AOL’s AIM Pages Social Network
Considered an evolution of “the first ever social network” — AOL’s Member Directory —AIM Pages was more than just a social network tied to your AIM Buddy List. While only AOL employees really considered Member Directory the first social network, it was clear that AOL was a bit behind the curve to only just be considering investing in the social networking space in 2005/2006. (Remember that Friendster was on its last breath, Facebook was still private-ish, and MySpace was king.)
Weighing in on the AIM Pages team’s efforts from the perspective of my position with AOL Music, I was young and opinionated and of the impression that the great majority of executives working on the project hadn’t really even used MySpace, Friendster or Facebook the same way teens and college students had. Frustrated with what I was seeing, I eventually shot a 4 page “Matt’s Guide to What AIM Pages Should Be” document off to a listserv. Not twenty minutes later, I got a call from the head of Product Management, asking if I’ve ever heard of it. I hadn’t. Thus began my career as a Product Manager.
Tasked with the typical duties of a ProdM, I managed the product requirements, task tracking, bugs, UX/UI development, and overall progress of pieces or subcomponents of the overall initiative. I was responsible for Search, friends component (Buddy Gallery), the Buddy Feed (an early response to Facebook’s News Feed), settings pages, privacy and rostering, and the media modules. Working with operations, marketing, programming, legal, advertising, and corporate communications, I gathered feedback from various executive stakeholders as well as integrated focus group and user testing feedback. As one of the more rewarding aspects, I managed teams of developers in the US, Ireland, and Bangalore, getting to visit them regularly. I also travelled to train and support AOL’s various help desks and call centers.
AIM Pages featured a robust AJAX drag-and-drop modular publishing system, intending to grant publishing freedom to users stuck with a typical form-field layout like MySpace and Facebook. While ultimately a bit too ambitious (read: buggy) for a first- or second-iteration product on such a massive scale, AIM Pages was eventually abandoned and profiles were migrated to AOL’s costly 2008 acquisition, Bebo. I think mine even still exists there in some Frankenstein form.
product manager, managed international dev teams (US, Ireland, India), focus groups & user testing