in Blog, Featured

Unblocking the Blockers

OK, it’s time to be a bit subversive.

Social Media Test Suite survey

We have the Civil Service guidance on participation online, and yet in organisations across the UK, public servants and others are being prevented from engaging online at work thanks to restrictions placed on their internet access by their IT providers. Some of these are well-intentioned: designed to prevent malicious attacks through unguarded use of attachments to webmail messages. Some are questionable, but understandable, like blocking access to webmail to prevent leaking of sensitive material. But often, they’re just bloody-minded and a symptom of a lack of understanding that social networks, wikis and online video are increasingly important tools that people need to access from work in order to their jobs properly. As one person told me today: “It’s OK, I can call up X to get temporary access to that site, but still, it makes me feel subversive, like I’m doing something out of the ordinary which isn’t a real part of my job”. We won’t get anywhere with digital engagement unless we start treating colleagues as trustworthy adults.

(Note to managers: if people abuse the access they’re offered, discipline them according to the acceptable use policy they’ve signed up to. If you’re not aware of how they’re spending their time at work, why on earth not?)

So let’s try and build a picture of access to social media tools from the workplace. Please run my social media test suite survey from your workplace machine and let’s see who the blockers are. I’m happy to publish here, or in the survey results you can see when you complete the survey, any appropriate explanations or justifications from IT providers. I know there can be good reasons for limiting access, and we should separate those from the bad ones.

Finally, as it says on the front page of the survey, don’t attempt the survey if you have the misfortune of working somewhere really prehistoric and draconian: if even attempting to access social media sites will get you in trouble, please don’t.

UPDATE: the results are in.

16 Comments

  1. Steph – this is fantastic.

    Have you got a list of the sites included in your test at the moment?

    And will there be an easy way to share the outcome data? I’d love to use something like this with local authorities in an action learning set I’m just about to start running.

    One extra option though it may be worth adding to survey responses is ‘I can see the site – but it’s just displaying as plain text’ as I’ve encountered quite a few environments in which, for example, a Ning website or even Facebook is not blocked, but the static.ning.com domain, or fbcdn.com (Content Delivery Network for FB I think…) domains are blocked so the site displays with no images or CSS files loaded.

  2. Tim – absolutely, there’s a link at the end of the survey to see the table of all the results so far, which could be cut and pasted into a spreadsheet if anyone so wishes. I’m loathe to put the link here now because I want people to go through and run the tests to contribute to the dataset!

    I’ll take a look at the option you mentioned maybe a ‘There was the following problem: ______’ option might be useful on the questions.

  3. Great tool, Steph. In a recent ministerial correspondence I raised the issue of social media access as one of my primary concerns for 2009… or should I say 1995 🙂

  4. Look forward to the results. Though I have a good relationship with the IT guys, and they understand our side of things pretty well, it frustrates me no end that we have to ask for each site to be whitelisted one by one… Madness.

  5. Nice idea, and well implemented.

    We had this problem (and to the best of my knowledge, it still is a massive problem) at NMSI, which includes The Science Museum, Railway Museum and Media Museum. I was Head of Web for a number of years – trying to keep up with media developments when you can’t see them is…challenging…

    I’ve just emailed their head of IT to see if he’ll take part 🙂

  6. Birmingham City Council have told staff that they are going to block access to social networking sites between 10am-12noon and 2-4pm for everyone other than people who have special approval as part of there jobs from the end of January. They already block access to Flicker for most people

  7. Had to take this test Steph just to test it out, although my entry is not very handy for your stats. I’ll forward it to a bunch of people.

  8. Hi, A very useful tool that I have just asked some 29 local authities across the Yorkshire & Humber region to run as I’m working on a region wide project using social media in regulatory services. Several of the authorities have come back to me with a problem with the test and the twitter page. Instead of loading withing the box it hijacks the browser and displays a full page and you can’t then return to the test. Perhaps you could add an option as per Yahoo with a new page or tab ann return.

    Thanks

  9. Hi Steph,
    I remember this survey from a while back, we’re wanting to re-produce something similar to gauge where we’re at in 2011 in Scotland. Can you share how you did the survey? Hand crafted? Survey Monkey etc?

    thanks
    paul

Comments are closed.

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