Your Shout! Whose sex is it anyway?

Sex has been prominent among the matters on readers' minds of late. In particular, the issue of whether employers...

Sex has been prominent among the matters on readers' minds of late. In particular, the issue of whether employers should sack staff for taking a peek at erotica on the Internet during working hours.

Here are some of the emails we've received in response to Simon Moores' piece on the subject.

"A major point about all this is: What is porn? And can you back that up in front of a tribunal?

After all, show any large, mixed group of people an image and ask them if it is art or pornography and you are going to get a split. It is a split that is further antagonised by having it described in employment contracts and staff handbooks as 'inappropriate content'.

Inappropriate to what and to whom? After all, we have heard rumblings from the government that Web connections should be made available to employees for personal use, so you can't claim it is inappropriate in terms of it being unrelated to work, and it comes back to it being a subjective choice.

After all, how is a poor Web-browsing employee expected to guess at the tastes of their employer? It just won't hold water as a justifiable case for dismissal, as the employer would be claiming that staff should have to guess if something will be inappropriate to somebody else - before they see it! That wouldn't hold water at an industrial tribunal.

I fear that the only way to enforce this is if the images are e-mailed or shown deliberately to a co-worker with a clearly identifiable intent to harass or embarrass, otherwise a sacking could put the employer up against the wall in front of a tribunal."

Ian Brown

"The receipt of porn is unavoidable and preventing the rarer cases of windows suddenly sprouting from an innocuous link are difficult. So surely the case should be that a firm lays down a policy that if staff receive porn in their mail, then it is immediately deleted and not forwarded on to their jokelist etc.

And if the 'porn storm' occurs, then there is a separate email box, eg. [email protected] The hyperlink to the original site is copied into a mail and sent to this box. This can then be checked should HR become involved and the individual absolved.

If the correct policies are in place then the individual should carry the can for their own actions. This could follow along the same rules as Health and Safety where everybody's safety or 'reputation' lies in everybody's hands. I know it's an ideal...but it might just work."

Nick Caton

If I pay for the hardware, the software, the connection and the staff salaries, I decide what is permissible. I cannot see why anyone should have a problem with that."

David Walker

Of ignorance and e-government
Before anyone gets the idea that readers are obsessed with sex, let's pass quickly to e-mails on to the almost as thorny subject of e-government in response to another Thought for the day piece by Simon Moores

"E-government, like education, the health service and policing, is administered by people who do not understand it and, like the others, will go absolutely nowhere. The Civil Service does not have the nuts and bolts experience to make a success of any project and is interested only in perpetuating itself.

Nothing will change, of course, because government is all about you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."

Cyril Smith

"E-government is an agenda that needed implementing. Although it will have many more pilots and failed projects, in the scope of its overall objectives it will be cost effective and allow government, national and local, to be at least seen to have a more open-door policy to the citizen.

If the projects are carried out by competent project managers and IT managers from councils that understand the objectives, we will find that costs will fall and the failed projects will become fewer and fewer.

Too many companies are trying to jump on the bandwagon without an understanding of the differences between the commercial sector and the public sector, so instead of having the e-government agenda at the root of their projects, they have money."
Paul Bliss

Is .net the answer?
Ovum analyst Gary Barnett's enthusiasm for Microsoft's Web services technology was clearly not shared by everybody.

"Gary Barnett makes some bold claims, but fails to back up any of these with facts. That Visual Studio is a good IDE for developing Web services is irrelevant. Enterprise application decisions are not based on IDEs.

Microsoft has not even shipped its .net Server yet. As for J2EE, here's a secret that many advocates of Web services don't want anyone to realise: J2EE already provided all the tools for Web services before they were called Web services.

Sun has provided a Web Services SDK,which can be easily downloaded from, but it just wraps a bow around technologies that have been available for more than three years now: XML, RMI, JNDI, HTTP, etc.

If you want more integrated packages, Oracle 9i Jdeveloper is one of many Java IDEs to provide wizards for automating the creation of Web Services. Oracle and BEA also make nice portal products that provide sophisticated ways to tie Web Services together in a consistent manner.

This is something that Microsoft has not addressed because of its refusal to work with non-Microsoft technologies, although there are third-party products like Plum Tree that aid in creating portals using the .net platform.

Sun and others may have been slow to respond to .net, but that was probably because Microsoft didn't introduce anything they didn't already have.

Web services are more of a marketing term than a technological one, and it is part of a marketing campaign that Microsoft is indeed in the lead."

Michael Galpin

"Who cares anyway? Less than 2% of businesses are bothering with Web services at all, according to reports in Computer Weekly over the past few weeks.

Web services are nothing but hype, promoted mainly by Microsoft, in its search for the Holy Grail of continuing revenue streams to replace the stagnating new PC business.

Anyone who wants to buy into .net, given the current state of play regarding security and stability, should think twice."

Mike Mitchell

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