Monday, September 28, 2009

The Fallacy of the Office Firewall

I apologize in advance. This is a gaming blog, and I'm going to totally break from the topic of gaming to rant about something personal. I suppose it could kind of apply to gaming and I suspect that a lot of you, my dear readers, will feel me... but be forewarned that this rant is completely off-topic.

This rant is also something that could probably get me fired. Now, before you click away, don't worry, this isn't a NSFW type post. It's just that I'm going to complain about something that, should it ever be traced back to me, I'm sure could be used against me in a faux court of corporate law. In other words, the Bobs could use it to aid their firings. (If you haven't seen Office Space at least three dozen times, then you probably don't belong here. I try to recommend the classics, repeatedly, like any good nerd).

I suppose the real chances of someone important (by the corporate definition, meaning at least two to three levels above me) associating this blog with some lowly engineering peon are quite low, but if the Internet has taught me one thing over the years, it's that nothing is impossible when you have Google. Or Wikipedia. Or the Urban Dictionary.

Of course, I'm talking about the workplace Internet filter. It comes in many different brands, but it's all the same: bullshit. I suppose the filter arose from some IT professional who learned the dirty little secret behind the Internet (Al Gore invented it for pr0n). Perhaps this individual even approached the problem with the best of intentions, because we all know that there are plenty of individuals who accidentally click into the questionable site. "ZOMG, where did these boobs come from" is a classic.

"I didn't know if I clicked that it would do this." Phil, you did the same damn thing yesterday. Okay, I'm just going to write you a little program to stop you from being an imbecile and getting yourself fired. "Wow, thanks Jimmy. Teh interwebs r hard." (Followed by the ubiquitous: "You remind me a bit of my son who just graduated from college." Because we all know that anyone with any sort of electronics knowledge reminds someone of their kid. Such is the era we live in).

Even IF the concept of a workplace filter began with those noblest of intentions, it has clearly since been completely perverted by the power junky that is the corporate monster. Somewhere along the line, someone high up looked at the filter and thought two things. One: I could totally fabricate some increased productivity numbers if I limited my employees Internet access and thereby justify a pay increase for myself. Two: This would be a really great way to flex our corporate muscle in the face of our lowly peons to remind them just WHO is the boss. After all, we can't let these cocky new kids and all their typing skills keep showing us up, can we? One fingered typing 4 EVAH!

Here's the thing, though: MISSION FAILED. All you have done, Mr. HR-guy-dictating-the-moves-of-the-IT-guy, is to provide your employees with a major inconvenience at work. Another small thorn in our side that will be rectified when we burn the building down AND take our seven travelers checks to a competing resort. Newflash: it doesn't increase productivity and it doesn't make me respect authority... it just pisses me off. Especially because it's poorly implemented and whimsically done.

I mean, does any workplace filter anywhere actually make sense? It lets half the naked chick through anyways. It blocks places you could actually use for work. It keys on keywords that are unknown to any sane person. It's like the IT person, in a mini-protest of what he was being advised to do, just went through and did it all half-ass like to spite "the man".

It's never done in-house, either. It's like we gotta contract out to these people because we could never trust our own brainiacs. So every time you click on a site that has been randomly selected by this weeks ban hammer, you get a big blue finger in your face saying: "F U, you can't do that." But, Phil, I was just trying to look up spec sheets for this whatchamajig that goes in the thingy over there to make it work. SORRY, play again next time.

It's like they want you to feel like they're watching you, when it's completely obvious that THEY'RE NOT. No one reviews your personal usage in a multiple thousand person company. They may look at trends and shit, but no one is sitting there in a room, reviewing your logs and being like "Oh snap, this guy went to E! News three times last week. Isn't that an oxymoron? E! and News. This guy shouldn't be reading that. He should be only viewing reputable journalistic sources like The Onion." Then slaps the ban hammer on both.

If they were watching, they're probably arrange for an intervention for me. Then a firing.

It's not that I don't do great work, I do. I get it all done with time to spare. Time to spare that I spend blogging and reading blogs. About games. I mean, half the work related ones are blocked anyways, not that I'd read 'em.

