Unified Comms

Your mashups can get your users in hot water


My employer recenty put into place one of those Web content filtering (WCF) devices. So far, they have it set to fairly benign settings. The last time my work PC sat behind one of those, the world of the Web was a different place. Mashups were just beginning to emerge, and hot linking or embedding content from another site into your own was considered rude -- not a business model. Now, thanks to the new WCF device in place, I am no longer visiting many of the tech- and business-related sites that I may normally view during the course of my day.

The problem is not the sites themselves. It is not even the content on the sites themselves. Heck, the issue is not even that the sites I visit do not have a direct relationship to my job. The problem is, the sites are willing to embed a YouTube video into their content.

I know for a fact that this WCF device does logging and monitoring of what sites people access, even if the site is not on the blacklist. I know that they will be running reports on those logs to potentially look for less obvious “time waster” or “not appropriate for work” Web sites. This is fine. My fear is that I will get in trouble if they decide to turn on some sort of alert that says, “Hey, this user is trying pretty often to get to restricted or flagged content!” for sites that embed YouTube videos and other mashups.

This is yet another reason why I will not mashup. I have already tread this trail before, from two slightly different angles. “Grateful that I don't 'mashup'” discusses one reason why I think mashups are a bad idea. “Will Skype Get You Fired?” examines the issue of how poorly conceived use of “convenient” data can turn an otherwise safe application into a career killer.

The last thing the vast majority of developers or Web designers think when they post a piece of content on YouTube, Flickr, or similar site is that they are possibly doing their user a real disservice. In fact, it's just the opposite. They say, “Hey, look, I can put this useful video tutorial onto YouTube. It will not clog up my bandwidth so my site will still run fast; the YouTube player is pretty slick, and it blends right into my site.” These are all true statements.

When that user goes to your Web site to view a work-related Web page, the user’s company may very well be logging it as a visit to an unauthorized or inappropriate Web site. This is not necessarily something your users want. As a result, there is a good chance that sharp-eyed visitors will start to avoid visiting your primarily work-related site. And when they shift their preferred sources of information from 9:00 – 5:00, you can be sure that their home usage will very possibly follow suit. Less observant or ill-informed users might not notice or put two and two together, but they could end up in hot water over it.

I have always felt that content from outside my domain should be clearly marked as an outside link. It is smart usability. It allows a user to decide if they want to open it in a new tab or window, so they can keep their place on your Web site. It helps to make sure that if there is something the user does not like, or if it comes from somewhere  the user does not want to visit they can make a fully informed choice. All around, clearly marking outside content (either through the text of the link or an icon next to the link) is a win-win for your site and the user.

My stance is: do not mashup with content sites. In general, it is not a very good policy. It is not that difficult to craft a similar system yourself; or to embed one of the various Flash players for content that can pull from your server; or to put in a reference to one of the standard multimedia plug-ins out there. If you do not have the bandwidth to serve up this content, you might want to consider how much value that video, sound clip, etc. is truly adding. It is bad enough that once you put your content somewhere else, it stands the chance of having ads and such put on top of it -- and it can get your users in a bunch of trouble too.

J.Ja

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

74 comments
sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

So you want content producers to change their websites or, more ridiculous still, build their own video players because of your company's web policies? You can't really be serious.

ralphclark
ralphclark

Let me get this straight: Your employer is so beside himself with resentment about people goofing off on the web for a few minutes each day, that he has put controls in place to limit your web access. You are now afraid to access useful web content because you are worried that some joyless pinprick will finger you for having been to a web page linking to some innocent social networking video. As long as employees are falling over themselves to suck up to abusive control-freak employers, those employers will keep pulling this nonsense and - well, you will end up with the workplace you deserve. The trouble is that the rest of us will end up there too. I think you should stand up for yourself a bit more. You're not only letting yourself down but everybody else as well. "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

mosw
mosw

Although all the security concerns and administrative hassles are legitimate. I think this mash-up thing is here to stay. We are the ones that are going to have to adjust. Part of the solution is to treat mash-ups the way we used to treat a lot of browser features - make sure you application is still functional without the mash-up component. Your "Dealer Locater" should supply a useful list of addresses even to those people that have the Google map with its nice push-pins blocked. I hate flash but have given up preaching against it. I now just push to make sure a site can at least be navigated without flash and still displays the most useful content. I often work from a location where I only get 20kb/s modem hookup, so I sympathize with the bandwidth issue. But I have found that the market often ignores my complaints so I have learned to just grin and bear it.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Not everybody on the Internet has broadband, getting video etc takes a lot of bandwidth for non broadband services, also many people now have the security setting for their browsers set to stop pop ups and to disallow advertising and disallow anything from a secondary site. If a site doesn't load within 30 seconds, I take my business elsewhere (exceptions allowed when my connection is down). I have Flash and that stuff turned off. I don't want to spend all day waiting for your special video advertising to download, I visit a site for actual information, if the information is in a video, tell me about it and let me make the decision to get it or not. I've been to a web site where it had 16 empty boxes with a message from Firefox telling me an add, or pop up, or Flash was blocked. The only thing I could see was the 'Contact us' button at the bottom, and the 'Site created by....' . I sent them an email asking when they were going to put an actual web site up and not a set of ads from other people's sites, and includes a screen shot as an attachment. Tried that site again six week later, and found I could now see it, also it had a new 'Created by' name.

