Does Web Censorship Software Make Sense?

Like many other .NET Developers, I try to work as efficiently as possible for the benefit of my employer and clients. I don’t take smoking breaks, I usually eat lunch at my desk in about 10 or 15 minutes, and I don’t waste my employer’s time needlessly surfing the net.

But many employers don’t seem to appreciate that. They look at what they see as a problem, and use web filtering software like WebSense to block employees from “doing bad things” under the guise of “improving productivity”.  You know what I say to that? Bull!

Look, there are always going to be a small minority of employees who are irresponsible and don’t have good work-ethic values who will spend hours of their employers’ time surfing “unacceptable” web sites. But to punish everyone for the offenses of a few is like using a sledge hammer to swat a  gnat.

If you block people from web sites, what do you think they’ll do instead? Their productivity won’t increase – the “Baddies” will just do something else, like playing Solitaire on their computers. Or they’ll find something else to do that wastes the employer’s time.

Scott Hanselman actually got his blog “Banned” by WebSense because it got mindlessly categorized as “Personal Web Sites; Society and Lifestyles.” Can you believe this utter B.S.?   WebSense, because of the nutty algorithms that it uses, is intrinsically flawed.

For the majority of us “good guys”, being blocked in what sometimes seems a heavy-handed, indiscriminate manner is both an annoyance and a reduction in productivity.

Some companies prohibit employees from using IM clients like Live Messenger. At the company I work for, we all agree that it is a great productivity booster. Even the “higher ups” use it.  Sure, there may be a few abusers – but the benefits far outweigh.

Occasionally when doing a search for technical resources on a programming problem, I end up on one of those WebSense “blocked” pages. At a client’s site recently, I found that the entire domain “blogspot.com” – which has thousands of legitimate technical blogs on .NET, Silverlight, WPF, WCF and other technologies (including this UnBlog) – is BLOCKED.

What on earth are these people thinking? Is it really about “productivity”, or just the heavy hand of self-appointed righteousness? What do you think?

Item of Note:

My “playground” Social Short Url / Search / Tagging site, http://ittyurl.net, now has over 958 user-submitted links related to Silverlight, which has been the site’s focus since about June of this year. Keep those new links coming, and check out the Webservice API, which now features a new Webmethod to discover and Feedburnerize feeds on any webpage that has “link rel=” feed discovery tags! By creating a Feedburner Url for your feed, you automatically enable Silverlight cross-domain requests!