Who’s been blocking my Twitter?

I’ve been following a thread on the LIS-BLOGGERS@JISCMAIL.AC.UK list (a discussion list for library and information services bloggers) with interest. The original posting asked about the current use of Twitter by libraries.

There have been some useful links to information about which libraries have accounts and how people are using it. However the most interesting thing for me has been an offshoot conversation about blocking of Web sites and Twitter.

One person (I won’t mention any names here) responded with a useful link and then went on to explain that this site (a blog – which sounded like a pretty useful site) along with others were blocked during core work hours. Note that the person who made the comment works for a commercial law company.

I guess at this point most of the list subscribers who work in academia took a sharp intake of breath. Blocking of sites seems alien to those of us who work in a culture of ‘learning’. However in the not to distant past there have been discussions of IT services blocking use of tools like Skype, though this tends to be more for security and bandwidth reasons. Blocking the Web seems very strange to us academics.

Tim Fletcher from Birbeck then pointed out that the blockage of such sites “leaves those of us who are trying use services such as Twitter for perfectly legitimate and appropriate purposes in a difficult position”.He goes on to say that he feels “the difficulty comes when a “social network” tool goes into the mainstream and becomes a business or service network tool and some employers or institutions are not prepared or geared up for that change. It is also a benefit of working in the HE sector and possibly we have a role in trying and testing these things so that colleagues in other sectors can show their employer or institution the benefits, assuming there are some.” Some good points here.

Although it was actually a Web site that had been blocked Phil Bradley equated this with the blocking of Twitter and explained that “it is absolute insanity to ban its use in an organizational setting.

The posts reiterate the divide in culture between the academic and the commercial sectors. However I think they also show how Web 2.0 technologies have started to bridge this divide. Twitter is now mainstream. Its business uses have been well documented and most forward thinking commercial companies already use it. Even if the bosses are not supportive of the use of certain technologies and sites it seems to me only a matter of time before they succumb. It’s not just about treating your staff as responsible workers but also recognising the current trend in communication.

In the meantime those of us who work from home can feel smug that no-one gets to block what we look at.


4 thoughts on “Who’s been blocking my Twitter?

  1. Thanks Pete for pointing out the Wikipedia article.

    Hmmm…censorship…it’s a tricky one…along with freedom of speech.

    I guess the reality is that what we see (on the Web) is often being censored in some way or other, occasionally after its gone online (as in this case) but more often before it goes online. I suppose people feel that the Internet allows access to more people’s voices, more truths, but this isn’t always the case.

    No easy answer here…(can of worms comes to mind!)…. I suppose my personal inclination would be to go with Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (I’m sure there are many cases when I’d change my mind on this!)

    Thanks also to Steph for the link to his Social Media Test Suite survey – The results make interesting reading.

  2. Second time I’ve mentioned trust in a comment today – but trust is key here. If you are working at home, it seems likely that you are working for an organisation that has a high degree of trust in its empolyees anyway.

    Banning Facebook or Twitter or any other distractions suggests that you don’t trust your staff to work unless you take away all other possibilities. This is, of course, hopeless, because people are endlessly inventive in the ways they can distract themselves from whatever they are meant to be doing.

    I wonder how much as a home worker you are output driven? I often feel that one of the problems we have is that many managers don’t actually know what it is reasonable to expect from someone from a days work, and so rather than setting expectations based on output (something will be done by a certain time/date), they just do whatever they can to ensure people do nothing but ‘work’.

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