social powerpointing, or, the darker side of flash 10.11.2006, 8:35 AM
posted by ben vershbow
SlideShare is a new web application that lets you upload PowerPoint (.ppt and .pps) or OpenOffice (.odp) slideshows to the web for people to use and share. The site (which is in an invite-only beta right now, though accounts are granted within minutes of a request) feels a lot like the now-merged Google Video and YouTube. Slideshows come up with a unique url, copy-and-paste embed code for bloggers, tags, a comment stream and links to related shows. Clicking a "full" button on the viewer controls enlarges the slideshow to fill up most of the screen. Here's one I found humorously diagramming soccer strategies from various national teams:
Another resemblance to Google Video and YouTube: SlideShare rides the tidal wave of Flash-based applications that has swept through the web over the past few years. By achieving near-ubiquity with its plugin, Flash has become the gel capsule that makes rich media content easy to swallow across platform and browser (there's a reason that the web video explosion happened when it did, the way it did). But in a sneaky way, this has changed the nature of our web browsers, transforming them into something that more resembles a highly customizable TV set. And by this I mean to point out that Flash inhibits the creative reuse of the materials being delivered since Flash-wrapped video (or slideshows) can't, to my knowledge, be easily broken apart and remixed.
Where once the "view source" ethic of web browsers reigned, allowing you to retrieve the underlying html code of any page and repurpose all or parts of it on your own site, the web is becoming a network of congealed packages -- bite-sized broadcast units that, while nearly effortless to disseminate through linking and embedding, are much less easily reworked or repurposed (unless the source files are made available). The proliferation of rich media and dynamic interfaces across the web is no doubt exciting, but it's worth considering this darker side.
Mário on October 11, 2006 10:42 AM:
First, let me say that i follow this blog for some weeks and find it very useful, for it's information and opinions. Second i wish to make a comment about the "congealed packages".
I am a photographer who publishes photographs on-line, be it on my blog and galeries and also on Flickr and Myspace. One of the problem i have is preventing "content steal". Photos can be copied and can end up on places i dont even know. They can also be published without my name and consent on sites or magazines (it has appened). So i'm testing new ways of showing them but make life a litle more dificult for the "robbers". One way is to make a video slide show (om myspace and youtube) and wartermarking the photos i put on Flickr.
Creators must protect it's creations, so that people can still see them, but preventing abuses.
Jonathan Boutelle on October 11, 2006 12:16 PM:
Very insightful comments. Believe me, we've thought about how to allow creative remixing while protecting the content of the people who DON'T want that to happen with their stuff.
For viewing the slideshows themselves, nothing comes close to flash. The vector graphics mean that it can easily full-screen or project on a wall, which is important to us.
bowerbird on October 11, 2006 1:02 PM:
people don't yet understand very much at all
the desirability of ensuring remixability...
(i'll say more about that in other places.)
as for jonathan's response that they want to
"protect the content" of people who *don't*
want to "allow" their stuff to be remixed,
those people need to have remedial training.
the web by its very nature is for _sharing_.
(mario, i can _screen-capture_ anything you
try to "protect", so stop wasting your time.
in the 21st century, even if you obtain it,
such "protection" will only doom your stuff
to being eclipsed by content with terms that
are more friendly to re-use by the end-user.)
still, slideshare's focus on what it calls
"microcontent" -- the ability to point to
each particular piece of a larger whole --
is one that needs to be emulated, even if
their "isn't this cool?" attitude is a might...
well... too self-congratulatory. :+)
(let other people, like me, say it for you.)
and yes, vector graphics are the way to go.
i'm amazed we've been so stupid about that
for such a very long time. it's ridiculous.
i'm not sure we should need to buy into the
opaque (and costly) flash to get them, but
if that's the only way to have them, we must.
but for me, the one thing about slideshare
irritating me greatly is that it promulgates
the hegemony of the proprietary powerpoint.
in that regard, i like thumbstacks.com better,
since it allows you to _create_ a presentation
using their free tool online, which is powerful
and yet simple and intuitive. but of course,
if slideshare gave us that same capability,
with the output being a powerpoint .ppt file,
then that would help _break_ the hegemony,
and i'd be cheering them on loudly. jonathan?
Sally on October 11, 2006 3:43 PM:
Interesting post, Ben. I myself wish I could view the source code for many Flash sites!
Reading the comments, I'm not sure if the majority of folks who publish in Flash do so to deliberately develop private Web property. That's more likely in Adobe's interest. Any Web surfer determined enough could probably find, say, a photographer's images folder in a simpler Web site. I know I have in the past, regardless of whether it's Flash or HTML.
It's also worth mentioning that despite this veil, there is a huge online community of Flash developers and coders who readily (and freely) share source code, applications, and tutorials. From my experience, programers tend to be the most generous with their discoveries and the most eager to teach. It's too bad that, currently, Adobe isn't.