Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Massive Suckage of AOL

Big doings today.

A letter went out to everyone who volunteers their time and energy in the Community Leader program on AOL. The essence of this rare communication was "We don't need you anymore. We are ending the program. F-you and thanks for all the fish." The letter went out on May 27. The program will be completely shut down on June 8. That means tonight was Marcy's & my last night hosting our support group for people with chronic disabilities.

This is the first real-time online support group for people with disabilities. I started it thanks to encouragement in the original disAbilities Area on AOL on January 1, 1991. Fourteen years. I wrote the host training and helped launch other groups, for everything from cancer survivors to post-polio syndrome. Our group survived changing area ownership, through several private companies, then a move off AOL to ivillage and back to AOL. We have helped people whose friends and families abandoned them, who were so overwhelmed by what was happening to them that they could not bring themselves to get help, who had virtually no contact with the world outside their homes or hospital rooms. Fourteen years. And AOL killed it in 11 days.

Marcy & I are going to try and keep going anyway. Our group was never about hosts needing a title or any other support from outside anyway. It will be harder for newbies to find us if AOL takes down our promotional link or chat room, but I don't see letting stupidity rule the day. Not if we can help it.

You may be wondering, what the f---?

My theory is that this motivated by a lawsuit that has been brewing for some time. You can read older stuff about it here:

Forbes: AOL Ruins a Great Cooperative

Salon: Must AOL Pay Community Leaders?

Just my opinion. It ain't like AOL has been forthcoming with any information of any kind (which only makes me suspect more strongly that this is lawsuit related).

Here is my other opinion, AOL: You have never been appreciative of the thousands of volunteers that made you successful in the first place. As the net grows, you will be less and less unique in terms of ease of live chat, and now you are dismantling the community that is your bread and butter. The sad part is that we don't need your appreciation - we just need you to get out of our way. If you don't, you deserve to have your business fail, and on that day I will wear a red dress and dance.

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