Wednesday, September 12, 2012

O, tiny victory (Part 1)

In which our heroine teeters on the brink of depravity

For a moment there, I was a villain. It was ever so brief, like a speck of ash that lodges in your eye and scrapes across your vision like an evil scheme of world domination before it is jettisoned out by tear duct and eyelash, only to flutter away harmlessly like yesterday’s junk mail. Yes, it was exactly like that, only faster and not so overwritten.

Snarkinator was blocked by my company’s firewall. Banned! Censored! Not safe for work!

Here’s what I saw:

That’s right, bitchez: Potentially Damaging Content. Omigodhowawesome. My site is salacious, it is taboo. My site has angered The Man. My site is risqué and outré and other words that sound exciting and French. My site… cannot be seen by my readers.

Gah. I have been smashed flat by the tides of history before I have even spread my wings. How do I fix this? How do I convince Websense that my blog is a national treasure, a cultural outpost of meaningful commentary on our social razor’s edge?

Websense is responsible for that robotic face-slap of a warning above. The company’s web-filtering software runs in the background of many corporate IT systems, preventing employees from reading neo-Nazi message boards and downloading amputee porn. It also occasionally blocks me from reading what I’m sure would be an informative and enlightening article on

Why? Because web-filtering software utilizes an ice-cold automated algorithm downloaded directly from the Borg collective. It does not see you or your funny CafePress mousepad. It does not see the hilarious picture of Mr. FooFooCat that you need to post on Facebook. It does not see the arty and slightly obscene music video that will buoy you through another workday. It does not see your secret pleasures, your cheap thrills, your need to creep slowly ever upward toward the light.

It sees only permissions violated, security compromised, malicious intent. It sees only that inappropriate photo from your trip to Cabo San Lucas and the resulting lawsuit that will cost your company its spot on the Hot Stocks to Watch list.

I turned to Google for help, or at least commiseration. The jumbled tides of misspelled queries and useless information washed over me until, finally, I floated onto the battered beachhead of a message board. And there it was, the clue I needed.

Bells rang. Angels sang. Sam Spade tipped his hat and walked off into the smoky, shadowed night.

For here I found an explanation: Apparently, the Potentially Damaging category is sometimes assigned to sites that are deemed to have “no useful content.”

I had pushed the launch button too soon, you see. Fumbling through the back end of a free blogging service that is popular, user-friendly, and about as easy to comprehend as a NASA satellite tech manual, I had accidentally published my blog with nothing on it but the tag line: “Like a cosmic death ray. But with words.”

And there it sat for upwards of 24 hours, luring web-filter bots like a skinnydipper in a shark movie. It was inevitable that the great roving eye of the Internet would find it, and mark it, and judge it. No useful content.

I was so screwed.

Electrolux Death Ray sculpture by Greg Brotherton -
Websense knows there's no such thing as a cosmic death ray, right?

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