no, really!

So, AOL just laid off a bunch of people, including half of And guess what was in the severance packages, along with the usual assortment of "fuck off" paperwork?

That's right.

A CD with 1000 free hours of AOL!

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18 Responses:

  1. brad says:

    Whoa. Talk about a slap in the face.

  2. andrewducker says:

    Makes you wish you worked there, huh?

  3. kw34hd1 says:

    upon reading your post to my girlfriend this morning, she replied:

    "seriously... that's how people get killed."


  4. krow says:

    Ask yourself "What is the worst one can do with a total of 1000 hours of free service to screw with their ex-employer?"

    There is potential for a little fun with it.

  5. ex_ilk says:

    They could have at least made it one of the old floppys. At least you could have used that. Was it in the landfill-choking packaging, or the newer, easy to dispose of untouched shrinkwrap and cardboard?


  6. marypcb says:

    and that would be because AOL gives all ex-employees a free AOL account for life and they'll need the AOL software to set it up.

    • ronbar says:

      Accounts for life? No wonder they're in the shitter.

      I interviewed with them for a unix sysadmin position a couple months ago at their Reston office. Everyone I interviewed with was depressed and basically told me not to take the job unless I wanted to learn about nothing but doomed, creaky, proprietary systems that take enormous effort just to keep afloat.

      All except for the long-hair who appeared to be AOL Employee ~14 and had just returned from a month-long ski trip and was pretty out of it. He probably cashed out before the crash.

      He mostly talked about the Good Ol' Days; it was incredibly boring.

      • ronbar says:

        I forgot the best part! Every employee of the company is required to use AOL for email and for getting real work done. My different interviewers more than once were wrestling with the software in a vain attempt to find information or IM someone. They ended up picking up the phone every time.

        Every employee was also expected to be a beta tester, right from the first beta.

        • jwz says:

          Fortunately, they didn't try to impose that rule on Netscape.

          But, ridiculous as it sounds to try and actually, you know, use AOL software, it's a good rule in general. If your company makes a product, and your employees aren't using it, you're doing something wrong.

          If AOL's product wasn't complete garbage, it wouldn't sound like such a bad idea to make employees use it. You wouldn't expect to find someone at Netscape using IE as their regular browser. I mean, you do, but you wouldn't expect it.

          • insomnia says:

            Agreed. It usually is a good idea to have employees use their own software. Guy Kawasaki called this "Eating your own dogfood", which is a particularly apt term in this case.

            Then again, if you don't empower your employees to actually change the software so it actually works, then it's a particularly stupid exercise in waste and self deception.

            Eat your own dogfood, indeed. No wonder dogs lick their balls...

            • jwz says:

              I'm pretty sure the dogfood thing was a Barksdale-ism. He was always saying things like that.

              • insomnia says:

                I was curious, so I did a bit of research. Kawasaki wrote about it (and made it one of his prime doctrines) in Rules for Revolutionaries, but it dates back earlier than that, and I was kind of shocked to hear where it got its first real exposure, at least as mentioned on the Internet.

                "Eat your own dogfood" is the commonly used quote, but the process has been known as "dogfooding" for quite some time. The earliest Dejanews listing for dogfooding is from Feb. 13th, '97, where it discusses it as a practice of Microsoft. The origin of the phrase is said to be from the pet food industry, of course, where the sentiment "A dog food manufacturer ought to be willing to eat the food he produces." was long in use.

                The earliest mention of the phrase "eat your own dogfood" on Dejanews is from Jan. 22nd, 1996.

                However, searching Google actually found some earlier references. The scary news is that the phrase (or at least it's first popularization) might have come from Microsoft.

                There's some evidence for this, actually...
                "I was there in early '95 (it might have been late '94) when a memo came down from somewhere on high -- it might have been one of the rare missives from billg himself. It advised everyone to load the new Windows95 onto their work machines and to begin using it as the standard operating system. I was happy enough to do so since I detested Windows 3.2. I don't recall any particular problems that I had, but I did notice that apparently unrelated problems started cropping up on the network. Email was frequently going down. Raid (the (in house?) BugDatabase?) was often inaccessible. Even nearby servers and printers would disappear. A few days later a second memo from a lower level arrived through the network mess advising everyone to remove Windows95."

                Still, Microsoft isn't exactly known for their unique ideas, but it *is* known for its widescale theft of other's ideas, so while they might have popularized the idea (probably through the books Dynamics of Software Development, Microsoft Press or Microsoft Secrets: How the World's Most Powerful Software Company Creates Technology, Shapes Markets, and Manages People, both published in 1995, I'm sure someone else in the software industry came up with it first.

              • HA! you kill me!ˇ¿ o

          • jlindquist says:

            If your company makes a product, and your employees aren't using it, you're doing something wrong.

            Well sure, if it's designed to suit their purposes. But we all know the tradeoffs of power versus ease-of-use which come into play in this case.

            Five and a half years at Qualcomm, and I never fired up Eudora once except to look at what was new. It was not designed to handle mail in the way I needed mail to be handled. Runtime bugs aside, the AOL system was never designed to fulfill the needs of business enterprise users, and I don't get why this is so difficult for people to understand.

      • marypcb says:

        ah yes, as we used to say, that server's not dead, it's just Reston (guess where I worked for five years). AOL has burned through some really amazing people over the years on dev, programming and content; not everything is proprietary by any means; major internal apps are built on Java and SQL and the big servers are all Unix rather than Stratus now, but they do plug into the bizarre AOL POD network structure and they run the AOLServer Web server that they bought in from Navisoft many years ago rather than Apache; it's actually pretty neat and they used to compile it up for irix specially, but it's not going to be hugely relevant elsewhere.

        Employee # 14 would have vested and cashed out years ago; current stock options are worthless (even more so in the UK which never IPOd!) Unless they love their job anyone who has vested jumps ship pretty quickly; early vesters made so much money they didn't need to work but many stayed for a long time because they liked what they did and got on well with their manager. The good old days? They're good and gone, that's why they're good, because they're gone; but our conversation turns to kow-tow, we kiss the past's ass, all night long (LW III). The original good old days were 1984 when Steve Case bluffed money out of Apple, or the early 90s when everything was up for grabs or the mid 90s when you could still do neat stuff at AOL (I had a Linux forum on the service!). AOL's been crashing internally for a couple of years now, but huge numbers of page views disguised that until the ad money went boom. They're in a very odd position. But keeping an account open costs a fraction of what acquiring another member does and hey, they put the visitor numbers up!

  7. jeff318 says:

    marypcb - how interesting!

  8. xgirl says:

    aol=doa...jeez does that require them to use AOL as their ISP? do they lose their cool internal aol handle?