I hear that Birmingham City Council is now blocking “social networking sensation” Twitter (as it is classified as a “social networking site”). Following hard on the heals of the shock horror stories of Facebook usage (stupid story as not only are the methodologies used for tracking such things deeply flawed, but the communications team are using it as part of their job) it’s not surprising, but it isn’t sensible.
You get the feeling that it would be blocked as the people responsible for blocking will have just heard about it, I’d love to hear the reasoning behind restricting access.
The official statement from the council is:
“Twitter is classed as a “social networking” web site and Bham City Council has imposed a restriction (in line with its Internet Use Policy) on the use of social networking sites during core hours – i.e. between 1000 and 1200 and between 1400 and 1600. Outside those hours, these sites are generally available. People who need to use social networking sites for work, rather than for personal use, are given access at these times if they can confirm that it is needed for their work.”
That’s all very well, but it is in my opinion like asking for permission to use the Internet at all, or a phone, or the post. It would make you feel nervous, that you were doing something wrong — even if you weren’t. I don’t think Twitter is a “social networking site”, I think it’s a new and important communication tool.
I don’t think that I could do a job that didn’t allow me unfettered access to the Internet — Twitter has become my open-plan office, except that it’s filled with some of the country’s great thinkers rather than just the people I work with. If I chat there it’s certainly no more than you would on the way to the stationery cupboard/water cooler/ kettle/toilet and back.
We live in an age of ever-more rapily changing communication landscapes. We have Twittering MPs, hell a Twittering (well his team at least) US President — we’d kill for a Twittering Birmingham Councillor. You can’t fight the tide, and to block a tool that is already proving useful (check out this snow map – updated live) would seem to show at the very least a lack of foresight. They’ll end up paying to train staff on what they might have learnt for themselves anyway.