I find I enjoy the process of self hosting my old presentations much more than I had expected. I expected the transition being a chore, but it turns out it is not.

Last September I quit using Slideshare and created a way to host my own slidedecks myself. I had 132 presentations in my personal slideshare account, and a similiar number in my company’s account. Migrating them into my own set-up seemed like a daunting chore. I resolved to take my time for it, to spread out the work load.

I first created a list of presentations that I embedded in this website at the time, containing 55 slide decks. In that list I marked those that I currently think are still relevant, or that I regard as important to me at the time, or that in hindsight turned out to contain something that gained more significance in my work afterwards. Then I started to manually add those prioritised slide decks to my self hosted collection (tonz.nl for Dutch slides, tonz.eu for non-Dutch slides), at most one per day.

Unexpectedly this is fun to do. Because I do not just upload slides, but add links to my blogposts about the talk at the time, a video etc, I sort-of revisit the conference in question. Sometimes rewatching my own talk, sometimes going through the slides of other presenters at the same event or watching their videos. It resurfaces old ideas I forgot about but still find useful, and it results in new associations and thoughts about the topics I discussed in those talks. Leading to new notes and ideas now. It also shows me there is a consistency in my work that isn’t always obvious to me, and it surfaces the evolutionary path of some of my ideas and activities. That makes it worthwile to bring these slides home. Like reassembling an old photo album whose pictures slipped out because the glue became too old.

In my recent post about bringing slides home to my own server and domain, I mentioned Speakerstack.net. On their site they mention completely hosting everything yourself, but the site afaik never points to anything explaining that. It does provide as I described the means to upload your presentations there.

During the weekend I reached out to Cliff, the developer behind Speakerstack. He gave me the link to the WordPress plugin (in beta) he created, which allows you to do everything yourself in a WP instance.

I took a look at the code and what it does, while providing an admin console to do so from within WP, is:

  1. Take a PDF and send it to ConvertAPI (provided by the Lithuanian company Baltsoft), to convert the PDF into jpg images, one per slide
  2. Take those jpg images and put them in a slider, using Kevin Wheeler’s Slick Slider

You need a ConvertAPI key to approach it, which is easy to arrange.

I will probably test drive this plugin in a separate WP instance, and if I’m ok with it I will use that as my personal ‘Slideshare’ place. I may also consider going with just the conversion and the slider bits, as uploading my presentation PDFs through WordPress and managing everything there seems a bit overdoing it, if I also have direct access to the back-end of the hosting package and could upload everything in bulk. Then again, bulk is only a consideration at the start, having my Slideshare history to migrate.

I added a WP instance on a domain I have (tonz.nl) and installed the plugin, created an API key for the PDF conversion. It takes a number of minutes for the conversion to happen, and it works.

If you check the embedded presentation above, you’ll see that the download link and the full screen link are pointing to my tonz.nl domain. The download link is in the WP uploads folder, which is logical, but I probably want to change. Likely I will put a Yourls instance in front of it to have shortened urls that cloack the folder the files are actually in, and which lets me count the number of downloads as well.

I have deleted my Slideshare account earlier this year (as LinkedIn sold it to Slideshare’s more evil twin Scribd), and today I was also finally able to delete my company’s Scribd account. Having deleted all that, of course the embeds I use here on my blog of my presentations now obviously don’t work.

The key issue with showing slides or documents online is whether you can do so in a suitable viewer. Browsers are all capable of showing PDFs but also all make their own slightly different choices. Ideally you would want to control how your slides are shown, nicely paginated and scrolling horizontally for instance or with some specific control buttons visible and others disabled. Where all default viewers do is showing slides as a long downward scrolling document.

Basically there are three options I can choose:

  1. Find another Slideshare like service
  2. Have browsers use their own viewers
  3. Host the commonly used viewer PDF.js myself

Of these I’m trying out option 1 and 3 in this posting.

By Robert I was pointed to Speakerstack.net by a small US company that has the interesting option of allowing you to set your own canonical and download url, while also uploading your PDF to their server.

In the screenshot above you see how I uploaded my slides for the Dutch Coder Dojo conference last November. You can also see that as a canonical URL I have set the link to my blogpost with the text of the presentation, and the download URL to a short domain name I also control (tonz.nl).

This keeps the URLs and download links for my presentations within my control (so that when, not if, at some point speakerstack.net stops its service, I am in a position to ensure everything keeps working. Unlike what happened now when I closed my Slideshare account, where I broke all the links to my presentations.) It also duplicates the PDFs which seems somewhat wasteful. It’s an interesting approach though.

It results in the embed below, where if you mouse over you can see how the download url indeed points to my domain tonz.nl, and if you would use the Twitter share button it shows the URL to my blogpost.

For the other option I have installed PDF.js on the hosting package where I also have uploaded my Dojo Con slides. So both the viewer and the slides are on the same domain. You can style the PDFjs viewer a little bit, but I think you’re stuck with vertical scrolling. PDF.js is also slow with larger files (which my presentations tend to be as they have many large images. Then again I could probably optimise them in size). Using my self-hosted viewer you get the embed below:

Tips on better self-hosted viewers, or better tweaking of pdf.js are welcome.

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.