Friday, December 02, 2005

The Slow Road to a Painful Decision

Bill Schreiner, VP for AOL Community Programming, wrote a nice letter today on Magic Smoke, expressing his appreciation for the J-Land community, and his sympathy for (but not agreement with) our point of view about the banner ads. He even apologized, sort of. But the only thing he actually acknowledged that AOL did wrong was that we didn't get a heads-up about the coming of the ads.

I wrote the following to him in comments:

Thank you, Mr. Schreiner. That was a well-written, respectful letter. I feel about 10% better about AOL than I did ten minutes ago.

I'm also crying.

Two and a half weeks on after Black Tuesday, after technical glitches major and minor, after big, visually noisy ads and a tiny, belated disclaimer, after the previously unimaginable trauma this community has suffered, this wonderful letter is a small bandage over a gaping wound. It can't do much to stop the bleeding, but it's a noble effort.

The difference between ads on message boards and ads on journals is that the boards are a shared venue. There is no expectation of autonomy, no illusion of ownership. I thought Musings from Mâvarin was something I created, using the tool that AOL provided and hosted for $23.90 a month.

I was similarly upset when banner ads first appeared above my home page years ago. Only that time, I sort of blamed myself. Having posted it under http//, I clicked on something that said my pages could be indexed under the new "Hometown" area. The ads are what came with that. It was an unexpected displeasure, but I figured what was done was done.

And again, what's done is done. What comes next, I think, is a parting of the ways.

Karen Funk Blocher

This followed an announcement earlier in the day that the glitch on AOL Journals that had made it impossible to post the word "Mâvarin" there had finally been resolved. I tried to feel happy about this. Really, I did. But I didn't do very well. My entry on Musings was called

Small Favors

AOL's "charset" fix has been installed, so I can finally display this word properly again:


Do I feel better now?

No, not much. I could probably live with the ads, if they stayed above the little line, and if that were the only problem. But it's not. There's always some new annoyance.

I'm thinking seriously about investing the hundreds of hours of work needed to port my home page, my Madeleine L'Engle pages, etc. over to, and over 500 Musings entries to Outpost Mâvarin. Then I'd need to prod husband John to get me on his Cox connection. That would enable me to cancel AOL. Heck, I've only been here since 1993. That's a quarter of the time I've been on this planet.

Is it any wonder that leaving AOL is hard for me?


I did get the title and description area fixed at last, and added the VIVI winner graphic to the About Me area, and posted a new link here. It helps a little. but only a little.

I don't know what else I can say. Two hours ago, I was happily planning an entry on the exploitation of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Now it will have to wait. I don't have the heart to write it.

I'm almost ashamed to be crying tonight. It's the first time I've cried over the AOL Journals controversy. I think it's because I'm pretty sure now what I have to do, after 17 days of fence-sitting. The fact that I'm seriously sleep-deprived right now isn't helping, either.

It's not a huge tragedy. Compared to the sufferings of people with major health issues, who have recently lost a relative or who expect to lose one soon, compared to all the big, awful things that can happen to people, that actually have been happening to other journalers, my life is blessedly trouble-free at the moment. I'll be fine. I've survived the death of my high school boyfriend, my parents' divorce, the deaths of two dogs, and of course the death of my mom. Compared to all that, this loss is a small one.

But, as Carly reminds us, it is a loss. And I'm in mourning tonight.



Shelly said...

These are the comments I left on Joe's journal:

I don't like ads on the message boards. Then again, I don't like the new format of them, either. Of the many workable internet formats out there for MBs, AOL chose none of them and instead went with something ugly, difficult to navigate, and one that provides more room for ....(wait for it).... Ads!

I don't like ads on my email, either. That's why I slowly moved the bulk of my emailing over to gmail. Yes, gmail has ads. Nice, AdSense ads that try to match the subject of my mail, and that sit quietly in text format only off to the side, out of the way.

I don't like ads on journals when I was payng for the service and AIM folks were getting all sorts of extras, including their own journals. Ads vs no ads were what separated them for us. No more. And why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free? So I cancelled my account and am now piggybacking on someone else's, someone with a screen name to spare. Yes, my hubby likes AOL, but since he just uses it to surf the web and his PC usually has to use dial-up, it's his best option. I have the cable modem and Firefox. The journals and message boards were what I was keeping AOL for. Now I have no reason, especially when I can get ad-free blogs for free on Blogger.

I find it astonishing and appalling that it took this long for a company with the experience AOL has in online service to have anyone try to communicate with its journal users and not even a true apology, just an oops, we shoulda told you first.

And here I am, counting characters to make sure I can post this entire comment, on a service that takes 2 steps back for each one forward, that can't roll out improvements and enhancements on a reasonable schedule, that hasn't yet grasped the need to communicate with customers.

Someone asked if AOL's stockholders know about this poor customer service. Time Warner's major stockholders (aka Carl Icahn and his group) are the ones demanding that TW and AOL become more profitable or he'll force TW to sell AOL (yes, I read the business pages). I knew from the start that the ads were staying. Woulda been nice for Mr. Schreiner or someong else at his level to have communicated this earlier in the brouhaha. It's not like they couldn't have known what was going on.

Shelly said...

I should add that it took two comments in AOL to get all that in and it all fit nicely here, where there isn't a 2,000 character limit.

julie said...

Don't be ashamed. You've had a very long relationship with AOL. Yes, it is a relationship, and don't let anyone else try to tell you otherwise. You've invested a lot of time and money in your tenure at AOL and worked hard to be a part of the community. You have an absolute right to grieve.

Carly said...


Take it easy for a couple days and just give yourself time to take it all in. Give the grief some time, then things will get easier. I promise.

Always, Carly

Jod{i} said...

You do NOT sit alone!
I sit with you. I feel like I am betraying not AOL(pfft could care less) or even those that remain(Although I have wonderful friends there) it is my loyalty to my own words. MY PAGES. I cried at them, laughed and even had arguements with(wish you were a fly on that wall eh?)lol.
The time has come. ANd I am having great difficulty doing so. Sigh, it will come. Upon its own fruition. It will.
Your pic says it all for so many.
I am looking towards that path of the new...the home I made? Doesnt feel like much of a home anymore. Yet my new digs are beginning to be comfy. We will all be okay...Why? Cause we all still sit here..with you!

redsneakz said...

The blogrolls of ex-AOLers continues to swell. Mine threatens to become unmanageable.

I am outraged (natch) but don't share the same sense of loss that everyone else does. Betrayal, anger, hurt... yes. Five months is not a lot of time to get wedded to something.

Glad you're here. you're a hell of a good writer.