UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

“Your SlideShare account has been suspended”

Posted by Brian Kelly 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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14 Responses to ““Your SlideShare account has been suspended””

  1. fred6368 said

    Brian,
    I have been an enthusiastic user and fan of slideshare in that it gives me the greatest reach of my work and ideas and also ties in with my following the idea, formally mooted by @Dougald Hine, as a public intellectual. Like you I have some postings that have received significant views and are clearly embedded as part of others work, Craft of Teaching and Co-creating Open Scholarship for example. I now take 2.000 views as being measure of slides having some continuing worth and have been immensely pleased that totals views have passed 100k. http://www.slideshare.net/fredgarnett/presentations
    However I have paid for PRO for the last 2 years, my first year paid for just before LinkedIn took over. I continued with PRO this year as I was happy with the data and info I had access to, but have been very unhappy with the changes in the way data is presented to me. I’m getting significantly less information than I did last year and it is harder to access. I have complained twice, completely without response. I wonder if the current issues are tied into the new ownership.
    Glad your work has been recovered…
    Fred

  2. Eddie said

    (sorry Brian, this comment was posted to the wrong post a moment ago, you may want to delete that)
    Hi Brian. I have had the very same thing happen to me (my personal account – ebyrne41) on the 25 September, and I am still awaiting resolution. Awaiting a reply even to my correspondences! Scandalous. I first noted it early on the morning of the 26th on my smartphone, and proceeded to follow the link to send a ‘ticket’. It being a little awkward on my smartphone i switched to my laptop and went about the same procedure only to find I could not send a ticket as I had to login, and since my account was suspended, I could not of course login!! Back I went to my smartphone where for some strange reason I appeared to be logged in and sent the ticket, to which I got an auto reply. I bcaked this up with an email 5 hours later to support@slideshare.com, got no reply, sent another on the 27th, again on the 30th and again 20 minutes ago (last one to notifications-support@slideshare.com. I have yet to receive a reply to any. As I also happen to manage the Slideshare account for Dublin City Libraries (dubcilib). it concerns me greatly that such can happen, and more importantly, that efforts to resolve fall on deaf ears. So here I am 8 days later with no resolution and not a word from Slideshare. It has required all my self-control and more to remain as calm as I have in my mails to them. Not sure how long more i can remain in control! I am hoping that by sending my last email to notifications-support@slideshare.com I might get some notice. a hope beyond hope? Maybe you can advise me as to what magic you employed to get your account re-activated?
    Kind regards,
    Eddie Byrne
    Dublin City Public Libraries
    ps. I may yet see you at ILI, will know tomw maybe.

    • Hi Eddie
      Sorry to hear that you’ve also had problems with your Slideshare account. After not hearing anything in response to my first request, I submitted another. They responded to that request promptly. I thanked them for doing this, but asked for clarification about what had happened. They told me: “. I have gone into the system and removed the criteria that was marked in your account. The issue with not getting a response for a couple of days, is we have a new person who accidentally took the ticket. The other support person and myself did not see it since it was assigned to them. Once I got your second email, I was able to find the original email and take it for response. It is rare that this happens that the new person has these assigned and unanswered. We are usually very good about getting back to people within 24 hours about their concerns.
      I feel that Slideshare have dealt with the problem to my satisfaction.

      • Eddie said

        Finally got a reply during the night and my account re-activated. I had to login to my organisation account (as distinct to my own, which was the one affected) on Slideshare in order to be able to contact their support and generate a new ticket (when you are suspended you can’t login to the suspended account and generate a ticket, figure that!). This one got noticed thankfully. The reply was more or less as the one you got (“automated system incorrectly suspended”, “new guy took the ticket and did not resolve”, and apology, good to get).

      • fred6368 said

        Hi Brian, my comments are more parallel to yours, about the terms of service, But I am paying $190 for the PRO service and the format of the data has changed, about which I have complained – it is now harder to get my own data than last year (see above). I have just realised that previously I got ‘latest” updates whereas I now receive “recent updates. The difference being that previously my data was updated in “real-time” (well a couple of minute timelag) so I could respond to any new interest, whereas now it is updated to yesterday (recent) and it is much harder to respond to anything that (paid-for) data on my account is telling me. Given web-based attention spans this is chopping off a key level of data about my slides. Pretty sure I will now pay $190 next year, feels worth about $25.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I have two issues.

    1. I worry about dependency on 3rd party web services hosted in another legislature when with a little effort it is possible to reproduce the service on our own infrastructure.

    In the Business School we recently replaced a Scribd account with a bespoke PDF viewer. I have to say, it really wasn’t that difficult and the outcome is really professional.

    2. The fact everyone is dependent on FREE services undermines the argument for properly funding such development efforts and leaves us vulnerable to these types of outages / arbitrary changes to service provision.

    We used to build these things ourselves and with a bit of effort we still can. Why are we now so dependent on these flakey third party services?

    Why are we so keen on giving away the family silver so cheaply?

    • Hi Paul
      Thanks for the comments. My response:

      1) My requirements are for a service to host my slides in order to maximize the impact of the slides; provide an environment which enables comments to be made on the slides, the slides to be bookmarked; related to slides on the same topic and embedded on other Web pages. Hosting the slides within the institution (which I do in any case) fails to satisfy these requirements.

      2) I used to hear this argument over 10 years ago regarding open source software – if we used free software, we’ve have our budgets cut. I didn’t agree with that argument then and I don’t now. Chris Sexton, head of IT Services at the University of Sheffield commented thatWe made the decision to move to Google for students nearly two years ago, and are just in the process of moving all of our staff over” and went on to add “I can see no reason for any HE IT department to run their own email service” . I agree; the saving made can be used to enhance the services provided for teaching and learning and research. This is more important than protecting departmental budgets, I would argue.

