Don’t Just Embed Objects; Add Links To Source Too!

I’m a great fan of the JISC’s Access Management blog. Nicole Harris is the main contributor to the blog and Nicole’s interests in issues related to access management (a topic many may find rather dry and boring) help to engage readers beyond techies who may have interests in the intracies of Shibboleth and related access management technologies.

When I updated my RSS Reader this morning and opened my JISC folder I noticed that there were several unread posts which had been published a few weeks ago. I looked at the post on “Early Findings for Shibboleth Futures” which told me that Nicole’s “slides are available below, and might be of interest!“. In my RSS reader, however, there was just a blank space.  Not a problem, I thought, I can view it in the Safari browser.  But, as can be seen in the accompanying image, nothing was displayed in the Web browser either.

The problem is that the embedded slideshow was hosted on Slideshare and the embedding technology uses Flash which is not support on my iPod Touch or other Apple devices such as iPhones or iPads.  Some may respond “You should use an Android device” to which my response could be that I do own an Android phone but prefer the usability of my iPod Touch.  But rather than getting drawn into such platform wars there is a very simple solution to embedding Slideshare resources in blog posts whilst allowing the slides still to be viewed by users of Apple’s mobile devices.

A post published on this blog recently on Metrics for Understanding Personal and Institutional Use of the Social Web also contained an embedded Slideshare presentation. As can be seen when viewing the blog post on an iPod Touch a blank screen was displayed where the embedded Flash object would be displayed on a typical desktop PC.  However the post contained a link to the resource hosted on Slideshare. Clicking on the link took me to a mobile-friendly version of the resource which made use of HTML5 so that the slides could be viewed on device which don’t support Flash, as illustrated below.

My advice to people who wish to embed objects (which might include other types of images and videos and not just Slideshare resources) is:

  • Include a direct link to the host which is provided in the HTML of your page.
  • Use linking phrases of the form “The slides for the talk are available slides for the talk are available on Slideshare ” rather than “The slides for the talk are available on Slideshare” since the latter more clearly links directly to the resource rather than the Slideshare home page which is implied on the latter example.
  • Avoid links such as “Click here to view the slides” as this is bad practice from an accessibility perspective.
And if you are interested in the contents of the slides Nicole Harris used at the recent TNC2011 meeting in which she spoke about the creation of the Shibboleth Consortium and presented some early findings from the Shibboleth Futures Survey her slides are available on Slideshare and are embedded below :-)


  1. Workarounds to meet the needs of individual web viewing platforms with incomplete feature sets? This is like IE6 over again!

    My preference would be for slideshare to stop using flash. It’s a horrible interface anyway. I’d happily never use slideshare again and just download a ppt.

    • Slideshare does seem to be moving away from Flash and providing greater support for HTML5 and should be commended for this. However this won’t happen overnight – and other services will still continue to use Flash as embedding technology so there will be a need for the approach I have suggested in a number of contexts.

      Having a link to the site hosting an embedded object (irrespective of the embedding technology) can be a useful way of providing public documentation of third party services which are being used.

      If you use Slideshare the resource can be embedded elsewhere so you don’ need to visit the Slideshare Web site. If you just provide a link to a (proprietary) PowerPoint file that requires a file download; and may not work on various platforms. I’m a bit surprised that that is an environment you’d promote :-)

      • You can’t repurpose a flash (or other embedded) object, just reuse it.

        You can repurpose a file, even if it is proprietary. Obviously I’d rather ppt was an open format but given the market penetration of PowerPoint, Google Docs and OpenOffice it’s a pretty good bet that most people can muck about with it.

      • In this case (as in many cases in which Flash is used) Flash is the embedding technology, the resource is still available. For example you can download Nicole’s slides from Slideshare as well as embed them.

        Thinking about it, it might be helpful to end users to include this as an additional option i.e.:

        Nicole’s slides are available on Slideshare, can be downloaded from Slideshare or are embedded (in this case in the post above).

        Of course the downloaded version doesn’t have the ability to provide comments which is available if one makes use of a social sharing service, so there might be understandable reasons why one might want not to promote this form of access.



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