Long term readers of this blog probably remember that yours truly has been denied of proper internet access at work for a good few months now. In the name of some vague agendas, blogs, photo repositories and webmail services have been blocked.
That is, until I stumbled upon Google Reader, an online tool available to anyone with a Google account. Essentially, it’s an RSS reader: you create an account, type in the links to your most beloved blogs and other routinely updated websites, and in return you will be delivered with a constantly updating list of all the new posts out there. For example, you can even use it to keep track of my blogs: by registering this blog, my reviews blog, my Flickr page, and my YouTube page, you would be able to keep yourself up to date with the latest posts in one go.
RSS services are not exactly new on our blocks; Firefox browsers have had them for as long as I know them. The catch with Google Reader is simple: my place of work does not block it. The implication is very simple: All those blogs I was not able to access before have now become accessible (at least until Google Reader is blocked). It’s not perfect: Flickr photos are still blocked, and you cannot see comments added to posts, but hey – beggars can’t be choosers.
Beggars can, however, continue to find innovative ways to circumvent thoughtless acts of stupidity (the only explanation I can come up with for censoring internet access en masse). My point with this post is simple: Through Google Reader, I have proved that all these efforts to censor web access are a useless waste of time. Instead of achieving successful results (whatever those may be; ask the brilliant minds behind the blockages), they demoralize employees and cause significant waste whenever legitimate websites are blocked from access. They also cause stagnation in the organization when information that could have been used to improve things remains unknown because it was blocked from access in the first place.
My place of work is obviously just a small bean stuck under a stack of mattresses. There are much bigger cases demonstrating how narrow vision and lack of openness can cause a return to the Middle Ages.
Take, for example, the case of Melbourne’s train network: Instead of spending more than a billion dollars on a failed project to replace the ticketing systems, the patrons of the state of Victoria could have just made public transport free and earn their money through the added advertising income they would get out of all the extra people using public transport. Think of all the jobs saved (and find them alternative ones). Think of the contribution to global warming. Think! Sure, I know there are issues with this freedom proposal, but my point is simple: The political decision makers are so well stuck in their business oriented state of mind they won't consider any proper innovation. That's the reason why, by the way, I don't hold my hopes up high for Kevin Rudd's upcoming 20-20 summit; it's a tax payer funded talk fest.
Then there are the record companies, who recently started talking about the contribution of music downloads to the word of mouth effect on publicizing their products. They may talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk: they’re still firmly stuck to their old models, failing to realize the world is changing around them, but then crying like babies when they seem unable to earn the shi*loads of money they were used to. They would like us to be censored just as well, failing to realize that for each mouth they shut there will be two more Google Reader like workarounds.
Let there be light.