Friday, November 23, 2007

The I.T. crowd is scared

The IT Crowd There's something in the air:

Open University mailboxes are overflowing (when the system works)

Stuart Lee describes "The hidden dangers of Web 2.0"

David Hobson, Managing Director of UK-based security company GSS has banned social sites during office hours

and Niall Sclater, Director of the OU VLE Programme, comes to blows with Tony Hirst at the CETIS Conference.


  1. Why do you think we are scared? Is it not our duty to point out hidden pitfalls in some systems that users need to be aware of? That is not the same as saying don't use them, or that they are not worth using and offer no benefits. Far from it, we make a big play of drawing peoples' attention to these free and very valuable systems and how they might want to use them. We just point out that there are certain things they may want to consider to be on the safe side. Similarly, we may say to people having a large database of information on people is a good idea for data analysis, however posting it out on CDs using bog-standard courier/postal services is not a very good idea (especially including the password on a piece of paper in the same envelope). That doesn't make us scared of Royal Mail though.

  2. Thanks for commenting Stuart. You're quite right that in educational establishments (of all places), educating users into the hidden pitfalls of web 2.0 services is very important, but it needs to be balanced by educating them of the benefits too. I'm sure this doesn't apply to Oxford, but in many other universities, and certainly in schools, the High Priests (Sys Admins) still take a "Just say No" approach to enabling users. The reason this is a problem is that this approach is doomed to fail. The game has changed, and users will vote with their feet. Some years ago when a certain university in the east midlands ;-) abandoned support for Macintoshes, I voted with mine and now simply use them as an ISP (so long and thanks for all the bandwidth). Increasingly, I'm relying on Gmail rather than my university account, and I can't persuade many of my first year students to use their university email accounts at all. (And our email service is rather good compared with, say, that of a well-known UK university with a large number of distance learning students ;-)
    The I.T. crowd are no longer The Guardians of the Gates as far as computing resources are concerned. It's all gone a bit miscellaneous. Students roll up with their own (wireless) laptops and expect to keep using the same accounts they've been using before. Compare that with the situation 10 years ago, and if you want to remain relevant, start taking an education rather than a policing role.