Hard times at AOL right now.

Ted checks in on what people are calling the “data Valdez.” It so nice having Ted blogging, sometimes I feel like I’m alone on the front lines. I wish other senior executives would start blogging at AOL (hint, hint)–or at least commenting (you guys know you can post a comment to Ted’s blog or my blog right?).

I have to be honest with y’all: it’s hard times at AOL right now, that’s for sure.

Every couple of steps we take going forward (Netscape, TMZ, Live8, moving to the free model, AIM Pro, AIM Pages, free five gigs of backup, 40% growth of advertising for Q2–beating Yahoo, MapQuests API, AOL Uncut Video), we seem to get hit back by something horrible like “the call” or “the data Valdez.” The truth is the company is moving forward, but these things create a horrible perception problem, and it has a real world impact in that it de-motivates my teams and it makes it so much harder to get new people into the company. Smart folks ask me about stuff like “the call” when I try to recruit them for AOL, and I have to assure them it isn’t gonna happen again. It’s not easy, and I wish I could tell you I always win that fight–but I don’t.

I was so angry today that I had to get off my computer and do a three-mile run. I’m back at my desk but I’m still seething–how could this happen?! Everyone is working so hard to get AOL on the right track, and it all gets forgotten when this kind of thing happens.

I think I’m gonna take the rest of the week off from blogging as a “cool down”period. I don’t want to say something I regret, and I don’t want to become the spokesperson for the entire company–that’s not my job and it’s not my desire. I just want to build cool stuff with cool people I respect.

To my team (and everyone at AOL), keep fighting the good fight. Put your anger into your game and stay focused. The darkest hour is the one before the dawn. We’re gonna get through this.

[Note: AOL staffers can feel free to post their comments below–anonymous or on the record. I’ll turn them on for you if you use a fake email. ]