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Archive for April 5th, 2009

Lessons From ‘Slidesharegate’

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 5 April 2009

Blog posts from Phil Bradley and myself published at lunch time on 1 April 2009 where amongst the first to take Slideshare to task for the April fool’s prank. Now although a number of people felt that people should have expected such gags’s on April Fool’s Day, many others were very critical. And now Slideshare have admitted they were wrong and have just published a blog post in which they ask their users to “accept our whole-hearted apologies“.

I would agree Phil Bradley’s response to the blog post:

You’ve put this really nicely and thoughtfully. It’s going to be a harsh critic who’s still unhappy. As I said elsewhere, it’s not making the mistake, it’s how you deal with, and recover from the mistake. This makes you a bigger and better company. Thank you.

But what lessons can others learn from what by colleague Paul Walk has described as ‘Slidesharegate‘? I would like to suggest three areas in which pranksters for next year’s April Fool should give some thought to:

Don’t tamper with data: Rashmi Sinha, SlideShare’s CEO has admitted that “Statistics are sacred. (don’t mess with them, even in a prank!)”.  Concerns were expressed by many Slideshare users over the way in which their usage statistics had been artificially boosted. But as well as modifications to such data can upset the owners of the data and other users, there are also dangers that data could be reused (by screen-scraping software) and displayed in other environments. Let’s not foget that that software does not have a sense of humour and won’t be aware of April Fool pranks.

Time zones: Of course software could know that it is before midday on 1st April. But in the global environment of the Web, somewhere it will not be April Fool’s day. I have just come across the concept of the ‘International day’, on the CSS Naked Day Web site: this event lasts for one international day, so that “to ensure that everyone’s website will be publicly nude for the entire world to see at any given time during April 9”  the day when Web site owners are encouraged to remove CSS from there Web site will technically speaking, will be correct somewhere in the world for 48 hours. But until a standards body agrees to internationalise April Fool’s day there’s a need to remember that somewhere in the world it will not be April Fool’s day (which isn’t to say that one shouldn’t carry out April Fools gags, however).

Unsolicited mail: The use of email to encourage users of a service to view an April Fool’s gag is probably a mistake, since most users are likely to read such email when ‘April Fool is past and gone’ .

Rashmi Sinha has asked for comments on his blog post. I welcome his her apology and hope that my suggestions can help the Slideshare team in deciding what to do next year. Will it be like last year’s “hoax announcement that SlideShare would not allow bullets in presentations anymore” I wonder?

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