R. Fink | DOD's site ban could miss bigger picture

The Packet Rat

Packet Rat

packet rat illustration by Michael J. Bechetti

'Well, it looks like the Defense Department doesn't want to be sociable anymore,' the Rat snickered as he read of DOD's decision to block 13 social-networking Web sites. A couple of sites you may know, MySpace and YouTube, are among those now verboten on DOD networks.

Sure, these sites qualify as 'entertainment,' and are a major bandwidth drag. The traffic created by a Saturday Night Live digital short video alone is more than enough to bring some wide-area networks to their knees. And the Rat has blocked many of the same sites from his own networks to keep his virtual private networks from becoming clogged with clips of cats flushing toilets.

Of course, bandwidth isn't the only reason to block Web 2.0 sites from work. There is, after all, the small matter of why it's called 'work.' Before he added it to the blocked-sites list, the wirebiter found that some of his less chronologically advanced minions spent much of their time joining Facebook groups with names such as 'I graduated, and now I facebook from work,' and 'If 10,000 people join, Clinton Greiner will go naked to traffic court.'

Sure, operational security is important. But for family member content, you'd think they'd get a clue.

Now, it could be argued that many of the applications being blocked by DOD actually work more reliably than Defense's own social Web applications, such as those on Army Knowledge Online. AKO is supposed to provide military families a way to reach loved ones. But free services such as YouTube offer more storage ' and better performance ' when it's time to show that home movie clip somewhere across the globe.

'You're not saying there's some conspiracy here, are you, Dear?' the cyberrodent's spouse asked.

'Oh no, hardly. It's just that it's obvious that they're going the wrong way here. Sure, operational security is important, so posting stuff from Iraq or something would be bad. But for family-member content, you'd think they'd get a clue.'

Although the AKO site, which is to become the basis for the Defense Knowledge Online gateway to all of DOD at some point soon, is certainly a wonder of Web technology ' and certainly less infamous than the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project in terms of performance ' it hardly has the resources of a YouTube or a Flickr to serve up massive amounts of content. And the site certainly can't provide its services to taxpayers at the price of those commercial sites: free.

'So why don't you let your users access those sites?' Mrs. Rat inquired, smelling hypocrisy.

'Oh, simple,' the Rat replied. 'I don't send my users overseas for long periods.
They get to go home to their families and friends every day. And nobody's shooting at them ' at least, not at the ones who aren't commuting from Baltimore.'

On the other hand, if some Web 2.0 company wants to provide the Rat with a free agency portal, he might be willing to reconsider his morals.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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