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I work on the Web team at a very large state agency. We have an enormous site covering many program areas. Our team (3 of us) creates pages for program areas, but we also administer many users of a content management system. We must approve content, links to other sites, and review existing material for update. We also design templates, create graphics, and run statistics.
We always had content filtering software to block the bad stuff, but just recently the network folks have taken this to extreme, blocking literally everything they don't deem work-related (hobbies, gardening, finances, food, motor vehicles etc... we're blocked from about 30 categories). Now we are blocked from about a third of the sites that our own site links to because our agency deals with a variety of topics that don't fall within a select few categories.
Our senior designer used to get creative ideas from other sites. She can no longer do this. I have less experience and am currently learning. I'm told that the best way to learn is by looking at site designs on the Web and trying to replicate them. I cannot freely do this now. We can also no longer check external links (sometimes hundreds in one sub-site) without emailing the network guy each time we hit a block. This can happen many times a day, and sometimes he's not there to approve. I do all the stats and I'm blocked from most of our top referrers list and can't see what context people are coming to our site from.
The real kicker is that most of the users we administer got exemptions from the crack-down because they were deemed to have "business purpose" to access the Web. However, somehow they think the Web team does not have business purpose to access the Web.
We have a meeting next week to discuss why we should have access like other users who have gotten exceptions.
I am curious if other Webmasters and designers are in the same boat with Surfcontrol and other content filtering software at work. I'm also looking to hear your thoughts on this topic in general and maybe get ideas to bring up to support my argument from a professional standpoint.
The issue of filtering the web for responsible professionals goes beyond the problems you are having, as troubling as they are. It is a symptom of poor management that has problems determining what is and is not important in terms of measuring production.
Tell them you want the filtering shut down now. And if they have a problem with that, it's their problem, not yours. Meanwhile, you have work to do.
Their zeal to block sites is interfering with your group's ability to get its work done, plain and simple. Instead of begging them to allow you access, turn it around. Put them on the hot seat to explain why you should be blocked, and how they justify the inefficiencies and added costs this causes in your work process.
I lost interest in corporate work because of mickey-mouse stuff like this. If a boss is competent, he/she doesn't need corporate filters or spyware to "control" his/her employees. Instead, he/she should simply fire anyone who does not get their work done, or who has inappropriate content on their screen when the boss drops in for a visit. A quick look at the browser cache will be sufficient proof -- but the corporate-employee spyware vendors are doing a good job selling this stuff.
If your meeting does not work out to your satisfaction, then the next-best thing is for your group to slowly but surely increase the number of requests sent for approval every day until that department has to hire another two people just for approvals. With your referrer log, I'm sure you can come up with a few hundred URLs per day... And send them in one at a time, not in any well-organized format. Then call and keep calling to confirm that they were received and to check on their approval status... :)
Make it *their* problem, and they will fix it.
Our meeting is being cancelled because they feel they've implemented a solution by letting us into sites on a timer for one minute per site (with a warning screen that we "are being monitored") so that we can check our links or look at a template we like or whatever.
Unfortunately I have no clout to tell them to shut anything down. Our office of administration has made Surfcontrol a standard for all agencies, however, it is up to individual agencies how far they wanted to take it beyond blocking security risks. Management in our specific agency just went nuts and lost sight of the larger goal.
I do not think this will have any effect of productivity whatsoever, because those who don't want to do work will find other ways to waste time.
I wasn't even advocating taking the filter off; rather, I just want them to stop blocking all the "harmless" categories. I am insulted and offended that they do not trust our team even though our boss approved us having expanded rights, but they could care less how I personally feel.
Any other Webmasters or Designers out there run into this problem?
Anyone know of a tool I can use that will allow me to see how many external links on my site hits this Surfcontrol block?
Does anyone else out there have content filtering affecting their Web work, and if so, in what ways is it affecting you?
We were going to have a meeting about this, then it was cancelled, but now it's back on later this week so I'm trying to get an idea how the rest of the world exists with regard to this.
<Skevin> At a former workplace, I tried to google for "python scripting trim whitespace". The page was blocked. I asked the owner of the company (who set up the blocking software out of the box) and he responded with "Animals have nothing to do with your job. Writing screenplays have nothing to do with your job. And I definitely will not tolerate my employees looking at websites of racist organizations."
The fact is, and this is most noticeable in web development, the things we have to keep track of tend to have the most outrageous names you can think of - anyone without development knowledge listening to us talk would walk away bewildered by topics about AJAX and frameworks and python and rubies and perls and classes and objects and scripts and bugs and apache and styles and...well, you get the idea.
I've lost track of the number of unusual sites I've found solutions to major problems for over the years - blocking sites for web developers - a class of employee which by its very definition needs to have unfettered access to the web is as self defeating a non-solution as I've ever seen.
(It's a non-solution because presumably the employer is worried about employees wasting time cruising the net - in which case the solution is not to cut off one avenue of procrastination [they'll just find another], but to deal with whatever the source of slackness is [lack of work, laziness, whatever]).
Even after they loosened this to use filtering software there were problems for a while. For example, they blocked access to alcohol and tobacco sites - not helpful for analysts covering alcohol and tobacco companies. Fortunately, the policy got changed fairly rapidly.
If concerns remain about time wasting or inappropriate website access then perhaps you might suggest site logging with access available to line managers.
What KILLs me is that the program-area users we administer have gotten exemptions because they have "business needs", but we are responsible for the whole site (we design the site and sub-sites and then the users make changes thru a CMS) and supposedly don't have the business need.
VinceVince, unfortunately my boss is locked down too. We have clerk-typists that are exempted because their supervisors have requested it for "business need" (they have to touch the Web for some reason or other). But my boss, responsible for our entire Web presence, is still trying to get a meeting because a request from her AND her boss wasn't good enough. This is because we are in the information technology bureau so we are probably too close to it. The program areas slide under the radar.
I hate to say it but we are also three ladies in an IT bureau of all men! Not sure if that has anything to do with it but I wouldn't be surprised.
Steerpike, you are right about those crazy names! I laugh when I think if I heard myself now 20 years ago (especially discussions of robots and spiders crawling out of control! LOL what would we have thought as kids in the 80's?)
New network card for each team member
Router large enough for all team members
ADSL/cable modem based on locally available services