Is AOL going to come back or fade in the background?

I have the luxury of working at a company that is both youthful and experienced (proven by our AIM AV testing in the photo above). We represent the top talent, creative thinkers, early adopters and sometimes trend followers. In very interrelated ways, my fellow AOLers brought the strange, complicated and even unattainable internet into the homes of the young and old without the need for a 300 page manual. We brought America online.

So where does AOL take us next? That seems to be the big question for us. We claim to be on the path to a comeback but we haven’t quite hit that sweet spot and the headlines continue to beat us down, tell us we’re failing and question whether we’re even still around. Our CEO, Tim Armstrong, is driving our business model to content driven platforms, advertising and hyper-local news.

I started at AOL back when millions of people had accounts, everyone used AIM to chat and the stock price was over $100. We were focused on bringing products into the everyday lives of our consumers. I think we did that successfully. We had over 30 million members, beer bashes on the lawn during the week and over 14,000 employees all of the world. Ahhhhh the good ol’ days.

In 2012, we are still struggling. I won’t sugar coat it – I can’t sugar coat it. I don’t even want to know what the stock price is and most of my friends are using gmail. *Sigh* What happened to us? I’d love to be blogging about my awesome stock portfolio and the three vacation homes I travel to but that’s not the case. And, while we’re tired of hearing people ask if AOL is still around, we’re not surprised because we seem to be the largest consumers of our own products. Now, having said that, we SHOULD be our biggest fans, but we’re trying to build products that gain popularity in the community. If we are the only ones using our products, we’re failing. Or, we need to change our target audience to working technologists like ourselves.

The business of creating technology that improves people’s lives is a very tough market. Our consumers are becoming more tech savvy and the bar is progressively getting higher. The younger generations are pushing the needle and they are in the mobile space is masses. They have access to build and deploy simple apps in a very short time allowing the least amount of effort to test out theories, ideas and make relatively small bets in a very open space.

So, where ARE we going? Tim’s vision with Advertising and content is a huge swing from what AOL was in the beginning. We’re spending a larger portion of our time and attention on selling advertising space on our content sites. Yes, our content sites might be fantastic; the authors, bloggers and editors are popular and the topics are important and interesting. But I joined AOL because of the products, services and cool shit we could create, not to get people to buy more shit that don’t need. Ugh, it’s a catch 22, as they say though. We have to generate revenue so we can fund projects to build this great stuff and we don’t have a large enough, loyal enough audience to become a premium service. I’m torn on this. It’s like cable television or apps on iTunes. As a consumer you can get your content for free and be subject to disruptive but sometimes entertaining commercials to pay for the shows you watch or you pay a premium to watch your shows without disruptive commercials.

I don’t have the answers but I wish I did so I could help AOL leap forward but for now… I believe my job is to continue to do my best to support the people around me who might just have that next big hairy audacious idea that will make a difference in people’s lives.


Scrum Tuning – Google Experience

Scrum in Under 10 Minutes – HD

I’ve used this to share with new students and it’s been the best, quickiest and most simple way to explain what Scrum is…

Song la claire fontaine

It was sung by Shang Wen-jie, the winner of last year’s “Super Voice Girl” singing contest in China. She just graduated from the Shanghai-based Fudan University as a French major.

Here are the lyrics of that Quebec folk song:
J’ai trouvé l’eau si belle que je m’y suis baigné.
Il y a lontemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.
Sous les feuilles d’un chêne, je me suis fait sécher.
Il y a lontemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.
Sur la plus haute branche, un rossignol chantait.
Il y a lontemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.
Chante, rossignol, chante, toi qui as le coeur gai;
Tu as le coeur à rire, moi je l’ai à pleurer.
Il y a lontemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.
J’ai perdu mon ami sans l’avoir mérité.
Pour un bouquet de roses que je lui refusai.
Il y a lontemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.
Je voudrais que la rose fût encore au rosier,
Et que mon douce ami fût encore à m’aimer

By the clear running fountain
I strayed one summer day.
The water looked so cooling
I bathed without delay.


Many long years have I loved you,
Ever in my heart you’ll stay.

Beneath an oak tree shady
I dried myself that day
When from the topmost branch
A bird’s song came my way.

Sing, nightingale, keep singing,
Your heart is always gay.
You have no cares to grieve you,
While I could weep today.

You have no cares to grieve you,
While I could weep today,
For I have lost my loved one
In such a senseless way.

She wanted some red roses
But I did rudely say
She could not have the roses
That I had picked that day.

Now I wish those red roses
Were on their bush today,
While I and my beloved
Still went our old sweet way. ہ la claire fontaine, m’en allant promener,

Look at me I’m listening!

New gadgets always catch my attention but you won’t find me camped outside a store to be one of the first people to buy them.  I closely watch the forums, talk to my friends about what they hear and check out reviews online to determine when it’s worth the purchase. 

My radar is currently tracking the latest gadget, the iPhone 4, but not for the reasons you may think.  I think it has the potential to change the way we work and maybe even how we live.  Hang on, hang on, I’m not planning to load a YouTube commerical to get on the Apple payroll.  I came  to this belief after I watched a few of the iPhone 4 commercials where a new grandfather is born when his son introduces his newborn or where a young woman shares her pregnancy with her husband.  The first thing that struck me is that while they were talking, they were looking at each other.  Sounds mundane but think about it.  We’ve spent the last eight or so years communicating via text message or short instant messages instead of talking directly to people or even picking up the phone to talk rather than text. 

We’ve been living in a world that has been communicating as if we always have something better to do. Now I’m thinking about how people will use these iPhones.  I think people may have this other option to not have their conversation while they’re driving, while they’re walking through the store or doing all of these other things that distract them when they’re not really paying attention to you but they’re on the phone with you nonetheless.  Well now, with this phone and it’s video camera, you’re forced to stop and look into the eyes of the person on the other side of the phone listening to what you have to say or hearing that you’ve just become a new father.  If you’re not paying attention they know about it because you’re right there in front of them.

So I’m wondering how this is going to change the attention span of the people using this phone now.  Are their conversations going to get shorter?  Is it really even going to get used that much because not every iPhone4 customer has iPhone4 friends? Will people take the time to really use it when they’re sitting down, looking into your eyes and have a conversation or will they just go back to their impersonal texting after the novelty of video calling wears off?  Or will it change the way people talk and we’ll stop shopping while talking (loudly, I might add) on their cell and stop calling from their cars while they drive?

Sadly, I don’t think this device, in all of it’s expensive glory, will change us all on it’s own but you have to wonder how this is going to change how we spend time with each other at least for the next few years.  I believe it is a rare occurrence when a phone call is taken with complete undivided attention and that, in my opinion, is what most of us really crave from one another.  Let’s just make an effort to avoid those calls in the bathroom!

%d bloggers like this: