It’s 2012, going on 2013, and there are STILL companies running (and even introducing) big dumb firewalls that cut off half the internet to their employees.
Like a song with a bizarre filter that cuts out half the band or a book with 60% of the pages randomly pulled out… the firewalled proletariat are unable to gain access to knowledge and information they need (particularly if a topic spans multiple sites or social networks, like, erm, everything!) To research a subject they are forced into sending begging letters to IT for a particular blog or forum to be un-blocked.
Fine you may say. Employees should be hard at work and not browsing the internet. Serves them right.
But wait. We know perfectly well that the modern web is full of distractions. But it is also full of information, full of discussion and full of inspiration. It is also the place to build up business relationships with customers and potential partners; and spy on what everyone else is doing!
So why do some businesses continue to be terrified of employees “wasting” the precious company time on seemingly frivolous web browsing activities?
I doubt companies blocked books, manuals or dictionaries because they feared employees might use them on company time. You can make anything a distraction from work IF an employer is not doing their bit to give workers an interesting or challenging set of tasks or a good workplace environment. That’s when people drift away. Why would anyone think that blocking the internet would make an unhappy worker hunker down and spend 100% of their energy doing a thankless task demanded by some misguided corporate stooge? (And, cough, everyone has the mobile web these days, cough).
The web is (still) a wonderfully chaotic place that makes it difficult for even someone with the analytical power of Google to correctly clarify and pigeon hole all the information. So why would any sane adult make a half-arsed decision to block half the web from other responsible adults… who are using the web to solve problems, gain knowledge and yes, sometimes distract themselves to build up the energy to carry out whatever other tasks they need to do.
As a designer, it also pains me to see the blunt knife approach some firewalls take with their filtering and blocking. They will block images, fonts and other elements from a site but leave the basic code; making it look like a design severed from the internet in 1999.
What earthly good does destroying the carefully crafted layout of some sites do?
Why would you willingly stop teams from accessing the vast knowledge bases of forums or social networks that may just have the answer to why that file won’t output properly?
Why are millions of images from Google or Bing image search now unavailable for trying quick ideas? Now they just tantalise in the search results, but are forever unobtainable. Do designers have to go out and take all the images for quick ideas themselves? That’ll save time. Ughh.
Firewalls should protect the company from intrusion, viruses, hacking and information leakage. That’s it. Why block half the web from employees to satisfy the perceptions of a deluded set of managerial idiots? You are only hurting yourselves in the long run.
I once worked in a company circa 2006 (well into web 2.0 and beyond…) that had a single “internet computer” for the use of the design team on a stairwell landing jammed next to a photocopier. Yep, just a randomly placed PC on the stairs with a painfully slow ISDN line! Maybe it was thought that this would make it too difficult to use (or perhaps it would shame the machine out of use).
The PC was about 50 yards from the studio and involved a complex set of sign off sheets and copying of information and images to zip disks (yes, probably the last remaining zip disks on earth!) to get information back and forth. What fun!
For projects that involved testing web designs or searching for stock images, you can just imagine the seamless workflow we had. When more than one project required some “funky” web based assets, we had to literally beg to use some other PCs to download the final images and meet the deadlines. Christ!
This is the level of knob-wankery that actually exists at some peculiar British companies. I get jittery just thinking about it!