Scribd Dark Patterns

This morning, I read Ton Zijlstra’s account of the hoops he had to jump through to get his company’s data from Scribd, who recently acquired and merged with Slideshare (formerly owned by LinkedIn). I wrote a lengthy comment, which I’ve decided to reproduce here:

This reminds me of an email I received a while ago from Slideshare, around the time that the merger into Scribd was announced. I was bemused by this because I’d only notionally been a Slideshare user, as I’d also been on LinkedIn when they acquired Slideshare. Because I’m no longer on LinkedIn and nuked my account several years back, I don’t have a Slideshare account to close, so I just told them to stop emailing me. In the event I get any emails from Scribd I’ll know that that instruction wasn’t obeyed.

Thankfully, I never took the bait and signed up to Scribd, so I’m glad that I didn’t have to go through the rigmarole that you endured. I chuckled when you describe their account closure process as ‘Facebook-y’ — I nuked my Facebook profile last year and know exactly what you mean. Oh, and definitely a good idea to double-check that they’ve actually cancelled the subscription.

I should add that I was a member of Lynda.com for a time, before they were acquired by LinkedIn and turned into LinkedIn Learning. That account was long gone by that point, however, so that was one extrication I didn’t have to perform thankfully.

This seems to be a recurring theme that I’ve noticed in all the mergers and acquisitions of online services I’ve witnessed over the years — the benefits to the new owners invariable outweigh those afforded to the users of the old service, while the burden of removing yourself from the clutches of the new owners is entirely on the user’s shoulders.

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