Tech

Don’t cross the team tasked with policing the surfing habits of California’s teens

Who, Me? Bid farewell to the weekend with a tale of surfing snoopage and automation rejected in another story from The Register’s Who, Me? files.

We stick with the current century in today’s retelling and skip to the sunny US state of California and a school district with hundreds of thousands of students and teachers.

“A massive behemoth of a school district,” our reader, Regomised as “Gavin”, told us. And a beast to manage.

“The district had numerous issues ranging from students misbehaving online to poor network performance,” he explained. “Since all traffic was backhauled from the schools to a central office and then sent on its merry way, they had a complex environment (made even more complex by those misbehaving students).

“Each school had a network connection to the central office starting with a lowly T-1 link and able to have bandwidth increased as needed.”

This was the mid-2000s, and such internet access was still a bit of a novelty. “Especially to many teachers,” he added. “Students, not as much.”

Ensuring that all that lovely bandwidth, unfettered access to which was enjoyed by the students, was being put to educational use rather than something more nefarious was a bit of a challenge. Certainly, the teachers (who doubtless were barely able to operate a VCR) didn’t have time for it.

So the district had a team whose sole job was assessing requests for more bandwidth and checking that the bulk of the traffic was not as a result of other “recreational” uses.

Enter Gavin and his employer. Their nifty product was able to spot the source and type of traffic. Reports could be spat out showing which schools were using what bandwidth, what applications were using it and so on.

Angry man on laptop. Illustration via Shutterstock

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It would, Gavin said in his best sales mode, “save all sorts of time and money since all those employees who spent their days investigating this stuff could easily be moved to more critical functions, right? Save time and money, make things easier, more reliable, and consistent. It was win-win.”

Except it wasn’t. Gavin had reckoned without the power of the unions (similar to the experience of another reader who attempted to streamline a casino payroll system).

It transpired that those tasked with looking at logs were quite happy in their current roles, thank you, and did not care for some newfangled reporting software making their positions anything other than secure when it came to the dispensing of bandwidth.

The deal was never closed and humans continued to take the lead in studying the traffic generated by the students and deciding if a bandwidth upgrade was in order.

What could possibly have gone wrong with that?

Ever attempted to roll out a whizzy bit of time-saving tech only to run headlong into users more keen on the way things were? Or were you one of those users on the receiving end of a managerial attempt at efficiency? Tell all with an email to Who, Me? ®


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