Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Full Pay & Benefits for forum volunteers

Are online forum helpers volunteers or employees?  This is a discussion that goes back over 20 years. In 1999 a group of chat room helpers filed a lawsuit against America Online requesting employee status and rights.

AppleLink Personal Edition
AppleLink Personal Edition (pre-AOL)

Tuesday, District Judge Kevin Duffy rejected Time Warners request to dismiss a lawsuit which could affect over 12,000 former AOL online helpers and cost tens of millions of dollars. The primary litigants in this case are named as Ann Johnson, Pamela Spencer Johnson, Kelly Hallissey,and Donald LoweWikipedia also mentions a Brian Williams. The Department of Labor dismissed this case in 2001 but apparently it continues on.

While AOL may not have a lot of fans in current online forums, this is one I hope is successful for America Online and Time Warner.  Community Leaders at AOL deserved much more than they received but they knew from the start what they were agreeing to.  Many web sites online would not function without the help of dedicated volunteers who ask nothing in return.  If the courts decided they were all employees eligible for minimum wage many sites couldn’t afford to stay online.

It doesn’t look like a possible win in this suit has been taken too seriously.  Most news organizations haven’t picked it up and it certainly hasn’t affected trading of Time Warner Inc.(NYSE:TWX) 

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Bill. Man, talk about a blast from the past when I stumbled on your blog! I remember drinking beers with you 20 years ago while talking about what Q-Link would evolve into. And yeah, while some folks got overhead accounts and free time, I get their point that they deserved more. Some sites actually do pay a nominal amount now, partiallly to avoid such an issue. I think AOL will ultimately prevail, if only because of the march of time.

Do stay in touch.


6:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey George,

Yea, it's been a long time but some names you can't forget. The folks I remember working online deserved a lot more than a free account. Some were compensated, some were treated like crap, but the folks I knew all managed to have a good time. I was very surprised to see it was still an issue.

Glad you found me! Hope you'll stop by often. Anyone with your years of experience can certainly offer some good comments.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know -- I remember when I left figuring that it only had a couple more years to go...

While the "corporate entity continues... and continues... and continues..." (Is anyone thinking McDonald's Styrofoam Containers???) The "soul" that was Q-Link... That gave birth to the //e; the //gs, the Mac versions... Tandy... OS2... Newton... Palm....

I remember developers that would come in at 6AM on Tuesday mornings (with bagels) so that they could be there to witness the "birth" of their "child"...

:: sigh ::

The King is Dead!.... Long Live the King!

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides.... Remember, that's how I started..... :D I was a qguide... ;)

6:04 AM  

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