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Websense Is Nonsense (And It Thinks This Column Is "Tasteless")

I strolled into work on Monday morning, settled into my swivel chair, turned on my computer and started reading through my morning email. (Cracked pays me VERY generously for my time, but they refuse to comp me for my private jet which, as you can probably imagine, is getting a bit pricey to fuel up these days. As such I've been forced to work a day job lately to make ends meet. It's humiliating, but that's the price you pay to travel in style.) Things were pretty dead around the office, so I poured myself another cup of coffee, pointed my web browser to Cracked.com and got totally psyched to read the first feature article of the week, The 10 Most Delicious-Looking Sandwiches From 80s Movies. Needless to say I was caught completely off guard when this came up on my screen:

Egad, man! I'd been Websensed!

In its own words, Websense is an "industry-leading web filtering solution" that "improves productivity, reduces legal liability, and optimizes the use of IT resources" with "pass-through filtering technology," "dynamic protocol management" and "industry-leading reporting tools." I'm sure that means something to upper management types with yachts and PowerPoint presentations and fancy shirts that actually have buttons on them, but what does it all mean to ME, the average employee who just wants to play some Flash games, read some fart jokes and watch some IcySpicyLeoncie videos on the clock?

Let me sum it all up for you in a nutshell: It means "Websense sucks."

I should point out that Cracked.com is not the only website that Websense considers "Tasteless" - far from it, in fact, and I'm happy to say we're in good company. Dead-baby-joke.com is also in the time-out corner, as is Smellypoop.com and the always-hilarious Poobutton.com (even though it only becomes truly NSFW after you hit the poo button a third time).

But there's all kinds of other things blocked for all kinds of other reasons, too, even if they don't really make much sense. It's odd - I always thought Maxim and FHM were pretty much the same thing: magazines full of half-naked photoshopped babes, gadget reviews and aftershave ads, right? Wrong - Websense blocks FHM.com as "Adult Content," but Maxim.com is perfectly acceptable, as is their current photo feature, 10 Girls That Look Great Oiled Up. Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining about it or anything. I just don't see how oiled up chicks are more appropriate for the workplace than delicious-looking sandwiches that were featured in 80s movies.

And if Websense is so concerned about "Adult Content," then why am I still allowed to do Google Image searches for "adults fucking"? That really seems like it should be considered "Adult Content," doesn't it? Aren't pictures of adults fucking the most "adult" thing there is? And if it's okay to do Google Image searches for "adults fucking," then why is it NOT okay to look at this Photobucket image of a giant Eddie Murphy head with a tiny woman coming out of its ear? That seems way less "adult" than a picture of adults fucking if you ask me. I'm not coming down on you, Websense; I'm just trying to understand.

Let's not get carried away, though - it's not like I spend ALL of my time at work looking at pictures of adults fucking and giant Eddie Murphy heads. Sometimes I go for the normal, run-of-the-mill time wasters, trusty standbys like Best of Craigslist and PopCap.com. Too bad both of those sites are blocked now, too. I guess I'll have to find other ways to amuse myself. You know - like reading the Wikipedia entries for Craigslist and Popcap Games. Then maybe I'll read the Wikipedia entries for "Penis Panic,""Lighting Farts" and "The Mermaid Problem." It's a good thing Wikipedia is so educational. How could you possibly "waste"time reading an ENCYCLOPEDIA, right? That must be why Websense decided that Wikipedia is completely work-appropriate.

So what exactly am I supposed to do now that I can no longer read Cracked.com at work? What do people do when they can no longer enjoy the same freedoms they used to? How do prisoners pass the time within the mind-numbingly prohibitive Federal Penitentiary System? Lifting weights doesn't sound very appealing, nor does carving chess sets out of soap or being the victim of horrifically violent man-on-man rape. I guess that whole improving-yourself-through-education thing sounds pretty alright, but what can I really learn at work? What can I teach myself that Websense will actually allow me to access?

I might not be able to read Cracked.com at work, but I guess I could check out The Anarchist's Cookbook, Howtogrowmarijuana.com, or this handy guide to cooking crack cocaine, which all load on my work computer without any problems and are therefore completely acceptable as far as Websense is concerned. Not that I'm complaining, of course; If I can't spend my afternoon learning which 10 sandwiches in 80s movies were the most delicious-looking, then I might as well spend it learning how to make explosives and illegal controlled substances.

And hey, you know what? If all else fails, I guess I could always spend the entire day writing a scathing rant about how much Websense sucks. That oughta give my productivity a nice healthy shot in the arm.

Whaddya know? The system works.

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Ross Wolinsky

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