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Your Blog Is Not Seen by Over 2 Million Federal Workers!

This guest post is by Rick of www.morebettersmarts.com.

Filtering software may be blocking your blog from being accessed on government computers.

When I first put my blog online, I discovered that my friends on the local military base were prevented from viewing it by the government’s filtering service, Blue Coat.

As none of my posts contained any questionable content, I was interested to find out why my blog was blocked. More importantly, as there are literally millions of federal workers worldwide, I wanted to ensure blog was seen by this audience.

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While this information pertains specifically to the Blue Coat filtering service, it no doubt applies to other filtering agencies. Blue Coat just seems to be one of the more popular services used by the Department of Defence (DoD) and other government agencies.

Also note the information provided isn’t a way to circumvent the filtering service. The method used is perfectly legal, and I worked through Blue Coat to get it resolved.

The problem

When my friends on the military base attempted to access my blog, a very official-looking page popped up with the heading, “ACCESS DENIED.” Further down the page explained that my site was blocked as its “Webfilter Category” was classified as “Blogs/Personal Pages.”

The page also included specific information about contacting the Blue Coat Webpage Review Site if there were any problems. That link is: http://sitereview.bluecoat.com/sitereview.jsp

Clicking the link took me to a simple form that allowed me to enter my URL to see how my blog was categorized. I entered my site name, and clicked Check Rating. Sure enough, my site was classified as Blogs/Personal Pages, and was thus blocked by the DoD computers.

The fix

In addition to seeing your site’s category, the review page also provides a form that you can use to easily request a review of your site. This is how you go about getting it reclassified.

There were several dozen categories to choose from via a drop-down menu, and I was initially unsure of which to choose. However, Blue Coat allows you to enter the name of any site to review, so I looked at a couple of blogs that I patterned mine after, to see how they were classified.

Several of these were classified as Reference, so I decided to use this category. I also checked with my friends on the military base that the sites using this classification could be accessed. They verified this, so I was good to go.

I selected “Reference” from the drop-down menu, and didn’t bother with the optional second category. In the comments, I wrote:

www.morebettersmarts.com has the stated mission of “Providing practical wisdom to improve your life and work, home, and play.” The site provides articles on health and fitness, public speaking, life hacks, and productivity. The site is currently listed as Blogs/Personal Pages, but should be classified as Reference. Thank you for your review.

I then clicked the box asking the results be sent to me via email, selected Blue Coat ProxySG as the filtering service, clicked the Submit for Review button, and crossed my fingers.

The actual review process only took a few hours, and I received an email stating my site was now reclassified as Reference. However, it took around 24-48 hours for the government servers to catch up to this change. After that, my blog was made available to several million federal workers. Now only if it would be viewed by several million federal workers, I could probably blog full-time…

A few issues

Of course, your site could also fall under one of the many other classifications regularly blocked by filtering software. For example, if your site is categorized as Political or Entertainment, it will most likely continue to be blocked, so you’re probably out of luck.

Additionally, a note you’ll see all over the Blue Coat site is the filtering service doesn’t decide which sites are filtered. It’s up to the agency or company to make this determination. For example, if the federal government wanted to allow sites classified as Blogs/Personal Pages, there wouldn’t have been an issue.

If you’re new to blogging, there’s a good chance your site is classified as a blog by these filtering services. Hopefully, this quick and legal fix will open your site to a great new source of traffic.

Rick is the owner/author of ‘More Better Smarts,’ supplying practical wisdom to help improve your life at work, home, and play. Visit Rick at www.morebettersmarts.com.

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Comments

  1. Glen Allsopp says:

    Always nice to see some out of the box thinking.

    Thanks for this :)

  2. Keith Brown says:

    Great suggestion, I just completed this process for one of my blogs. Sure enough it was classified the same as yours.