Honestly, who works 8 straight hours. Sandra down in cube fourteen is on the phone for twelve hours talking about who-knows-what. No one blocks her calling privileges or monitors that shit. Steve and Lou are over at the water cooler talking about "the game" or "the hunt" or "the car". You can't tell me that don't spend at least 2-3 hours a day swapping stories and ideas. No one is interrupting their conversation with a big blue "F U, get back to work." Hell, they're my two bosses. Then they talk about that crap with their bosses... and so on. NO ONE WORKS 8 STRAIGHT HOURS. People need breaks.

And all I'm guilty of is using a broader medium that the water cooler to swap ideas and expand my mind. I probably even learn more about my job through my meanderings than they do. It's the same story every week with them, but the Internet is alive with change. How many off my "outside the box" ideas have been sparked my something completely unrelated to my job that I found on the Internet? Maybe not many, but I guarantee a few have. More than some others I could say.

The bottom line here is that the office firewall is a complete and utter fail. It doesn't help productivity. People will find ways to waste time. If you've got people surfing pr0n at work, then you need to have a better interview process. Those folks have a problem. If you're worried about people reading about something that they *gasp* WANT to read about, then you should probably wander around the cubes listening to conversations and police that too. Then tell them all to shut up and only talk about work related crap. It's ridiculous, but so is your firewall. And I, for one, will sit here and quietly rebel against it the same way your son is hiding his downloaded pictures of Megan Fox three folders deep on your desktop at home. He, as well as I, know how hard folders are for you to navigate.

Ugh. This rant was brought to you by the Automotive Industry. "Rollin' on dumbs."

(All characters in this tale are entirely fictional and any resemblance to actual people is completely intentional.)


  1. Yeah!

    My biggest frustration is that stupid woman who walks around & tries to strike up a conversation because she doesn't want to do her own job.

    WFT does she do?! She wastes away MANY, not just one, MANY hours of the day talking to others, intern, wasting their time.

    THAT should be blocked!

    Not my blogs! Atleast I sit here at my own desk, doing my own job, & not bothering others. While my blogs get picked off one by one like a hunter shooting skeet.


    There goes another one..

  2. :::gasp::: Ful, are you... questioning authority? Shouldn't you just trust that your bosses know what's best for you?

    All teasing aside, at my last job, one of the Bobs would actually patrol the cubicles to see if he could catch anyone not working on the proper thing. I got a lecture and a glare because one day when I walked in, instead of going straight to my desk, I paused by my boss's desk to ask him some questions about work.

    I have been terrified into submission. It's working, the man is keeping me down!

  3. I don't really disagree with anything of substance, but this cracked me up:

    "If you've got people surfing pr0n at work, then you need to have a better interview process."

    No disrespect intended, but how would you suggest that be done? I've sat in on far too many interviews. It ain't easy. But you got the formula, I wanna see it.

    I'll even attribute :)

    (Nah, I haven't hired any porn magnets. But there are some that I'm not proud of, along with many I am ecstatic about.(

    At any rate, if they were that good at interviewing, they'd identify the blogging gene and ... well. Meet you in the queue.

  4. @Jess - Say it isn't so. Maybe we're switching roles. Perhaps I'll be a healer soon.

    @Grimmtooth - Yeah, I don't normally like bitching without having an alternative solution, it was called for today and I've got nothing. I agree it can be difficult. However, my thoughts behind that are more... if you have a person that really really wants to surf porn at work... enough that they aren't creepy in the interview process and do a damn good job of otherwise hiding it... they're gonna figure out a way around your firewall too. You're really only penalizing the people who *want* to follow the rules.

  5. But yeah, I'm not really sure there's a good "pre-screen" questions...

    "Would you like to look at porn while at work?" - is this a trick question?

  6. :)

    The trick to working in an office with a content filter is figuring out all the ways to bypass it. Befriend your IT geek and see where's he's point his proxy too. I bet he has access to a safe external proxy "for testing reasons".

  7. @ Eric
    I know that's true, and I know someone who has it. I just never found out what it was.

  8. Almost every wow site I frequent is blocked at work under "blocked category "games"... I am a teacher, so I guess this makes some kind of sense?

    Ridiculously I can access every completely NSFW webcomic with ease.

  9. Word, silly filters. Brains are for humans... and zombies.

  10. Yeah, I'm not quite sold on how gaming associated sites over lots of others are the ones that get blocked.

    It's the misunderstood gamer thing all over again D: