UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

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

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 Apr 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 http://bit.ly/rbKi 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.

Congratulations,
-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=”http://marketer.slideshare.com/open.php?M=5662259&L=25&N=92&F=H”&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.

28 Responses to ““You’re a Slideshare Rockstar!” – Not!”

  1. You’re spot on Brian. I did send them a DM and they have apologised directly to me, though not as far as I can see yet to everyone who follows them on Twitter. They said “Sorry about the joke. It seemed funny at the time. But we understand that it was not good idea. Our sincere aplogies.”

    Really not good enough in my opinion. I think it’s time to revisit alternative resources.

  2. Martin said

    Hadn’t even occurred to me it was an April Fool’s joke, because there’s nothing funny or clever about it. I did go and have a look, and so, at the least I wasted a few minutes wondering of a slideshow had been picked up by something. If it is a joke, it’s a dumb thing to do isn’t it?

  3. Ian Waugh said

    Can’t really believe serious websites even bother with April fool’s jokes, it’s completely stupid.

    Even the BBC have done one with the iToaster, a toaster with built in iPlayer. What a waste of time.

  4. Daniel said

    Hi Brian,

    Sorry our April Fool’s Day joke wasn’t funny. But I do work in SlideShare’s marketing department… well the closest thing to us having a marketing department and I can assure you that we’re not stalking you. The embedded image is something our e-mail client puts in by default to track open rates. I can’t get any personally identifiable information and I’m trying to track people down via twitter or anything else. Promise.

    We wanted to keep an eye out on how many people read the e-mail, just in case we were being terribly unfunny (which might be the case). We didn’t expect much extra traffic, but I’ll pitch the idea of donating money to a charity (always hard to argue with).

    Again, sorry for being unfunny.

  5. rashmi said

    Brian,

    Our apologies. It was April Fool’s prank, but it seems to have upset many of our users who we love. My sincere, personal apologies.

    Rashmi
    SlideShare cofounder

  6. You’re a SlideShare RockStar

    i had one too – this is rubbish – they should concentrate instead on making their services more stable and getting a less flaky performance out of the cloud.

    cheers

    w

  7. Really sorry if we offended you. The prank was my idea, and I take full responsibility. There’s a lot of pressure to get April fools day right (sounds bizarre but is true), and it looks like we got it way wrong.

  8. This is silly. There’s no way they can correlate your twitter ID to your email address. embedding “hidden” graphics in HTML email is common practice so that marketing tools can track when an email is opened. It’s exactly why outlook is not loading it for your “privacy”.

    IMO, the slideshare prank is brilliant – it’s fooling tons of people who should know better by playing on the current stats-crazed nature of our egos.

  9. Jordi said

    Thanks for clarifying. I was puzzled too.

  10. kudos to the guys from slideshare for a clear explanation and what appears to be a genuine apology.

  11. Mike said

    1. “Is this reaction over-the-top?” Yes.

    2. Almost every mailing list email sent since about 1960 has tracking tags/links in it. It really isn’t intrusive and it does that standard HE/IT thing of breeding fear and dislike of The Marketing Department. Us IT services / Web2 types need to find ways of working WITH designers and marketeers and not be complicit in building barriers

    3. Will you and everyone else blogging about this be donating the salary time you spent writing about a non-issue to a good cause? Doubt it.

    4. My, how I LOL’d at how Phil Bradley dealt with the issue of sending traffic spikes to the Slideshare site by blogging about AND linking to it. Yay!

    5. Damn. Now I’ve got to donate MY salary time wasted too.

    Ta

    Mike

  12. There’s nothing wrong with April Fools jokes, but this Slideshare thing wasn’t a good one. I only found out about it because after tweeting about it I happend to notice Brian’s tweet. The Guardian’s April Fool was much more clever.

  13. helencurry said

    What a strange kind of joke, not funny really, just puzzling.

