Re-using my presentations

Thursday 13 February 2020

Yesterday I got an email saying that someone in Turkey had stolen one of my presentations. The email included a YouTube link. The video showed a meetup. The presenter (I’ll call him Samuel) was standing in front of a title slide in my style that said, “Big-O: How Code Slows as Data Grows,” which is the title of my PyCon 2018 talk.

The video was in Turkish, so I couldn’t tell exactly what Samuel was saying, but I scrolled through the video, and sure enough, it was my entire talk, complete with illustrations by my son Ben.

Looking closer, the title slide had been modified:

My title slide, with someone else's name

(I’ve blurred Samuel’s specifics in this image, and Samuel is not his actual name. This post isn’t about Samuel, and I’m not interested in directing any more negative attention to him.)

Scrolling to the end of the talk, my last slide, which repeated my name and contact details, was gone. In its place was a slide promoting other videos featuring Samuel or his firm.

I felt like I had been forcibly elbowed off the stage, and Samuel was taking my place while trying to minimize my contributions.

In 2018, I did two things for this presentation: I wrote it, and I presented it at PyCon 2018. By far the most work was in the writing. It takes months of thinking, writing, designing, and honing to make a good presentation. In fact, of the two types of work, Samuel valued the writing most, since that is the part he kept. The reason this presentation attracted his attention, and why he wanted to present it himself, was because of its content.

“Originally presented by” is hardly the way to credit the author of a presentation, especially in small type while removing his name and leaving only a GitHub handle.

So I tweeted,

This is my talk from PyCon 2018, in its entirety, with my name nearly removed. It’s theft. I was not asked, and did not give permission.

Samuel apologized and took down the video. There were other tweets claiming that this was a pattern of Samuel’s, and that perhaps the apology would not be followed by changed behavior. But again, this post isn’t about Samuel.

This whole event got me thinking about people re-using my presentations.

I enjoy writing presentations. I like thinking about how to explain things. People have liked the explanations I’ve written. I like that they like them enough to want to show them to people.

But I’ve never thought much about how I would answer if someone asked me if they could present one of my talks. If people can use my talks to help strengthen their local community and up-skill their members, I want them to be able to. I am not interested in people using my talks to unfairly promote themselves.

I’m not sure re-using someone else’s presentation is a good idea. Wouldn’t it be better to write your own talk based on what you learned from someone else’s? But if people want to re-use a talk, I’d like to have an answer.

So here are my first-cut guidelines for re-using one of my talks:

  1. Ask me if you can use a talk. If I say no, then you can’t.
  2. Don’t change the main title slide. I wrote the presentation, my name should be on it. If you were lecturing about a novel, you wouldn’t hand out copies of the book with your name in place of the author’s.
  3. Make clear during the presentation that I was the author and first presenter. A way to do that would be to include a slide about that first event, with links, and maybe even a screenshot of me from the video recording of the first event.
  4. I include a bit.ly short-link and my Twitter handle in the footer of my slides. Leave these in place. We live in a social online world. I want to benefit from the connections that might arise from one of my presentations.
  5. Keep my name and contact details prominent in the end slide.
  6. If your video is posted online, include my name and the point about this being a re-run in the first paragraph of the description.

It would be great if my talks could get a broader reach than I can make happen all by myself. To be honest, I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea to present someone else’s talk, but it’s better to do it this way than the way that just happened.

Comments

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Yes, I think it's the presenting your content as their own that is so hurtful. It's one thing to see books I've written available as free pdfs (in some sense that means that they're getting wider use) but rip-offs with minimal acknowledgement really reflect on the thief.

I would never hire someone who I knew had done this

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Moreover, one of the most important part people missed it Samuel is co-organizer of Python Istanbul "community" and "community" is organizing a PyCon in Istanbul too. Guess who is responsible for organizing this event and program? And you're right: Samuel. Also, every single Python community meetup arranges in his own office with his own "precious company" sponsorship. He and his woman partner found a very great way of being "friendly" to women Boğaziçi students & Turkish women developers. And they are using us for their "precious company"s PRs & marketing. Me, as a woman developer I've already quit joining their events. Guess monopoly & toxicity level in the Python community: https://tr.pycon.org/about-us.html

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He ironically claimed that he only aimed to share knowledge by telling presentation in the Turkish language. However, people of the community who are interested in that level issues already have enough English to understand the original presentation. People in Turkey realized that he did these plagiarisms intentionally and willingly for own commercial purposes.

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I agree with everything you said about the tension between wanting your content to be widely seen and people ripping it off as their own.
A couple of things I have always done to make it harder for people to steal my content (none is foolproof, but keeping honest people honest is worthwhile imho):
a) Don't post slide decks, convert to PDF first
b) Assert a copyright on every page
c) Include a page on "fair use" rules - when you're ok with people quoting from/copying content and when you're not
d) Watermark the pages (hard to do without making them ugly, I admit)

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> people of the community who are interested in that level issues already have enough English to understand the original presentation.

I must say first that I don't intend to defend Samuel. But I must also rectify this very widespread misconception. It's easy to think that everybody wanting to learn computer science knows English well enough, simply because all such people who we meet online do. But those are minority. There are many young people who have some English skills in order to survive in this world, but the level of understanding is far, far away from their native language, and definitely not adequate for learning hard technical concepts. Not everybody wants to learn from a book/presentation/whatever in English.

So, in that particular sentence, Samuel actually might be right. Of course, that doesn't make him right morally.

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I feel like I'd have more sympathy for the "making this talk available to people who don't know English" angle if they actually translated the slides instead of presenting them as-is, in English.

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The biggest barrier to me presenting talks like this to my local community is the time it takes to write them. So people being willing to let me present their stuff would be really helpful for local skillbuilding and community building. But of course there has to be rock solid attribution.

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Lokesh Rajendran 10:21 AM on 3 Mar 2020

I see that the community in the general benefits from your presentations and talks. Very informative. However, it is disappointing to notice people don't give proper attribution. Your guidelines are clear. I have a suggestion. How about releasing your presentations under a Creative Commons License? This would help the community in understanding that you are open to share and allow re-use of your presentations, but under certain conditions. For example, this talk could be under the license CC-BY-SA-NC.

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