Research Impaled Me Upon My Own Sword


That’s figuratively impaled by the way, just in case anyone was worried. I’m not currently sat in a pool of blood typing away with a sword stuck in my side, although, that would be a pretty heroic and epic effort. I’m actually talking about the time managed to get myself into a spot of trouble with the office firewalls when attempting to do a bit of research about swords. It seems IT Security systems don’t particularly like the idea of people researching weapons, even in a totally innocent context.

It all started early one Tuesday morning when I’d arrived early at work, at the time I was working in a large office in the city centre, using public transport to travel in and I usually arrived 30-40 minutes early.

Looking for the magic answer

As I had a bit of free time before I needed to start work, I decided to conduct a bit of internet based research for my novel. My particular genre is Fantasy Fiction, I like to think the genre gives me a fair bit of creative license to make stuff up whenever I desire or need to. However there are certain things that need to stay recognisable and relate to the real world, this is where the research comes in. I am humble enough to admit I don’t know everything and I’m probably considered an expert in nothing, so sometimes a bit of research can go a long way. Another point to clarify here is that when I say research, what I actually mean is type into Google and hope for a magic answer.

Anyway on this particular occasion I happened to be writing about a very particular, traditional ceremony and the lead character was about to be centre stage. At the heart of the ceremony is a sword, and this is where I needed more information. I had some ideas of how the sword should look and feel, but I wanted to be able to give the story more depth and believability by making sure the sword was accurately portrayed along the lines of what readers would understand a sword to be like. The problem is I don’t actually know anything about weaponry beyond the fact that guns fire bullets, swords poke holes in people and slice chunks off things and bombs go boom. It’s at times like this, when my knowledge is lacking that I turn to google. It’s like the oracle really you can I ask it anything and it always finds an answer, even if it’s sometimes not the one you’re looking for.

Swords are offensive weapons

I needed to do some research on swords and the different parts that actually make up a sword, like the blade, grip, pommel etc (see I told you I did some research, bet you’re impressed now). I started by typing in the words “Parts of a sword” thinking that a labelled picture would be really useful; however I couldn’t actually get any further. Instead I received an “Access Denied” page along with a message telling me I was forbidden to search the phrase “Parts of a sword”. Ok I’ll have to try something else, how about “how to create a sword” again though it was Access Denied. My first thought was maybe there’s an issue with my internet connection; I figured I’d give it one more try. This time I typed “sword parts labelled” thinking that might be the simplest search I could do, sadly though the computer still said no, it was still access denied. This was rather frustrating but then, Uh oh, upon reading the error message further I realised the problem, it was classing the word Sword as an offensive weapon and therefore this came under the list of banned items. At this point I’d not even considered the fact that the subject I wanted to research could be banned, I mean it’s not like I wanted to know how to make a bomb or watch pornography, I simply wanted a bit of info on swords for my book.

Further inspection of the error message made me think about the companies IT policy and what it said about viewing inappropriate content, particular the bit that went along the lines of “anyone caught viewing restricted content will be subject to disciplinary proceedings in line with the IT usage policy”. Not good,  especially as the IT bods locked away in their little tech rooms wouldn’t have any context to my searches, all they’d see on their reports were that employee x had been trying to view inappropriate and banned content.  That got me slightly worried about potential repercussions, would I be hauled in for questioning? I could just picture it, a darkened room; I’d be sat in a chair hooked up to a polygraph machine while a spot lamp points at my face. There’d be a group of hard faced managers stood watching behind 2 way glass, all while the resident IT Geek listed my cybercrimes. A few spikes on the polygraph to confirm my guilt and security would be dumping my ass on the pavement along with my favourite mug and half-finished box of tea bags. The shame would be unbearable!

I wasn’t sure what to do about my little dalliance with inappropriate content, should I flag it up and explain what I was doing or should I keep quiet? In the end I kept quiet and hoped that my transgression would either go unnoticed or be considered so insignificant that it wasn’t worth following up. Luckily for me nothing ever came of it and I didn’t do any more research at work, figuring instead that the potential stress of infringing the IT policy was best avoided. I know that’s probably considered a real anti-climax to this story, it would be much more exciting had I endured the aforementioned dramatic interrogation followed by me diving out of the widow like James bond or Jason Bourne, but on this occasion it wasn’t to be.

Maybe that’s all a bit melodramatic but it’s fair to say that I did wonder if it was a sackable offence, after all, there are plenty of stories around of people being fired for IT based misdemeanours and most contracts do contain sections stating that breach of the companies IT policy can constitute gross misconduct which is a sackable offence. I had actually heard of this happening within the company previously so some of my worries were not exactly unfounded.

On reflection, maybe this particular incident went some way to causing me to decide that I don’t really like doing research.  Throw in the fact that all too often you can find several different pieces of information that all seem contradict each other and it makes internet based research very tedious and boring.  Unfortunately though it’s a necessary evil so I doubt I’ll ever be able to get away from doing it.