Slideshare has great customer support

February 12, 2009, [MD]

Why use Slideshare?\ A lot of people have began posting their slides to Slideshare for sharing with others. In many ways, Slideshare makes more sense to me than for example Scribd - it's fairly easy for me to download a PDF and view it in my local viewer, but it's a pain to have to start OpenOffice just to view a Powerpoint. In addition, Slideshare has an incredibly neat feature called Slidecasting, which lets you add an mp3 of the actual talk (or of music, if you wanted to make a photo slideshow), and sync the transition of the slides to the relevant points in the audio. This way people can hear you speak and see the slides change at the appropriate points, without you having to compile it all into a large video file.

It's also getting easier and easier to produce an audio file - I normally just turn on Audacity on my laptop before I start speaking. The sound becomes a bit noisy, but with the remove noise feature in Audacity, the end-result is surprisingly good. I've put several presentations up, but my first slidecast was my presentation on open research and open education which I gave this summer in New Delhi. That presentation vividly illustrates how with a little bit of extra work, your presentation can have a much wider reach. The presentation was given at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, which is where top bureaucrats go to get mid-career training, and I spoke to a group of 25 professors. It was a real honor to be invited, and they had some interesting questions after the talk. However, by putting the slidecast up on Slideshare, I was able to share it with the world.

During the last half year, that slidecast received almost 1.500 hits, and I know that a number of people saw it, and that it benefitted me. For example, I would probably not be giving a presentation on open education at the Education Commons at OISE, if the people working there hadn't seen this earlier presentation and decided that although I was a first year MA student, I knew how to present. This can be especially important for students and beginning academics who don't have a lot of formal publications. But even if you do - knowing how to write, and knowing how to present are two different skills.

**Problems, and good customer support\ **I was especially excited about putting my recent presentation from the Connexions/OCWC Conference online (abstract, slidecast) because this was on a fairly specialized topic about which almost no information is available in English. Whereas the previous presentation was a general overview of OER and open research, which would not be very interesting to people already inside the movement, this presentation was "cutting edge" research. Not that many people attended my presentation in Houston, because there were competing tracks (I was competing with David Wiley, no less), but several already told me that they were interested.

However, when trying to set the timings of the Slidecast, I ran into problems. It seemed like save did not work, and the timings did not show up. I tried a variety of different things, like reuploading it in a different format, but I could not get it to work. I looked around to see if there was another webservice that could let me do the same, but I couldn't easily find one. My other option would have been to turn it into a "movie", but that seemed like a waste. Even Keynote, which supports creating Flash-movies with narration, doesn't let you do it with an existing MP3, you have to record from scratch.

So I finally sent off an email to the support desk at, not expecting much. After all, I was not a paying customer, and I wasn't expecting much of an answer. I was positively surprised when I received an email back, quite soon after, suggesting that I delete cookies and temporary files. I did, and it had no effect. Back to Slideshare. It actually took us a while to figure out what was going on, in total my GMail conversation thread shows that 18 messages went back and forth during 24 hours. The wonderful part was that on the other end was a high-level technician who treated me as a valued collaborator in hunting down this bug. I sent screenshots, tried different techniques, and at one point even used Firebug to look at the XML files sent to my browser. Finally we nailed it, there had been some bug in importing my specific presentation, and the thing was fixed.

In this age of calling customer support and being told by someone to "reboot your computer", it is wonderful to be dealing with someone who has a deep understanding of how their system works, and who treats you as an intelligent person. Thank you very much to Ashwan, and anyone else who were involved.

(And the slidecast is now available!)

**Suggestion\ **One thing that I would love to see is more detailed analytical data. I know that 1.500 people have visited my presentation, but how many of them actually watched it, and how many clicked on a link, saw the first slide, and left? Youtube has quite detailed analytics about when in a movie people stop watching, etc. We wouldn't need something that fancy, but perhaps "350 people watched at least half the slides in your presentation", or "400 people spent more than 10 minutes on your presentation". Since Slideshare serves up each slide as people move along (I'm assuming), they should be able to tell with a good enough accuracy.\


Stian HĂ„klev February 12, 2009 Toronto, Canada
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