Justin James
Justin James

I think you may not understand just how simple it is to embed video into a Web site, if you say that this is "rediculous". It takes all of 30 seconds to embed a QuickTime movie, AVI, MPG, etc. into a Web page. If you want to build a Flash-based player, it can be done in a few minutes. This is not just "my company's web policies". This is *more and more* company's Web policies. Go check out the WebSense device that seems to have been installed at many, many, MANY large companies. The sysadmin checks off "categories" to block. For example, if "Shopping" is blocked, users cannot even get to Amazon.com unless it is whitelisted. Any company doing Web filtering, unless they have a legitimate business reason to do so, is going to be blocking YouTube. If someone puts together a Web site that loses functionality, and may even get a user into trouble with their IT department, then they have only themselves to blame when their readership goes down. As it is, I can no longer use TechRepublic or ZDNet at my desk, because too many of the writers here embed YouTube links. I wonder how many other folks are in the same boat? All because someone could not be bothered to use the standard multimedia embedding system, or to just put together a Flash video play or use one of a zillion FOSS versions of the same. I may also add, Google just "monetized" YouTube last week. Is TechRepublic (or any other Web site, for that matter) in the business of providing free advertising space for Google? Are they comfortable with letting Google decide what ads will appear on their pages? I sure hope not. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

... this is now industry standard practice. Nearly every company I have worked for in the last 5 or so years has done this. And, quite frankly, they do have a point. Blocking the stray Web site with valuable content that happens to have a YouTube video in it, in order to keep people from spending all day on YouTube simply makes too much sense. So no, I do not consider abiding by my employer's Internet usage policy "sucking up", it is simply meeting my end of an agreement that I signed when I was hired, and that all employers require you to sign when hired. J.Ja

mattohare
mattohare

You're on to something here. It came to me on the bus home last night. We can have our basic content pages, then put our web-service consumption on another page. The link on the first page can warn the user of the mash-up threat on the 'next page'.

Justin James
Justin James

... that is my principle. If your whole site requires JavaScript or hotlinking, you are in trouble with the security/privacy minded users. Besides, do you really want your whole site dependent upon the whims of a third party who you have no contract with? J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

you may grin, but please don't bare it. I've found that most businesses will do something about a web site if you complain. Most of them don't know a thing about web site design and just get the cheapest job they can. This means they often end up with graphic artists who know less about web site design but have a snazzy program they found out about during their training as a graphic artist and it allows you to turn your fancy pictures into a web site, so they use that. The thing looks pretty but is a crappy design.

mattohare
mattohare

The Northern Ireland government seemed to want every NI Gov't site to have a header at the top to get to some central site. Problem was, they wanted that on the secure sites but did not put the items (a wee logo and a style sheet) into an area covered by their security certificate. That means that, for job searchers, they have to click on that "Do you want to display insecure items?" dialogue for each and every screen starting with the logon screen. I reported it to their comments site, and they told me to change my security settings. I told it to the bosses that over saw the department, and they contacted the contractor. The contractor (Fujitsu) said that I identified the problem right, but no one complains about it so they won't change it. Seems that first contact I made wasn't even logged as a problem. *chuckle*

Justin James
Justin James

I know exactly what you mean, and I hate that too! J.Ja

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

I'm not sure what the behavior is you are describing. Is the YouTube filter at your office blocking the entire page that contains the embedded video or just the video itself? If you are blocking the YouTube.com domain, then the video being embedded should be the only thing affected, right? You should still be able to see the page that the video is embedded in. Often, bloggers use YouTube videos to show off a video that they didn't create. So you can't expect someone to build a video player or use some other form of embed for such a video.

mattohare
mattohare

My revenue streams are in the mashup realm at the moment. I have yet to get any money on my www.walladb.com website google adverts. I do get revenue from Amazon, how ever. The thing that bothers me is that Google's ability to deliver relavent adverts has really gone to the dogs. I go to my pages and find dating sites listed in the adverts. That's quite embarrasing. If I can't focus those a bit better, I guess I'll dump google adverts full stop. At least I can control and direct amazon.

Justin James
Justin James

... YouTube and MySpace are already banned. I beleive Flikr, Break.com, and a few others are already on their way. In other words, even portions of TechRepublic are *already* out of my reach (some blogs here embed YouTube in the page). J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

I went to a site that had four ads and three flash things on it - I say things as all I saw for most of it was white boxes with the lovely little Firefox blocking messages. Went to complain to the people and there's a 'Site created by' bit but no 'Contact us' had someone else check it from an unsecured systems and still no 'Contact us' So I went onto the web site for their corporate headquarters and had to fill in and interactive form. It had Home and Work phone numbers as required or wouldn't accept the form. I complained about their big blank Flashing site, the lack of contact info on it, and their invasion of privacy re the phone numbers. When people want phone numbers and I don't want to give them I usually give the the local police or a number for a premium dial up service - let them pay. You can't seem to get away from rubbish sites now days. This one even included a rather large file it wanted automatically download and play.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