  4. Hi Brian,

    Let me apologize on behalf of SlideShare for the inconvenience. We are continuously trying to improve the user experience, and promote quality content on the site, so that community as a whole can benefit from it. Unfortunately, we have been facing issues with lot of spam content like every other social site, which dilutes the quality of content for users. As a result of which we have been implementing some algorithmic changes which automatically suspends the users whose content raises a flag, and your issue seems like a corner case where we received a false positive. Be rest assured, that we do acknowledge and correct any such mistakes as soon as it is brought to our attention, and once the system will evolve, these kind of incidences will be very rare. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you need any assistance with this or any other issue. Any inconvenience is deeply regretted.

    Best,
    Gaurav Shukla
    Customer Evangelist- SlideShare

    • Hi Gaurav
      Thanks for the reply.
      I appreciate that things can go wrong when you are making changes. I also appreciate the need to address spam.
      For info, my slides normally contain embedded links, so that, for example, I can go to a Web site related to the presentation during a talk by simply clicking. This also enables me to find the origin of a screen shot, in case I wish to check that the Web site looks the same. I realised a while ago that this could be used to provide spam links which, from a popular site such as Slideshare, might provide additional Google juice. This hasn’t been my intention – and in any case I suspect that Google is sophisticated enough to detect such misuse.
      However in addition to the problem I reported above, once my account had been restored I uploaded two new slides. I then received another suspension messages – and this time I found that I couldn’t log in to the account. As you need to login in order to report a problem I was unable to report this. Eddie Byrne, who commented above after he had the same problem, told me he had to login to a different Slideshare account in order to submit a report. This is clearly not an acceptable position. It seems that whenever I upload a new slide, existing slides will be removed. Since I have over 100 slide decks which have been uploaded to Slideshare and these are embedded in my blog and elsewhere, it seems I now cannot add any new content to Slideshare without facing the risk that existing content will be lost. I have therefore started to use an alternative service (Authorstream) as I cannot take the risk of my content being made inaccessible. I would, however, like to continue to use Slideshare, Can you reassure me that the problems I have encountered have been satisfactorily addressed?

      Thanks

    • My SlideShare account got suspended last night! – it happened right after I uploaded my latest PDF File. It happened Very Fast without ANY Warnings or Email or even a Notification! – Thank you for sharing this info here Brian! and also thanks Gaurav for clariying these things about SlideShare.net. I could not send a support ticket so I emailed support@slideshare.com today. I really hope I get a response and I get my account back up or at least a Reason Why? .. All of my content was pure Value to people so I don’t understand this. If you could help me here Gaurav I will really appreciate it! Thanks! Much success!

    • Gaurav, Brian –

      After having used Slideshare intermittantly over the years, I was suspended without warning yesterday – for a slidedeck which I admit was too promotional. However, since there was no warning (or merely suspending the offensive slidedeck) this itself is a violation of their site’s TOS.

      I noted that my other documents on Slideshare were not scheduled for deletion – that I’ve seen.

      The alternative is to set up additional accounts and download, then reupload these documents as needed.

      The comments on this blog point out that there still needs some “tweaking” to that automatic algorithmic approach.

      I can appreciate that a popular social site is getting spammed. Most are. However, this tends to give LinkedIn a black eye, since these massive suspensions seem to have started on its watch.

      As well, the automatic suspension without sufficient human review just increases people setting up additional accounts. There are other sites which doc-share and provide embedded viewing. I prefer slideshare for various reasons.

      Hopefully, Slideshare will sort this out.

      Thanks.

      PS. No reply from Slideshare support as yet. Been 48 hours.

      PPS. Looks like they will be heading the route of WordPress.com, Xanga, and others unless they fix their algorithms.

    • Lucy Gray said

      Almost the same thing has happened to my Slideshare account. My account, which I paid $175 for Slideshare Silver Pro status, completely disappeared in the last few weeks. No warning. Nothing. I subitted a help ticket and sent tweets about nearly 24 hours ago. No response other than the automated reply.

      This is the second time I’ve had a problem. My account was temporarily suspended 7 months ago for no apparent reason, and the problem was rectified.

      I’m horrified at the lack of prompt customer service about this problem.

  5. Just as an additional data point to this discussion: unlike the others posting here, I’m only a very casual slideshare user – I believe that I have only one item posted – and I’ve been suspended. I’ve followed directions to submit an “appeal” (“why my account shouldn’t be suspended”), and I’m waiting to get a response.

    What I find interesting is how an account with basically nothing could be flagged. The slide deck in question is for a technical presentation on VoIP earlier this year, and I receive no other notification that it was in any way “objectionable”.

    But, also, when I first received the email notification, I thought that it was a phishing attempt. The text of the email – very similar to the one that Brian referenced, but without the “i.e.” clause – was sufficiently casual, generic, and threatening that I assumed the links were an attempt to get me to inadvertently install malware. At this point, the statement that “we looked into it” appears to me, frankly, to be untrue.

    In sending the email, the use of different domains – slideshare.com (not the slideshow.net that is the canonical site name) and slidesharemailer.com (little if any technical reason, and suspicious in nature) – also don’t raise confidence.

    Finally, there’s a question (perhaps, I’m simply overly sensitive) of reputational damage when one represents work on LinkedIn, and the link leads to a message about a TOS violation. I don’t have significant work posted on slideshare, not do I have a paid account, but I can well host my own work myself, and don’t need the aggravation of being flagged.

  6. Misio Ptysion said

    It happened today to me as well. My two PUBLIC presentations that I have given on software testing conferences in Spain and the Netherlands have been once of a sudden marked by community as inappropriate and removed. No further explanation. Has slideshare gone to the dogs?

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