So why not just build computer systems that are 100-percent secure? Because it's impossible. This is largely related to the balance between security and ease. Theoretically, everyone could use exceedingly long and complicated passwords on computers that offered very few features (since every application offers a new way for hackers to enter your system).

'Think about 17 locks on your car,' said Vigna one evening at Santa Barbara Brewing Company, the first place I met all three of UCSB's hackerazzi together. 'Would you buy a car like that?'"

The reporter spells out in detail the argument against more secure computers, but in one brief sentence, one razor-sharp analogy tells us everything we need to know about why computers aren't 100% secure, in a way that the majority of people can understand instantly.

A good analogy is a powerful thing in a presentation. It can make your point in a second, and is usually much more effective than a long, drawn-out explanation. However, the best analogy supports a more detailed explanation, as demonstrated above.

A strong analogy is almost guaranteed to make your points stick in the audience's minds, like this one will stick with me -- probably forever.

If you're not sure how to come up with analogies for your presentations, check out my previous post, "Three steps for adding analogies to your presentations".

More analogies and tips here:

Use analogies to make an impact

Favorite analogies

Don't crash and burn

Does your presentation taste as good as it looks?


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