This TIL made me think that people here might be interested in my experiences because I was there when the lawsuit was filed. Like every other active volunteer I thought it was ridiculous. I wasn't laughing anymore though when AOL decided to "limit their liability" and term me for being a teenager.

Before anybody asks, I didn't find out about the settlement until the day after the deadline to file a claim. So I've never gotten a dime in compensation. I have memories though. And an almost embarrassingly large pile of documentation (emails, chat logs, forum posts) from the time.


Un-redacted images have been sent to the mods along with proof of who I am. Hopefully they haven't gone to bed.

Can't think of anything else to add, so AMA!

Comments: 90 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

neutronpenguin25 karma

What's your personal take on this whole thing?

simAlity81 karma

I think Reddit is headed in a very bad direction. The kind of passion that Victoria, Dacvak and KickMe444 brought to the table isn't the sort of thing you can just go out and find on a job board. For all three to have been given the boot says bad things about the current management and their vision for this site.

That said, Reddit will survive the current crisis. This may be the beginning of the end of the site, but it isn't The End. What happened will not be forgotten but a site like this is too big to fail overnight.

uberrust14 karma

That's what they said about too, too big to fail. Now look at it, and that happened in a very brief time frame. I was very much a power user on digg and it was almost night and day when they rolled out the latest version. Everyone left. We were pandering to a tiny audience.

simAlity51 karma

I'm not saying that Reddit is too big to fail. I am saying it is too big to fail overnight. Also, IIRC, what Digg did was cut off user generated content. Which is like committing seppaku.

unode20 karma

Thanks for offering this AMA at such an appropriate time!

Based on what you've heard (subjectively) about Victoria's departure, how similar does it seem to the conditions of the AOL lawsuit?

simAlity32 karma

In a lot of ways, it is actually very different.
For one thing, Victoria was paid. Also, at AOL, we had shifts that we were expected to work. If, for some reason, you couldn't work your normal shift you had to find someone who could fill in for you. If you elected to do forum moderation you were assigned a forum (you couldn't pick) and expected to keep track of everything that happened there.

For Reddit volunteers things seem to be a lot more free-flowing. It appears to be "do what you can, when you can."

However the lack of useful tools, communication and support from the higher ups is very much the same.

Also, AOL required everybody to sign an NDA.

KellyHallissey11 karma

Actually, its identical. The guide boss, a paid employee was fired at the beginning of the end of remote staff. Her leaving is what gained me the label of "discontent" because I was fed information & memos as to what was going to go down....

simAlity14 karma

Ah, Kelly Hallissey, leader of

How's the baby?

With respect, I strongly suggest that you start your own AMA. Proof can be sent to AMA verify. Given your prominence they might even put you on the schedule.

KellyHallissey10 karma

lol the "baby" is now 17!!! I think I should probably read the rules before starting much more ;x Brian Williams & I are discussing digging out the paperwork & files we were sent on the court case. I'm sure I can drag up some of the other named parties as well. Dangit now Im committing, I should BE committed. I should prolly just throw everything on the domain & let them all read it without comment #SlackerPath

simAlity12 karma

JFYI guys: She's not referring to NBC's Brian Williams.

Seriously, you should start your own AMA. People here are deeply interested in what happened at AOL because Reddit is treating their own mods in a very shitty manner.

Dsnahans14 karma

What exactly consisted of a full days work?

simAlity30 karma

I did a two hour long shift after school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. At the end of each chat I was expected to submit a list of name of everybody who participated and upload a log of the chat to one of the site libraries. Then I would file a report on the forum.

I don't really remember when I fit in the forum moderation. I only did it for a couple of months towards the end of my year there. With the forum moderation I went through all the new posts and removed any spam or content violations. I don't think there was a report that needed to be filed.

sovietskaya18 karma

That's fucking serious work. with all the reporting. And you just took it for free... did you find the experience useful later on?

simAlity27 karma

It wasn't bad once you got the hang of it. The chat room would announce when someone entered or left the room and I would just copy pasta the name into an email which was sent at the end of of each shift. The report itself was pretty much fill in the blank although there was a place for "war stories".

Did I find the experience "useful" later on? Kinda hard to say 'yes'. It was my first taste of corporate America which was valuable.

