Slideshare is being integrated into Scribd as of tomorrow. To avoid falling under the TOS of Scribd, per their own suggestion you need to delete your account.

I always thought Scribd was Slideshare’s more evil sibling, even if I don’t remember precisely how I arrived at that conclusion. I deleted my own Slideshare account last week. Tonight I deleted my company’s Slideshare account as well.

My company also has a Scribd account, from the time when you couldn’t really upload regular documents to Slideshare yet. It went unused for the past 4 years or so, but we do use some embeds on our site.

I tried to also delete that Scribd account tonight, and immediately ran into the type of dark patterns that justify my existing perception of Scribd.

First Scribd does not allow you to download all of your own content. Read that again. We had 43 documents on Scribd, I could download 20 of them, and then downloads simply stopped working, and a banner appeared suggesting I open a monthly subscription. They had a 30 day free trial, so I went that route, and downloads then resumed. After downloading all our content, I deleted all content from our company’s Scribd account.

Second, I ended the free trial subscription as well, which does the Facebooky thing of having to confirm 3 times or more you really want to cancel (we’re so sorry to see you go, are you sure you don’t want to change your mind, if you click this we’ll pull a very sad face… etc.)

Third, after deleting our content I wanted to delete our account and could not find a deletion button. I had to duckduckgo how to delete a Scribd account, and on their own help page found that I could not delete our account until a subscription has been cancelled (which I did) and it has reached its end date. Until then there’s no deletion button visible. This means I can delete my account only on October 23rd, when the 30 day trial subscription ends that I already cancelled, and which I only entered into because they wouldn’t allow me to access my own content otherwise!

Good riddance, in short. Or rather: good riddance, in 30 days. Added it to my task list so I don’t forget.

This morning I set out to download all my Slideshare content. As Slideshare is becoming part of Scribd this month, I’m shutting my Slideshare account down (and will shut down both the Slideshare and Scribd accounts of my company as well).

Yesterday I downloaded the CSV file you get when you go to Slideshare ‘data export’ feature, which turns out is nothing of the kind. That CSV contains the download links, web urls, titles, dates and statistics of all your presentations. I thought that was useful, as the statistics provided insight in the utility of Slideshare.

I wrote a script that read the CSV file. First to take the Slideshare filename and add its publication year and month in front of it, like YYYY-MM-my-presentation-name. Then to call the listed download URL and save the results to YYYY-MM-my-presentation-name in my Downloads folder. That way I would have the downloads in chronological order, and be able to easily see the differences betwen similarly named presentations (I presented a lot about Open Data over the years!) in my file system. I watched my Downloads folder fill up nicely with the expected downloads, and congratulated myself on my AppleScripting skills…..

Then I noticed the downloaded files were at most a few kilobytes, which wasn’t at all expected as my presentation decks easily are a few dozen MBs. I should have tried this earlier at the start, but opening a Slideshare downloadlink I realised it wasn’t a link to a downloadable file directly but to a web-interface that then started the download in the background after a few seconds, and after prompting you to confirm the download. So I hadn’t downloaded 132 presentations just now, but 132 web pages with a download prompt.

Apparently Slideshare expects you to lift each of those downloadlinks from their CSV file, open it in the browser by hand, and then manually confirm each download. However if you go to your account page ‘My Uploads’ you can in quick succession click the download button for the dozen presentations presented there, and use the pagination buttons to move to the next dozen, and repeat.

Their ‘data export’ in other words is worse than their regular account interface.
The crappiness of this ‘functionality’ definitely is a great cultural fit with their new owner Scribd though.

Having clicked Download 132 times, I then deleted my account.

Next steps are moving the downloaded files to a web accessible folder on one of my hosting packages, and adapt my blogpostings that have a slideshare embed to point to that folder.

As LinkedIn has sold Slideshare to Scribd (Slideshare’s more evil twin), and the practical handover happening on September 24th, I am preparing to close down my Slideshare account. As part of that I’m downloading my material on Slideshare. The first step is getting a CSV file from them that lists all the download URLs for my slides. It also provides some statistics with those download links, so for archiving purposes I’m adding some of those stats here.

My usage of Slideshare was always intended for two things: 1) have a way to embed my presentations in my blog and for others to view them, 2) have a place that can store those files, 3) allows others to download those files. Those last two reasons were way more of an issue to solve when I started using Slideshare in 2006. Hosting packages back then were generally too small to also host presentations, both in terms of bandwidth and storage. The first reason still is an issue: having a decent viewer to show these files on a website.

My first Slideshare was in December 2006, my last November 2019, so thirteen years exactly. I uploaded 132 presentations so about 10 per year on average, but in reality it was much less spread out:

2006 1
2007 6
2008 13
2009 17
2010 32
2011 24
2012 14
2013 10
2014 6
2015 0
2016 1
2017 1
2018 3
2019 4

The peak years were 2008 through 2013, which coincide with becoming self-employed and doing a lot of awareness raising for open data. From 2014 most of my presentations were for my company, and I posted much less under my own account. (I also will need to download the material from my company’s accounts before the 24th as well).