You're the one who constantly took things off track by ranting about YouTube's video quality or the lack of a business use for video in blogs or the number of people who upload videos versus the number who view them. Now you're blaming me for doing that when I challenge your assertions and ask for documentation. That's classic. But, you're right, recalling things you've read without being able to point anyone to them is always easier than actually having something to back up your argument. I have a feeling you're going to continue to stick to that approach.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

JJ, You comments about blocks on types and domains are very pertinent. The gateways I've worked on in the past have had rules blocking certain types of files AND certain domains, many even stripped certain types of files (like .exe) out of whatever they were coming in on - they just weren't allowed through the gateway. I've even worked on high security gateways where they blocked every port except the few permitted for use, they had an extensive list of blocked domains, and they stripped everything out of all incoming data on port 80 except html, gifs, and jpegs - nothing else was allowed in. When they started embedding a virus in a jpeg, they were even blocked and stripped out. Much of the web isn't visible through those gateways as Java, Javascript, Flash, and all the other stuff just doesn't get through the gateway - it's stripped out. Years ago, before MS bought them out, Hotmail accounts were accessible via the web through that gateway; after MS changed to using Java for the Hotmail site, they were no longer accessible through the gateway - that upset a lot of people, and the management answer to the complaints was "Please provide corporate business reason you need access to this web site." No one ever did. That organisation NEVER had a known virus enter their system via the gateway, they did have two where people carried them in from home, and the gateway detected them when they tried to go out. And that's why you use gateways, to protect your network.

Justin James
Justin James

"I was referring to the posts where you use terms like "most," "always" and "never." You never seem to back those things up with any numbers." If it helps you, imagine phrases such as, "In my experience," and "From what I have observed," and "Empirically," in from of my numbers then. I may also add, I read *a lot*. I do not bookmark or save every scrap that I find interesting. As a result, a piece of information that I may use may not always be directly referencable. I really do not have the time to sit here and try to document every "sweeping generalization" that I have made in this discussion. For example, it took me about 30 minutes of dredging through my email and digging only to find the Bill Tancer quote, which I remembered reading in mid-April. "The 1% rule of online participation is well-documented; however, I'm not sure how it applies to this debate. If anything, it shows there is great demand for video on the web. Only a few people are creating it yet those videos are generating millions of visits and pageviews." Once again, I am witnessing an extreme misreading of my words. I have never once said "video is bad" nor have I denied that there is tremendous demand for it. In fact, the only point I have been making at a high level is that sites should not directly embed content from a different domain within their site. In fact, I will even say that if your site reverse proxies that content, I would say that it is fine. The main point is that your users' browsers should not be opening a connection to someone else's domain when your domain shows in the address bar. At a more low level, I have stated that YouTube in particular is not a great site to be working with, because the technical quality of videos posted there (resolution, compression levels) is too poor for many (if not most) business purposes. At this point, myself as well as other commenters have stated, restated, and rephrased these exact points in many different ways. You are going from actually addressing the ideas at hand, to playing the "where are you numbers?" game. I almost feel like if I posted numbers that did not come from some major news outlet, you would turn around and question the source. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

"RE: #1 I think this point shows that you're not talking from experience with any business blogs. Just because you can't imagine how a business blogger might use video doesn't mean it isn't being done. At the most basic level, a talking head video of someone is often much more compelling and useful than the same thing presented as text. So there are plenty of ways to present video using compressed 320x240 video on a business blog." When did I *ever* say "NO VIDEO"? Show me where. Please do. I never once said "no video". I said, "self host your video". In terms of a "talking head" being compelling, I suggest that you take a look at some of those hard numbers you seem to be asking for: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/video.html "RE: #2 Anyone with a digital camera can shoot video that will look good online. Actually, I've found that digital cameras shoot really great video for uploading online because they start at a lower resolution (often 640x480), so they don't get compressed that much going to the 320x240 Flash format that alot of video sites use. As for editing, Windows Movie Maker will give you all the basic editing capabilities you need. It's free. If you're using a Windows XP PC, it's there already. It doesn't take a lot of research to understand how to shot, edit and upload great-looking video online (YouTube and other sites give you guides on what resolutions to use and what file formats work best)." It takes many, many, many times as much time, energy, and knowledge to produce video (of any kind of quality) than it does to write a blog, even a very well researched and thought out one. But more to the point, you have once again misinterpreted my words. I have never once on this whole thread said, "gee, no one should post video online." What I have said is, "self host your video". "Again, you are making sweeping generalizations about things that you have no data (and probably no experience) to back up." If you read over my writings for the last nearly 2 years, you will find that the ratio of links & quotes to written words is extremely low. The reason for that is simple: I write from my own experience. If you beleive that my experience in this area is lacking, or that you may know something relevant, you have been invited at least once to share those views. But this particular statement is inflamatory, at best. Just because you and I may have different opinions on something (and indeed, if you stop misreading you'll see that we agree on an awful lot) does not mean that I lack experience or I am blocking smoke up someone's shirt. It could mean that we have difference experiences. Or a different approach to the same experiences. Or interpret the same common, agreed upondata differently. For example, we both agree that many companies block many domains. My interpretation of this fact is that Web developers should therefore not embed external content. Your interpretation is that the end users should discuss the blocking with their IT department. I feel, given the general disposition of IT departments to top-down policy creation and imposition, that your approach is not very workable. If you want to keep arguing that video can be done, and can be done well online, I'll second that all the way. If you want to say that video can be used well for business purposes, I'll back that too. I am just saying that using YouTube for business-related video content is not such a great idea in most cases, due to the way they handle that content. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

