About "the call"

The WashPost asked me to comment on “the call.” Here is the email exchange…

> I’m working on a little feature about AOL/the lingering Vincent Ferrari
> hubbub/and your response to the Economist’s analysis of the state of
> AOL from earlier in the spring. Granted what you’ve written on your
> blog pretty much lays everything out, but I was wondering if I could
> ask you a few quick questions for greater context:

Sure.

> What is it like to do the interesting work you’re doing to develop new
> products for AOL in the midst of the lingering public image problems
> that AOL still has. As you’ve written, AOL is in transition, but I’m
> curious how you’re feeling since Weblogs Inc.’s purchase by AOL last
> year. I guess people still think of AOL as the subscriber service from
> the 1990s and don’t realize the new products coming from AOL. Is that
> something that’s frustrating?

It’s gonna take some time for us to deal with some of the issues around the AOL brand. “The phone call” made me and my team crazy–as well as the public. It was horrible and it’s something that no one wants to be associated with, but we are. From what I understand we take hundreds of thousands a calls a month and this is not the average experience. I’m not involved in the access business at all, so I can’t really speak to the details to be honest.

The bottom line is that my job is to put my head down and work to make new experiences and services that users fall in love with. There are so many great things going on including Engadget, Autoblog, TMZ, Netscape, our security software, AIM Pro, and Uncut Video that are absolutely loved by users. It’s sad that these things have to be associated with “the call.”

So, yes it is a bummer.

> Also, is the Vincent Ferrari affair something still hanging over
> everyone’s head or is it just a passing annoyance?

I can’t speak for everyone at the company, but I know I think about it every day since it’s happen. When I look at the AOL logo I hear that call, and I don’t think I’m alone. Everyone at AOL should listen to that at the start of their day in order to put fire in their belly. It was a disgrace, it’s not what we’re about, and we’ve taken ownership of it. We can actually use this as a way to focus our efforts even more.

It’s going to go down as a watershed moment for the company. Sometimes the darkest hour is before the dawn, and I think that is what that call will come to symbolize: a new era for the company.

FYI: I’m gonna post this full interview to my blog after you do your post.

best j