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    About DMOZ
    Since 1998, DMOZ has been the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. Supported by AOL, it is constructed and maintained by a passionate, global community of volunteer editors.
    May 4th 2009 6:29PM
    R-E-S-P-E-C-T for DMOZ
    For our latest post, editor glippitt has provided an excellent example of a place where DMOZ's resources shine. Enjoy!

    Emily

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Everybody loves Google, everybody loves Wikipedia - so why doesn't everybody love DMOZ? Ask people how they search the web, and most will tell you what Google does well, what Wikipedia does well - and what DMOZ doesn't do well. When you think about it, that's quite an odd way to look at search vehicles, isn't it? My car doesn't do backflips, but that doesn't mean I stop driving. I also can't take a plane to my local shopping area, ride a bicycle across the ocean, or take a train where there aren't train tracks.

    Let's look at what DMOZ does do well, and the when and how of using various search vehicles to help users find what they're looking for.

    Perhaps you heard something on the news about the Somali pirates and want to learn more. You'd likely search Google News for the most recent coverage, perhaps sorting by date. Background information? You might read Piracy in Somalia in Wikipedia and search for Somali pirates with Google web search. Now what about Somalia in general? How did it get to this point? What's the history of the country, and what's going on with their government? How do you find answers to these questions without wasting a lot of time? This is where DMOZ shines.

    Google for Somalia or history of Somalia or government of Somalia and you'll get a mixed bag. Google combines relevance with popularity, which means the more specific your query, the better the results. For broader sorts of queries, some excellent sources may be ranked low and you may miss them. Some links from special interest groups may be popular enough to be ranked high, but that doesn't mean they're providing a balanced view. Some less-than-current sources may be ranked high simply because they've been around a long time and lots of other sites have linked to them in the past. Sometimes they use 'relevant' keywords and page titles to game the system and achieve a higher ranking than they really deserve. Look at this result from that last Google search:

    Quote:
    "somalia: the official news from the government of somalia - 9:11am
    Somalia: Somali Pirates holding over 200 hostages.
    www.somaligovernment.org/ - 29k"

    Looks current, right? Wrong. Click on it and you may realize it's the site of warlord Abdinur Darman who declared himself President in 2007 - but Google's automated process has no way of knowing that, and if you don't look closely you may be misled into thinking it's from the current government. (The true official site was unavailable for much of April because it had run out of bandwidth.) To avoid confusion, DMOZ has now listed the link with this description: Site of presidential claimant Abdinur Ahmed Darman, the leader of Somalia's Hawiya clan who declared himself head of state in July 2003. Google (and others) may later pick up that description and use it in their search results instead of the current snippet. We all want users to have the correct information.

    Other Google options? You can find authoritative sources by searching Google Scholar for Somalia, but that isn't necessarily the level of information you want.

    What about Somalia (and its sub-articles) in Wikipedia? Articles 'in the news' often draw 'strong-minded partisans' as editors, so while the information may be interesting one would want to chase down all the footnotes to determine if they reference reliable sources accurately summarized - and if the reliable sources are truly representative, or if they were 'cherry-picked' to shade the view - which means you're back to Google to find what might be missing. All this for just the most current version on Wikipedia. Click on the history and discussion tabs and see how often the article has been changed and if there are 'edit wars' going on. Wikipedia is useful, but it doesn't fill every need and it certainly isn't the only source one should rely on, particularly on controversial topics.

    Or, you can go to DMOZ's Somalia category. Start with Guides and Directories to find background information. Perhaps you're interested in Government sites. If you're curious about local and foreign efforts to help the country, you can view Aid and Development and Economic Development. Perhaps you want to check out the local News or look at some Maps and Views. Some Travel Guides have useful information about a country. You can also move your search up to West Africa and Africa, or down to the regions within Somalia such as Somaliland.

    You'll notice some Somalia categories from the DMOZ Topical directory, such as Colleges and Universities and Soccer, are 'linked in' to Regional. 'Sharing' these categories helps people searching for the same information, but starting from a different point or point of view. There are also links to the associated categories in the World directories (such as French) and the Kids and Teens directory.

    There's all sorts of relevant information to be found on the web, and the broader the topic the more useful DMOZ is. Use it as one of your search vehicles and you may be surprised how much more efficient and productive your searches become. Just don't expect it to be the perfect combination Mars rover-car-plane-scooter-train-bicycle. There's no such thing as a silver bullet in search - not even Google.
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