My woman - that is, my wife, who it turns out DOES read my blog, and would henceforth liked to be referred to as "my woman" (she finds "my wife" to be too 1950's) - anyway, "my woman" has been known to give me a fair amount of grief for not being "Present". She says I'm often thinking about other things when I'm supposed to spending quality family time with, well, my family. So I've really been working on being "Present" (though working on this post might be considered evidence to the contrary :)).
In a similar way, one of my specific goals here at AOL is to help us be more "Present in the Industry". It bugs me a little (read: a LOT) that when people talk and think about Internet companies and the behaviour transformations driven by technology, AOL often doesn't even make the top 10 (Google, Yahoo, Amazon, E-Bay, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, MySpace ... yada yada yada). Or the articles tend to be stand-alone "What ever happened to...?" style COMPANY articles - they're not enough about our products, technologies, and services in a real competitve business context (side-by-side reviews, recommendations, etc.) , i.e. the relevance of our efforts in the industry.
Now (historically), that's not THEIR fault, its ours.
The good news is I think this is changing. We're STARTING to show up on the same page with other relevant, competitive Internet technologies (which means we're STARTING to matter again), in small ways, though its still with some surprise ("Maybe its a fluke?", they think; "If only it didn't say 'AOL'", they write).
We've had a lot of internal reformation and disentanglement that we needed to achieve here over the last year/year-and-a-half - both technically and organizationally. And though we are FAR from done, I think we're indeed over the hump - these emerging AOL technology and employee blogs are but one, small, visible sign of this.
Our progress in this regard, I expect, is going to be accelerating much more visibly, in some substantial ways, over the course of the next year. As these things become more public, I'll be expanding my discussion here to cover our increasing efforts across our whole technology base to be MUCH more present and transparent, "in sych" if you will (sorry - inside joke :)), with the Internet community at large - with products, services, and, yes, technology.
If AOL is going to become relevant again, if we're going to be "Present in the Industry", we're going to have to erase the boundaries between AOL and the Internet, and between AOL and your computer . We need to become an increasing part in the clickstream and thoughtstream of an increasingly connected world - in the browser, WITH the browser, and beyond the browser.
And I believe that this is as much a cultural transformation for us as it is a technological one.
Our karmic niche is pretty simple (no, not this one, wiseguy. :P): We democratize the Internet - making powerful things accessible. Too often, especially during the heady boom/merger days, I think we realize AOL took the "So easy to use no wonder its #1" mantra a little too literally. Understood the wrong way, it can became about being "dumbed down" instead of "empowered".