Mostly I found the experience enjoyable. I discovered that I really liked helping others (i.e. my supervisor and cohosts) and I really enjoyed being a chat host. There was a large community of volunteers and forums where we all hung out and that was one of my favorite places to be. In the "real world" I was a socially awkward teenager. On the net, I was a respected (or at least a somewhat well-liked) member of a virtual community. I had friends and we had fun. If nothing else, it made that year in high school easier to endure.

JudasTheJew12 karma

A hair sandwich or a crayon omelette?

simAlity20 karma

Whose hair?

What color crayon?

JudasTheJew8 karma

Tobey maguires hair, or 4 regular sized blue crayons

simAlity15 karma

I'll take the omelette.

Kabukikitsune12 karma

Out of morbid curiosity, I have to ask this. I will understand if you don't quite know the answer.

For a time, especially when AOL was starting to experience a serious down turn in user numbers, there was a campaign where people would be mailed AOL CD's in a kind of junk mail (snail mail spam.) There was a campaign in protest to this that included taping the letter to a brick and writing "return to sender" on it, with the intent of forcing AOL to have to pay shipping costs due to the weight of the brick. A second variant of this involved the "send for a free CD" cards that sometimes turned up in the mail. My question is this, do you happen to know how much this may have cost AOL, or perhaps how many bricks actually turned up at the company?

simAlity15 karma

I remember those CDs. They are almost an icon of that time.

But no, I have no idea how much the mail-back campaign cost them. I had practically no contact with the people "in house". There was a group of employees, called the CLO, who were supposed to represent us (the volunteers) to the company and vice versa but they were little more than corporate mouth pieces.

The day I and the other teenagers were termed one of them entered the chatroom. It was about an hour after our pink slips arrived (we were given a 30 day notice). She came in. Sat there for a few minutes. Then left. Never said a word.

KittenImmaculate10 karma

I'm confused how you were "fired" and began a lawsuit as an unpaid volunteer?

simAlity17 karma

I didn't start the lawsuit. I was an active volunteer when it was filed and "fired" as a result. AOL wanted to "limit [their] liability".

Looking back, I think they were concerned about the child labor laws. Some of us were pretty young. One of my friends was 14 and was the de-facto chat supervisor for another area. Some of the people she managed were as young as 12.

KellyHallissey9 karma

There were children as young as 9 years old working illegally for AOL back then. Did your parents sign a release for you to work?

simAlity11 karma


KellyHallissey7 karma

Were you aware that AOL knew they were breaking the law all along?

simAlity9 karma

That's not actually a question is it?

KellyHallissey8 karma

Yes I should have been more specific, were you aware that AOL's attorneys had already advised them that they were in violation of child labor laws by hiring children to work for them as far back as 1995?

simAlity14 karma

Kelly! Start. Your own. AMA.

Mine is about what it was like to be a volunteer for AOL. Your's can be about the lawsuit.

If you say that AOL knew that they were breaking the law, I believe you. The corporate people treated us like crap. But as I said earlier, people on my level didn't see a lot of them, so it was just a tiny blip on the RADAR.

I loved being a volunteer. I loved the community. I loved helping others. And I was devastated at how it was taken away from me.

seek3r_red8 karma

When did you "work" there?

Reason I ask is because I actually worked there as a regular paid employee, back in the early '90s when they were still HQ'ed in Vienna, VA (and right before or just when they became a household name).

Did you like it otherwise? I did. Had a blast, for the most part, right up till I got fired/quit, anyhow ......

simAlity13 karma

1998-1999. And yeah, I loved it. It was my first "job" and I positively lived and breathed it. I was sooooo upset when they termed me.

seek3r_red10 karma

98-99? I was 92-93, myself. :)

Yeah, I was kinda bummed out when they dumped me, but honestly, it was my own dammed fault. I didn't exactly know how to behave back then, and got caught doing a few things I probably shouldn't have been. :(

It was one of the best jobs I had had, up to that point. I did start getting a bit burned out at the end though.

I worked the Help Desk, at first, mostly answering questions from people who had connection troubles or problems with our software (we still had the old DOS based stuff around, and WAOL 2.5 (I think) was just coming into use. Lotta trouble with that. :(

Then I moved on to being a Guide. I loved that part. Probably my favorite position. :)

Then I moved to the TOS Squad. That was probably the one I liked least. Got really tired of handling irate "businessmen" angry at why their e-mail didn't work all of a sudden because their accounts got locked, and explaining to them that they had to contact billing to fix this because of the actions of one of their teenagers doing inappropriate shit on the family account. Really tiresome/aggravating, really quick, that one became. :(

Then I got "busted" .... and that was all she wrote.

