Entries from September 2007 ↓

Seeking high schools that block access

James Levy, president of the Social Media Society at Northwestern University, emailed me to ask if I could help him identify high schools that are blocking students from accessing social media sites.

…like in Danah Boyd’s essay on the subject, we think it affects the way students learn, and the increasingly important network of contacts they develop. We’d like to find specific schools where there is a practice of blocking Facebook. We’d like to find specific schools where there is a practice of blocking Facebook.

Do you know anyone who attends, works at, or knows of a high school that blocks access? Help out a student and leave your information as a comment here.

A balanced report

InformationWeek offers a comprehensive and balanced report on social networking in the workplace. Penned by J. Nicholas Hoover, the article lists the concerns about social networking but also explores the various ways companies are leveraging social networking to their advantage. The key sentence in the article — rejecting the notion of wholesale blocking of social networking sites — reads as follows:

The trick for businesspeople interested in using social networks and for IT departments that need to manage access to them is to steer clear of the time-wasting stuff while leveraging the collaborative potential.

The article lists a number of companies that have found was to leverage social networking, and thankfully they’re not all high-tech. McDonald’s, for instance, is implementing an internal social network to accommodate employees’ need to find colleagues who share common subject matter expertise. McDonald’s has implemented a social media platform for internal blogs and communities that will soon include a social network.

But the more interesting coverage looks at companies using Facebook:

Hinting at the potential of social networking at work, thousands of employees of Shell Oil, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric have Facebook accounts. A Facebook network of Citigroup employees — only those with Citigroup e-mail accounts can join — has 1,870 users. Procter & Gamble employees use Facebook to keep interns in touch and share information with co-workers attending company events

Social networks can be a great recruiting tool. Lisa Bopst, who works in the training department at Aerotek Staffing Agency, uses Facebook’s messaging system to keep in touch with new hires because it’s “less formal” than work email…Jason Cronkhite, marketing director for video compression startup Kulabyte, uses Facebook to get the word out about his company. “We’re trying to create conversations with folks,” he says.

The article lists a variety of business uses for social networks, including viral marketing, recruiting, peer networking and emergency coordination and communications.

How far will they go?

Gotta Go

Courtesy of Rob Cottingham

Cracking down on Facebook “addicts”

ZDNet offers an article about companies cracking down on Facebook “addicts.” According to the article, “Two-thirds of silicon.com’s 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said they have banned or restricted employee access to Facebook and similar Web sites in the workplace.”

There is a voice of reason on the panel, however. Props to Ipsos CTO Ben Booth, who said, “Our view is that Facebook, and other social uses of the Web, are legitimate in moderation and specifically out of core working hours. But their control is properly achieved by management, not by IT restrictions.”

Booth belongs in a Stop Blocking hall of fame. That may be something to add to the wiki, eh?

Better graphics needed

I have never claimed to be a designer. If you have design chops and would like to contribute to this effort, I’m interested in everything from better templates for the blog and wiki to better graphics for the badges offered through this site. Just leave a comment here or email me to volunteer your services.

Welcome to the campaign

For years, I have opposed the business practice of blocking employee access to online content. Any online content. It’s not that I believe employees should spend worktime perusing Web porn. But I don’t believe that blocking access for any and every employee is the best way to address abuse. Additionally, a lot of the content companies are blocking — Facebook is a good example — can actually produce business value.

For some time, I’ve been thinking of launching a grassroots campaign in support of open employee access to the web. This blog, and its related wiki, represent the foundation of that campaign. It is based on the following core beliefs:

  • Employees should be treated with trust. Trust builds commitment, which leads to engagement. It is nearly impossible to build a highly engaged workforce when the message is clear: “We don’t trust any of you as far as we can throw you.”
  • Recruiting the best and brightest from the generation just entering the workforce will be easier if they can use the communication tools they have grown up using. With all other factors being equal, prospects will go to work for the company that embraces social media, not the one that blocks access to it.
  • Companies should employ management by exception: Supervisors should be trained to identify individual employee abuse and then deal with it.
  • Most employees will not risk their jobs to engage online in non-work-related activities. If they spend an hour reading entertainment-focused blogs, they will either stay an hour late (or come in early) to ensure their work is done, or they will do the work at home.
  • There is untold wealth in much of the online content companies choose to block. In addition, the use of blocking software routinely blocks access to business-related content.

It is my hope that this blog and wiki will serve as a resource to help organizations make informed, rather than knee-jerk, decisions about providing online access to employees. You can help in a number of ways.

First, you can grab one of the graphics and include it — with a link to this blog — on your blog.

Second, you can contribute your thoughts and resources to the wiki.

Third, you can subscribe to this blog and comment on posts.

Thanks for your support and contributions. If this effort results in a single company deciding not to block web content, I will consider it a success.