DE - Pricisely what I was going to say as well. One additional comment I have, is that IT companies will sometimes block by MIME type (particularly executables), they also seem much less inclined to ding by MIME type, compared to domain. J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

all you have to do is let the person on YOUR site know what it is you're offering and tell them they have to go elsewhere for it. Then leave it up to them to decide. If they choose to go, it's their responsibility, and they then have all the info they need to respond to a question about visiting that site. The key is the user gets to decide when you use a hot link; when you use a mashup, they don't get to make a decision. And designing YOUR site to behave in a responsible manner is YOUR responsibility, not anyone elses. Design your site well and it shouldn't breach anyone's IT policies.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

Just to be clear, it is OK to link externally. What if the site uses YouTube or cookies or JavaScript or some other thing your IT dept. has determined to be harmful to your daily productivity? Are we supposed to post disclaimers on the link with all of the possible items on that page that could be problematic? And if so, when does it end?

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

Again, you are making sweeping generalizations about things that you have no data (and probably no experience) to back up. So to recap your positions: 1. There are no good business bloggers using video in any meaningful way (because *you* can't imagine a good use for video in a business blog) 2. Video is too hard and expensive for most bloggers to handle RE: #1 I think this point shows that you're not talking from experience with any business blogs. Just because you can't imagine how a business blogger might use video doesn't mean it isn't being done. At the most basic level, a talking head video of someone is often much more compelling and useful than the same thing presented as text. So there are plenty of ways to present video using compressed 320x240 video on a business blog. RE: #2 Anyone with a digital camera can shoot video that will look good online. Actually, I've found that digital cameras shoot really great video for uploading online because they start at a lower resolution (often 640x480), so they don't get compressed that much going to the 320x240 Flash format that alot of video sites use. As for editing, Windows Movie Maker will give you all the basic editing capabilities you need. It's free. If you're using a Windows XP PC, it's there already. It doesn't take a lot of research to understand how to shot, edit and upload great-looking video online (YouTube and other sites give you guides on what resolutions to use and what file formats work best).

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

I was referring to the posts where you use terms like "most," "always" and "never." You never seem to back those things up with any numbers. The 1% rule of online participation is well-documented; however, I'm not sure how it applies to this debate. If anything, it shows there is great demand for video on the web. Only a few people are creating it yet those videos are generating millions of visits and pageviews.

Justin James
Justin James

Shawn - Let's turn it around for a moment. Outside of people who cannot self host a video due to bandwidth limitations or an inability to do one of the following: * Use a non-YouTube Flash-based played that pulls from a specified URL * Embed some other media player * Provide a download link and allow the user to play the video in the player of their choice ... why do *you* think that using YouTube is preferable to self-hosting? More specifically, why do you you that developers putting together a Web application (which is precisely what my original item was discussing) should use YouTube over self-hosting? J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

LOL, that's a lot like my favorite example... a church having a seminar about dealing with lust putting a Google Map on their page to show the location, and the Google Map helpfully showing the locations of nearby establishments also related to the word "lust". Just what the pastor wanted, I'm sure. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Myself, and the other commenters here have been saying *precisely* this: LINK EXTERNALLY TO EXTERNAL CONTENT. This gives the users the foreknowledge of where they are about to pull content from. It also is *respectful* to the host who is paying that bandwidth bill, in terms of letting their content appear wrapped in their site, ads, special offers, whatever. Seeing as the simple fact is, if a user wants to read your content while listening to the audio part of a video, they can do that just as well with an external link, and they can just stare at the video and ignore your content just as well with an external link, the only real reasons to not self host is lack of bandwidth/storage space. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Yes, that is precisely my point. How can anyone put up truly useful, business related content at the compression ratios and resolutions that YouTube (and similar sites) put video out on? Furthermore, how many bloggers have access to (and the knowledge to use) video editing software, cameras, and so on that are needed to create truly useful, business oriented video? Not too many. I remember a few months ago, Rex tried posting a video in his blog here showing something... it was nearly useless, because of the compression and resolution that YouTube put the video in. At the end of the day, the vast majority of "bloggers" are not content creators, but content aggregators. They report other bloggers' reposts. YouTube is ideal for that. If you are someone throwing out, "hey, look at this neat item" type "content", then YouTube is great for that purpose. If you are in the business of generating original content, *especially* video, and *especially* for non-entertainment purposes, YouTube is lousy. Think of the following scenarios in which YouTube makes little sense: * You want/require control over advertising * You want/require high resolution or quality * You want/require users to not be distracted into viewing other videos * You are producing content that makes little sense outside the context of your site itself * You want/require comments, feedback, etc. regarding your content to come directly to you, not a third party's comments page * You want/require control over the servers, availability, and so on of your content * You want/require your content to be coming from your domain, for any number of reasons, including the fact that more and more companies block YouTube. All of those restrictions make YouTube (and similar services) a very poor choice for professional content creators. Where YouTube *does* make sense for a content creator (which does NOT mean "I did a capture of a TV program", but means "I sat down and put together video content") is: * The video itself is the only aspect of your message * You do not require any interactivity with the audience * You have no need or desire to produce meaningful statistics regarding your content * The resolution and quality of the video are unimportant; fine details such as text, audio, and so on will not be missed * You are satisfied with, at best, a text blurb or splashscreen or credit in the video that provides credit or reference to you That does not sound like a very compelling business case to me, for someone who is spending money and time producing professional grade video. It sounds to me like a good case for a blogger that wants to re-display someone else's content, and the people who want their content to be widely distributed like dust in the wind. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

