Your Ad Here

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Take: The Good News In The Bad Propeller Redesign

By Scott Nance

Today, on the one-week anniversary of the rollout of the redesign on -- despite all of the unhappiness vented on the 'Net over the last seven days about Propeller's new look and feel -- I can report some good news.

The silver lining amidst the pervasive bugginess and interface clunkiness is that that the folks who run the website do seem to care what we longtime users think -- and they are responding. enjoyed a loyal following among many online even after it was separated from its once-home as Netscape's social news element. Many were even looking forward to this new facelift to lift Propeller out of the shadow of and other competitors and finally give Propeller the prominence we felt it deserved.

Instead, we were all left bewildered and disappointed.

Last week's redesign roll-out annoyed and tested many of us long-time Propeller users as we became lost and frustrated in what appears to be a needlessly cumbersome new system.

Within hours, bloggers and others began to complain loudly about the new Propeller under such banners as "Propeller. Fail." (Ironically, early on many of these Propeller criticisms became the top stories on the Propeller home page.)

Alarmingly, many Propeller users began saying they were bailing out of the new Propeller site and were going to look for greener and easier-to-use digital pastures elsewhere.

Let me be upfront: we here at Life, The Universe..., and its sister sites have more than a passing interest in the health of and its user community.

We have long relied on Propeller as a main avenue to bring our content to the attention of the those across the Internet.

Immediately after the redesign rollout, our sites began to see precipitous drops in site traffic beginning last Tuesday and essentially continuing until today.

But in the midst of all the naysaying and hand-wringing, something impressed me. Tom Drapeau, Propeller's director and general manager, stepped right into the controversy. Drapeau commented in a critical thread on another site's message board, asking for patience -- and offering his direct email for those who wanted to contact him personally.

I was truly impressed that Drapeau would put his email out there. Given Propeller's place within the larger AOL hierarchy, he could have easily dodged that responsibility I think. Instead, what Drapeau seemed to be saying is, "The buck stops with me."

Given our dire traffic drop-off on our sites, I took Drapeau up on the offer. I wrote him and told him of our traffic decline.

I wasn't sure I would receive a reply, but I did -- within an hour. (And this was over the weekend, no less.)

Drapeau easily could have sent me a generic "thank you for your concern" reply, even told me that my site traffic was not his or Propeller's problem. (I was even a little afraid, he would have seen me as nothing more than a parasite for my reliance on his site for my web traffic.)

Instead, he was very friendly and forthcoming. He explained that his team was continuing to modify Propeller, and expressed hope that I ultimately find satisfaction with once all of the fixes are in place.

"I think the bugginess of the site on first launch, compounded with the lack of some of the distribution features, are the causes of the loss of traffic," he says. "We're fixing both ends of that equation... and we hope you'll find Propeller more attractive very soon."

Yes, the Propeller team could have done a better job addressing user concerns and general bugginess prior to the rollout, as many frustrated users have said in recent days. I understand that.

But Drapeau's attitude and responsiveness tells me he and his team do care what we users think and that they are making a sincere effort to address them.

In today's world of faceless and largely unresponsive corporate culture, the Propeller team could have taken a "Take it or leave it" approach, willing to alienate us longtime fans in favor of a more general Internet public. Instead, Drapeau should be commended for his positive steps and for putting the "social" into social media.

No, Propeller is not yet "fixed," and my site traffic has not yet recovered. But Drapeau's attitude leaves me optimistic that, sooner or later, all will be well again on

Scott Nance is the publisher of Life, The Universe..., and its sister site, On The Hill.

Watch more breaking news now on our video feed:

Bookmark and drop back in sometime.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home