As most bookies know, Sundays do not generally have updates or news. However, it is rumored that AOL is considering obliterating the one last reason anybody would ever have for visiting their site, the message boards. That’s right, as bad as the web based boards are compared to the older versions, they are still the same groups of friends coming to the same outdated website. And AOL is tired of this! Can’t these people go somewhere else and let AOL die in peace?
Well, yes, they can. And if they shut down the message boards, they will find other boards. And all the happy little AOL employees can go home and watch TV and start collecting unemployment. One wonders if John Donahoe has decided to destroy AOL during his breaks from dismantling Ebay.
So, how is this book related? Simple. AOL is the home of my book boards, the friends I have had online since at least 1995. In those days, the Hardboiled board was the coolest message board on the net. No less than 33 authors posted there in those halcyon early days, from Anthony Bourdain to Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, James W. Hall, Randy Wayne White, Bob Randisi, Laura Lippmann…the list goes on. Every day you would wake up to posts from these great writers and their friends. Indeed, for one glorious period we had Jim Hall writing a short story every holiday about PI James Holliday and his unlikely adventures. Amazing, a best selling author throwing out hilarious stories just for our benefit.
Until one day, some nameless AOL bot deleted one of Jim’s stories as being too racy. (It was only ‘racy’ because the idiot didn’t understand some of the words Jim used and assumed they were forbidden.) And that was that. When it became obvious that any idiotic simpleton could edit the works of some of the best writers of our times, they decided to find greener pastures. The Triumph of the Stupid.
There was also the Heinlein board, which collected SFF writers and readers and was, in its way, every bit as exciting as the Hardboiled board. Steve Stirling posted there occasionally, Harry Turtledove was a regular, Micheal Flynn was (and still is) there…another amazing interaction between fans and authors they will probably never meet face to face, but came to know very well through AOL’s message boards.
But even to this day the fans remain, mostly now on the Mystery/Thriller board, although Bob Randisi does, on rare occasions, drop in at the Hardboiled. The Heinlein board has the occasional post. Most are gone already, though, as AOL chose a slow death many years ago when they changed the simple, functional boards for something ‘better’, which is to see slow, counter-intuitive and clumsy.
When you see companies like Ebay and AOL self-destruct, the real question is who hired these people in the first place?
Ah, well, change comes, is rarely as good as those who clamor for it think it will be and is often much worse. And so it goes.