An Update on the Image Wall

In the week since we launched The Bloglines Image Wall, it’s certainly garnered its fair share of attention. Some of it we expected or hoped for; some if it, quite the opposite. But having listened to all of it, we think a change–and a little explanation on how we came to it–is in order.

Launching and Learning

As we wrote when we launched, we built the Image Wall as a cool, experimental, demonstration of the diversity of visual content that appears in syndicated feeds at any moment in time. Sure some of the images turn out to be awful, but some turn out to be great art and either way you can instantly see the diversity. We found that to be pretty amazing.

Nevertheless, we recognized that the Image Wall, as a reflection of the feeds in Bloglines (and thus a reflection of the Web itself) would not be appropriate for everyone. We took steps to mitigate the potential offensiveness, but still allow for the fascinating diversity to shine through.

Helping Our Audience Protect Theirs

However, we now realize we didn’t take into proper consideration how the Image Wall might impact educators, librarians and other people who have a responsibility for limiting access to adult material. Many of these good folks are users and even advocates of Bloglines. They form a community that we respect and admire. For them, simply making the personal choice not to view the Image Wall after reading the disclaimer is not sufficient to satisfy their obligations to those they are charged with protecting.

These valid concerns place the Image Wall squarely in the middle of the classic tension between “freedom of expression” and “freedom from expression”. It’s not a tension unfamiliar to libraries, schools (or, for that matter a search company), as each struggles to strike the right balance between access and restriction.

Over the past week, with the help and advice of many of you, we’ve been working to strike that balance for the Image Wall and the users of Bloglines. We feel we’ve found it.

Naming a Solution

Effective today, Bloglines will move the Image Wall to its own, new domain at http://www.bloglinesimagewall.com. Now, any school, library, parent/guardian or third party filtering service can add this full domain to their list of restricted domains to be blocked.

If/when the Image Wall URL is selected by a computer that has blocked http://www.bloglinesimagewall.com the page will NOT appear. It’s that simple. Blocking that domain will not impact the continued use of the Bloglines service.

We believe that those most concerned about access restrictions will have filtering software on their computers, and this change should make it easy to permanently opt-out of the Image Wall for all the computers under their control.

Furthermore, to better ensure that the Image Wall is appropriately restricted, we have contacted each of the major filtering services and asked that http://www.bloglinesimagewall.com be added to their list of adult websites. We ask those of you who belong to this community assist us in getting the word out to anyone who should have this information.

Finding the Right Balance – With Your Help

We hope that in making these changes we’ve struck the correct balance between information access and restriction. It has always been our intention to serve everyone who uses and relies on Bloglines, whether they choose to view the Image Wall, or whether, like thousands of educators and librarians, they may wish to restrict the Image Wall to protect those under their responsibility.

We will continue to closely monitor how this solution works out and, as always, your feedback is (and has been) tremendously appreciated.

–The Bloglines Team

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