My 2 most downloaded presentations form an interesting combination:

  • My 2008 presentation at Reboot in Copenhagen (332), that I remember very much (and that I recently converted into Notions)
  • A 2010 presentation on FabLabs (259) that I gave to an engineering company (says the description) for an internal workshop, but I have no immediate recollection of doing that. (Checking my 2010 calendar just now I do remember, seeing the client’s name)

The total views for my 132 presentations were 292708 (2217 on average)
The three most viewed presentations were:

  • My 2010 Lift Marseille, France, talk about FabLabs, 11338 views
  • My 2010 brief remarks on private sector open data during Open Data Week in Nantes, France, 8242 views
  • My talk at PolitCamp Graz, Austria in 2008, the event where I got interested in open data, but this one was about social media use w.r.t. political communication, 8009 views

The three presentations that were mostly viewed in embeds were:

  • My 2010 Lift Marseille, France, talk about FabLabs again, 7157 views in embeds, or about half of total views
  • My 2013 opening keynote for a software company’s European customer event, 3285 embed views
  • My 2012 workshop on open data as policy instrument, at the Dutch national open data conference, 3055 embed views

Given that Slideshare for me was about allowing downloads, and providing embeds, let’s look at those totals. Thirteen years with 132 uploaded presentations come out at 2286 downloads and 51633 embedded views. It’s not nothing obviously, but one can wonder if it is something worthwile enough to allow thirteen years of third party tracking.

Nick Punt writes a worthwile post (found via Roland Tanglao) on “De-Escalating Social Media, Designing humility and forgiveness into social media products

He writes

This is why it’s my belief that as designed today, social media is out of balance. It is far easier to escalate than it is to de-escalate, and this is a major problem that companies like Twitter and Facebook need to address.

This got me thinking about what particular use cases need de-escalation, and whether there’s something simple we can do to test the waters and address these types of problems.

And goes on to explore how to create a path for admitting mistakes on Twitter. This currently isn’t encouraged by Twitter’s design. You see no social reinforcement, as no others visibly admit mistakes. You do see many people pilig onto someone for whatever perceived slight, and you do see people’s reflex of digging in when attacked.

Punt suggest three bits of added functionality for Twitter:

  • The ability to add a ‘mea culpa’ to a tweet in the shape of “@ton_zylstra indicated they made a mistake in this tweet”. Doing that immediately stops the amplicifation of those messages. No more replies, likes or retweets without comments. Retweet with comment is still possible to amplify the correction, as opposed to the original message.
  • Surfacing corrections: those that have seen the original tweet in their timelines will also get presented with the correction.
  • Enabling forgiveness: works just like likes, but then to forgive the original poster for the mistake, as a form of positive reinforcement.

I like this line of thinking, although I think it won’t be added to existing silo’d networks. This type of nudging of constructive behaviour as well as adding specific types of friction are however of interest. Maybe it is easier for other platforms and newer players to adopt as a distinguishing feature. E.g. in Mastodon.

Nicholas Carr wrote a blog post well worth a read last January, positing the impact of social media is content collapse, not context collapse. Indeed when we all started out on social software the phrase context collapse was on our lips.

Since 2016 Carr sees context restoration however, a movement away from public FB posts to private accounts, chat groups, and places where content self-destructs after a while. In its place he sees a different collapse, that of content.

Context collapse remains an important conceptual lens, but what’s becoming clear now is that a very different kind of collapse — content collapse — will be the more consequential legacy of social media. Content collapse, as I define it, is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it.

Content collapse, because all those different types of information reach us in the exact same templated way, the endlessly scrolling timeline on our phone’s screen.
Carr posits our general unease with social media stems from this content collapse even, and names four aspects of it:

First, by leveling everything, social media also trivializes everything….

Second, as all information consolidates on social media, we respond to it using the same small set of tools the platforms provide for us. Our responses become homogenized, too….

Third, content collapse puts all types of information into direct competition….

Finally, content collapse consolidates power over information, and conversation, into the hands of the small number of companies that own the platforms and write the algorithms….

My first instinct is that it is that last aspect that causes the most unease. The first and third are ultimately the same thing, I feel. The second trivialises not the content but us. It severely limits people’s response range, leaving no room for nuance or complexity (which makes unease and lack of power more tangible to users, such that I suspect it significantly amps the outrage feedback loop in people’s attempts to break the homogeneity, to be seen, to be heard) It is what removes us as an independent entity, a political actor, a locus of agency, an active node in the network that is society.

So here’s to variety and messiness, the open web, the animated gifs of yesteryear, and refusing the endlessly scrolling algorithmic timelines.