Look, it's Darth Vader, malevolent enforcer of an evil empire!
And he's a nutcracker! Yes, he's evil - but he's cute! And useful, too, if you happen to like nuts.
And check out some of his brother nutcrackers. Doesn't the Father Christmas (front left) look like he belongs on South Park? And how about the guy behind him? Could that be Homer Simpson in disguise? Okay, maybe not.
Evil, cute and useful are all terms that might be applied to AOL these days, depending on who's talking. In the week since Black Tuesday, I've read a number of posts and comments bemoaning
- the fact that Blogger isn't as easy to use as the AOL-J client,
- the lack of AOL Alerts or the equivalent for non-AOL blogs, and
- (mostly from me) the problem of fitting a large photo onto a Blogspot page without the sidebar going south to the bottom of the page.
People liked the look of their AOL journals, and they liked that their readers knew where to find them. Those comforts were lost if they switched to another blogging service.
On the other hand, the tradeoffs required to blog on AOL can be substantial. The About Me area is too small, and the template (the basic setup of the journal) has extremely limited options. Sometimes those AOL Alerts we miss so much don't work, especially for comments and for formerly-private journals. I still don't know when some of you are posting now! (I really need to get everyone onto my Bloglines list.) Plus there's the whole TOS issue.
And that's before the traumas of the past week: the infamous banner ads, the glitches that made it difficult to post at all, the accent problem and so on.
On balance, a lot of people decided last week (and before that!) that it wasn't worth it any more. Others decided it was still worth it, no question. And the rest of us have been stuck somewhere in between.
And now AOL ups the ante a little bit.
Today Editor Joe announced in Magic Smoke the following improvements to the AOL-J software over the next several months:
(adapted from Joe's list)
- Rostering: managing private journal permissions from your Buddy List.
- Tagging: a way to label entries by category. This is already possible on LiveJournal and through Technorati.
- Mobile blogging: posting much more than text from phone
- Skins: a way to choose the look of a journal, and ultimately customize much more than can be done now.
- Draft Posts: The ability to save a draft of an entry before posting. If this means being able to see it the way it will be before it's actually posted, it will be a boon to people who write in MS Word, or who are prone to typos.
- Shared Journals: the ability to have two or more people post to the same journal.
And then in the entry after that, Joe posted a picture of an new header for the journals, which should be online by tomorrow morning. It includes a disclaimer, right under the banner ad. In rather small print, it says, "Ads are not an endorsement by the blog author." Plus the header has been rearranged slightly, with a little more white space between the ad and the journal itself. Hey, it helps. A bit. It also helps that at the same time as this change, there's supposed to be a fix (this time for sure?) to all the nagging problems with accessing journals and saving entries.
So. Are you tempted to go back?
Would you think less of me if I said I was, at least a little bit?
On the other hand, AOL got a string error when they tried to install that update, and had to "back it out." Will they ever get past all the bugs?
Patrick has found a painless equivalent for AOL Alerts, called FeedBlitz. Unlike Bloglines, it sends you email notices of new postings. Check out the "subscribe" thingy on my sidebar, right under the Technorati links.