Showing that fear of mediocrity can make the world a better place.

Walled gardens and idiocy

When you close off other sources of input you limit your ability to learn and grow. Creating a walled garden is easy and the appearance can be varied. 1990s era AOL, Facebook and enterprises using Websense or other content filters can be considered a walled garden. The idea that creating a control environment where all the content is approved or surrounding yourself with an echo chamber is not new. The thing that continues to amaze me is how people allow these walled gardens to exist.

Where’s the trust?

I would like to think that I am a responsible adult. Sure there are the occasional lapses in judgment but I like to think that my ability to decide what is right and wrong is pretty well tuned. Unfortunately, many enterprise companies have decided that they want to treat their employee like a bunch of horny teenagers in a library by restricting access to certain approved sites. The usual excuse is “to keep people from wasting time on productivity draining sites like Facebook and Twitter” is utter garbage. The reason you have web filtering is because you don’t trust your employees to use work resources appropriately. You don’t trust them to do their job without you hand-holding and putting their blinders up so they can focus. So you install net nanny or some other expensive piece of software because you won’t deal with your employees like professional adults.

One solution…Fire them

So you have these employees who are constantly slacking off and wasting time on websites AND they are not fulfilling their job function? Big whoop. Give them three clear warnings and chances to change their behavior. If the refuse to change then fire them.

What’s worse?

  •  handling the HR fallout from firing someone for unprofessional behavior
  •  letting them remain unprofessional in your organization and finding other mediums to express their lack of care about their job.

Of course if you let the unprofessional people stay around, they will find other ways to not do their job and you won’t have an easy way to track it. You just let a bad seed grow off the grid so it infect others and you won’t know until half your department is spinning in their chairs screaming “wheeeee” and drooling on their desks. Congratulations!

Content filtering is a poor solution anyway

Most content filters use black and white listing to block and allow website specifically. Unfortunately the groups they package these sites into would make Google puke. A .Net developer’s blog is indistinguishable from a gamer blog to most content filters so they are both blocked. Sure you might be able to find the answer somewhere else but now you just closed off a chance to learn something from a .Net developers blog. If you have any creative people in your company, closing off possible sources of creativity will stifle and kill their motivation. The smart ones will leave your company for more enlightened management. You will be left with the, er, not so smart and creative people (there no on was offended). By creating an environment where creativity and innovation are not appreciated and by having a workforce of “don’t cares” it won’t be long until your company grinds to a halt and issues some sorrowful proclamation about having to shut the doors and lay everyone off after so many years of success and profit. All because you thought productivity was something you could force people to have by shutting off parts of their computer. If someone blocks all the exits on the freeway it doesn’t make me a race car driver.

Want some cheese with that whine?

Sure it may sound like I’m whining. Maybe so. But when you are told you should work more efficiently and more effectively but then have your legs swept out from under you due to the latest controlling actions (content filtering at the moment) you can’t help but lash out a bit.

The point of this rant is really that if you don’t trust your employees then why are they still your employees? On a, uh, unrelated note; if anyone knows about relatively inexpensive VPN solutions drop a note in the comments 😉


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