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Has your Library Card expired?

As I was preparing for what would have been my magnum opus blog entry this week, the firewall on the network provided by the local Directorate of Information Management (DOIM) stopped me dead in my tracks. I was seeking out that one golden nugget to really hammer the nail home on Knowledge Management, but sorry boss, no can do.

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Surely you all have been at that exact moment after you click a link when the web address in your browser changes to that familiar filter warning and the big bold letters “WEB ACCESS DENIAL” come at you like a digital smack to your hand? It appears that the site I wanted to see conflicts with the Access Control List and it was going to take a petition to the network gatekeepers before I was ever going to see that now elusive web page. Come to find out, I am never going to see that site from here. And for some unexplained reason I now wanted to see that website more than I have ever wanted to see a website before.

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So you wonder what sick, perverted, hard drive crashing, virus-riddled and worm-infested web site was I going to, anyway? It was that dastardly Infovark.com, a Enterprise 2.0 innovator who, according to TradeVibes, their products allow you to “build and publish your own personal wiki based on the documents, emails and people that you work with. Infovark unifies and connects people across an organization using automatic tagging, content summaries and comprehensive privacy controls.” Surely we can’t have our soldiers or employees doing any of that around here, that would cause too much chaos, right?

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Now don’t get me wrong, the power and importance of a good network filter is a crossing guard on the information superhighway that protects valuable resources. Whether it be securing vulnerable networks from rouge sites, for metering bandwidth and in controlling users web habits, the access control feature is no laughing matter. According to Websense, a firm who produces these types of gateways, they note that their products can be used to “detect and block proxy avoidance, hacking sites, adult content, botnets, keyloggers, phishing attacks, spyware, and many other types of unsafe content.” Serious business.

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But therein lies the rub, it highlights again that tension between information management and knowledge management, specifically the information assurance side of IM. Knowledge management principles include the belief that people of the organization are generally good so provide them open access to the tools that best allow them to capitalize on the power of emerging technologies. Yet the information assurance arm spends a considerable amount of their time dealing with those few who are not generally good, along with some true rouge elements that make their work of grave importance.

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Time saving or collaboration sites like Twitter, Digg, del.io.us and the like are tools to build social knowledge networks, but banned by some filtering software gateways. I regularly get links through my “official” Army Public Affairs newsletter “Stand To” that are blocked by my work network. There are hundreds of examples many of us encounter in our own day-to-day usage in this wired world, and sometimes we shake our heads in disbelief. And the process to challenge a prohibition is often unexplained or so tenuous that it is easier to look elsewhere for your resource tying up more of your valuable time.

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In this era of rapidly expanding Web 2.0 applications the curators of these access lists must be nimble enough to recognize a site that truly possesses a threat and those that merely connect people in new ways. There needs to be better collaboration between IM and KM experts who can identify the wheat from the chaff and widen access to the network. When Fort North can access a site and Fort South cannot, we as an organization have a standards problems, one that that needs to be corrected most skosh. Meanwhile, I am heading to the library so I can get to that site and finish my project…I hear they have free internet access.