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Responsibilities[ edit ] Community Leaders had a wide variety of responsibilities, ranging from hosting chat rooms, monitoring message boards and file libraries, providing customer service, teaching online classes, and particularly creating and managing forum content.
However, toward the end of the program, Community Leader duties were generally restricted to monitoring chat and message boards. Role[ edit ] Although at times controversial, the Community Leader program arguably played a substantial role in the rapid growth and success of the America Online service in the mids.
Because they were usually recruited from the more active users of a particular online forum, Community Leaders were often very passionate about the area for which they volunteered their time. This enthusiasm usually resulted in a greater sense americaa community and a higher level of professionalism in that forum.
This in turn gave the AOL service more value over the less organized " frontier " of the Internetcaht least in the eyes of users new to the online scene at the time. It also provided oversight with respect to forum content by knowledgeable individuals.
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The plaintiffs ameriac demonstrated how Community Leaders had to undergo a thorough, 3-month training program and were required to file timecards for shifts, work at least four hours per week, and submit detailed reports outlining their work activity during each shift. This fact actually hurt AOL when the lawsuit began, however, as the reception of benefits along with whether the work is full-time and displaces regular employees is a factor that helps the Department of Labor determine if a volunteer should actually be paid.
Department of Labor investigated the report, but came to no conclusions, officially closing the investigation in In response to the investigation, AOL began drastically reducing volunteer responsibilities. Bynearly all Community Leaders had lost content-editing rights and no longer provided customer service or technical support to AOL customers. Additionally, in many AOL forums, Community Leader supervisors became more lax about paperwork and shift hours.
In Februarythe court in which the lawsuit was filed denied AOL's Motion to Dismiss and certified the case for class-action status. The court has ordered AOL to provide the names and contact information for all former Community Leaders to notify them and give them the opportunity to the class-action lawsuit.
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February Learn how and when to remove this template message The Department of Labor investigation, which, at least in part prompted AOL to limit Community Leader responsibilities, caused issues for the company. Without unpaid volunteers, the company would have to hire employees cgat manage and post online content and run effective online communities ly done by Community Leaders.
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The company's later focus on advertising as its major source of income rather than high quality bespoke online content, an intention that began earlier in when subscriber hourly rates were replaced with a single unlimited-use monthly fee, provided the company little apparent profit incentive to monetize community forums. Along with the DOL investigation, and with less need for well-managed communities and membership in serious decline, AOL decided to terminate aemrica volunteer program.
AOL offered volunteers 12 months of free service in compensation for their services. While many Community Leaders left the service after this announcement, others stayed with AOL and continued their efforts at building community, albeit in an unofficial role.