http://www.hitwise.com/press-center/hitwiseHS2004/web20.php Not the very careful phrasing, "visits", not "hits", not "page views", not "unique visitors". If 0.16% of "visits" are result in a user uploading content, just how many people are actually uploading content? Does "visits" include people viewing YouTube videos embedding on another site? It is hard to tell, without the base "visit" number generated by a method which treats a "visit" the same way Hitwise does. Regardless, I feel that it is fairly safe to say that the vast majority of people pulling data from youtube.com (or flikr.com, for that matter) are consumers, not producers. J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

No company goes around providing expensive equipment and services for people to waste time for personal fun when they should be doing work. Any decent company that provides staff with Internet access, do so as they have a work related reason for them to have that access. they then put in place policies and processes to ensure that usage is within the reasons for the access. Just the same as there are policies and process to stop anyone from just taking a company car home any night they choose to, or use any other asset outside the company's reasons for them being there. It's very easy to utilise some other web site's good information on your web site without risking creating problems - it's called a hot link. You say something about what the link is for, and why they should view, and where it is - place the link in place, and let them make the decision about using it. Having worked on some security gateways, I can tell you that the primary motivation is 'NOTHING happens unless a person initiates it' and thus the person calling the web page is held responsible for doing so. In high security gateways, you can't call a web site unless it's already on the gateway's white list, so most mashups end up with huge white spaces. Most don't allow you the running of extra plug ins etc, so flash and the like don't work. Even my web browser allows me to activate a setting stopping it from automatically calling any web site or URL that isn't entered into the address field or the bookmark list. Many companies have these set and locked. lots more companies identify the web sites that people visit that are NOT carrying anything related to work, and black list them. in such a case your mashup, if calling from such a site, will end up with an empty white box - like my system shows when a web page calls an ad from one of the major ad servers - the call is killed and nothing is displayed. Company policy is, company assets for company reasons, go home to play with youtube and the like. If this looses you business, then change you site design to one that doesn't adversely affect you. I know one company that lost $250,000 worth of government business as they 'upgraded' their web site to use Java without checking if it was visible through the high security gateway - it wasn't, so all those customer could no longer see their price lists, and thus took business to other approved dealers whose price lists they could see, and place orders on. They realised something was up when their sales for the quarter were down a quarter mil, due to NO government sales during it. Aim at you audience, and adjust to what they use.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

Please post some of these elusive "numbers" that you reference in so many of your replies. I'd love to see them.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

Why do "bloggers" get a free pass with your strict content requirements? Are you saying that there are no useful, independent IT bloggers that might have something useful/helpful for you and your job duties *and* that might be embedding YouTube content? You said bloggers are allowed to embed YouTube videos, but publishers were not. Why the different set of standards when each will get you in the same amount of trouble with your employer?

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

So what about linking? What if we link to content off of our site? Are we supposed to scour any link that we publish to make sure that the site we're linking to doesn't have a YouTube video on it? Your argument only holds up in theory. Sure, it's easy to say, "Just host everything on your server." The reality of the web is that there are great sites, content and resources that are outside of our servers. Should we just avoid showing you any content that isn't on our servers? Is that the best answer you all can come up with for the question of "which sites do we block and which do we allow?" Block them all? Come on. And I stand by the "boneheaded" comment that so many people seem to like to quote. If your IT policy doesn't have some mechanism for an employee to know that they have been dinged *and* be able to submit the business case for the site they got dinged for, then I think it is a boneheaded policy. If I go to a site that is work-related and I get flagged for it, I should have a way to make the case for the validity of the link.

