Work for AOL? Please read this.

I had a hard time finding out what happened to Laura Peterson. As a few readers might recall from a deleted post on Anti-AOL last week, she was the AOL Product Manager who wanted me to let my readers know she was offering help to those of you with questions about using AOL.

I was happy to hear from her since I get a lot of those questions myself and would love to defer them to someone else (since I don’t really know how to answer them) so I wrote a post on Anti-AOL (since deleted) that let AOL users know about her and Lee Givens, who wants to help people use AOL on Mac.

Three or four days later I got my first hint that something was wrong when a long-time reader and friend of mine left a comment asking me if Ms. Peterson had been fired. Not knowing what he was talking about, I reproached him for his comment (because even if I had known what he was talking about, I think it would have been more polite to address his question to her, not me).

I got my first hint that at least it was an honest question when I looked Ms. Peterson’s blog over last week and saw the most recent post was Goodbye! Whoops. What was going on here?

The post left very few clues. She was leaving AOL; that was all.

Mike’s question came about because him and I have spent years discussing both the frequency and high head-count of layoffs at AOL, so it was quite natural for him to suspect she had met the same fate as other AOLers did. I just didn’t think that she had until a week after I read his comment, when I finally saw her post about it.

Since Ms. Peterson didn’t contact me to let me know she was leaving AOL I wrote another post warning people who work for AOL not to contact me. I was afraid she might have been laid off or fired simply for establishing a rapport with me.

Given the possibility of that, I felt it was the right thing to do to warn people who work for AOL not to contact me until I knew what the real story was.

Fortunately, the real story couldn’t be any further from what Mike and I thought. Ms. Peterson responded to an email I sent her and told me she was not laid off or fired but rather accepted a new position with another company. She also wrote, since I asked her about it:

“…me leaving AOL had absolutely nothing to do with reaching out to you! I told my management about it and also copied corp comm, as I would with any ‘reach out’ to a blogger or the press. Your commentary was friendly and unbiased and there were no problems [with it] at all.

So there you have it: if you work for AOL – and if you vet things properly – there’s no reason not to contact me if you have something useful or interesting to share with my audience. You won’t lose your job over it. And I won’t have to lose any sleep wondering if you did. My apologies for coming to quite a different conclusion before I knew any better.

I should have some general updates ready later on tonight (I know – how unusual of me). Been getting a lot of email lately that I haven’t had time to deal with; look for your email to be addressed on my blog later this evening.