Ficly: Live After Ficlets

Like a phoenix from the ashes, something new is in the process of being born. I give you ficly. It’s not much now, but we’re working on it in our spare time. Jason (he was the driving force that brought everything together) has been pushing things forward while my job’s been crazy and while I recover from my epic sinus infection. He got the awesome folks at Viget Labs to help us out with the visual design, which you can get a taste of on the landing page. Right now, all you can do is sign up to be notified when we launch… and that’s about it. But, we’re slowly making progress and I hope to have something for real up in the next couple months (maybe by ficlets’ 2nd birthday at the beginning of March).\
Why do this when I have a full-time job (a more than full-time job, really)? I need a hobby, and I feel a responsibility to the ficlets community. If AOL’s going to abandon them, I’m not. Nothing made me angrier in my last couple years at AOL than when the company shut down products without giving the communities that loved them a place to go. I never quite understood how the company could repeatedly stab their users in the back and then expect them to remain loyal to the brand. And now that it’s happening to my users, well, there’s something I can do… so I am. First, I’m working on a “memorial” to ficlets that will preserve all the stories and keep them pretty much as they are now. That’s pretty much done, I just need to clean a few things up and get it installed in production and it’ll be ready to go. I plan on launching it on the 16th, the day after ficlets shuts down.\
Ficly may take a while to get done. It’s strictly a part-time thing for all of us. But, I’m not done exploring short fiction and community. I never got to “finish” with ficlets (that’s a story I’ll also probably never tell), and there are some experiments I want to try that I’ll never get to do working with music technology (my day job).\
I hope you’ll come along for the ride. We’ve got some fun stuff planned.

Secret Fantasy Revealed!

Ever since Wil Wheaton (yes, that Wil Wheaton) blogged about being a fan of Ficlets, a site that Kevin helped create, I have been harboring a secret fantasy that someday Kevin and I would be at some geeky, computer conference-thingie and we’d run into Wil Wheaton, who would be all, “Kevin, my good man! Glad to finally meet you. Love Ficlets. We must do dinner tonight!” and then, I would GET TO HAVE DINNER WITH WIL WHEATON. How awesome would that be? []{.Batman! .sentence, .run-on .Holy}\
I met Wil Wheaton once. I was a teenager, living in Tucson. I bet you can guess how I met him. Yep, Star Trek Convention! My best friend, Elizabeth, talked me into going because there was nothing to do on a Saturday if the Wildcats weren’t playing basketball. We ran into a fellow classmate and OMG, how embarrassing was that? Wil talked for a bit and some fans gave him some Dr Pepper (I’ve always known we’d be great dinner companions!) and he told some funny stories. Then it was time for autographs and embarrassing things came out of my mouth. True story. I ended up with a signed, glossy 8×10 of The Next Generation cast though, so. After we each received our autographs (embarrassing things didn’t come out of Elizabeth’s mouth, damn it), we went left to some deserted area of the convention hall to kill time before her mom came to pick us up (that is how young we were!). A little while later, Wil ended up there so we got to chat some more. Thinking we’d wasted enough time in that section of the hall, Elizabeth and I wandered to the left and ended up seeing Wil again. As he went in to and then out of the men’s room. At this point, the conversation was a little awkward, heh. I swear we weren’t following him.\
So, yeah. That is my story. I went to one conference with Kevin, but Wil wasn’t there. I can’t say I was too bummed though BECAUSE I WAS TOO BUSY EXPLORING PARIS.\
Tell me your school-era famous crushes and/or secret fantasies, internet!

Categorized as ficlets

Save Your Ficlets!

I’ll have the graveyard up and running by the 15th, but if you want to save your ficlets (which I highly recommend since I’m not getting mature stories and can’t get your drafts), you should follow Chris Meadows’ great tutorial.\
And, if you want to be sure your stories are saved in the graveyard, I wouldn’t right anything after 5PM on the 14th, just in case.\
Also, if you want to get really angry at AOL, go read Wil Wheaton’s great eulogy for ficlets (yes, that Wil Wheaton). I know why AOL won’t turn it over, but I still don’t understand it. But, whatever, onwards and upwards, right?

Categorized as ficlets

Ficlets Est Mort

It was announced on AOL’s People Connection blog today, that ficlets will shut down for good on 1/15. I’ve known for a couple weeks that this was coming, thanks to some advance warning from friends still there. Here’s the comment I posted on that entry:

I knew this was coming, I just didn’t know the day. I tried, with the help of some great people, to get AOL to donate ficlets to a non-profit, with no luck. I asked them just to give it to me outright since I invented it and built it with the help of some spectacular developers and designers. All of this has gone nowhere.\
I’ve already written an exporter and have all the stories (the ones not marked “mature” anyway). I have pretty much all of the author bios too. Since I was smart enough to insist that AOL license all the content under Creative Commons, I’ll be launching a “ficlets graveyard” on 1/16 so at least the stories that people worked so hard one will live on.\
I have mixed feelings about ficlets’ demise. On the one hand, I’m proud of the work we did on it. I’m thankful that AOL allowed me to build it with a truly amazing group of talented folks. I’m humbled by the community that ficlets attracted and the awards that ficlets won.\
On the other hand, I’m sad that I wasn’t allowed to keep working on ficlets. I’m disappointed that AOL’s turned its back on the community, although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.\
So, to all the ficleteers out there – your stories will live on, and there may be a couple more surprises in the works before 1/16 if I have my way. Be on the lookout… I’ll post any news to my blog.

