Sunday, March 8, 2015

Going out on a limb

Out on a Limb
I am going out on a limb with this post as I know that many of my genimates have very strong opinions that conflict with my stance on this matter.

One aspect of sharing in the genealogical community that I found disappointing at the recent FGS/Rootstech conferences was the unwillingness of some presenters to allow attendees to take photos of their slides. After the Conferences I noted some conversations on social media that censured the large number of Rootstech attendees who captured images of presenters' slides on their smartphones or cameras. This practice seems to be accepted at Rootstech, I am one who has snapped slides at the four Rootstech Conferences I have attended.

I have presented at three Rootstech Conferences and am flattered when people find the slides I proffer worthy of capture, maybe I'm a strange bird! I just read a blog post from Australia's Gold Medallist Genealogy Rockstar, Shauna Hicks, who gave some presentations in Brisbane yesterday. On her post Shauna said " as usual my slides are on the Resources page of my website". Shauna is of those Generous Genies who is willing to share her outlines with the community, maybe she's a strange bird too!

I asked permission of several FGS presenters to snap their slides and permission was granted, thank you. Instead of having my head down typing furiously I was able to snap the slides and be released from tedious notetaking, I could listen intently and make eye contact with the presenters. Others said "no" so I respected that and busily typed the content from their slides into Evernote. In all cases I managed to copy the content of slides.

The issue we discuss should not be about the format in which we take notes it should be about the ethical use of the notes we capture. 

I understand that slides are the presenters' intellectual property and subject to copyright. Presenters are worried that their work will be copied and distributed to others and that others might even take their work and use it to develop their own presentions on the topic. I wonder how many people who took pictures of slides in Rootstech presentations are actually going to prepare and present the topic as their own in another forum! I suggest that if people are going to plagiarise others' work and present it as their own they will do it irrespective of the format in which they captured their notes.

What I think people fail to realise is that slides are/should be just an outline of a presentation, they may be an aide memoire to keep a speaker on track, a reinforcement of important concepts/points or a scaffold for the audience. Without hearing the full spoken content of  a presentation it would be quite difficult to reproduce a presentation from slides.

I can't understand why presenters who don't permit photographing of their slides don't ask attendees to refrain from taking notes during their presentations, these are just two ways of capturing an outline of a presentation and achieve the same purpose. Those who take hand or typewritten notes during a presentation can also distribute them to others and develop presentations based on the notes.

We should be discussing the issue of how we use the notes we take at the events we attend not the means we use to collect those notes.

I think we should look at the bigger picture, give permission for people to record notes in a format that is convenient for them and concentrate on educating our audiences in ethical use of conference notes, handouts etc.   


crgalvin said...

Snap! After reading all those blog posts in the last couple of weeks I sat down last weekend and wrote a diatribe against those who don't want others to learn from their 'presentations' but are trapped in the sage on the stage mode. On re-reading it I thought it may offend and did not publish it. Shall revisit it tonight otherwise this comment will end up as long as a blog post. Respect others copyright but "Let the people learn" we are in 2015 folks. The audience have paid to be there, they've paid for your product, they are your clients, they may be visual not auditory learners. Ah, you' ve just got me started!

Jill Ball said...

Carmel, You are another of those generous genies.

I have sat on this post for quite a few days trying to muster up the courage to post. I found the attitudes in some of those recent posts so pompous.

I am so pleased that I'm not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. I look forward to yur post.

Shauna Hicks said...

Thanks Jill for letting me know I am a strange bird too! The whole purpose of my talks is to educate others and I don't think people learn if they are madly scribbling down my slides and trying to listen at the same time. No one can take in all the info at once which is why I let people review the slides when they get home. Of course others can also look at the talks and this benefits those who don't live anywhere near where I live or give talks. It is a big country. As you say, some people will copy whatever we do but why should the majority suffer? All they want is to learn and benefit from your knowledge which they have paid to do.

Lynda said...

Thank you for putting this issue into perspective. As you say, it's the unethical reuse of the material that is the potential problem, not the method of capture. I frequently use screen capture software to take notes from online webinars. My intention is always for my personal study after the event, as is the case for those taking pix at a real time presentation, I suspect.

Amy Johnson Crow said...

