UK Web Focus

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Archive for October 1st, 2013

“Your SlideShare account has been suspended”

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 1 October 2013

Loss of Access to Content Hosted on Slideshare

Slideshare account suspendedOn Wednesday 25 September 2013 I received an email message which informed me that my SlideShare account had been suspended.  The reason given for this was that:

SlideShare activity was flagged as inappropriate by our community. We looked into it and found at least one of your activities (i.e. uploads, comments, follows or favorites) to be in violation of SlideShare’s Terms of Service or Community Guidelines.

To make matters worse:

… your account lisbk has been suspended and marked for deletion.

I received the message at 9.50pm on Wednesday evening. The following morning I contacted the Slideshare Support Desk complaining about the loss of access to my slides (which meant that Web sites which had embedded the content contained a message saying the account had been suspended) and asking for the files to be restored. I received the following automated response:

Thank you for contacting SlideShare. This email is to confirm we have received your inquiry and will respond within one business day.

I failed to receive a reply so yesterday evening I submitted another message to the support desk. Twelve hours later I received a reply

Thank you for contacting us again about this issue. I sincerely apologize for the delay in getting back to you. It looks like the automated system has incorrectly marked your account. I have removed the suspension and your account should be working normally now. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

And now my Slideshare account has been restored. I was pleased when I found that not only had the 148 slidedecks had been restored, but the slides still had the usage statistics and my 315 followers.

Lessons Learnt

I’m pleased that my Slideshare account has been restored with seemingly no data lost. All that seems to have been lost is 5 days access to the 148 slide decks which I have uploaded to the service. But this incident also gives rise to some concerns. Why did this happen? Could it happen again? Did I make a mistake in setting up my Slideshare account almost 7 years ago (my oldest slides, entitled Web 2.0: Addressing Institutional Barriers, were used in a talk given at the ILI 2006 conference and uploaded to Slideshare on 13 October 2006)?

Back in 2008/9 I was the lead author of a paper entitled “Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends” . The abstract described how:

The paper acknowledges that there are a variety of risks associated with such approaches. The paper describes the different types of risks and outlines a risk assessment and risk management approach which is being developed to minimize the dangers whilst allowing the benefits of Library 2.0 to be realized.

The risks and opportunities frameworkThe risks and opportunities framework was subsequently developed further and later in 2009 in a paper entitled “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” a diagram which depicted the framework was provided, as illustrated.

How might this have been applied in the specific context of use of Slideshare?

Intended use: Slideshare will be used to provide a copy of slides used in significant presentations so that (a) the slides can be embedded in blogs, web pages, etc; (b) comments on the slides can be given; (c) the slides can be accessed using a popular service in order to enhance access to the slides to help maximise the take-up of the ideas provided in the slides and (d) the slides can be ‘favourited’ in order to identify individuals with interests in the content.

Perceived benefits: Use of Slideshare  should help maximise access to the resources and provide commenting facilities which may be useful for reports on the impact of associated work.

Perceived risks: There may be risks that the Slideshare service is not sustainable and data lost. Spam comments may be made which would be time-consuming to delete. It was felt that the risks of loss of data was small since the Slideshare service appeared to be popular and sustainable.

Missed opportunities: Failing to use Slideshare would mean lost opportunities for reaching ou to a large number of users.

Costs: The free version of Slideshare has been used. The only additional costs have been the time taken in uploaded slides to the service and providing the relevant metadata.

Risk minimisation: The risks of data loss have been addressed by ensuring that the master copy of the slides is hosted on the UKOLN Web site.

Evidence base: The slide decks hosted on Slideshare have proved popular, with my three most popular slide decks having been viewed 24,536, 18,211 and 10,172 times. In addition a blog post entitled Evidence of Slideshare’s Impact highlighted the benefits of use of Slideshare for hosting slides for an event. It should be noted, however that a post on Understanding the Limits of Altmetrics: Slideshare Statistics did point out the need to treat these statistics with some caution.

I therefore feel that Slideshare has provided a valuable return on my investment. However just because Slideshare has proved useful in the past does not necessarily mean that this will continue to be true. Back in May 2012 TechCrunch announced that LinkedIn Acquires Professional Content Sharing Platform SlideShare For $119M. A concern might be that following the take-over there has been a lack of investment in the company, with asset-stripping of intellectual property, technical expertise, usage data  or other valuable assets taking place prior to the closure of the service or significant changes in its terms and conditions.

Quantcast stats for SlideshareHowever the usage figures provided by Quantast, available from the Techcrunch page about SlideShare, shows no cause for concerns. So perhaps my experience was a one-off glitch.  However the experience has led me to consider some additional risks which I hadn’t thought about previously:

Service makes mistakes: Although this mistake did not have any significant adverse affect, what would have happened if my account had been unavailable during a large event, such as IWMW events,  during which slides hosted on Slideshare are used during the event amplification?

Vexatious complaints: The automated email I received stated that my Slideshare content “was flagged as inappropriate by our community“. Could people submit anonymous complaints about content hosted on Slideshare, I wonder, leading to accounts being removed with an innocent Slideshare user having to make their case for the content to be be restored?

Contentious content: Slideshare’s Community Guidelines state: “Don’t post content or comments about issues like child exploitation, animal abuse, drug abuse, bomb making etc. They will be removed and your account will get suspended.” But what if a lecturer is giving a talk about, say, drug abuse? The guidelines do not seem to provide any scope for flexibility.

I’d welcome feedback on my experiences. I’d also like to invite Slideshare to respond to  the concerns I’ve raised. As I have said, I’ve been a longstanding fan of the service; I would hope that Slideshare’s support desk will be proactive in responding to concerns.


My Slideshare statisticsNOTE: Shortly after publishing this post I received an email from Slideshare containing a summary of the statistics of use of the service. As illustrated the figures provide an indication of significant levels of outreach for my slides (together with a small number of slides I have published on behalff of others). I hope that I can be reassured that Slideshare will continue to provide benefits for me and that I have my concerns addressed.

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