Saturday, September 5, 2009

Updating presentations in widgets

Web 2.0 services like Slideshare, Youtube are now an accepted part of the web, and Libraries are using them as a matter of course to embed their presentations onto webpages. However, updating these presentations, often involve a two step process, you upload your presentation on the service, then you edit your webpage with the html snipplet. If you need to regularly change the presentation that appears on your web page this gets old pretty fast. Is there a better way?

The key idea here is to use widgets that are flexible enough that you can control what appears using tags without having to constantly edit the html of your page.

Introduction


By now, use of Slideshare (or alternatives such as Scribd, Issuu, Docstoc, Slidesix, Slideboom, Zohoshow, Myplick, Googledocs etc) to present documents (powerpoints, PDFs etc) is hardly considered innovative. Libraries have embedded Slideshare widgets onto their webpages, subject guides (including Libguides or startup pages like Netvibes) and even wikis.

Embedding Slideshare widgets is quite simple, once you have uploaded the document you want onto Slideshare, you simply go to the document and copy and paste the html code under "Embed" (click on custom link next to it for more control) onto any page you want and it appears as below



Several presentations in one Slideshare widget?

This is how most people use SlideShare to embed their documents. But what if you wanted to embed several documents onto one page? For instance, you conducted several library tutorials for students in Sociology, and you want them all to appear. Sure, you could add one widget for each document but that would take up a lot of space.

Can you put them all into one widget? Yes, you can.

You can add either a SlideShare Playlist widget or a Slideshare Presentation Pack Widget





You can customize the documents that will appear in the Widget using various options, but for our purposes here is what you do.

Say you want 4 documents to appear together in a widget, tag all 4 documents with the same tag, in my example, I tagged them with 'sociology'

When you create the playlist or presentation pack widget, select "my tags" and in the pull down menu select 'sociology'. Look at the preview below and if you are happy you can embed the html which will give you the result shown below.

The widget above, packs all 4 documents uploaded by you onto Slideshare with the tag 'sociology'.


A great time saver


Initially, I found this a useful way to pack more than one presentation together in one widget, but later on I realized that this widget also was a great time saver. How so?

The nice thing about the widget above is that as you change the tags given to the documents you have uploaded, it will update accordingly. So for example, if you decide one of 4 documents above is outdated, you can just go to that Slideshare document (click 'edit'), remove the tag on the outdated widget and the widget will not show it anymore.

Similarly, adding another new presentation is as simple, just upload the document to Slideshare , give it the correct tag and it will appear automatically!

This is a great time saver as all you need to do is to work on Slideshare, change the tags on Slideshare and you don't have to update the html on the page at all.

Compare to the old way when you have to do a two step process of adding a presentation to Slideshare, then editing your html page and then uploading to your content management system.

Moreover, some organizations might restrict access to the content management system, so in the past the poor guy with access had to constantly change the html on the webpage upon request. Using this widget, all he needs to do is to add the widget to the html once and upload on the server, and anyone else with access to the slideshare account can manipulate what appears by adding or removing tags.

It's a pity you can't do this for the normal single presentation widget version of Slideshare. Or at least I haven't found a good way, not if you still want to retain the older presentation somewhere.

Would be nice if you could have a widget that always shows the latest presentation you uploaded, or you could indicate on Slideshare somehow that the widget would display a certain presentation (which you could change on the fly).

You can of course create a presentation pack with one presentation but it's not an elegant solution as the widget is meant for showing more than one widget.

Replacing presentations

A common scenario for me is this ; I upload a presentation on SlideShare , after which I decide to make some changes to the presentation.

As you probably know, you can update the presentation with the newer version by using the "Replace presentation" tab option. This will ensure the statistics for "views", "favourites" , "embeds" will be carried forward.

One bug I noticed is that, the widget doesn't seem to display the newest version uploaded. Or at least it doesn't do so immediately. Here's a trick to get around the problem. To force the widget to update instantly, first remove the tag ("sociology" for instance) from the existing presentation.

Then replace the presentation with your new version and add the tag.

This will ensure that the widget will display the latest version of the presentation.


Conclusion

I haven't really looked at whether there are similar methods for widgets from Scribd, Youtube etc, though it seems you can embed your Youtube's Playlist to achieve something similar. I'm sure there are many Flickr widgets that do something similar.

The key idea here is to use widgets that are flexible enough that you can control what appears from the web 2.0 account without having to constantly edit the html of your page.

Are there better methods? How do you update your widgets?
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