AIM Pages

We’ve launched!! Hooray!! You can go check it out for yourself over here. If you want to create a profile, you can do that too. All you need is an AIM screen name (and who doesn’t have one of those?) to get started.\
This project has been more fun than anything else I’ve done in my \~11 years at AOL. It was full of huge technical challenges, was a great place for us to try out new things, and the team was probably the best I’ve ever worked with. From product management to QA to Operations and the rest of the developers, everyone pitched in, went the extra mile, pushed themselves to find the best (or at least the one that worked) solution, and kept a good sense of humor about it all.\
I started on this thing as a “consultant” and wasn’t supposed to write any code. I ended up:

  • joining the team responsible for it
  • writing a site’s worth of documentation
  • creating a microformat
  • coming up with a set of rules for writing CSS to accomodate modules, themes and user styles
  • writing almost a dozen modules (only some of which are actually live)
  • helping with dozens more, writing a bunch of themes, and making sure that over 60 themes were ready for launch.
  • spent late nights and weekends at the office debugging javascript
  • worked on convincing developers, management and design that web standards are the way to go
  • and discovered several one-line crashers for Internet Explorer (and one or two ways to make Firefox REALLY unhappy as well).\
    It’s not done, not by a long shot. There are still dozens of bugs and hundreds of features still to come. But, it’s a start. It’s all kinds of fun, not just for end users, but for developers too. One of my “secret” goals at the beginning of this project was to make module development easy enough that even “normals” could do it. And just this morning, sitting around a big conference table, there were three product managers talking about their modules. And my other secret goals? Here they are:
  • Get more people to learn the “right” way to write CSS.
  • Help microformats go mainstream.
  • Show the outside world that AOL can do innovative stuff, and that we support Open Source (we’re using the hell out of Dojo).
  • Show the outside world, and the internal development community, that using web standards don’t limit you. They help you. Creating modules for our product is so much easier than creating them for, dashboard or Google Homepage. Why? Because microformats are “just” HTML.\
    There you go. Go play. And while you’re at it, check out my profile.\
    Oh, and for all you Digg folks, I Am Alpha is not AIM Pages.

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.


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