I’ll do my best to keep up with the stories as they’re posted so none get lost. If your story is marked “mature”, I haven’t figured out how to crawl it yet. I also haven’t gotten stories’ tags yet, but I have gotten all the author bios and have preserved the prequels and sequels as best I can. I have a little Rails app already done to display everything, and will be providing a downloadable feed of all the stories I’ve scraped so anyone’s free to re-purpose the stories for their own mashups.\
I still have a lot to say about AOL that I’ve been ignoring since I left back in June. I’m not sure I’ll ever write publicly how I feel about the company – because I’m not sure how I feel. On one hand, AOL gave me a career. I started there in tech support as a 20 year-old kid who had no idea what he wanted to do. I left as a 33 year-old System Architect, leaving to go run a team of developers and build really cool web apps all about music (that we’ll be launching soon). On the other… well, let’s just say there’s a lot of “other”.\
If I have my way, there will be more news in the short fiction department in the next month or so… let’s just see how things work out.\
Also, I should have known the ficlets community would do something so kickass it makes me cry… check these out:

Categorized as AOL, ficlets

Three Weeks In, A Look Back

I know I’ve been rather quiet since leaving AOL and joining up with Music Intelligence Solutions, but as you can see from Jen’s entries, we’ve been busy. I’ve been going back and forth to Savannah, trying to both get to know the team, the vision and the plans we have for launching, and at the same time, designing architecture, doing training and helping folks get up to speed on scrum and other stuff. It’s been a lot of late night, long conversations, whiteboard sessions (note to self, get a bigger whiteboard), and late-night epiphanies while trying to get to sleep.

I keep thinking about what I learned over thirteen years, and the people who took their time to mentor me, and the excellent managers I had who showed me how to deal with both pressure and conflict. I keep thinking about one of the first technical meetings I had way back in 1999 about AOL Search. We were just getting started with the project, and I was the front-end guy, and one of the only people involved who knew AOLserver and Tcl. So, there I was in a room with two PhD’s, with them asking me what I wanted the API to look like. Joe Dzikiewicz and Tom Donaldson sat there and asked lots of questions, we drew on the whiteboard, and I was freaked the hell out…

There are hundreds of people I should thank for helping me over the years. I tried to count up all the people I worked with at AOL, and it’s easily over a hundred and I got close to two before I stopped. But, the person I keep coming back to is Joe. He was one of the first computer scientists who took me under his wing. I don’t have a degree – everything I know about technology is either self-taught or through experience and others helping me out. I’ll never forget an IM Joe sent me while we were working on AOL Search. It went something like:

  • Joe: Hey, things are looking good, but it seems kind of slow. Are you threading the requests?
  • Me: Am I what?
  • Joe: … I’ll call

I think I scared him; but, he very patiently explained it to me, and then sent me off to figure out how to implement it.

I learned so much from Joe, and from the hundreds of other people I worked with at AOL – from my first manager, Judy Winger, who “saved” me from getting fired from a really stupid e-mail I sent to the wrong manager (well, that manager was the intended target, but…), Priscilla Serling for encouraging me to take the job in Virginia, to Robin Vinopal and Mark Robinson who taught me so much about how to treat the people who work for you, and to Bert Arians and Alan Keister for giving me all the room I needed to try new things. And all the nerds, geeks and smartasses I worked with.

It’s only now that I’m gone and have a couple weeks away that I see how lucky I was to work with all the people I did.

I’m having a blast at MIS trying to implement all the stuff I learned over the years at AOL, and all the stuff I wanted to try but couldn’t, either because of upper management (I can only say that I learned a whole lot about what not to do from AOL’s upper management over the years) or because I wasn’t in a place to do it. It’s been a lot of fun seeing my new team embrace all the things I’m throwing at them (and I’m throwing a bunch, everything from The Cluetrain to web standards).

It’s going to be an adventure, and before I get too far along in it, I have to say “thank you” to everyone I worked with at AOL. Without you, I wouldn’t be here, and I’ll be forever grateful.

And I’m Out!