  14. Sarah Currier said

    I can’t believe how seriously folk are taking this. It was an April Fool’s joke! We wake up on April 1st expecting all manner of pranks such as this! And I for one am actually starting to find it funny how po-faced and humourless so many people are being. It pokes at people’s professional egos in a light-hearted way- surely a valid target, and only a short-term sting. I feel bad for the people at SlideShare who now seem to be having a bad day, running round the InterWebs apologising. I propose a new hashtag #ididntthinkitwasthatfunnybutnowido

  15. Its probably not that good an idea to do a joke that makes it look like you’ve been hacked or your system just b0rked.

    I was surprisingly elated for a few seconds before thinking “oh great its got a bug”… it never occurred to me it might have been a joke!

    (partly this was because a bug with similar profile – inflated hits on one view, regular on another – happened before with Technorati and was not associated with April 1st!)

    So, nothing to get mad about. But not particularly clever either.

  16. I usually link to websites that I talk about. I gave a number of alternatives TO Slideshare that people could use, which Mike seems to have missed. Worth doing since one or two people were having real problems trying to use the site for their work purposes today and simply couldn’t. I also think that it was worth blogging about because a lot of people were confused about exactly what was going on. Since I don’t *have* a salary I think I can ignore Mike’s comment there as well.

  17. Martin said

    The email didn’t give the ‘joke’ figures, which might have given it away. When I went to the site, I looked in the my slidespace area and there the figures were normal. So I didn’t even know this was the joke – just wasted 5 minutes wondering what was going on and looking at (the normal) traffic figures. My time isn’t _that_ precious, but just a bit irritating in an attention economy.
    But probably not worth getting too uptight about – not a lynching offense, just a mistake I guess.

  18. Heshan said

    Nicely said Brian. They shouldn’t have done a thing like that. I have about it as well.

  19. […] “You’re a Slideshare Rockstar!” – Not! […]

  20. […] PRESS – SlideShare played an April Fool’s prank on their users, some people were not impressed by it, prompting some to look for alternatives (scroll down to the section on […]

  21. martijn-konijn said

    Gee, what a fuzz ..
    I received a similar thing. They got me fooled for a moment, before I realized the date.
    Nothing wrong here, in my view – except for those not able to handle the fact they’re fooled.
    There’s nothing more to it.

    martijn-konijn

    • No, there really IS more to it than that. At the risk of prolonging a debate when SlideShare has apologised and we’ve all moved on there’s one point that a lot of people who have commented on this list have singularly failed to grasp.

      Slideshare is providing a service that people use in their daily work. I use Slideshare when I’m presenting/training/teaching. Yesterday, as a result of the prank the site ground to a halt. Luckily I wasn’t teaching, but if I was, the inability to access the site and my presentation would have made life difficult. Yes, I could have moved to the presentation I’d have with me on CD, on memory stick or saved on Google, but that’s not the point.

      I’m annoyed about the denial of service. I’m annoyed on behalf of all of those users who were nothing to do with the prank, didn’t know about it and just wanted to get on with their job. THAT is what else there is to it – why is that so hard for people to see?

      • rashmi said

        Phil,

        Understand your frustration with site being down. Just as a note however, embeds are always up (even if site is down). Embeds are directly served from Amazon S3, so they are very reliable. This was a key feature of SlideShare, the way we designed it – that embeds would remain up even if site went down.

        We understand that the content needs to be very reliable. And have built site that way. Now that we provide Full Screen on embeds as well, you can always access full functionality even if site has problems.

        That being said, it does not excuse site being down. It should be up. Always.

        -rashmi
        SlideShare Cofounder & CEO

  22. Of course it is funny – it completely called out the people who got caught on their own social media vanity. Most people who got caught by this should either know better or aren’t the social media experts they claimed to be and ended up looking like dicks. Egg on someone’s face is always funny, just not for the person with it on their face.

    • Sarah Currier said

      Well said Andy. And might I add, sometimes it’s even funny for the person with egg on their face- if they’ve got a sense of humour about themselves.

  23. […] “You’re a Slideshare Rockstar!” – Not! […]

  24. […] “You’re a Slideshare Rockstar!” – Not! […]

  25. […] “Ja saps com va. Un conviu durant cert temps. I vos dugueu ben bé. Aleshores alguna cosa va malament. I comences a cercar quelcom nou.” Allò ‘nou’ a què es refereix és SlideBoom […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: