Jacob Rosenberg’s brief history of web servers at AOL

Another AOL employee, Jacob Rosenberg, has started blogging. He’s got the unenviable task of making sure our stuff at AOL keeps running as he’s part of the Operations group. Today, he writes a brief history of various web servers that have come out of AOL in the past several years, including AOLserver.

Go on, show him some love and subscribe to Jacob’s blog and leave him some comments. Lets welcome another AOL voice to the blogosphere!


AOL Open Services Developer Conference Summer 2006, June 28-29

So, I’m down in Northern Virginia this week for the AOL Open Services Developer Conference Summer 2006, open to AOL Technologies employees, to see and hear about all kinds of stuff that is happening and to talk about where we’re headed in the next few months. The day started out with Sree Kotay starting it off followed by Jon Miller reaffirming that we’re seriously in a transformational phase of AOL’s existance.

The conference is themed around the Lord of the Rings trilogy (natch, as it’s a Time Warner asset). Here, you can see my swank conference badge:

AOL Open Services Developer Conference Summer 2006

I’ve posted a few other photos, which I’ve tagged AOL Open Services Developer Conference Summer 2006.

Overall, the first day of the conference was successful from my experience. I attended some great sessions and saw some promising demos, which I don’t think I can openly discuss here in this space, unfortunately. (Maybe I can, I’ll have to ask.) But, what I can tell you is this: if management is serious about what has been said at this conference, I think AOL is going to genuinely surprise everyone who’s counted them out and keeps asking “so why doesn’t AOL have <X>?”

As I said to Sree tonight, “AOL has to start playing to win, not just play to be in the game.” Funny enough, I think if we did play to win, we actually stand a chance of doing it. I’d really like to see it happen.

UPDATE: Armughan Javaid blogs about the conference and has a Flickr set, too.

UPDATE: Sree blogs about it, too.


Can blogging help me find a new job?

I realize I’m not really well known or famous like Niall Kennedy is, but he used blogging to advertise his availability and find a new job. Both Ian at Bold Career and Tim Bray have both written about blogging and how it might affect your career.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, close to three years ago, in August 2003, I took a sizable pay cut in order to switch jobs. No, that’s not quite right: I quit my old job when they laid off my entire team, with really nice severance packages, and expected me to stay around managing the outsourced team in India. Anyone who knows me well enough, knows that I am actually in favor of seeking competively priced labor and I’m in favor of outsourcing overseas. But, I could tell that the partner that was chosen — with some ridiculous multi-year locked in contract — was never going to be able to deliver what was needed. (Three years later, talking to old ex-coworkers, it sounds like I was absolutely right.) While I hate failure, I’m not afraid of it. What I cannot tolerate is being locked into it, with no chance of ever possibly succeeding. I constantly struggle daily to push for what’s right and what’s best, but if it’s clear that can never be accomplished — I’m not just talking extremely difficult but truly impossible — then persistence and perseverance isn’t commendable, it’s foolhardy.

So, now, three years later, I’m part of a team working on a project that’s starting to head in the same direction: we’re at high risk of failure and all forces involved are pushing it in that direction. I’m clutching tightly to Ed Yourdon’s Death March, looking for hope. Here’s a quick glimpse of my current schedule according to Outlook (actual details have been sanitized via pixellation):

The sad irony is, the worse this project has gotten, the more meetings have been scheduled, which means less time to do any actual work on tasks. Just look at that calendar! Between the hours of 09:00 AM and 06:00 PM, on an average day, I have 4 hours of time where I can actually do work. Lets do the math: in a 45 hour work week, less than 50% of that time is unscheduled, where I can do work. (I even eat lunch at my desk and work through lunch.) I also do an hour of work in the morning at home, and a few hours of work in the evening before going to bed.

This is an absolutely classic example of a Death March project and it has all the tell-tale signs.

Frankly, I’m beyond done here. I’m willing to work extra-hard and make sacrifices and try to accomplish the unimaginable, but I need to do it for a company and a team that will support my efforts so it’s possible. I absolutely refuse to work a 20+ hour weekend and see the look of anger, frustration and disappointment on the faces of my wife and kids. This weekend, I’m going to spend it surfing indeed.com and try to line up interviews with headhunters and recruiters. (If there are any out there reading this, feel free to email me: dossy@panoptic.com.)