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

While the goal of getting companies to change "boneheaded" IT policies may be a noble goal, you have to look at the reality of the current situation. And quite frankly, the reality of the current situation is that most companies actually *DO* have such policies. You have to accept this reality and work within it. This also factors into a broader publishing dictum of "know your audience". What good does it do to embed content from another system when that content could get your audience fired??? That seems to me that such an approach is a sure way to lose your audience. As for keeping up with everyone else's IT policies, if you host the content on your own server, you don't have to worry about such policies. Anyone who gets to your server is fine. If you want to mashup, well, then you need to try and understand what sites are most likely to be blocked and avoid using them. Otherwise your content will be blocked from the business user (that's the reality of the situation). Again, what good is your content if it is blocked? From a certain point of view, saying that "boneheaded" IT policies should change is "pointing the finger outward". It is, in essence, saying that this is everyone else's problem and not the web developer's; whereas, a policy of keeping it on your own server is, in fact, taking ownership of the content (on more than one level, in fact). It seems to me that you think the goal here should be fixing "boneheaded" IT policies. It is not. It is about publishing content. You are correct that web developers can never change "boneheaded" IT policies; but that's all the more reason we need to work within the current reality. As for such things as JavaScript being turned off or certain ad servers blocked or even images turned off; how do you expect to control what "the other site" you are pulling your content from requires?? At least if you have it on your own server you can put a "technical requirements" page on the site to let people know what they need to do to work with your site. Plus, you are fully in control of what your site requires. With a mashup, the content hosting site you use may require something you are not aware of -- nor do you have any control over what they require of your viewer.

mattohare
mattohare

My site is an almanac. I'd love to have a YouTube video on my site that shows a 30 second piece with Bulmers/Magners saying how good their [hard] cider is before the kids doing their homework get the video they need about the exports of Ireland. That's not a complete bad thing, is it?

mattohare
mattohare

What are we supposed to do, go to the streets and picket for liberal policies? Justin's right. Few workplaces allow the workers to dictate exactly what the workplace rules will be. This is more critical in larger organisations. We have places now where there is a shortage of high energy, focused workers. That means some workplaces need policies to keep their workers from wasting time or leaking company information. It also means we need to protect work places from ignorant users that will bring harm into the work place. Also, there's the collective paranoia that our societies are getting. IT consultants going from company to company selling tools to protect from certain doom. IT departments and managers take this on board given the hystaria from media sources like CNN, Fox, Sky and the BBC. Unfortunately in this case, we live in a society that has to live by the visible majority. That says more restrictive rules.

Justin James
Justin James

I think I have not clearly defined what I mean when I say "blogger". It goes well beyond what software you are using. For example, I do not refer to my area on TechRepublic as a "blog". I might use the word "post", at the closest. On the rare occassions I post on my personal Web site, that is a true "blog". It is hard to define, but the size of the audience, the content, whether or not revenue is generated, and the effort put into it all come into play. But you really need to look at the numbers. A huge number of users have images to upload. A small fraction of users upload video. I truly wish I could find the numbers still, but a few months ago I read some numbers that only a few ten thousand users a month upload videos to YouTube, compared to hundreds of millions of viewers. In other words, despite the fact that zillions of sites have those little YouTube players on them, few people are actually creating the content, they are just showcasing someone else's content. And let's get real about YouTube video for just one moment. In the about 2 years it has been online, I cannot recall ever seeing a non-entertainment, non-political video on there. Furthermore, I cannot recall seeing many videos on there where YouTube did not so over-compress them that the quality was high enough to be useful for a business purpose. Finally, enough people are blocked from YouTube and other similar sites such that it is not "my problem", but the problem of anyone who wants their content to reach the widest possible audience. Would you put an online store up, and then block people from certain IPs or domains because you disagree with the internal policies of their company, such as the dress code or time off policy? I highly doubt it. So why in the world would you prevent someone from using your Web site, just because you do not agree with the internal IT policies that a good number of companies (more every day) have put into place? If this was just the employer I work for, I would agree with you in a heartbeat. I would say, "wow, these guys have this really dumb policy!" and maybe even discuss it here (if it was relevant to my topics). But my employer is just one of zillions of companies that follow these policies. Look at the numbers: http://www.websense.com/global/en/ResourceCenter/MarketOverview/ WebSense, the leading maker of these things, is one of Fortune's Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies. Sounds to me like Web content filtering is then one of IT's Top 10 policies based on adoption rate. Scary stuff, eh? so, at the end of the day, developers have two options. They can either self-host content and services, and know that anyone who can reach their site can use it, or they can embed and "mashup" knowing that an increasingly growing portion of their audience may be able to reach their site, but not use it fully and/or properly because a third party site is on a block list. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

What you are missing here, is how users use pictures and video. I cannot speak for Blogger, since I have not used it. But MySpace makes it fairly miserable, from what I can tell, to use uploaded videos or pictures embedded into anything, other than blog posts. And there is no easy way to link to the item in content for anyone else. WordPress does not handle video. The end game is, what YouTube delivers for users of MySpace, Blogger, WordPress, and other blog/social network sites, is the ability to rapidly and easily repost content that someone else found. The other sites do not do that, because their business model is the on-page ad, they do not want to pay for storage and bandwidth and not get ad revenue from it. Which makes a lot of sense. In fact, YouTube's *only possible revenue model* is in-stream ads, which run counter to anything a professional business wants as part of their Web site or Web application. It is not just YouTube, any site that makes it easy to embed their content into you app or site needs to layer ads into the content itself, if it lets you do it with no direct cost. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

