AOL Asks AOLers To ‘Disrupt AOL’

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Over the last few years, TechCrunch has done a pretty good job of Disrupting things. We’ve Disrupted San Francisco, we’ve Disrupted New York City, and most recently we’ve Disrupted Europe.

But now, our parent company wants TechCrunch employees, and all the rest of the company, to “Disrupt AOL.”

In an internal memo today, AOL Global CTO Curtis Brown announced an “exciting event” that will be taking place next month in AOL campuses “around the world.” In an “exciting twist” on the TechCrunch-branded Disrupt events, the company will be running an internal “Hackathon” and “Idea Battlefield” in which participants will be able to “pitch their ideas” in front of “judges.” Winning ideas will be “considered for actual development.”

Oh yeah, and there is a “pretty sweet prize package,” “including CASH.”

Then there’s a whole part about the “AOL Open philosophy,” which I’ve never heard of but apparently “challenges and rewards AOL brands to be more open,” which I have never actually seen happen. (One could argue that having the Disrupt branding “borrowed” without our knowledge for this “exciting event” is an example of such “openness.”)

The memo touts the company’s “long history of innovation,” which is qualified by the number of patents AOL has been awarded. Because patents = innovation.

Putting aside the fact that an internal hackathon is actually a cool idea, and that encouraging cross-promotion of various internal APIs is a good thing, and that yeah, we could come up with some new ideas for this “Idea Battlefield,” I began to worry that maybe AOL could become too Disrupted.

For instance, what if someone Disrupted our broadband business, the most profitable part of the company, and our grandmothers ended their 15 year-old AOL subscriptions? What if someone Disrupted our horrible internal employee portal, which is only accessible through the most arcane and impossible VPN you might never hope to use? What if someone found a way to Disrupt our massive — and growing — layer of middle management at AOL, thereby crippling our bureaucracy and spiraling the company out of control?

Would barnyard animals sprout wings? Would dogs and cats live peacefully together? Would AOL as we know it cease to exist?

Almost forgot: If you’re an AOL employee, not only can you submit your ideas to “Disrupt AOL,” but you can also help choose the logo you’ll be forced to look at while doing so. (I’m voting for D.)

disrupt aol

Full text of the memo:

Hey AOLers –

About a month ago, we held Beat The Internet Breakfasts in multiple AOL offices. We asked you to share thoughts and ideas about the AOL community, our products, and how we work. We read through each and every submission, and we started to take action.

See the different logos below/attached? We need you to pick one. For a t-shirt, for an invitation to the Event we are announcing today and for the design on the $2,500 check you and your co-workers might win as one of the prizes…. But more on that in a second.

We are pleased to announce an exciting event coming next month. Disrupt AOL will take place on our campuses around the world on December 3rd, with a Judging Event broadcast globally on December 5th. Putting a twist on TechCrunch Disrupt, this event will be comprised of a Hackathon and an Idea Battlefield, and will culminate in your projects being pitched before judges and considered for actual development. Oh yeah, winners also will get a pretty sweet prize package, including CASH.

This event is designed to drive the AOL Open philosophy and to challenge and reward AOL brands to be more open. AOL has a long history of innovation, with more than 1000 patents awarded since the inception of the company. By being open and letting the AOL community- all of you bright and creative people- loose on some of our APIs, I’m convinced we will generate some awesome ideas that will help move the company forward in significant ways.

You Want Open? How’s this for Open. Ryan Sagawa, our talented AOL Events intern, has come up with 4 logos for Disrupt AOL. Now we want you to choose the winner. Go to Inside RIGHT NOW to vote for the logo you think should represent Disrupt AOL on all our branding- including the t-shirts all participants will be receiving.

For the Hackathon, teams of up to five people will compete to come up with and code an original, open, viable, and innovative idea within a 12-hour time period. If you are interested in participating in the Hackathon and are in search of a team, send an email to DisruptAOLTeam@teamaol.com and we will connect you to other team members. Teams are encouraged to have a mix of both engineers and product managers.

The Idea Battlefield will allow individuals and teams across the company to submit their potential products for review by a judging panel, with the best submissions going on to a finalist round to pitch their ideas.

Rules, registration, and prizes can all be found now Inside, and we’ll announce the API’s you can choose from in the near future. Please check in often for updates.

I realize that we have a lot going on and many, many, competing priorities, but this event is hugely important to the future of the company so I encourage you to take the time to participate. My hope is that the next great AOL product will be born from this event and we will all win. Think big, take chances, have fun, show your love for what you do, and go out there and root for your colleagues. Look for more information on the Inside later this week for how to register as well as the great prizes up for grabs.

Curtis

Curtis Brown
Global CTO, AOL Inc