I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaccccckkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!! (or some thoughts on “cowboy management”)

sleepWhat?!??!? You thought I retired from blogging or something?!?!? Heck no!

I’m back from my first real vacation in about ten years. Vacation for me over the past decade has basically been adding two or three days to speaking gigs/business trips. However, after spending a couple of months doing the deal with AOL (without a banker–ouch!), not to mention burning the midnight oil running WIN, I needed a decompression stop.

We zipped over to Hawaii for nine days and had a wonderful time flying helicopters with no doors, driving a jeep off road with the top down, target shooting clay pigeons while watching whales play in the pacific, snorkeling, hiking the most amazing cliffs in the world, and laying on the beach drinking frozen drinks while listening to the audiobook of Shadow Divers (amazing). We had never been to Hawaii if you can believe that, and we obviously loved it. Was great to reflect on the 18 months that was Weblogs, Inc. (felt like five years), and the opportunities that working for AOL provide.

Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been dealing with the adjustment to big company life. I haven’t worked for anyone since Sony back in 1995 and I was almost fired *three* times in 18 months there for “being a cowboy.” When the IT department told my boss Dave Johnson to fire me for being a cowboy he deadpanned to them “but that’s his best quality.” It’s pretty much been the same reaction at AOL. They know I’m a little bit of cowboy and that I’m not really going to sit around and wait for things or ask for permission. We’ve settled into a basic understanding: I’m being careful not to knock too many things over, and they are taking a “we’ll deal with mistakes after the fact” kind of approach.

The “cowboy” style is the only way to compete in the Internet marketplace today. Clearly Google with their 20% program has institutionalize the cowboy theory. The “new” Yahoo approach of suddenly being ok with a) multiple brands and b) overlapping efforts (i.e. Flick/Yahoo Photos, Delicious/Yahoo 360, etc) is really working–Yahoo is on *fire*… those guys are doing an amazing job.

AOL is adopting this management strategy and we’re the test case.

Now, everyone I know is handicapping how long I’ll last at AOL–the over/under seems to be Q2/Q3 2006. Frankly, it’s getting kind of old for me. If you’re one of my friends I have one simple request for 2006: please stop asking me when I’m leaving, please stop asking me what my next company is, and please stop predicting doom for me at AOL (and please stop blogging that I’m leaving–it’s a bit of a distraction). I’m having a *blast* at AOL and I love the folks I work with (Mike, Jim, Ted, Lewis, Tina, Jon, etc). I’m actually really enjoying myself. Sure, I hate the big company red tape, paperwork, and insane number of meetings, but I’m chalking those up to the price you pay for not having to watch your business bank account every 12 hours to check on the cashflow.

Trust me, if I’m gonna leave everyone will know it and you’ll read about it here first.

Of course, the big news about AOL & Google sitting in a tree broke while I was on the island. For the record: I’m soooooooooooo happy about the deal. WIN had a long relationship with Google before we became part of AOL and I’m thrilled to keep the magic alive. I’ve got a lot of great friends over at Google and we’ve had a great time working together over the past two years of so.

I’ll get into the details of what I think of the deal as I learn them and I can share them. The basic upside from what I know (and I wasn’t directly involved in the deal, but I did give my .02 over the last couple of months) is that we are getting promotion for our blogs in advertising slots on Google. It’s not rocket science or anything, just advertising space, so I’m surprised that people are freaking out about it. I guess the speculation is too be expected since Google and AOL are so huge.

Anyway, I’m back at my desk and well rested. If I haven’t gotten back to you and we need to talk hit me on the IM, cell, or email and let’s catch up. I’ve got a bunch of trips coming up that I’m making plans for as well: NYC, Sundance, and Dallas among them.

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