Super Secret Agent Revealed!


I went to New York City today. I’m back home now, almost twelve hours after I left. It’s been a long day. As long as it’s been, it’s been a lot of fun. The top secret meeting is now something I can talk about. I went to New York with the AOL Journals team to talk about the new AOL Journals product with some influential folks in the blogging world. Who? Well, I’ll tell you: Meg Hourihan, Anil Dash, Nick Denton, Jeff Jarvis and Clay Shirky. I was amazed that Gait invited me to come along with them. I didn’t work on the Journals product. I helped with a lot of the concept stuff, explaining to people who have never blogged or really knew about blogging, what it was all about and providing a “real blogger’s” perpective on the whole thing. I hope I didn’t lead them astray.


Let’s start at the beginning though… I woke up too early, at 5:30 for an 8:45 flight. I got to the airport at 7, expecting a long wait at security. There were three people in the line when I got there. I pulled into the parking garage at Dulles airport at 6:50 and was at my gate at 7:05. I had a lot of time to kill, as you’ll see in the pictures. Gait, Andrea and El Jefe made it to the airport with much less time to spare. Oh yeah, characters. I worked with Gait a long (four years) time ago on the first version of AOL Search. Andrea the product manager for the Journals thing, and El Jefe is Gait and Andrea’s boss (but he’s not the boss o’ me!!). We made it to New York, with an hour till the meeting. We made it into the building with about ten minutes before the demo was supposed to start. I gallantly got my laptop setup, hooked up to the TV, connected to the VPN, logged in and ready to go, and… we were in the wrong building. Yeah, all the people with stacks of books and puzzled looks on their faces should have clued us in, but… hey, we were in a hurry. So, a run across the street and around the block and we made it only a couple minutes late. I, in record time, got the demo back up and running and we were off.


The meeting… it was way too much fun. Why are influential bloggers influential? They have ideas, and aren’t shy about expressing them. They had all kinds of suggestions, all kinds of comments, and overall, I think the consensus is that AOL Journals is headed in the right direction. Now, let me explain something. AOL Journals is different. No one thinks of blogging as a new “space” to conquer. Most of the people involved in the project realize that AOL’s coming into an established meta-community who are wary of any large corporate involvement in their space. I think we did a good job of explaining to the folks there, and explaining to people at AOL, that we’re here with a great measure of humility (I know, it’s rare for AOL, but it’s true). We’re trying to play nice with the larger blogging community by supporting open standards like RSS feeds for blogs. We’re trying to talk to folks in the community to see where we should work with them. It’s unique in my involvement in AOL products, which is a great step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.


When the product does come out later this year, bear in mind that it’s a 1.0, there are other new features on the way, and it’s built for the AOL user in mind. That said, I’m not one who shies away from speaking my mind. There are some really cool features in the product at launch. RSS support will be in 1.0, along with a bunch of other stuff that I’m not going to tell you about. Ok, I’ll tell you one… you can send an IM to a bot and have it post to your blog with rich text support and other cool stuff (like add titles, etc). That really blew a couple people away, even though I know bloggerbot kind of did the same thing in a limited (as I remember, flakey). How cool is that?


It was a great trip. I hope Jefe, Andrea and Gait take me along on their next trip (I vote for Sedona, or Alaska. I’m sure there are influential Alaskan bloggers, aren’t there?).

24 thoughts on “Super Secret Agent Revealed!”

  1. Well, you must’ve led them down the right path, the product looked really solid. Only wish we’d have had more time to talk, but maybe I’ll see you at the DC bloggers parth next week?

  2. You’ve Got Blog

    Jeff Jarvis breaks news of AOL’s forthcoming blogging/community tools. See also the disclosure from an AOL employee. Quick points: RSS/XML…

  3. I think part of that is earned, and part of it is an inherent mistrust of corporations in the blogging world. For this product anyway, and the team working on it, it’s different. AOL’s not going into this looking to “take over” anything. Part of it is offering AOL members a great mode of self-expression. Part of it is that there are things AOL can do with and for blogging that no one else has the power to do. There are benefits to mass and centrally hosted services. We’ll just have to see what happens…

  4. AOL gets blogging

    Jeff Jarvis reports on a sneak preview of AOL’s upcoming weblogging entrant, saying “They’ve done a good job.” Jeff was invited along with Meg Hourihan, Nick Denton, Anil Dash, and Clay Shirky to preview the service, called AOL Journals. Discussing the…

  5. This all sounds great 🙂
    The IM-to-blog stuff should be fun. We’ve been using a similar tool (the ‘chump bot’) for a couple of years in the #rdfig IRC channel on irc.freenode.net; see http://rdfig.xmlhack.com/ for the result.
    Turns out to be a really nice tool for quick’n’dirty info sharing in a small community. The reulting text is more disjointed than a traditional weblog, but the communal/commenting aspect is really nice.
    And yeah it’s wonderful to hear there’s RSS support. I don’t even care which version of RSS it is 🙂

  6. On AOL’s weblogging project…

    So the first members of the weblogging extended family have been exposed to AOL’s proposed new weblogging tools. The general consensus seems to be that they are of surprisingly good quality and that they are approaching the service more like…

  7. Right now, it’s 2.0. I’m sure we’ll have lots of discussions about Echo when it’s up to 1.0.
    I’m curious to see how being able to IM to a blog affects the way people post. Will they use IM shorthand more than people do now (nothing gets the hair on the back of my neck standing up faster than people who blog “LOL”)? Will it be a flood of short posts? We’ll have to wait and see.

  8. Really good news, I think this is rather exciting.
    I get a lot of useful information from the RSS feed of the ‘chumped’ IRC channel danbri mentions, i.e. it can work. I don’t think the shorthand there is typical somehow…
    One thought – it would be nice to hear about what IM protocols are used before the FUD machine kicks in.

  9. AOL Journal

    AOL JournalsAOL is about to launch its own weblog platform, dubbed AOL Journals. Reports here and here (and here too). Still missing in the picture (or have I missed something?) are Microsoft and Apple, as well as Macromedia as an outsider. IMHO, this …

  10. Can’t comment on the IM Protocols – cuz I don’t know what they’re using. Like I said, I didn’t write one measly line of code for the product, so there are some of the nitty gritty details I just don’t know.

  11. AOL, About blogs

    AOL, About blogs: America Online and About.com are expanding the blogosphere. AOL will be adding “friendly” blogging tools later this year (more info from Clay Shirky, and Kevin Lawver). About.com is turning many (all?) of its resource guides into webl…

  12. Get Jefe, Andrea and Gait to send you to Toronto. Meet influential CANADIAN bloggers!
    I think the ‘killer app’ of blogging systems is anything that will PAY writers to write on the Web. AdSense is the closest we’ve come so far.
    These are interesting days. I look forward to seeing AOL Journals.
    Sandy
    P.S. Why is someone with influence “influential” rather than “influencial”?! English is odd.

  13. What do you call someone from Toronto? Are then Torontials? Torontians? Torontons? Torontos (which sounds like a really substantial snack chip to me)?

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