On a recent day off, I took a moment to stop by at the workplace of an acquaintance. He’s one of the IT guys at a local business that has customers there for a long period of time at a stretch1. He knew I was interested in both customer service and IT stuff, so he started telling me about how they “improved” the free wifi there.
“We used Websense2 originally to start blocking content that might be offensive – like racist sites, or porn.” But, he said, it didn’t stop there. “My boss was really concerned with bandwidth and speed, and making sure that customers were able to get what they wanted.”
As more devices started using wifi – and people started using it more – his boss started using Websense to block a lot more, all in the service of keeping bandwidth and connectivity open for customers. First he blocked YouTube. Then Vimeo. Then Pandora, DI.fm, and even I[heart]Radio.
“Look,” he told me, “try to open your website on your phone.” Blocked – because it was ‘unclassified’.
“Well,” I told him, “they can’t review every site. They’re trying to-“
“Try to take a turn in Hanging With Friends.” No luck. “It worked up until last week,” he said. “I found out it was blocked when a customer complained.”
“But still, it’s a game, and maybe the bandwidth is prohibitive.”
His eyebrows lowered. “Check in on Foursquare.”
I couldn’t. Even though my phone was connected – I could reach Google, it wasn’t blocked – I couldn’t check into Foursquare. At least, not until I disconnected from their wifi.
As soon as I was getting information from the phone network, I was easily able to check in at Foursquare.
The comments? “Wifi here sucks.” “Don’t bother with the censored wifi.” “They want me to wait but won’t let me connect to anything. FAIL.”
My friend’s boss had “solved the problem”, all right.
It’s important to remember that if we are going to offer a service – like wifi, or media support in SL, or eBooks – that we can’t do it part of the way and think we’re done.
I does not matter what we – as creators and business owners – think we are achieving. All our customers are going to see is that they can’t get to YouTube, can’t rez their prims, or can’t get your eBook to load on their reader.
And they will simply blame you.
1 Usually 1-3 hours at a time. Details of the business obfuscated to protect the acquaintance.
2 I did not take the opportunity to educated him on how supporting those companies indirectly supports oppressive governments.