Saturday, November 19, 2005

As the Tide Turns

Oh, this is going to be fun.

No, wait. It really isn't.

I read a long, well-written posting today on an AOL-J UK that existed before the banner mess. Tilly (for it was she) likens AOL to a landlord, and AOL-J refugees to people who had a row with the landlord and left. She makes the point that the ex-roommate is still your friend, even if she no longer lives under your roof. She goes on to say that different people have had different histories with AOL, and different amounts of difficulty, not just over the ads but with technical glitches, TOS and so on. She thinks that those who stay should not condemn those who left, although she is a tad less enthusiastic about people who just jumped ship because their friends did.

Like me.

Back on Black Tuesday, I posted a comment to By the Way, saying that I didn't mind the ads all that much, and was more or less resigned to them. Yet it quickly became clear that many of my closest online friends were much more upset than I was, to the point of feeling they had to leave AOL. Well, I could see their point, and as the day went on, I got sadder and angrier - sadder because friends were closing down journals by taking them private, sadder over the fracturing of a community, and angrier because it was clear that AOL was being totally unresponsive to the situation, preferring to leave John and Joe to take the brunt of the outrage. And the next time I tried to post on Musings, I had problems - the save button problem, the getting-to-my-subject-line problem, and most of all, the inability of the "upgraded" software to display the word Mâvarin in all its fictional language glory.

So here I am on Blogspot. Here are a lot of us.

Meanwhile, people continue to be angry and unhappy. Walking away from 18 months or more of your personal writing is a terrible thing, but moving it elsewhere is a huge undertaking - just ask Becky. And stuff that was easy on AOL just isn't here. How many of you still haven't set up your links, despite my little tutorial? And how do you keep up with where everyone is, and what they've posted? AOL Alerts were buggy, but they were easy. Bloglines requires a bit more effort. And how are you going to regain that readership you have before, when most of the links go to your AOL-J,and some of them were on journals that have been shut down?

Oh, you can do all that, really. You know you can. We all can. But it's a pain in the butt, isn't it?

And at the same time, people who have left are trying to pressure others to do the same, presumably to justify their own actions as much as to increase the pressure on AOL. On the other side of the fence, people are saying mean things about people who chose to leave, calling us crybabies, losers, and worse. It's the old Us and Them mentality all over again, the same mindset I'm always railing against, that seeks to dehumanize, to justify intolerance and hatred. Or maybe it's just people who enjoy being mean. No matter what decision we've made, there's someone who is eager to label us as Them, and tell us why we're wrong and foolish and silly.

So it was predictable that as this terrible week ends, people are having second thoughts. Did we act rashly in leaving our beloved journals, with the easy interface, established readership, and backlog of cherished words and photos? Is it worth of effort of learning HTML and CSS, of trying to get our blogs looking nice, of trying to build our readership all over again? Is it worth all this pain just to protest the ugly ads, and the buggy upgrade, and AOL's blatant disrespect? Is it perhaps better to go "home" to AOL, put up or leave up some kind of protest words or graphic, block our own view iof the animated banners, and boycott Bank of America and other advertisers?

A lot of people are asking these questions, and there is no one answer to them. If we stay away, we have a long road ahead, learning our way around, rebuilding and recovering. If we go back, it feels like defeat, like hypocricy, like AOL being justified in thinking they could get away with this. And in truth, AOL can get away with it. Because if they really don't care about us, then they don't care if thousands of people leave. In their business projections, the lost subscription revenue is more than made up for in ad revenue, and a lot of people won't leave anyway. I personally have no immediate plans to cancel my AOL membership, with all its long-established screen names and web pages. Nor have I any immediate plans, in case you were wondering, to leave the Outpost and resume my Musings.

But it sure would be easier to go back, to the comfort of our beloved, easy-to-use journals.

That is, if we could clear away the bugs.

I'll be back here tonight with another entry. At the very least, I'll let you know when I've posted my Heirs of Mâvarin excerpt over at Messages from Mâvarin. And maybe I'll get to my promised posting about Casa Video (as seen below).



Becky said...

I am soooo jealous you are going to see Harry Potter. I wanna go!

Shelly said...

Everyone has to answer those questions for his/herself. For me, the ads were just the last straw. I've been frustrated by the slow and then not so slow death of the writers message boards. I got tired of alerts that didn't work and had already moved nearly all of them to Bloglines subs back in the spring. I don't want ads on my blog, not for a service I'm already paying for. So either I switched to a free AIM blog and give up my account or move the photoblog to Blogger. I moved to Blogger AND will be cancelling the account, moving to a screen name on hubby's account. Yes, AOL was getting paid twice by us.

You don't need to learn css or html here. You just need to learn how to copy and paste and recognize where. I first learned html on AOL, putting backgrounds on entries, aligning photos. People have gotten so used to doing it on AOL, they forget, I think, that even AOL's journals can be intimidating to the novice. I needed 3 different people to talk me into adding a graphic into About Me.

The Us vs Them that has split J-Land over this is another reason I've had it with AOL. After spending a year on the journals message boards and witnessing horrible flaming (yes, a lot was worse than the writers boards saw), I have felt for many months that the community was only tight knit til the next crisis.

Anyone can form communities online. LiveJournal is full of them, through Friends Lists. But even here on Blogger, I'm part of informal communities of folks who share interests and read and comment on each others' blogs. I email back and forth with Brian of BrianDamage regularly. I've recently met justrose of the AnonymousRowhouse and had a great time over lunch. Communities depend on people, not what blogging service those people use.

What I don't want is folks making Blogger blogs, then abandoning them to return to AOL, after I've changed all their subs in Bloglines. I just dropped a half dozen journals that went private and swapped out URLs for another dozen. If they move back to AOL, I don't know that I'd go through the trouble to do that again.

People would be wise to not act in haste or anger. My decision was months in the making. The ads were just the last straw that made the timing of the decision easy.

Tilly said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for highlighting my entry. Since posting,I've had quite a lot of email from people who were previously sad or angry at the loss of their friends. Thankfully, they now realise that if we get organised with bloglines, we don't have to lose touch.

Just to clarify the part about being less than enthusiastic about people who left to follow friends. As I tried to point out, I personally realised very quickly that everybody had a right to do what they felt comfortable with - we've just got to get that one-click away message out there.

If you continue to leave your new blogspot link wherever you visit, I'm sure you'll build your readership back up very quickly. It's just a lot of people are still stumbling around in the dark at the moment.


Gaboatman said...

There is certainly no need for the "Us Against Them" mentality. I chose to stay with AOL, you did not. I still like you and read you. We all have to make our own decisions, name calling adds nothing to the mix. Go where you want to, Karen, I'll be right behind still reading, my friend.

alh said...

the US vs THEM mentality is so very wrong. i'm one of the individuals that still has an AOL Journal, but I don't write because it's my stance.

i've started a blogger account. sometimes, change is good. i'm hoping this will be a good one.