They (big thanks to Shawn for organizing it and Andy, Bert and Frank for picking up the tab!) threw an awesome going away party for me Thursday afternoon, which was a great idea, because yesterday I was super sick and just barely made it in to turn in my badge, laptop, blackberry, etc and grab my boxes and mini-fridge.\
I love the people at AOL, always have. I’ve worked with, literally, hundreds of people in my thirteen years there, and I’m sad that I won’t see them every day now. But, it was definitely time to go. Now, I’m unemployed for two whole days before starting my new job down in Savannah. If I weren’t so sick, I might actually enjoy it!

Categorized as AOL

Last day

Today is Kevin’s last day at AOL. He’d been there for 13 years. Can you imagine? That is the same amount of time spent in school. AOL helped him find his passion, meet like-minded people, travel the world, pay off my student debt (hey, super thanks for that), and develop into an awesome web dude. Over 100 people went to his goodbye party. Which, wow. Thanks, AOL. You’ve been awesome to us, which we’ll always appreciate. Bye now. Have a great summer. Keep in touch!\
ETA- Oh noes! Kevin doesn’t have the internet attached to his hip anymore. I am going through withdrawal already.

The Triangle Will Keep on Turning

I made it to thirteen years at AOL. It started as a summer job way back in 1995 at the AOL call center in Tucson. I talked to AOL members who needed help. I was there for the summer of busy signals, and took more than two hundred and fifty phone calls in an eight hour shift (“Yes, it’s busy. No, it’s not your computer. If you’d like credit, I can transfer you to billing. Sorry!”).\
I’ve built all kinds of web apps, worked with wickedly smart, fun, weird and great people. I’ve had better managers than I deserve and mentors I’ll never be able to repay or express to them how much they helped me.\
I’ve written dozens of e-mails today to folks inside AOL and out, posted to twitter and to the ficlets blog. I’m emotionally raw at this point, because I’m going to miss working with everyone and seeing them every day. I’m not good with good-byes, and I’ve said enough for one day.\
If the previous three paragraphs aren’t clear, after thirteen crazy years, I’m leaving AOL. Yep. Last Monday, I got an interesting e-mail from a recruiter asking me if I’d be interested in a VP of Development position at a small company. I said, sure, I’ll talk to them. Several dozen e-mails, a dozen or so phone calls and an offer later, I’m joining Music Intelligence Solutions on 6/9. I’m more excited and nervous than I’ve been since Jen and I packed up and moved to Northern Virginia nine years ago.\
There are, of course, many more things to say, but I’m worn out.

Categorized as AOL

Go See Frank Gruber In Person

Though I will be speaking at another conference this same day still I wanted to help spread the word about the TECH cocktail CONFERENCE which is more than just a cocktail mixer event . Just last week TECH cocktail was awarded the Illinois I.T. Assocation CityLIGHTS Award, the first TECH cocktail conference will be held on Thursday, May 29, 2008 in Chicago. Frank has assured me that it’ll be solid and not at all boring. I actually work with Frank at AOL, and like him, so I trust that’s he’s telling the truth. I have no reason at all to doubt him.\
Check out the speaker list for the event. The event looks to facilitate a place for people to learn all the various aspects of starting and running a Web business. The usual “no nonsense” approach will be alive at the conference along with their signature relaxed atmosphere so attendees will learn a lot while having fun.\
If you are interested in attending the go register! If you go, and use the: kevinisawesome discount code, you can save a big ol’ twenty-five bucks! Space is very limited so sign up today.\
If I hadn’t already agreed to be on a panel at RailsConf, I’d totally be there.

Categorized as AOL

SxSW Interactive 2008

Kevin has blue hair!

I’m in Austin for SxSW Interactive 2008. I’ve been really busy with preparing for panels, worrying about panels, worrying about the web awards, dying my hair blue, etc. Here are some of the highlights of the week:

  • Career Transitions: From DIY to Working for the Man: I moderated a panel about the pros and cons of working for large corporations, startups, the government, freelancing and academia. The panelists were awesome: Jason Garber, Leslie Jensen-Inman, Cindy Li and Thomas Vander Wal. I think the panel went pretty well, and hopefully helped some people out.
  • Ficlets won a SxSW Web Award!!!! – I couldn’t be prouder. I posted about it over on the ficlets blog (it has my acceptance speech too). Jason deserves most of the credit, but I’m keeping the trophy. Mr. Scalzi just blogged about it too.
  • I dyed my hair blue for The International Day of Awesomeness. I’ve always wanted to, but never had the guts. Since the holiday is all about performing and celebrating feats of awesomness, I knew I had to do it. So, I spent Monday morning dying my hair and ruining hotel towels.
  • I got interviewed by New Riders (my publisher). It’s in the Voices That Matter podcast on iTunes, and they said it should be on YouTube some time today. And, here it is!
  • I got interviewed by the AOL Developer Network about ficlets and SxSW. No idea when that’ll go up.
  • I got to hang out with my friends at great events like Fray Cafe and 20×2.\
    I’m headed to California bright and early tomorrow morning and could really use a nap.