I’m working on the new version of the old Open Directory Project, Curlie.
I’m working on the new version of the old Open Directory Project, Curlie.
People who think they know how to fix something should make sure they have the experience to understand how it worked before they judge it. I was annoyed to read a post about how to fix the problems with dmoz, The Open Directory Project on DirPopulus today. Here is what I wrote:
I read your Problems & Solutions. Some of what you have written about dmoz is incorrect and based on the viewpoint of someone who did not see how the directory worked in reality. Although I understand your biased point of view, it is annoying to read someone making incorrect assumptions and judging the directory I spent over ten years working on.
Looks like you are using the dmoz software, or something based on it. So, that won’t help me really. I don’t want to deal with that. We had volunteer editors trying to fix that, not staff. AOL decided to dump dmoz because no one there was interested in supporting it. For the last few years dmoz was run entirely by volunteers while the AOL staff forgot the directory existed. In the end they did not find any value in keeping it on their servers but they did feel the domain and the dmoz/ Open Directory name were worth holding onto.
The main directory, with some active editors, is being set up on Curlie. Other projects were started and discussed but that is the one which has the best chance of becoming active again. Most of the volunteers who worked on the old dmoz software went to Curlie and have been working on the updating the software.
As volunteers we did not send out notifications every time we reviewed, edited, or added a site to the directory. We were already running with few active editors so trying to send out notices for every submission would have meant the end of getting any reviews done. Waiting for three editors to approve (while good in some ways) would also mean submitted sites would take ages to be listed.
We did have bots checking links and moving them into unreviewed for volunteers to check the links. Some bots were able to check for things like the new http:// versus https:// so an editor just needed to verify the change and re-list the site. We also had bots which checked for general link rot and expired domains. These doubled the amount of links to be reviewed leaving editors which huge amounts of links waiting for attention. Also, dmoz had a feature giving people a chance to leave a note about their link, letting us know if a correction was needed. This was a very seldom used feature and yet the first thing I would check when I began reviewing links in a category. Often this was abused and suggested changes were about spam, deleting another site’s listing, or some other junk.
Also, we were able to check links with the Wayback Machine and Google’s archived version of the domain/ link. This was a good help in tracking down an old submission/ broken link. I often found broken links, one way or another. It was one of my favourite things to do.
Reviewing submitted links took hours, especially in categories involving businesses and, of those, anything involving marketing became so flooded with junk submissions it was too much for a volunteer editor to want to deal with. When I tried to work on these categories my computer slowed down to a crawl just trying to load the page with all the sites to be reviewed. It was aggravating to work there when most of the submissions were junk – the link was already listed and descriptions were full of keywords, CAPITAL LETTERS and so on. Of course, these are the very people who complained about dmoz and dmoz editors the most. They did not understand we were running as a directory for the public to search, not for businesses to be listed. The priority was not listing every business or service but to have resources for people searching for a business, service or information (with the Regional listings to help people find local resources).
There are duplicate listings for some sites because they fit into more than one place. Also, sites could be double listed in Regional and the topic or business. Once you get into organizing and deciding where sites (you call them resources) should go you will see it is a much more complicated project than it seems from the outside looking in. We had a forum just for ontology issues. Due to many opinions from active and inactive volunteers, making category changes was time consuming and tended to get lost along the way.
I wish you best of luck with your directory. But, you have a lot of years to go before you should judge how another directory was run.
If you feel confident with HTML, you can create a bookmark file from scratch in Notepad. Begin the document with . Then, enter the title as
Bookmarksand the header as
. Then, begin a list with the
tag. Each item of that list should be denoted by a
- tag. Then, describe the link via an. Finish the file with a closing
The first two points are the best, I think.
A niche has a better chance these days. Think content curation. Actually, think content curation for the second point too. You should build more than a bundle of links. Content curation is about showcasing great links and adding more to them. Create a whole package presentation around the niche. Don’t stop at listing sites.
Write about the niche. This could be interviews with the very people who run the sites you want to list in the directory. How smart is that? Not only are you building your authority, learning more about the niche but you are far more likely to sell links (or make money from ads) if you have something people actually want and can’t find elsewhere.
- Start with a Niche – Find a topic you’re seriously passionate about, from birds to routers to online clothing merchants.
- Don’t Just Make a Directory – Put great content about your subject on the site: blog posts, articles, tools, resource lists, charts, diagrams, investigative journalism, etc.
- Offer to Review Sites in Your Niche – But, for goodness sake, only include them if you’d really, honestly endorse them.
- Provide a Reason Why They’re Listed – Imagine a fellow hobbyist or researcher in your topic of interest in real life – if you couldn’t sit down with that person at a table and show them on your laptop why you included a particular site, DON’T include it.
- Don’t Offer Gimmicks or Link Juice – Offer listings on a site that real people who are really interested in your topic read and use and enjoy. If you start down the path of selling links for search engine value, you’ve lost your way. It can always be a secret side benefit, and plenty of folks who’ll come to you for links will be thinking about it, but if you want to be truly immune to any future penalties or devaluations, you can’t make it a focus.
I was looking up something tonight and found a link to the Open Directory Project (aka Dmoz or ODP). I was an editor there, shedragon, for about ten years. I liked being part of the project, seeing it evolve and tweaking categories for topics I was interested or involved in.
I forget why I left now. Something I was annoyed about. Isn’t that so often the story. I did seem to have upset someone in the upper management of the directory but I never found out what it was about. I think that’s actually why I did leave. I can remember being annoyed at the close mouthedness of it and feeling I couldn’t even defend myself because I had no idea what the problem/ issue was.
I put a lot of time and energy and care into the directory. I was quite proud to have become an editall and manage several larger categories in the directory. Likely I burnt out and I did leave and not regret the decision. I still don’t. I do tend to get absorbed into things so it is good for me to take some steps back and give myself space to find diversity instead of becoming too focused.
Anyway, today (just now) I checked if my old login still did anything. Not expecting it would. But, some part of it was still there. So I filled out the short form to ask to be reinstated.
It would be nice to fix up the categories for urban exploration and ASCII art again. But, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy sorting out my own link collections and sites. It is nice to be part of something though. I wish Dmoz had grown, along with Google. It’s a shame it didn’t. It’s still a decent resource if someone is looking after the section you’re looking in. That’s likely why I applied. I do like history and archives!