What makes “slide search” so hard?

I’ve had a number of conversations that went like this in the last six months:

“So, Mitch, what are you working on these days?”
“You know how hard it is to find a slide in a pile of PowerPoint decks?”
“Oh man, I hate it when I have to look for a slide!”

It turns out, there’s something about the nature of slide decks that make searching them so problematic. I’ve finally realized it’s because slides are fundamentally different documents. We use slides differently; slides are often a visual aid that accompany an oral presentation. We share slides with meeting attendees. Because slides are so tightly coupled with meetings, slides often become the primary information vehicle for those meetings. For example, I’ve spent many hours hammering away on “the board deck” before board meetings with investors.

Reveal Public Beta figures out how all these slides are related, across all of your slide decks. Which slides were created based on which other slides, and which slides look about the same? Reveal uses a combination of search indexing techniques on text and computer vision algorithms to make it all happen.

So what is the relationship of these slides?  Well, I make some graphics to find out.  This picture below represents all the slides I have for “OldCo” over a four year period from 2008 to 2012. There’s about 3500 slides represented here; the black ovals are slides and the red rectangles are slide decks.  The gray lines are similar slides that are different but related–and the darker the line, the more related the slides are.

test3-2-1v2-pancetera-filter.png

Looking at this, it’s clear why it’s so hard to find a specific slide when we search manually.  Out of hundreds of decks and 3500 slide variations to pick from, it’s going to take a while to find a specific slide.

So if I search for just “OldCo” I get 3500 slides.  If I search for “OldCo competition”, 160 slides match but only 47 of them are unique and shown by default.  If I search for “OldCo competition pricing”, only 8 slides are shown and in 2 stacks.  It’s suddenly very easy to find what I need!

We tend to re-use slides, over and over, across a variety of presentations and audiences. We make tweaks and share the slides around and our co-workers put those slides into new contexts. This leads to 30 minute sessions opening and closing decks.

slide-search-750p.png

Long term, we deserve a better set of tools than PowerPoint/Keynote/Google Slides to tackle many of these problems, but PowerPoint is what we’re using today, for better or worse. Reveal accepts this reality and can help you organize and search the slides you have laying around without manually trying to piece together “slide libraries.” Your slides are likely no better organized than your kitchen junk drawer, and so let’s not kid ourselves that you’re going to sit down one Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and clean up your slides. You’re not. And with Reveal, you don’t have to.

So go ahead and check out the Reveal Public Beta today!