Online discussion woes

I never made it onto that live online discussion the other day. After thinking that the access problem was due to using Firefox 2.0 on a Mac, I went down the hall and got onto one of our aging WinXP machines and used Internet Explorer. Still no dice. It turns out that my college’s firewall was preventing me from reaching the discussion site. I’m not familiar with all the network jargon, but the discussion site used port 888 and the firewall was preventing me from reaching it. Sure enough, once I went home, I was able to access it just fine from our Mac mini also running Firefox 2.0.

It was a frustrating experience that raised some questions for me.

  1. I can buy that the purpose of having a firewall that strict is to prevent the spread of viruses to the campus network. But does this have to mean that I must get special permission from the network admin people to do the scholarship I am trying to do?
  2. Why on earth didn’t the people hosting the discussion set up a time and/or place, well in advance of the discussion, to have users sign on and make sure there are no access problems? From years of using technology in the classroom, I’ve learned that you MUST try everything out well in advance of the actual use of the technology, to scout out and fix any potential problems. It’s baffling that in this instance, the tech people on the other end basically expected everything to work right the first time. That NEVER happens.
  3. Why on earth did the people hosting the discussion do so using proprietary homegrown software instead of making use of something already out there, like even just a Yahoo group? And why do they list “Windows XP using Internet Explorer” in the tech requirements — and no other OS’s or browsers — when in fact the discussion board works fine on other configurations, and then act like it’s my OS and browser that are the problem when I call tech support?

Seriously, it’s enough to make me want to go into IT or educational technology just to get on the ground level in applying some common sense to situations like this.


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