Slideshare is a popular externally hosted Web 2.0 service for providing access to presentations. And as I’ve described on the UK Web Focus blog, there is evidence to demonstrate its impact in maximising awareness of presentations – and this might include both awareness of research activities, as described in my post, but also marketing activities.
But what about the risks associated in making use of a third party service in this way? What will happen if, for example, the Slideshare’s business model is flawed and the company goes bankrupt? Rather than making use of a Web 2.0 service shouldn’t we be providing Slideshare’s functionality in-house?
I feel this is the wrong response: it would be similar to saying that we should not allow third party organisations to manage our savings – but we all have bank accounts. And, although we know from recent experiences in the UK that there can be risks when using banks, we don’t shut down our accounts when we became aware if incidents such as Northern Rock financial difficulties. Rather we assess the risks and then manage the risks (in the case of savings, this might be to limit one’s saving to a maximum of £35,000 with any single bank, as this amount is guaranteed by the Government).
In the case of Slideshare an in-house solution would not only be costly to replicate its functionality, but it would also be unlikely to provide the impact and popularity which Slideshare has.
The challenge then is to assess possible risks and to explore mechanisms for managing such risks. The approach I take is to look at the popularity of the service and its user community (an approach, incidentally, which has also been recommended when selecting open source software). The Techcrunch service can be useful if providing information on the financial background to many Web 2.0 companies and its information on Slideshare seems reassuring, with a post in May 2008 described how SlideShare had Secured $3M for Embeddable Presentations.
The risk management approach I have taken is to store a managed master copy of the slides on the UKOLN Web site and ensure that links to this resource are provided on Slideshare. As can be seen from the image, the URL is included on the title slide and in the accompanying metadata. In addition the URL is also included in the footer of the hard copy printouts. I also provide a Creative Commons licence for the resource, which seeks to avoid any legal barriers to future curation of the resource and allow the resource to be downloaded from the Slideshare site.
This approach aims to ensure that the master resource is kept at a stable managed location, allows users to make a copy of the resource (if, for example, the Slideshare service suffers from performance or reliability problems) and allows uses to bookmark or cite the managed master version of the file.