Web Filters & Blogs: A Workaround to Stay Informed

The rise of social networking has led to a proportional crackdown in access to social networks from corporate networks. The problem comes when services create an overly broad category for “social” sites and start to block content that you need to access for your work. By the time you’ve wasted time creating a business case for every blog that you read, you could have ice skated to Fiji and back. Here is one way to grease the skids of your information management!

RSS Reader Bypasses Filter

It’s really not a big secret.  Use a Web-based RSS reader at a site that is NOT blacklisted or banned and suck the RSS feeds from the banned sites into the reader.  So, for example, if you use iGoogle, it is unlikely that your company is blocking all access to Google.com.  If they are, stop reading because you have bigger problems!!

The filter will see that you are going to Google.com, see that it is allowed, and let the site through.  At iGoogle, you can then add RSS feeds from sites that might otherwise be on banned locations.  Now, I’m not talking about controversial content.  But when a Web filter blocks all blogs at Blogspot.com, without differentiating between one on the practice of law or legal information and another on the best bars in Brooklyn, then there’s a good business rationale for pulling in these feeds.

The trouble I had was the old “chicken and egg” issue.  I’ve got a site that is blocked but if I can just get to the RSS feed, I can access it through my reader.  But the feed is blocked too.  Fortunately, unless you’ve got a lot of weird sites blocked (at which point you might rethink whether you’re really using your RSS reader for the right purpose), this is pretty straightforward.

File Names and Google Cache

For example, if you are going to follow a feed at a Blogspot site, you can just add /rss.xml to the end.  So http://cincinnatilaw.blogspot.com has an rss feed at http://www.cincinnatilaw.blogspot.com/rss.xml.  Typepad accounts are a bit harder, and you have to dig a bit further.  First, Google the blog you want to follow.  Hopefully, below the search result, will be a Cached link.  This allows you to see the site from the Google cache, which also bypasses your Web filter.  Scroll down the cached page until you see links to other blog posts on the blog you want – the URL in that link is the one you need.  So, for example, I wanted to follow Susan Cartier Liebel’s Build a Solo Practice blog:

http://susancartierliebel.typepad.com.

Her blog postings are at

http://susancartierliebel.typepad.com/build_a_solo_practice/

and when you append /rss.xml to it, you can add her RSS feed:

http://susancartierliebel.typepad.com/build_a_solo_practice/rss.xml

 

Is it convoluted?  Sure.  But information is like a river and bureaucratic filtering is like a wee piece of straw trying to hold back the flow.  There is a lot of information that business users should not be accessing during work hours but if the Web filtering systems are not refined enough to enable the right granularity of access, then business users need to find ways to stay on top of their information.

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