There are a number of items here which you are not addressing: * The employer I work for currently is in the majority of the employers I have had over my career, in that they do indeed perform this kind of filtering/blocking. Most companies over a few hundred employees in size do it. So it is not just "my company", it is a huge slice of the workforce. * Users have nearly zero input into IT policy at the vast majority of companys. The only users who usually get listened to are executives and the IT department itself. How many programmers run as local admin, for example, so they can install the software they need, while non-IT workers can't? How many companies have a tiny firewall hole so some VP can check his fantasy football league? * This is not just about TechRepublic. It is not about "you" changing the "bone-headed" IT policies at "my employer". It is about "developers" producing Web site that "everyone" can safely and fully use for work-related purposes behind such a devise, and not have those same users get into trouble. I am simple an example, and so is TechRepublic, since it *is* a work-related site with work-related content that is no longer "safe" for "everyone" to use. * And yes, the blame lies with developers and product managers. The folks who say,"let's stick this on YouTube instead of hosting it on our server and linking to it or embedding a standard media player or whipping up a quickie Flash player." It is not the user's fault that they went to Web site XYZ and suddenly were hitting domain ABC. And it is not the It department's fault that a policy put in place was accidentally triggered by a user who had no idea that it would be triggered. * Sad to say, I must disagree with the idea that these policies are "bone-headed". It is really, really hard to see how the vast majority of the sites like YouTube are work related. Furthermore, many sites and services that are typically blocked (MySpace, Facebook, Web mail, Usenet/Google Groups, etc.) are both common escape vectors for company data, as well as common virus infection vectors. While YouTube itself many not be an easy way to leak data out or catch a virus, it is not the only blocked service that people embed or "mashup" with either. J.Ja

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

Just wanted to point out that many blogging sites/apps and social networking sites already support adding images and/or videos directly from your PC. Blogger lets you add images and videos from your PC. Wordpress lets you add images from your PC. MySpace lets you add images and video from your PC.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

So most bloggers are allowed to embed videos which may get you in trouble, but "businesses" have a different set of requirements. What if that blog has valuable info that would help you at work? It's OK for them to embed a YouTube video? Maybe you should put some of your energy into challenging/improving your company's web policy (which is the real problem here) instead of assigning blame to others who have no control over what your company determines to be inappropriate.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

Honestly, how do you expect sites to keep up with everyone else's IT policies? You want YouTube blocked. Someone else may want certain ad server or cookies blocked. Someone else might want images or JavaScript blocked. You are pointing the finger outward at the sites instead of pointing at your IT department and their policy where the blame truly lies. If you're going to a site for a work-related issue and they're going to ding you if it has a YouTube video in it, you need to deal with that internally. We're never going to be able to solve the problem of bone-headed IT policies for you.

Justin James
Justin James

Sadly, *flying* toasters are copyrighted, and possibly patented too. ;) J.Ja

mattohare
mattohare

I didn't get nearly that lucky. I had to settle for tasmanian devils, dodgy, amature music videos, loyalist bon fires, and the like. I'm going back to Youtube for those toasters. Do they fly too?

Justin James
Justin James

You've also hit (a number of times now) upon the other half of this, which is the user's right to choice. It is not just that they get logged (which I also have seen done; some IT departments establish a baseline of what "average" browsing looks like, and closely monitor those users who falls outside the "normal" range). It is that the hapless user never had a *choice* in the matter. The user went to a page a domain XYZ. They chose that, and knew that domain XYZ was "OK" in IT's eyes, business related, and that the boss did not mind them looking at XYZ at work. And then, without their knowledge, domain ABC is being pulled from, and the user *knew* that ABC was not OK, that they would get in trouble, and that the boss would be mad. If there was a link and their browser said "ABC" in the link destination, they would have waited until they got home. But because XYZ embedded content from ABC, the user lost their choice in the matter. Like I've mentioned earlier, I have stopped viewing TechRepublic at my job (and there are items on TechRepublic that would be useful to me), because there are so many widgets on this site, I cannot know for sure that I am abiding by my company's policies by visiting this site. Sad, isn't it? J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Yup, it will block the video. This renders any type of content in which the video is crucial to the presentation useless. Furthermore, many of these filters actually flagged the user's account, and record their attempt to access blocked content. That means that a hapless person is ringing up strikes against them in their IT department's logs. For bloggers... who ever said anything about bloggers? Bloggers on their little LiveJournal sites can use YouTube, no problem in my book. I am talking about commercial ventures. If your Web site is monetized and it is a business, then you should not be using YouTube (after all, my post was titled "Your mashups can get your users in hot water", not "your blog can get your readers in hot water"). It is simply a combination of common sense and good business practice. Why anyone would hand over distribution rights to anyone (particularly Google, the Internet's biggest parasite) is beyond me, and then turn around, and put that same content on their own site with a third party's ads on it. In other words, bloggers are one thing, and I am talking about a completely different group of people: professional Web site designers, developers, people who are truly doing business on the Web. Indeed, I actually do count *some* bloggers in that, like the Daily Kos or the blogs on newspapers, or the blogs on TechRepublic; in the case where a blog is a real business, it needs to be treated as such on the IT end of things. The real reason why YouTube is so popular, is muchly due to the overwhelming garbageware-ness of blogging software, particularly WordPress. If WordPress & MySpace had a simple "insert a picture/video from my PC into this entry" feature that did the embed for the user, YouTube, Flickr, and the like would be cut to a minute portion of their current traffic nearly instantly. What YouTube offers is two things: * Makes it easy to do the embed, because it has the copy/paste code to stick it into less full features systems like WordPress and MySpace. * Allows the people hosting the WordPress and social networks to not worry about the storage for all of those videos of dancing toasters. For an actual business, embedding against YouTube contains virtually zero value. If hosting a few hundred MB of video breaks your storage and bandwidth budgets, your business is in dire straits indeed. J.Ja

