TechCrunch reports that Bloglines seems to be dead...
Users who hadn’t already left Bloglines for Google Reader and other functional RSS readers are doing so now, largely because Bloglines has stopped working and the company has done absolutely nothing to communicate to users what is going on or when it might be fixed.
The problem is that Bloglines isn’t updating feeds from thousands of blogs, including this one (about a third of the feeds I follow have errors). This has been an ongoing problem. Meanwhile, those feeds are quite readable in other feed readers like Newsgator and Google Reader. The most recent TechCrunch post our 25,000+ Bloglines readers see is from May 14.
Bloglines is run by IAC/InterActiveCorp which owns about 75 web properties including the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, ASK.com, Evite, Match.com, and others.
Now, before I begin, let me say I have no inside information about IAC. But the wide range of completely unrelated properties gives me a good idea of what kind of company IAC is. I have consulted in the past for organizations like this and I have a good idea of how they work.
With that said, if I had to guess, I'd say this is what brought about Bloglines' current fate.
1. Bloglines began to lose market share to other Feed Readers
2. IAC management started to pull web developers off Bloglines in order to put them on more profitable projects
3. At some point there was only 1 person left to maintain Bloglines but no one up the management chain knew that (most companies rely on HR to keep track of that sort of thing but at the same time they avoid HR like the plague which is what causes the problem)
4. Somewhere up the Management Chain the order is given to pull the last employee off Bloglines (but again they don't know that so the order probably says "take someone from Bloglines and put them on x project).
5. Somewhere, in some nameless IAC office, a meeting takes place where a manager tells the last Bloglines person "You're being transferred to x project". That person responds "You do know I'm the last person on the Bloglines project right?". To which the manager says "No, I didn't. But I'll take care of it. Just report to your new project Monday" (this might not seem logical but keep in mind this manager's boss told him to have that person on the new project by Monday and he doesn't want to get in trouble)
6. The Manager who said he'd "take care of it" sends a message to his boss entitled "Bloglines Problem" that says "Hey, there's no one left maintaining Bloglines".
7. This e-mail gets forwarded up the management chain until it reaches the "skimmer." This is a guy who gets CC'd on tons of things so he's taken to only skimming the titles of e-mails and reads only about 30% of the ones he gets.
8. The Skimmer sees the title "Bloglines Problem" and assumes its some issue that someone CC'd him on. He doesn't care about Bloglines so he ignores it. This effectively stops the e-mail in it's tracks with no one having responded to the problem.
That's it. With that the lower management thinks they did their job by forwarding the warning up the line. But it never got to anyone who could do anything to fix the problem so it just sits there.
Now there may be some mitigating factors here. Most companies have a part of the organization that just "keeps the sites up" and they are probably why the site hasn't crashed completely at this point. But they just make sure the site is up they don't worry about support issues or maintenance.
So while the site isn't completely abandon I'd be shocked if there were an actual person who was dedicated specifically to Bloglines at this point.
Trying to take lessons away from this is like trying to count sun beams coming out of the sun. It's just too big of a screw up. But I think there are a few big lessons that should be mentioned.
Big Lesson #1: Empower your employees to solve problems. The big issue above is that no one "took ownership" of the problem so after employees had filled their most basic obligation (to warn someone else of the problem) they forgot about it.
Big Lesson #2: Create Special Procedures for Fatal Problems. Or in other words, have a company policy that says "If you are removing the last employee from a project, that is a special circumstance and you have permission to bypass your boss and e-mail a higher up directly so they can fix the problem"
Big Lesson #3: Have a Special Department that Monitors the Companies Overall Health. Had someone been searching for online mentions of IAC properties or been monitoring all system logs and seen Bloglines' updates had gone way down or any other procedure designed to catch a flaw like this the problem would have been averted.
Again, there are probably a ton of other lessons as well but if IAC had followed even one of the above lessons than this whole mess wouldn't have happened.