    The one thing you failed to mention is traffic increases, have you seen any? This also made me think about other similar services that might block certain websites that have WP/Joomla/Drupal templates…

    Might be useful to gather a list of the largest services so people can ensure their blog is accessed by the greatest amount of people worldwide.

    • Rick says:

      My blog is just starting out, so traffic increases are minimal.

      Though I did see a nice spike when this article was posted :)

      Rick

      • Keith Brown says:

        Just an update on this, the original denied my request but forwarded it to another “department” for further review. The second person that reviewed my site placed it under news/forum as well as reference. Thanks again for the suggestion, and remember to be as detailed as possible in your request!

        Also, please don’t everybody at once spam this process. This is a good tip and shouldn’t be exploited unfairly by everyone reading this post. If your website isn’t useful to the general public, it probably still should be blocked :)

  3. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for posting this. I had no idea such a service was available to check site ratings. What did you select for the “Filtering Service” option? There are 15 options. Will I need to re-classify for each option?

    • Jennifer says:

      I’m not sure if it is needed, but I also submitted my subdomains used for Content Delivery. It stands to reason if site has mixed-content sources, the “uncategorized” servers possibly won’t be shown.

    • Rick says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      For the filtering option, I checked the ‘ProxySG,’ as this is the filter used on the local military base.

      Rick

  4. Hi Rick,
    This is good stuff. I would venture to guess that many office workers including Federal spend time during their day surfing the web. I will make sure that my site is also available for them to view.

  5. Just as with any company, it’s up to management to decide what gets blocked and what gets seen, but I have to admit it feels a little overbearing how tight the filtering is set.

    We’re supposed to be a free and confident people but we don’t let our federal workers read opinion pieces or political sites on their lunch break? At the risk of being overdramatic, sounds more like North Korea.

    Thanks for letting us know about this.

  6. Shashank says:

    This is brilliant stuff. Seriously, I applied for my site right away. Thanks Rick!

  7. Steve Scott says:

    Rick,

    Great way to get around the block that .gov puts on a lot of sites. Having spent some time in the military the servers there block quite a bit, so this can really narrow the field and give you access to a lot of people who have a lot less choice.

  8. Thanks for the tip Rick,

    I was aware of the Blue Coat filter but never considered requesting a re-clasification. Several of my sites relate to US military discounts and the newer/smaller sites were blocked as Blogs/Personal Pages.

    My primary site is has always been allowed by the filter and is classified as Travel. I just submitted my #2 site for reclassification.

    Great info thanks!

  9. Gregory C. says:

    Wow, thank you for pointing this out! Creative idea for a post and really important stuff.

  10. Lela says:

    Thanks for this information. I never wold have suspected regular websites would be blocked. Thanks also for the information on how to get it view.

    Excellent information. A very unique post. I haven’t heard anyone bring this up before.

  11. A. Tatum Jr says:

    What branch was it? I’ve never heard of Blue Coat? Been in now 17 years.

  12. Mike Avon says:

    Thank you very much for this great info. I have no idea before about this. My blog is categorized in “Computers/Internet”. can it be accessed by most of internet users?

  13. Great insight! And it’s good news for small businesses that run a blog as well (like mine). If you have your blog installed in a sub-directory, then it should use your entire site contents to determine the classification of your site, helping your domain avoid the “blogs/personal page” category in the first place.

  14. Luke says:

    Thank you. I was unaware of this and found it very helpful.

  15. Carolyn says:

    Well, this was probably bad for me. Mine was listed under Restaurants/Dining and I was afraid that would be blocked somewhere.

    Requested it be changed to Education & Reference (which I think it really is) and they categorized it as Blog/Personal Page. Oops!

  16. darkduck says:

    Thanks! My blog was also listed as Blogs/Personal pages. Submitted it for review.

  17. Amrita Priya says:

    Thanks…I have applied for the review but the main problem is that the subheading of my blog has a word called “entertainment”. Now I am keeping my fingers crossed to see what the review report is.