My work changed its net nanny a couple weeks back to exclude blogs. I understand that; they probably think of blogs as cat pictures and smut, which are perfectly fine pursuits that adults should follow on their own time, at their home computers. So far as I can tell, they used a fairly quick filtering process, excluding blogs by excluding URLs with blog-hosting platforms in the name: blogspot, typepad, wordpress, livejournal. That’s an easy decision rule, but it excludes some signal along with that noise. Here are the blogs that employees of the Resources agency can’t easily read right now:
(doesn’t load right; suspect interference with blogging software)
The net nanny gives us quota time. If I see a reference to a new post on Aquafornia, I can click on it. I get a scary screen asking if I want to use my quota time (15 minutes twice a day). If I click yes, it goes through. But we don’t get enough quota time to read all the water material that goes up (not because it takes more than half an hour, but because it goes up throughout the day and I can’t spend a couple minutes here and there). So the net nanny screen is intimidating and the quota time isn’t enough. I can vouch that my visits from state agency IP addresses is considerably down. But the real problem with this system is that these blogs shouldn’t be blocked at all.
Sometimes, in between posting cat pictures and searching out smut, some bloggers inexplicably want to do real work. For bizarre reasons of their own, they write about their field, adding expertise that we used to have to read on paper or learn face to face. I’m preaching to the choir here. If you read blogs you already know that you can get syntheses of academic work, you can listen in on lawyers chatting about recent legal decisions, you can hear people’s own voices talking about how water policy affects them. This is not trivial; this is a (nearly) free multiplier of human thought and knowledge that people in the field should have access to. Putting a wall between state employees and this thought is wrong.
From my perspective, blogging gives me a way to talk directly to you. You is all of you, people who are involved and interested in water in California. That’s worth a lot to me, enough to take the occasional break from pictures of cats. That’s most of what bothers me about the new restrictions on blogs. I could get around it, and so could the other bloggers on that list. I could buy a domain name, so I don’t get caught in the wordpress filter. So could those other bloggers. But while the overly broad restrictions are up or unless I spend my own money, I can’t talk to the thousands of state workers who work in the field. My blog, and the blogs I listed above are relevant; workers who happen to like to read text-based analysis shouldn’t have to read them on their own time. Reading the substantive thought in these blogs is a legitimate use of work time; it should be freely available to us.