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

Well, I don't know about Justin, but I have a problem with some of the mashups in combination with content filtering systems. Basically all of the content filtering systems I know of don't just filter the content. They actually log your network ID and that you tried to pull content from YouTube (for example). It doesn't matter if you went to a page that embeds the YouTube content in it or whether you typed in the YouTube URL yourself -- the filtering software logs the event just the same. If you happen to work for a company where going to YouTube is grounds for being fired, that nice filtering sofware log will finger you quite readily the next time a report is run. So, work for the right (or maybe the wrong) company and going to a page that has an embedded YouTube video could get you fired. Is that right? Nope. But in certain companies it is reality. This is one reason I prefer to see any external content as a link on a page and not embedded in the page itself. Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy or whatever, but I prefer to at least try and watch out for my fellow worker-drones. If they know its safe to go to YouTube, they can use the link. If they know it isn't, and they click on the link anyway, it's their own fault.

Justin James
Justin James

I never like to gamble, to be honest. Now, taking a fool's money is something else. Like all of the times in the 90's where I would call someone I knew as the Super Bowl was wrapping up and ask him if he was willing to bet on the Bills next year, that was a sure $50 every January. :) But I do know what you mean, the bidding can be exciting. There is a great story about it in "Influence: Science and Practice", regarding the bidding on "The Posidon Adventure" TV film. It was the first time the Big 3 bid for the rights to a film in an open auction, instead of sealed bid. The film sold for something like 3 times what anyone estimated they should have paid for it, including the networks themselves. Afterwards, one network made a policy of never bidding on open auction again. J.Ja

mattohare
mattohare

Odd thing of that time, it was almost like a mix of a gambling buzz and an ale buzz. It went well, it felt great. My stats looked great and all. Once I stopped spending money, though, it seemed I was worse off than before I did the whole thing. I still feel the need to drop Adsense full stop (not getting anywhere near a cheque) and focus more on Amazon. At least there, I can exercise a strong control as to what appears on my pages.

Justin James
Justin James

I manage the ad campaigns for a few small businesses, and I can tell you, they universally despise Google. The "AdSense" program (the ads on other sites) seems to do nothing but draw "Click for rupees" clicks, drain the budget, put the ads on inappropriate Web sites, and waste time being managed. Even the "AdWords" program (sponsored search results) is tough, there is always some "new kid on the bidding block" with a big budget that drives the prices up. They are paying about 5 times as much per click on Google as they do through Overture/Yahoo! or MSN's ad program and the clicks are of about equal quality (in terms of a click becoming a "positive action" by the user). After all, it is not like Google users have more money or better business sense than Yahoo! users. Yes, you reach a broader market, but with a market the size of Internet search users, $30 every few months seems a lot better than $30/month with Google, and that budget often gets blown out by 2 or 3 PM each day. Google could easily take $60/month for this particular company, and that is *after* they dropped the words that were $0.50 2 years ago and now are $5.00 minimum just to be at the bottom. No sir, for the last few years, Google has been quite a "bad actor" to deal with, as far as I am concerned. They treat their paying customers like commodity vendors. Heck, I treat my cell phone provider and my ISP better than Google treats their customers, and I can walk away from those contracts any day I feel like it. J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

they'd gotten infected with a dialer program, they kept disconnecting it when they noticed it, and it connected for almost an hour while they were out. The idiot got infected with the same dialer eight times in two weeks. In the end I got them to switch to a low band adsl service and removed their modem, the bleeding dialer program had an interesting hernia trying to find the modem after that. As i said, an idiot, never updated virus signatures, and kept visiting suspicious sites. I got fed up with them bitching about my charges and stopped dealing with them. It ain't worth it when you come away having done a good job and feeling angry.

mattohare
mattohare

I bought shares in my cell company. *chuckle*

Justin James
Justin James

... some personal experience talking! I look forwards to the first phone bill after my first child figures out how to call those, without figuring out that they cost money... when me & my mom had that talk, it was for a $300 phone bill for me calling BBS's. Did not know that "local" and "in the same area code" were not the same... J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and they charge per 30 seconds or part thereof - now that's nice to get.

Justin James
Justin James

... get your own 900 number (the kind used by telephone psychics) and get 99 cents for every minute that they talk to you on the phone for? J.Ja

mattohare
mattohare

When I complete such things for phone numbers, I give them my UK or Irish mobile number. From the states, the price is between $0.25 and $1.30 depending on their long distance service. You're right. Let them pay. I can check my voicemail by web, and delete the messages as so much unwanted spam. *chuckle*

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