I was beginning to think that I was the odd duck of the bunch. I completely agree with your contention that if someone is going to plagiarize my presentation, they're going to do it with or without taking pictures of my slides. I've also been very comfortable with people live tweeting my talks. If they find something I say worthy enough to share, awesome!

Susie Zada said...

Hi Jill, Generally I'd be a "strange bird" but would love to add a couple of "provisos".

I give a lot of talks to different groups. Sometimes I create a new presentation at the request of the group and I'm not prepared to give that presentation to another group BEFORE the first "performance" - it's not fair on that first group who approached me and suggested the topic / content. You'd be surprised how often this happens when a presentation is advertised!

I prefer to provide a handout of the useful links and tips given during the presentation to make sure people get them right! I also make the handout available to the group so they can email it [complete with clickable links] to their members and attendees.
One thing I DO object to is people recording the entire presentation and playing it to their "group" without even asking first! Apart from being very distracting during the presentation it is also a breach of copyright - apart from the legalities, it's common courtesy to ask first.

So I'm agreeing with you - just pointing out some of the problems I've experienced as well.

Jill Ball said...

I agree there are many provisos that some education might help. I sometimes start my presentaations with a "Rules of the Game" slide that my outlines expectations. Unfortunately there is always that small percentage who do their own thing.

Jill Ball said...

Carmel has now published her post

Amos Bannister said...

Having been to a large number of IT conferences, I was mildly amused by these recent discussions. The standard practice at the IT conferences I have been to is for the presenter (or even the conference host) to provide printouts of the slides and to make the slide decks (and any other relevant material) available online. Maybe its just a difference in how the two groups approach their subject matter, but IT presenters are usually more interested in getting their information out there and trust their audience to not "steal" the slides for illicit use elsewhere. Recording of whole sessions is generally not accepted, but there is little need to photograph each slide if you already have the slides in your hand or can easily download them from the presenters' website.

Marg said...

This is a discussion we have had at our society. The Society does presentations at a number of libraries and some speakers/members won't provide copies of handouts while I still do. (Slightly different topic but I thought I would share). Also some speakers at the Society's education session won't provide a handout. The reason I am told is that when some people get copies, they ignore copyright and rebadge as their own intellectual property. For me the issue is about ethics/manners in family history. You should recognise the work of others whether it is a presentation or material provided by others on your family history.

Campaspe Library said...

Well said Jill. I have the slides from my talks available on the Campaspe library website - and I know how much time each took me to research and prepare, so when I attend talks by others I know how much effort they have made to help me learn a bit more. I'm happy to share as my purpose is to educate and help others with their own research - and the slides help people remember any 'words of wisdom' they (hopefully)heard during my talk.

Sherie Curran said...

Wow, I hope I didn't offend anyone when I took a few screenshots. It does seem to be standard practise nowdays to take a quick photo of the presenter's screen when there's something particular you want to remember for yourself. It seems to be the digital-age version of taking notes. It's also more visual way of remembering - great for visual learners but even most non-visual learners benefit from reinforcement & having material presented in another way. I took a quick screenshot when there was information such as website addresses or references to printed material that I wanted, so that I wasn't distracted from the talk while I was writing the information down. Sometimes I thought a particular piece of information was really important to remember or that the presenter had organised their information in a way that really gelled with how I think. I'm someone who has to make sense out of everything I learn - I reword it, rework it, reorganise it - I'm not usually a passive learner, at least not when something's personally interesting & meaningful to me. That being said though, I'd probably be a bit uncomfortable if the person next to me was taking a photo of every single slide & I'd be horrified if they we're videoing the whole presentation.

I find pen & paper is still more efficient when it comes to annotating information that's being presented in a talk - your personal connections & understandings about what's being presented.

I have listened to so many presentations over the last few years as part of my professional development -some more formal than others - & I don't think I've ever encountered a presenter with an attitude of protecting their information. Maybe because they've all been within the realm of education? In fact, most presenters provide you with a handout of the presentation, with a screenshot of each slide & an area next to each where you can make your own notes.

Does this protective culture come from instances where people have attended presentations & taken photos of all the slides so that they can repurpose the presentation & present it to their societies without permission or pass it off as their own work? Is the issue one of fair use & copyright? If so, then I kinda understand where they're coming from.


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