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We don’t need no chat control

Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information Technology bans messenger programs and access to orkut. And they have no satisfactory answer why!

Firewalls and Proxies exist in just about every college in India. It’s all fine when the “restricted content” is blocked by these firewalls but then, what danger do the authorities see in allowing Instant Messengers (IM) in campuses?

They say that students get addicted to it and start bunking classes. But, can they ever get the “chatting” worm away from today’s youth – I don’t think so. Who does not want to connect?

A huge pool of resources exists on the Internet which allows such proxies to be overridden – the more popular amongs these include Freedom, JAP, HTTP Tunnel, and TOR. Several sites have JSP and AJAX versions of these messengers like the e-messenger.net and the recent meebo.com, which has become popular in a short time.

Many offices across India too ban IMs. But the authorities don’t realise that people get a ‘rush’ by breaking imposed restrictions. The more these authorities block IMs, more people will use such techniques to bypass the restrictive methods.

If everything else fails, students resort to ‘scrap chatting’ over Orkut (the latest fad across any campus/office in India which promises to build and improve social relations). Little do authorities realize that page loads of Orkut are way too heavy on the bandwidth than IMs. Recently, cases have come up where even Orkut was banned. When this happened at my campus last summer, there was a furore amongst the students. Ultimately the authorities had to cave in to the demand to have it unblocked.

A recent email from the head of IT committee had to say this to students at my institute – As no academic / extra curricular/ institutional requirement can be served by opening the chat / messenger in hostels; the current official practice of blocking chat / messenger in the hostels will continue. Is the word ‘social’ missing here?

Here’s why the college thinks blocking IMs is justified…
In the three years you spent in DA-IICT, how many times, and on what occasions, and for what benefit, you have engaged yourself in interaction with your friends / batchmates in other institutions?

How many times, during your stay in DA-IICT, you actively participated in projecting DA-IICT to the outside world? In any case, if you are interested in this activity, are you aware of other media to do the same, and have you tried to explore those options?

Are you aware of any technological institute (and professional body) which offers free chat facility from the organizational resources?

What knowledge are you failing to acquire (if you are interested in acquiring them) because the said facility is not provided?

If chat is so important for your existence, would not you think of chatting by other means (like, for example, what you do to get a book when its not available in resource center) rather than demanding the resource from somebody else?

Would, opening the chat server, could enlighten you about improving your written communication skills (language, spelling and intention)?

Are you aware of any case where, an ICT student could not keep pace with the world, just because that student was refused access to internet chat servers (free of cost) from the cozy shelter of his/her hostel rooms?

A fitting reply to these was again sent, but to no avail. Instances were given that institutes like IITs and BITS do not have such restrictions on IMs but the authorities turned a deaf ear to our pleas. With Orkut also getting blocked [ref point (f)], what do students do? Infosys maintains a time based policy – IMs allowed after 17.30 hrs – Why can’t such policies be introduced in education institutions?

Corporate houses like TCS have gmail blocked because the conversations on it are fast, chat like and organized in a conversation view. Now after gmail has introduced chatting withing the browser, I fear – someday it will also be added to the “blocked” list.

Till such a day, students and office goers do their best to either use alternatives, or break through the firewalls and proxies to socialize with the world – after all, Man is a social animal.

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