But, on a side note, and completely unrelated, my next job was even better. :) As a programmer with Id software on the earlier versions of Doom. :) (Thought about doing an IamA/AMA on that, but under the current circumstances, probably not).

Did they still offer stock options as part of the pay package/incentives when you were there? They did for me, and that is one of the few regrets I have, that I did not keep those, but cashed them in. This was before the merger with Time Warner, and what with the splits and all, I would have done very well indeed, had I taken the shares. /sigh. Win some/lose some, ya know?

simAlity6 karma

The Guides were awesome. I'd call them in when the chat room got really rowdy. You might wonder how rowdy a chatroom full of book lovers could be? Well....we had a hacker problem...

I wouldn't of done well on TOS either. Especially if I had moved there from the Guide group.

Did they still offer stock options as part of the pay package/incentives when you were there?

I was a volunteer. Aside from the free account and a Christmas card, they didn't give me squat!

The person who owned the area I worked for did give me free books though.

Did they have The Club House when you were there? Or was that strictly for volunteers?

wfw127 karma

how old were you back then?

simAlity8 karma


zlacks5 karma

How did they know your age?

simAlity5 karma

The form I had to fill out to get the free account given to all Community Leaders required me to enter my birth date. IIRC I also had to submit some sort of proof of who I was. That's how they knew.

Cheesygoodness14 karma

What's the color of your monitor?

simAlity5 karma


arbitrarist23 karma

How were you prepared to deal with script kiddies and other hackers while volunteering?

simAlity9 karma

I didn't have to worry about them too much unless they came into the chatroom. If they did....

Early on I had to call for reinforcements. The forum leader had an 800 number that I could reach her at if I really needed help. Or I could call in one of the Guides. The Guides had the power to mute, block and possibly even ban on the spot.

Later I got the ability to sorta restore order on my own. Not the Guides could, but I could mute people and then request that they be kicked.

In case you're wondering the command to mute someone was

=qpermagag <name> <time>

arbitrarist21 karma

I was wondering :). I can not imagine if people came into the room with stolen Host accounts.

simAlity1 karma

Yeah that would have been bad. Sometimes hackers would get their hands on the permagag tool, covertly mute the host and then stir up trouble but I never saw one do it while wearing someone else's uniform.

rule2productions3 karma

If Reddit offered you Victoria's job, would you accept?

simAlity5 karma

No....I don't want to move to San Fran. Also I can't type that fast. I max out at 80WPM.

36yearsofporn1 karma

80 wpm isn't fast?

simAlity2 karma

Not compared to Victoria.

derfherdez3 karma

did they hook you up with a decent modem, and "back door" phone access?

After AOL turned on their community, did you think they were doing the right thing for the long term?

simAlity5 karma

did they hook you up with a decent modem, and "back door" phone access?

No to the modem. At one point there had been an 800 number that hosts could dial up with if their own dial up numbers were busy (remember that?) but it had been removed by the time I came on the scene. Of course by then the busy signal thing had been largely resolved as well.

After AOL turned on their community, did you think they were doing the right thing for the long term?

Nope. I thought they were being rat b*stards.

SpiritualSuccessors3 karma

Any interesting details about AIM you could share? They log conversations, files shared, put it all in a database somewhere? I think I read something like that once.

simAlity5 karma

Not really. AIM was only just getting started while I was there. Keep in mind that this was back when AOL 4.0 was the new kid on the block -- and not a particularly well liked kid either.

DarkSkyKnight3 karma

How did you get that job? Why did you accept the offer (if any)?

simAlity6 karma

I was 15 at the time and I hated how chat hosts would disrupt chats. So I applied to become one with the intention of changing how things were done from the inside-out. The area I really wanted to work for (a writing forum) didn't have any openings so I applied to the book lovers forum instead.

As to how I found the opening: There was a "help wanted" area where you could find "job" listings and apply.

eflemingo172 karma

If you had five minutes to create the world's most disgusting burrito and everything in the world was at your disposal, how would you create the burrito?

simAlity3 karma

I wouldn't create the burrito because doing so would require me to handle some very disgusting stuff.

IAmDaBadMan1 karma

Did you ever get your AOL Volunteer swag? I used to volunteer in the Javascript forum in the 90's. I didn't get my stuff until after I quit. :D

simAlity1 karma

Nope! Never got a thing.