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Shame on Slideshare and Lessons Learned

MAY 13, 2014 UPDATE: My account has been restored and upgraded. Yay! Thank you, Slideshare, for making the impossible happen!

http://www.slideshare.net/elemenous

If you take a look at my blog and particularly at posts under the Conferences category, you'll notice many gaping holes to embedded content.  These holes are where my slides posted in Slideshare and embedded on my blog appeared until recently. Without warning, Slideshare didn't just suspend my account, but deleted the entire account and its contents because I've violated their Terms of Service agreement. From what I understand from their twitter evangelist, this account is now irretrievable.  I have not received any written warning about this nor has anyone from Slideshare responded to my queries about what I did exactly. 

If you're not familiar with Slideshare, it's similar to YouTube... only for slidedecks. You can upload PowerPoint files and PDFs, and Slideshare provides an embed code that you can use to show your slides front facing style in a blog, wiki or similar web site. It's also a social network that allows users to follow other member's posts and to favorite slideshows. 

I've been using Slideshare regularly since at least 2009 under the username elemenous. I've uploaded hundreds of presentations, favorited many others for future reference, and followed others in order to learn from their design and content. I've received numerous emails from them congratulating on my content and lauding the "popularity" of my content. See some of the screenshots I am posting. 

Typically, when I present at a conference, I created slidedecks in Keynote, convert the slides to a PDF and  then upload the file to Slideshare. I then embed this in my blog and give that link to attendees. This way they can follow along with my slides or download my slides for future reference. My content is usually made up of a template that I've used from Keynote or purchased here, photos that I've taken, photos I've purchased from iStockPhoto,  original ideas, and a lot of screenshots of web sites. I use Instantshot mostly to take screenshots of sites that I am demonstrating in my presentations. Using Preview, I sometimes annotate these screenshots to point out particular features. I generally link to the site that I am demo'ing so that attendees can go directly to a site and explore whatever I've mentioned.

One of my last presentations to be uploaded on Slideshare about using YouTube in the classroom. In order to quickly and efficiently go through a lot of material about this great educational resource, I've had to use screenshots to demonstrate my points.  I show what my YouTube channel looks like, how to add a video to a playlist, and how to search YouTube effectively through screenshots among other things. Attendees at conferences need visuals during presentations and afterwards in order to retain and use the information I provide. I could give this information to them in a paper handout, but in order to save trees, all of this is posted online. 

My work as an ed tech advocate focuses on helping teachers become more connected and tech savvy. My main intent is to help and inspire people and part of that is making materials accessible to them. This all doesn't really matter if I'm violating copyright, though. 

That said, here's what happened regarding my account:

1. I lasted posted material on slideshare probably in conjunction with a conference in the Waukegan school district or SxSWedu in February/March. These were standard presentations that I've given before and tweaked for these events. Earlier versions of these presentations were on Slideshare.

2. I did not touch my Slideshare account for about a month. As I was listening to Jackie Gerstein last week during the online Learning Revolution conference, I went to Slideshare to favorite her fabulous slidedeck. Not going to link to it here in case Slideshare wants to delete HER account. I noticed that I had trouble logging in... normally, I'm automatically signed in there. I tried logging in with LinkedIn and Facebook and my stuff wasn't coming up. I didn't have time to figure out what was going on and assumed that I just hadn't linked Slideshare to my FB or LinkedIn accounts.

3. I returned to Slideshare a few days ago to see what was wrong with my account, and realized that when I had tried to log in (see step 2), I had created new accounts. I looked all over and tried logging in with my known user name and password, and realized that I couldn't. My account was completely gone. I looked at my blog and at my LinkedIn profile that had presentations linked there. None of the content was appearing.

4. I submitted a help ticket asking for help and noticed that I had submitted a help ticket for a similar problem 7 months ago. While uploading presentations, I was inexplicably locked out as opposed to my account just being deleted.  I was not given a TOS warning. Upon investigation, Slideshare reinstated my account, so I thought it was a glitch.

5. I then tried to reach out to Slideshare via Twitter. No one from @Slideshare responded. A follower, however, did provide me with the email address of an editor at Slideshare and I held off from contacting her at first.

