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?).