Indeed.com is really cool — you can subscribe to an RSS feed on your job searches and get updates that way. Here’s a search for “software engineer” jobs within 15 miles of Butler, NJ. Look at this gig, C/UNIX Embedded Software Engineer:

We are seeking an Experienced Software Engineer to develop firmware and/or software supported applications.  This individual must have five plus years C/Unix; some OO Java or C++ skills are a plus but not required.  Proficiency with C and socket, multi-thread programming is required, as is familiarity with TCP\IP, HTTP and other protocols related to web services.

Location: Parsippany, NJ
Pay Rate: $75k – 90k

This is pretty close to perfect for me. I have lots of multi-threaded and network programming in C (via AOLserver). Of course, it’d mean taking a pay cut — again — but, I need a job. I have the financial responsibility for supporting a wife and two kids.


BloggingStocks.com = Motley Fool 2.0

Jason’s team at Weblogs, Inc. does it again: www.bloggingstocks.com. For a more mainstream writeup, read Heather Green’s article at BusinessWeek (via Nick Wilson at Performancing).

BloggingStocks.com has the Weblogs, Inc. look and feel to it, integrates AOL assets (links to Message Boards, Alerts & Reminders, Quotes, Portfolios, etc.) but is done in a way that’s very clean — not the usual AOL “Fisher Price” style of web design. This could be the watershed moment for AOL’s “audience” business.

What makes me really chuckle is that this feels so Motley Fool 2.0 to me. I mean, 11 years ago, to the month, AOL helped launch the Gardner brothers online.

Lets just hope that AOL can repeat that success again, in today’s popular format. Here’s to wishing that TWX stock price goes up.

AOL’s new pricing is good, not bad … pay attention!

AOL recently announced that they’d be changing their pricing plans with a $2 increase from $23.90 to $25.90 a month for dial-up, which of course isn’t going to be a popular change. However, the interesting part of this change is that AOL has worked out agreements with companies to bundle an AOL subscription with a broadband connection, for guess how much? Right, $25.90 a month — the same price as dial-up. This is incredible, but people aren’t as excited about this as I would have expected. Why not?

I’m guessing that lots of folks read the BetaNews article on this, and like Gray Rentz over at MobilitySite, didn’t fully understand the new deal. I left a few comments over there, including a link to the more elaborate AP article, trying to clear things up a bit. I think Gray’s understanding is that you’ll be paying for a broadband connection (whatever that already costs) and then $25.90 a month on top of that for your AOL subscription. If Gray’s interpretation is any indication of the general understanding people got from this change, no wonder people aren’t excited by this news. From the AP article, it definitely sounds like the $25.90 a month pricing includes the broadband connection and an AOL subscription. In other words, what people were already paying for just a broadband connection before, they can now get an AOL subscription for no additional cost! If you ask me, this is huge!

I hope this makes the new pricing change make more sense to people. It’s a great deal for AOL subscribers who have been thinking about leaving AOL for a plain broadband connection, or reluctant to upgrade from dial-up to broadband … now, there’s no reason to leave AOL, and pricing is no longer a deciding factor between dial-up and broadband.

This could very well be the start of another September that Never Ended.


Are direct quotes better out of context?

It turns out that more AOL employees are blogging now. One of them happens to be Sree Kotay. Sree blogs about our recent AOL All-Hands meeting where Eric Schmidt of Google was present. He quotes a portion of it completely out of context (which gets picked up by Inside Google):

I don’t remember, verbatim, the question, but the gist of it was, “At AOL, we tend to have Programmers that offer our members a very managed experience that comforts them, whereas at Google, its much more automation and technology oriented – can you comment on this philosophy difference?”

And Eric replied, “When you say Programmer and we say Programmer, we mean very different things… Does that answer the question?”

Completely out of context like this, it might sound like Eric’s making a cheap dig at the quality of computer programmers at AOL vs. those at Google. However, the context of the question was one about the differing cultures at AOL, where our content is heavily “programmed” by our editorial staff which we refer to as “programmers” vs. Google’s highly automated and algorithmic presentation of content. In that context, Eric’s response is very clear and not as negative as the quote might sound out of context, as it were.

That isn’t to say that Google’s computer programmers aren’t of a completely different caliber than AOL’s computer programmers, but I don’t think that was necessarily the intent of his response. I could be wrong, but I at least wanted to put forth this attempt at a clarification in case I’m not.