SlideShare: Some Work to Do

August 12, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Scribd Acquires Presentation Sharing Service SlideShare from LinkedIn.” In 2004, one could locate presentations on Google by searching for the extension ppt and its variants. In 2006, SlideShare became available. Then something happened. PowerPoints became more difficult to locate. When an online search pointed to a PowerPoint deck, the content was:

  1. Marketing fluff
  2. Incorrectly rendered with weird typography and wonky graphics
  3. Corrupted files.

What about today? DarkCyber’s most recent foray into the slide deck content wilderness produced zero; for example, SlideShare search produced identical pages of search results. The query retrieved slide decks on unrelated topics. Even worse, a query would result in SlideShare’s sending email upon email pointing to other slide decks. The one characteristic of these related slide deck was/is that they were unrelated to the information we sought.

There are online presentation services. There are open source presentation tools like SoftMaker’s. There is the venerable Keynote which never quite converts a PowerPoint file correctly.

Is there a future in a searchable collection of slide decks? In theory, yes. In reality, the cost of finding, indexing, and making searchable presentations faces some big hurdles; for example:

  1. Many organizations — for example, DARPA — standardize on PDF file formats. These are okay, but indexing these can be an interesting challenge
  2. Some presenters put their talks in the cloud, hoping that an Internet connection will allow their slides to display
  3. The Zoom world puts PowerPoints and other presentation materials on the user’s computer, never to make it into a more publicly accessible repository.

Like the dream of collecting conferences, presentations, and poster sessions, some content remains beyond the reach of researchers and analysts. The desire to get anyone looking for a slide deck to subscribe to a service gives operators of this service a chance to engage in spreadsheet fever. Here’s how this works? If there are X researchers, and we get Y percent of them. We can charge Z per year? By substituting guesstimates for the variables, the service becomes a winner.

The reality is that finding information in slide decks is more difficult today than it was in 2004. Access to information is becoming more difficult. DarkCyber would like to experience a SlideShare with useful content, more effective search and retrieval, and far less one page duplicates of ads for books.

Someday. Maybe?

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2020


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