Help for AOL Hometown and Journal users.

Vish, the Editor of AOL Journals who runs the Magic Smoke blog, has written repeatedly that AOL is working with the people who run Google’s Blogger platform to get all of your content imported to them by Oct. 7th at the earliest. I have no idea if this is true. I’ll try to contact both Vish and other Editor at AOL writers for more details. To quote Vish’s most recent post on it:

To Paul, yes a copy of your journal will be made on Blogger. Your journal will still be available till Nov 1st. Also, the migration will be opened up to Journals users starting on or after Oct. 7th. We will be using this week to iron out any kinks in the process.

To Sherri – I would not worry about the migration too much. It should be fairly straightforward. Blogger will also have a helpdesk that you can send email to, if you have any issues and a live real person will respond and help out. So, all efforts have been made to minimize the pain.

To Yasmin (cayasm) and everybody else – Your journals will be copied over in its ENTIRETY (entries, comments, about me). So, anything else you hear is not true.

10-3-08, an update: Not much of an update, just more information found here concerning the alleged migration of AOL users to Blogger:

Vish, who currently runs the Magic Smoke blog, was disturbed by her employer’s decision to axe AOL journals, with no plan of any kind in place for the people using the service. They were just gonna close up shop.

Vish contacted John Panzer, formerly a developer at AOL, now working at Blogger. John agreed to write an ‘ap[p]’ that would allow AOL users to transfer their blogs to Blogger. That ap[p] is currently being tested, and should be available to AOL users as soon as October 7th. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The ap[p] will transfer the entire contents of one AOL blog – entries, comments, and sidebar information – to one, brand new blogger blog. It is a one shot. There will be no way to import to an existing blog, nor will there be any ability to pick and choose entries. If you have more than one AOL blog, you will repeat the process anew for each.

It’s Oct. 3rd as I write this. If AOL is going to move everyone’s blogs over to Blogger they better do it fast. AOL users have just 28 days left to get everything off of their servers. Talk about short notice.

AOL provides no way to download Hometown pages through FTP, while, conversely, FTP is pretty much the only way you can download AOL Journals. It’s utterly unprofessional of AOL to not give users a way to automatically export their journals to another blogging platform.

Clue Train, AOL: Every blogging platform includes such export options, including LiveJournal, WordPress and Blogspot. Every blogging platform except yours. It’s a perfect disgrace to leave your users dangling like this.

While using FTP lets you download multiple files at once, you can’t exceed whatever bandwidth cap your ISP holds you at, so for those of you have journaled on AOL since 1996 (how many of you are there? – let me know in the comments), it’s going to be a long, arduous process to download your content. I don’t envy any of you.

To recap what I know so far:

What Happened

AOL is booting all 100,000 AOL users off of Hometown and AOL Journals by Oct. 31st. If you haven’t downloaded your journal or Hometown content by the 31st, it will be deleted by AOL, so please find a way to download your files as fast as you can.

Download it well before the 31st if you can, since many of your journals are massive and could take days, if not an entire week, to finish downloading via FTP or other methods (outlined below). If you don’t have the time to download the files yourself, consider getting a friend to do it, or seriously, hiring someone. Otherwise you’ll lose what you have stored on AOL forever.

What You Can Do

There are a variety of ways to download your journal, including FTP. Depending on your technical experience and how much time and patience you have, some methods are better than others. Below are all the ways that I’m aware of to preserve your journal.

#1) AOL suggests you use FTP.

Yesterday I compiled a list of free, highly-rated FTP clients you can use to download your journal. To keep you from having to leave this page, here’s the list again:

  1. Flash FXP. From the publisher’s description: FlashFXP uses a familiar, Explorer-like interface that even the most novice user can master in minutes.
  2. Core FTP. From the publisher’s description: This fast and free FTP client …. is now free for business, personal and educational use.
  3. FileZilla. From the publisher’s description: The program lets you transfer files and navigate among folders, Web sites, and your computer …. [and] enables you to perform multiple file transfers simultaneously.
  4. FTP Commander. From the publisher’s description: This software enables you to perform multiple file transfers simultaneously.
  5. FTP Surfer. From the publisher’s description: FTP Surfer is a professional FTP client featuring an Internet Explorer style user interface including an address bar, history, and favorites menu.
  6. WS_FTP Lite. From my friend skellorg’s description: I’ve used WS_FTP (Lite, which is the free version) for close to ten years, so I wouldn’t recommend anything else.

AOL’s instructions for downloading your journal with FTP are here.

Advantages: It’s possible to download many files at once with FTP.

Disadvantages: 1.) You must be logged into your AOL account with the client-side software (such as your copy AOL 9.0) to grab your files with FTP. 2.) It’s time-consuming. 3.) Some AOL users don’t have the technical expertise to use FTP. For instance, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it. I’ve never used FTP in my life.

#2) Joe Manna suggests you use a command line program.

Joe is a former employee of AOL. This is his blog. He suggests you use a command line program called WGet to download your AOL files. His instructions are here.

Advantages: WGet is great if you’re comfortable working from the command line.

Disadvantages: 1.) It’s time-consuming. 2.) It will cause a ton of traffic on AOL’s servers, which, as Joe already mentioned, could result in AOL blocking you from connecting to finish downloading your journal. 3.) If you can’t work from the command line, then this method isn’t the one for you.

#3) AOL UK suggests you download your journal using your browser of choice.

As time-consuming as it is, this is the one method AOL users should try if they aren’t happy with methods #1 or #2. Here’s why: 1.) It’s really easy. 2.) You can choose exactly how and where you want to save your files, and exactly which files you want to save. AOL UK provides detailed instructions here. Attention Opera users: Follow the same instructions AOL provides for downloading your files with Firefox.

#4) You Can Also Try My Method

In my next post (now live!) I’ll show you how to use one more method. It’s simpler and less time-consuming than any of the methods mentioned above, but there are a few things you have to know to do it right. Check it out.