Saturday, 13 December 2008

The next 5000 days of the web

As of Dec 2007, the web was only 5000 days old. There's a mildly interesting talk on TED regarding the next 5000 days. If you have a good broadband connection, the talks on TED are well worth browsing through - they can be a bit hit and miss, but the good ones are really good. Each talk is 10-20 minutes, and the speakers hammer through a topic quickly and they generally provide some thoughtful and interesting insights into whatever it is they are talking about.

The talk that I have linked to, on the next 5000 days of the web, prompted a thought to pop up in my mind. We've spent the last 10-15 years connecting just about every company (public and private) in the western world to the internet. If you go back to say 1995, most companies were not connected - not even for email. Those that were connected might have had a dial-up conenction from a mail gateway, with it dialing up every half hour or so to send and recieve a few messages.

We've come a long way since then.

However, I reckon most company networks are not really "participating" in the web. They are leeches - information goes into them (employees looking for things), but not a lot of content or information goes back out. Very little posting of anything happens from the corporate world. In essence, we have a lopsided web, with information pouring into it from "non-restricted" networks (such as your home network), but very little getting onto it from "restricted" networks (and I am not talking about secrecy here - just that many companies have policies that stop you from doing it at work).

Here is my prediction - if people can do something at home, and you restrict them from doing it at work, they will find a way of doing it at work. They will go around you. If you build a wall around the workplace, someone will soon figure out a way to go over it or under it or through it - perhaps without the company even noticing it is happening. Devices like my very annoying Nokia N95 allow you to post to your blog from your phone, which is one new way of doing it. People can also take private laptops to work with private wireless or broadband connections and do it that way.

I am wondering how long it will take companies to realise this, and how they will react. Will we see policies that attempt to restrict how you use your mobile phone in the workplace (ie, no blogging in meetings?), or will they just give up and go with the flow?

I predict the first option, and legions of nosy new inspectors wandering around the place looking over your shoulder as you work. In this world of evolving technology, there is one constant - the need for some people to snoop on and control the activities of others. Working with arseholes like that for years has turned me into a libertarian of sorts. Watch out for the first unfair dismisal case where someone is fired for blogging on their own phone on company time.

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