MediaWiki SlideShare extension

Sergey Chernyshev just released a much-needed piece of code last week: an extension that makes it easy to embed slideshare slideshows into MediaWiki, the open-source wiki software that powers wikipedia.
This is pretty huge: for an organization trying to build a knowledge repository, easy integration between wiki content and social document sharing is a really important. A good example of how this can be used can be found on Sergey’s site TechPresentations.org , which archives presentations from all tech conferences worldwide.
A company that wanted to run a private mediawiki could even upload slideshows to slideshare, not share them publicly, and embed them into their corporate wiki. This would provide a wiki that supported embedded office documents, which would be a killer knowledge-management tool.
Just like Chris Hellman’s slidehare ego widget, this mashup does it’s work without using our API. I’m reminded that RSS and embed codes are powerful integration points with any system. It’s easy to forget that a lot of the time, a formal REST API isn’t even necessary in order to build a mashup!

Server problems with SlideShare

Hey peeps! We’re having some difficult-to-troubleshoot problems with our server cluster right now. The primary problem seems to be with file uploads: I’ve taken the site down into maintenance mode while we scramble to fix this. Will keep y’all updated via this blog, blog.slideshare.net, getsatisfaction.com, email, and carrier pigeon as we work to fix this.

Chris Heilman’s awesome multiple slideshow widget

Chris Heilman published an article where he described how to make a slideshow widget that has ALL your slideshows from slideshare in it. The article was recently profiled in the Ajaxian.
The result looks totally bad-ass. In fact, we’ve been working on a similar widget, but this one totally blows ours out of the water. The only downside is that his current solution required server-side scripting (with php). We’ll definitely take inspiration from this design and try to put something out in the near future that does something like this from a simple embed.
It’s interesting that Chris chose NOT to use our APIs for doing this, relying instead on our RSS feeds and embed codes to get the information he needed. Chris writes:
I had a look at the API of slideshare but I am always a bit bored with having to go through a developer ID and then do everything on the server. That’s why I put on my “ethical hacker” hat and took a look at the RSS feed of my slides and found everything I need there!
Sounds like making our read-only API calls usable without a login would have helped here. What else would make our API more accessible or useful to developers?

Happy Birthday SlideShare!

SlideShare is one year old today. We’re celebrating in typical web fashion: messing with our logo.

I’m really proud of everything our team has been able to accomplish over the last year, and incredibly grateful to all our users for their enthusiastic support. We never expected it to get this big, this fast, and we’re now solving all kinds of cool scaling issues thanks to the traffic we’re getting, even as we work on adding super-duper new features.
Thanks to everybody who helped us get here (you know who you are ;->).

SlideCasting: The SlideCast

I’ve finally put together a slidecast on how to create a slidecast (very meta). It’s short (only 3 min), but it shows off the basics of how to use slideshare to make web multimedia using only a ppt file and an mp3.

It was interesting what I learned making this slideshow. The media form is really spare compared to video. For instructional content this is actually great, since you can direct the viewer’s attention to exactly the part of the screen that you want them to focus on. It reminds me of the way technical manuals always have line drawings instead of color photographs: sometimes lo-fi is BETTER if it lets you draw attention to the right information.
Also, I had pre-recorded the mp3, but I found I had forgotten to say some stuff that was really important (for example, the keyboard shortcuts for editing the beginning point of a slide, and the url of archive.org). I was able to easily add slides that had that information. PPT is a lot easier to edit than an audio file, so you can easily fill in the gaps from an audio presentation with text.
I also discovered one bug: Camtasia (which I used to create the mp3) generates mp3 files that claim to have a bit rate of 0 kbps. While the files are actually fine, the file attribute is set incorrectly, and so it was not playable by the flash player. Simply opening the mp3 file in audacity, and then exporting it again fixed the problem. Audacity is free and open source, and is a great audio recording / editing package. I’ll update our faq with this info (Update: Beth Kantor gets credit for first reporting this bug. Thanks Beth!)
The flash application for synchronizing the mp3 to the slideshow was really hard to code: I’d love feedback on it and how we could make it better. Doug Kay (from ITConversations) seemed to like it:

They have an excellent editor, written in Flash, that allows you to set the slide-transition points relative to the audio file.

Someone else wrote (in a comment):
Wowzer! That’s very powerful. I especially love the fact that I can go forward and backward through the presentation, using the slides as a visual indication of where I am in the presentation.

“A failure to disarm”: Colin Powell’s 2003 ppt on slideshare

Check it out: it’s the original PowerPoint file that Colin Powell used for the 2003 UN meeting where he argued in favor of the invasion of Iraq.
As a historical document, it’s quite interesting. It’s remarkable how flimsy the evidence for war looks in retrospect. Remember the aluminum tubes? The “mobile weapons labs” that looked a lot like Winnebagos? The endless recordings of low-level Iraqi officials talking about hiding stuff? The satellite photos? It’s all here. It’s interesting how little emphasis was given to the human rights angle (only 1 out of 45 slides).

I hope that more “historical powerpoint” gets uploaded to SlideShare over time. These are important documents. And our tax dollars paid for their preperation, so they belong to us!