UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for April 1st, 2009

“You’re a Slideshare Rockstar!” – Not!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 April 2009

The April 1 Joke

Yesterday (1 st April 2009) I received a couple of email messages from Slideshare which stated that some of the slides which I have uploaded to the Slideshare repository have “been getting a LOT of views in the last 24 hours“.

Now back on 25th July 2008 I received an email informing me that a slideshow of mine on  Web Preservation in a Web 2.0 Environment had been included in the ‘Spotlight section’ on the SlideShare homepage. So I know that Slideshare do have mechanisms for highlighting slideshows, which can help to maximise the impact of the slides on behalf of the author. For me such exposure has resulted in a number of slides having up to about 10,000 views (and one on Introduction To Facebook: Opportunities and Challenges For The Institution, which was a featured Slidecast of the day shortly after Slideshare announced it slidecasting facility for synching audio with slides, having over 9,000 views) .  I’m pleased that Slideshare has allowed me to reach a much wider audience than would have been possible when the slides were only available on the UKOLN Web site.

Slideshare usage statistics, 1 April 2009But on this occasion on checking the numbers of visits I found that many of the slideshows were seemingly being viewed by 10,000, 20,000 and above occasions.

As I was a bit suspicious of the statistics, I send a Twitter post warning others that these figures appeared incorrect. I initially suspected that Slideshare had been the victim of a harvesting attack, as I suggested in my tweet: “Slideshare have emailed me saying that is v. popular (200,398 views) I suspect a robot! #bestofslideshare (not)“.

In response my Twitter followers suggested that this was “some kind of April Fool malarky” / “weird april fool thing“. Someone else who appeared to have received a similar email message pointed out that it “looks like the slides with 810 views are being displayed as 80010 view” – and this, I discovered, was also the case for me.

Is It Funny?

This seems to me some kind of April Fool joke, although not one that I find particularly funny – and although some appeared to have accepted the email message at face value others appeared bemused or puzzled. Normally there would be a subtle clue about the joke which would not be spotted on initial reading. So I revisited the email which said:

Hi lisbk,

We’ve noticed that your slideshow on SlideShare has been getting a LOT of views in the last 24 hours. Great job … you must be doing something right. ;-)

Why don’t you tweet or blog this? Use the hashtag #bestofslideshare so we can track the conversation.

-SlideShare Team

Email from Slideshare on 1 April 2009Nothing obvious there, but there was an embedded image in the email which is not displayed by default, as shown.

I right-clicked the image place-holder  in order to download the image, but nothing was shown.

Viewing the source of the email I found the following image tag:

<img src=””&gt;

So rather than this being an innocent April Fool joke, it seems that I’m being stalked by Slideshare’s marketing department. And they’ll also be able to relate my Slideshare ID to my Twitter ID if I use the “#bestofslideshare” hashtag as they suggested in their email. At least they were honest when they said “so we can track the conversation” – but I suspect most users won’t be aware of how intrusive such tracking would be.

Is this reaction over-the-top? Perhaps when Slideshare announce this joke they’ll also say that the extra advertising revenue which the additional views generated will be donated to a worthy cause – which would make me appear somewhat of a curmudgeon. And if I have got this wrong I’d be happy to apologise – after all I have in the past admitted to being a fan of the Slideshare service.

But I still think we have to be very wary that April fool gags may be being exploited by marketing peope in ways which would not be accepted during the rest of the year. What do you think? Phil Bradley, it seems, is in agreement with me.

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 28 Comments »

Standards are for Catholics

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 April 2009

Being brought up in an Irish Catholic environment in the 1960s meant that life was full of religious and moral absolutes. If you were good you’d go to heaven (with some time in purgatory a likelihood) whereas protestants would go to hell. Black babies, who never had the opportunity for redemption, would go to limbo (it was only in 2006 limbo that limbo was abolished). And I can recall the Irish missionary priests who came to school collecting for the black babies – peer group pressure meant that the 12-sided 3d coin from your pocket money was the expected contribution. (The local catholic junior school, incidentally, hadn’t been rebuilt after being bombed in the war which meant we had the upstairs classroom in a protestant school – and we had staggered breaks so we wouldn’t mix. Little did we realise in the annual ‘Wessie Road’ upper vs ‘Wessie Road’ lower grudge football matches that the the over-the-top tackles were reflecting disagreements over the Virgin birth and Papal infallibility).

Now although I have already confessed to losing my religion the Jesuits may well have been right in their views on the power of indoctrination in early years. So although I no longer believe that I must not eat meat on Fridays, I am aware of the meaning and power of the word must and can differentiate it from should.

Such an understanding is very relevant in the works of standards. If a programming language requires statements to be terminated with a “;” then you must do so, otherwise your progam with fail (or, as is often said these days, FAIL). It’s not a fuzzy choice – it works or it doesn’t. Period.

But it seems that the meaning of must is slowly being lost. This first struck me several years ago when UKOLN was involved in the development of the standards and guidelines which support the national NOF-digitise programme. We were told that the document should state that “All Web sites must be available 24×7″ (or words to that effect). Our protestations were ignored – until projects reported that responses to the invitation to tender were rather over budget (to put it mildly).  We then described that 24*7 availability requires duplication of servers, backup networking capacity, backup power supplies, etc. and was only likely to be required by international organisations. It subsequently turn out that the requirement was that servers should not be turned off at 5 pm on Friday evenings, as had been the case in some circumstances in the past. The document was updated with the mandatory requirement being replaced by “Projects should seek to provide maximum availability of their project Web site” – as there was a contractual requirement to implement all of the ‘musts’ in the document this was needed in order to safe the entire NOF-digi budget being used to ensure 24×7 access for a single project!

Now I recently asked the question Is The UK Government Being Too Strict? as it similarly seemed to be requiring a must in circumstances in which the evidence suggests that such strict conformance very seldom occurs.

Is this just me and my background, I wonder?  When I see the word must in a standard, I think it really means must – otherwise you’ll be dammed forever in a non-interoperable hell.

But maybe I should chill out a bit? Maybe when I read must I should think of the kind friendly maths teacher I had at school who told me I should try harder, but he knew that it was sometime difficult, so he wasn’t too concerned if I gort it wrong. After all, I’ll probably find it easier in the future.

So tell me, are there policy makers and authors of standards and specifications who really do feel that must means must, whereas the developers interpret must as should? Is the problem that we have a non-interoperable mix of religions involved?

Posted in standards | 3 Comments »