6. I wait and wait and nearly 48 hours later, I checked the status of my help ticket. My ticket was completely deleted ... there was a message in the help center saying that it was either deleted or resolved.  So no record exists of my two contacts with customer service. I have some screenshots, though. I submitted another ticket using a newly created account. 

7. During this time, I also searched the internet for other users who were reporting problems. I found this post and this post. In the former blog entry, I found the name of a Slideshare evangelist, Guarav Shukla, who did respond to a tweet and said he'd look into it. Later, he said my account was deleted due to TOS and it was not possible to retreive it.  Note that I had not received any notifications from Slideshare nor a response to my first or second help ticket.

8. Meanwhile, I happened to look at my LinkedIn account, and if you don't know this, there is a section where you can see who's looked at your profile. Lo and behold, someone from Slideshare named Christopher Schaff had been checking me out. He's a customer service rep for Slideshare! I decided to connect with him on LinkedIn...and of course, he hasn't responded to that request. :) 

9. I then decide it is time to contact the editor from Slideshare to see if she can help. She responds fairly quickly and says she'll forward my issues on to customer service. Lo and behold, she's also checked out my LinkedIn profile. Note to the less social media savvy: Turn off the ability for people to see that you've looked at their profiles in your LinkedIn privacy settings. 

10. This morning, I heard from the Twitter contact about my TOS violation. No official word followed, other than a LinkedIn communication from Christopher saying that they would refund my account. I'm not sure if I paid for a pro account this year or not...actually.

11. I've since tweeted Guarav asking for further explanation and submitted more comments on my second help ticket asking for clarification. I've also looked through their community guidelines and I can't figure out what I did wrong other than use screenshots of web sites. If they had warned me, I would have taken things down and altered the way I did future presentations. It also states here that if your account has been banned, you are forbidden from creating accounts in the future. How was able to create 2 new accounts inadvertently then when I was trying to log in through FB and LinkedIn at the begining of this saga? 

How ridiculous is the following given this situation? Again from their community guidelines: 

"We trust you to be responsible and respect each other. SlideShare is a large community of people. In order for all of us to live happily on this service together, it implies a certain level of trust. Trust and respect each other!"

"SlideShare does not actively screen content being uploaded because we trust you to self-moderate. But we do have a system where users flag accounts or slideshows for violations/abuse and we will step in when we think it's necessary."

I wish Slideshare would respect me enough to give me an explanation for what happened here so that I can learn from any mistakes I made. 

And from their Help Center:

"We suspend and disable SlideShare accounts that violate our ToS. This includes:

  • Continued prohibited behavior after receiving a warning or multiple warnings from SlideShare
  • Unsolicited contact with others for the purpose of harassment, advertisement, selling, dating, or any other inappropriate conduct
  • Providing false credentials for the purpose of creating an account
  • Impersonation of any individual, entity, or other misrepresentation of identity
  • Posting content that violates our terms

Please review SlideShare's community guidelines to learn more about our policies. If you think your account was disabled by mistake, you can send us a ticket by clicking on the link below. We will gladly review your account and fix it if we made a mistake. "

 So to wrap this up and put this situation to bed.... here is how it stands for me.

  • See related screenshots documenting my experience here. I would be happy to take these down if I received a decent response from Slideshare. 
  • I wish Slideshare had better customer service and had the courtesy to explain any wrong doings to me.
  • If I did anything in violation of anything, I'd be happy to correct it. I would have appreciated the chance to learn from this. 
  • I am cancelling my LinkedIn premium subscription as they apparently own Slideshare. I wish I could live without LinkedIn altogether, but it's requiste in today's work environment.
  • This is not about backing up for me. I have copies of my presenations. I am not pleased that there now gaps in my blog posts and that teachers can no longer benefit from my work. 
  • This is a warning about the future of content and how a company can eliminate your stuff without any due process. I really have no power to rectify this situation, other than to write about it and post to my social media channels. Fortunately, I do have some reach, so hopefully this will influence other educators on how they should protect their materials and help them decide about which companies that they want to do business with.

 

 

 

 

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