Slideshare, pornography, and online communities

by Mr. Sheehy

I can’t explain how tired I am of great web concepts being hijacked by purveyors of “adult” content, and by the creators of those sites allowing it to happen. Got a great social web tool but not making it explicitly for educators? Give it a year and it could be littered with soft or hardcore pornography. Give it another year and it’ll be blocked in almost every school in the country, with no chance of parole. Eyespot? Great idea, but see you later. Slideshare? Fantastic concept – but risking a goodbye, folks.

I heard about SlideShare in October, and I can’t be convinced that educators are not important for Slideshare’s success. The company put on a “Greatest Presentation” contest and the winner was Shift Happens, the famed Karl Fisch presentation. But then today I visited the site and was greeted by a woman wearing . . . not much. And a presentation about sex. Which means if I continue to use this site, especially with students, I jeopardize my career.

I am subject to the ups and downs of life in education, and I often get discouraged about tools being blocked by the school district. But usually, I can convince folks somewhere in my district to unblock particular sites or services – unless the objectionable content is “Adult Content.” Then it’s gone, and in reality, I don’t want to support such a site. If that’s the path they chose to tread, then I’ll watch them slug through the muck from my spot on the higher trail. And I’ll hope that somewhere someone will think that the same idea can be done better – and cleaner.

But the storyline does not have to end like this, and I’m not totally despairing (yet). Last month a student of mine completed a project using Microsoft’s Photo Story, and the words she placed on the screen came out all garbled and illegible no matter the quality I used for exporting. I saw no need for it and emailed them about my frustration. I thought it’d feel good, but it felt like I was yelling at the ocean for letting the tide come in. That was despair. There is no hope in my world that Photo Story will improve.

In the web community world, however, I have a bit better hope, but I’m holding off before declaring myself encouraged. A year ago, when I browsed to the popular Eyespot videos, I discovered places to which I have not browsed since, because they contained what I consider adult images. I emailed the folks there and David Dudas responded, letting me know that he appreciated my concern but that he figured the video was okay since it was a Victoria’s Secret ad, and in his mind, not really pornography. But the problem in my sight is that the ad runs on TV in time frames where the audience might not be offended; the web does not have that same filter. Call me a Victorian-moralist-stick-in-the-mud, but though I don’t watch late-night TV with Victoria’s Secret ads, I would like to see silly videos of a guy high-diving into the sand.

And so this morning at a technology staff development meeting I suggested folks use Slideshare.net, and within 15 seconds a colleague informed me of the non-clad female on the front page and the presentation about sex.  So I emailed them and within an hour I received an email that they’d removed from the front page the presentation with the woman. That’s response time I’ll never get from Microsoft.

I’m still unsure about using the site widely – this is my career I’m toying with – but I like the response. I’m not telling the tide not to come in . . . but what will the metaphor be? I hope it will be positive, though I’m not optimistic: the other video about sex is still featured prominently. The community responded with both Eyespot and Slideshare. The problem is that a decent portion of the online community wants that content. I suppose it means they’re two communities of which I and much of the educational world will not be a part.

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