Tuesday, November 22, 2005

One Week After Black Tuesday: Temptation

Spotted at Dillard's last weekend:

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?

******Update #2*******

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.


Carly said...

Hi Karen

I wouldn't think any less of you, just as I know you wouldn't think any less of me for staying put. There are many other reasons why I am staying right here. For one thing I have already learned some things like putting in links. Not a biggie in the grand scheme of things, but it was important to me. Aol knew we were having problems with PORN SPAM. While they were busy working on their self-serving banner ads, they still claim there isn't much they can do about SPAM. Lame. No, I have made the move, and I will stay here now. I miss it, but going back will not be a real option for me. Sigh.

Always, Carly :)

PS GREAT post!

DesLily said...

I will follow your journal "wherever you go"...

I have some of the same feelings.. but it's not for the "improvements" they say they are doing.. i just hate being all over the place and my whole journal not in any of them!

Though if i decide to "go back".. I will keep blogspot as a mirror of my journal.. I refuse to be torn apart again..



Paul said...

That's not Darth Vader Nutcracker, that's Dark Helmet Nutcracker.

Also, as of 9:10 AM EST, the promised disclaimers have not appeared.

Judith HeartSong said...

I support you no matter what you choose to do.

julie said...

Pr0n spam is such a huge issue. The problem is that the spammers are finding new security holes as fast as the programmers can plug 'em. I don't know what AOL is doing about the problem, but I do some web programming and have had terrible issues on my own site. I finally took my feedback page down this morning because spammers hacked it. AGAIN. And I hear they've found a way around the catchpas that Blogger and others use. I suspect that AOL isn't doing a lot. The folks who hijacked my feedback script last time used an AOL address and I never got anything back from the multiple TOS reports I sent to them. The folks who do this have a financial incentive.

Shelly said...

FeedBlitz seems fairly new, so the jury is still out. I hope it works for folks. I have Bloglet on a couple of my blogs. It actually emails you the posts daily. It's wonky, in that if there's a glitch when it gets the feed, it shuts down that blog til the blog owner goes back to test the connection and reactivate it. It's a pain.

Given how many blogs I read and how cluttered my AOL mail got with alerts and that I read blogs from all over, having them all, except the LiveJournals on my friends list, in one place, on Bloglines.

I will say that, having now blogged with some regularity on at least 6 or 7 free services to try them out, they all have problems. It's what you get used to that makes one seem better than another. And I always come back to Blogger and LJ.

As for how blogs look, I don't think folks realize how awful some AOL journals look in Firefox. When there's something wide in the sidebar, it doesn't push everything over in Firefox the way it does on AOL; it overlaps the entry next to it, covering whatever is there.

In other issues mentioned in the entry and comments, I've turned on Comment Moderation for some of my Blogger blogs and might do the same for the rest. It helps, a lot, with the spam. And I just changed a dozen subs for AOL to AOL exile blogs. I hope people don't move again. It's a bit of work to keep having to change links.

Shelly said...

"Given how many blogs I read and how cluttered my AOL mail got with alerts and that I read blogs from all over, having them all, except the LiveJournals on my friends list, in one place, on Bloglines." Oops. That made no sense. It should read:

Given how many blogs I read and how cluttered my AOL mail got with alerts and that I read blogs from all over, having them all, except the LiveJournals on my friends list, HAVING THEM ALL in one place, on Bloglines, IS FOR ME, EASIEST.

And of course, it gives me a quick way to add a lot of links to the sidebar.

Steven said...

Cool Darth Nut Cracker!

Until the community blew up, I'd not seen mention of most of the coming "improvements". I like carrots, but they have to be real carrots. The future updates do sound good, but the reality is I've gotten only an advert this week.

I did read on one of the developer's Journals that you can preview the disclaimer by adding beat to your Journal address. I tried it and it's a start. Does add a measure of separation around the advert. The advert is still shocking for me to see.

Thanks for the pointer on the alert service Patrick is using. I'll have to look into that.