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.