Young, Gorgeous, and Worth $20 Million!

AOL's Jacksonville, Florida Call Center

12-01-2006: No, that title doesn’t describe me (I’m broke). It describes a building. An impressive (125,000 sq. ft.) structure built in the Spanish style common to modern Florida construction, only 4 years old, with lots of eye-candy and other sweet stuff:

  • 18 acres overlooking a lake.
  • Raised floor throughout.
  • Fitness facility, locker room, shower facility.
  • Full service kitchen with seating for 160 and ample covered patio seating.
  • High-density communications equipment.
  • 520-ton chilled water plant.

Not bad for a call center. I found pictures and some descriptions (page no longer exists) of AOL’s Jacksonville, FL call center while researching another call center scheduled to be closed (page no longer exists) in January. I’m against new construction – existing houses and commercial properties should be re-occupied until they fall down – but when you’re fleecing customers left and right, I suppose you can “afford” to be environmentally irresponsible (the endless free trial CDs clogging landfills and coffee tables around the world come to mind).

Getting back on point, this puts the AOL Call Center Staffer Body Count somewhere in the 4,000-5000 area for the US, by my quick and unofficial estimate, a sorry state for a legion of staffers trained to never let people cancel their accounts. God help us when they join other ISPs and bring that training with them.

What is it with MapQuest?

12-01-2006: What is it with the addiction to MapQuest (owned by AOL)? I was first exposed to it 3 years ago as a corporate secretary when, at the salesmens’ prompting, I’d use it for directions to client’s houses. We had slow DSL on PCs crawling away from us with spyware and guys out in the field calling for directions dozens of times a day. The site was such a pain in the ass I’d type reports, file, and put them on hold while it loaded.

What reminded me was this gem from the mouth of Jim Greiner, GM of MapQuest, who calls MQ “…an invaluable part of people’s lives.” Yeah, right.

More like people are too lazy to – or have no idea how to – find good resources. I did a search for “online maps” after reading that, and of course MP was the first result. Google, on the other hand, showed their map service (Google Maps) as a “sponsered result” at the top of the page, inducing lots of “huhs” and “WTF’s?” from me.

How can they display their OWN map service as a sponsered result?

Are they paying themselves for the ad? If people click on it, do they pay themselves for that, too? It’s the most blatant, obvious way to make sure you see it as the first result without it looking like corruption but doesn’t, repeat, does not work. Why don’t they just work the result in without all the “Sponsered Link” bullshit? What’s the worst that would happen? It’d still probably land “above the fold”….like SERP #3 would kill them.

It’s too bad about their ethics (Making a farce of ‘Do No Evil’ since our first IPO™) because their maps are great. You go to the landing page and voila! there’s a map! How’d they do it? The better question is, why doesn’t everyone else? Google’s service is so much more intuitive that if competitors like MapQuest find a way to use it, and stop running ads on their damn pages, they might gain more converts…like me.

AOL cooking the books…again?

12-01-2006: I have to admire AOL’s sheer — what’s the best word I can pull out of New York for this — chutzpah by insisting ad revenue for AOL.com is up (page no longer exists) merely because a subsidiary of AOL, Advertising.com (ad.com for short) is making money, hand over fist, by selling ads to third party websites. AOL’s mantra is what you don’t know won’t hurt you, convinced most of us won’t learn the truth. This is the kind of overinflated optimism and outright lying that will surely get them investigated by the SEC again, and I for one can’t wait. You’d think they’d get real before they get sued but think again.

AOL crashes virtual environments? No way!

12-01-2006: I was a hair’s breadth away from using a virtual OS to test AOL on last month for my new “how to uninstall” tutorial, to protect my PC and avoid the format I’ll do after screwing it up testing every uninstall product out there. I decided not to because it meant taking extra steps, and I was too tired/lazy to devote the extra time, and worried, too, that a virtual environment wouldn’t give the same results as a real OS. Now Fernando Cassia of The Inquirer writes that AOL crashed on a virtualized Win2K, which uses the same NTFS file system as XP, so I wonder if virtualizing would’ve helped after all.