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”>

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.