About DMOZ | Open Directory Project Blog
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Mar 26th 2010 5:17PM
For this post, editor hiraeth has prepared an overview of her experience editing in the science categories. Enjoy!
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I'm a collector. In the same way that other people may collect stamps, coins or fossils, I collect websites. As an editor with the ODP, I spend a lot of time finding sites, labelling them, listing them and rearranging them. I am constantly on the lookout for new specimens and I open my collections to the public so that they can benefit from all the good and useful sites I have found.
My favourite collection is Flora and Fauna. I could happily spend all my editing time adding to and classifying sites about the vast range of animals, plants, fungi and bugs that exist. The category has expanded considerably under my curatorship. During the last year I have been involved in a project to replace the English language subcategory names such as Snakes with their scientific equivalent, Serpentes. Because these names are less familiar to many users of the directory, there is a an A to Z index and also links in most subcategories to guide people to the correct location. The more scientifically knowledgeable may argue that classification has moved on and that the structure used in the directory is no longer up to date. I think this is a valid criticism, but as new ideas on taxonomy are constantly being put forward and revised, there is no consensus view and the category is likely to remain as it is for the foreseeable future.
There are not many submissions to this part of the directory but some sites are suggested and these are mostly useful additions that will enlarge the scope of the category. However, a member of the public may, for example, suggest a gallery of photographs of unidentified butterflies found somewhere in the tropical rainforests of South America. I will either send this to Wildlife or the appropriate Science & Environment category in Regional.
Another category in which I edit is Animal Health. Here, I have enjoyed adding a large number of sites on diseases of pets, livestock and wild animals. Sometimes I get distracted. While looking for sites on parasitic diseases I find myself adding sites on mosquitoes or ticks or bacteria to Flora and Fauna. Or fungal diseases may lead me to Flora and Fauna again or to crops or livestock in Agriculture where I also have permission to edit.
A large part of Animal Health consists of sites about veterinary medicine and alternative medicine. The latter is broken down into sites about therapies and therapists in fields ranging from animal acupuncture to chiropractic, massage therapy and aromatherapy. Although Health/Animal is a topical category, the subcategory Veterinarians is broken down regionally and includes over 2500 individual practices from all over the world. (In the USA, even when quite small, these seem to call themselves animal hospitals, but in other parts of the world, clinic or surgery is the more usual term, and animal hospital is reserved for a specialist referral centre.)
In contrast to Flora & Fauna, this part of the directory receives plenty of suggestions. Listing veterinarians in their correct location is quite straightforward. Nearly every vet with a working website should be listable under our guidelines. Sites submitted to other parts of Animal Health are often more problematic. Some are a mass of advertisements in which a small amount of not very useful information is engulfed. These do not get accepted in accordance with our site selection criteria. Others are supplied by people whose pets have suffered from various conditions and who now consider themselves experts on the subject. These sites can be listed if they contain sufficient good quality information. Other submissions are really about the keeping of pets, with a little information on health thrown in for good measure. I usually send these across to Pets for consideration by another editor. Some sites are not in English and get sent to the appropriate language category of World, and some have no connection with animal health whatsoever. These are quite a waste of time. Rather than deleting them, I have to search for a suitable category to send them to, a job that could have been better done by the submitter who knew exactly what the site was about!
Besides these categories I edit in many other categories which I would love to tell you about, but time presses, and I had better get back to my collections and add a few more exhibits!
Mar 1st 2010 3:45PM
Today we're starting a new series called Exploring DMOZ. These posts will give individual editors the opportunity to highlight categories where they work. We hope that this will help demonstrate the depth and breadth of editor knowledge and highlight the richness of the directory itself. Editor crowbar has prepared the first one.
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What is the topic of the category you edit in?
Games: Video Games: Roleplaying: Massive Multiplayer Online: World of Warcraft
What is it for or about?
Well, it's an amazing on-line fantasy game that 11 million people worldwide play, and interact with each other in. It's a 3-D type of game with wonderful graphics that allows a player to explore a vast role playing world. There are so many different things a player can do in the game that it never becomes boring. The ages of the players range from children to senior citizens, and at $4 a week, it's very affordable.
Can you explain what the subcategories are about? What do they cover?
The game is so complicated and vast in its content and growing, that there are thousands and thousands of websites devoted to it, from Chats and Forums to actual books that have been written as guides for the class roles and profession roles.
The subcategories sort out and gather together these topics so that the game player can go directly to the information they're interested in. Unlike a Google search, which I use in-game to find specific things that I need quickly, the subcategories in the Directory give the player a broader view of all the information that might be available, things that they may have been unaware existed. A Google search is great, but only if you know the information exists.
Yes, in-game we know there are Guilds and how to form one, but only by visiting the Directory can you find out there may be 80,000+ guild websites, and that you can have a free site for your own Guild. Only by visiting the Directory will you find a list of databases, chats and forums you didn't know existed, podcasts, art, videos, walkthroughs and guides, and other useful information. Where do you think Google gets its information? Much of it comes from DMOZ.
Why were you interested in editing it? What is your personal interest?
Somebody mentioned the game to me, and I took a look at it out of curiosity, and I've been playing it for two years now. I was already an editor and it was a year before it even occurred to me to check DMOZ for the category. Once I found it existed, I applied to edit the category, and was immediately accepted and given permission to edit there. The problem I have is finding the time to both edit the category and play the game, it's a real battle between which is more interesting.
Do you get a lot of site suggestions to it? How do you find new sites?
Yes, the category gets many site suggestions. A lot of them, like game gold, item selling, and paid guides, or paid services have to be moved to a Shopping category, others are junk sites that get deleted, and the rest have to be sorted down to the correct subcategory, before I even think of reviewing them.
What is fascinating about editing though, is that existing listings and newly suggested ones, often have links to other outstanding sites that are so good they just have to be listed. So, it's a very exciting prospect to find these gems, as it is for all editors.
What do you look for to determine whether a site meets the selection criteria for your category?
Unique content, meaning content that is original and of great value to other players like myself, or the writers personal opinion and experience in playing the game. Because of the vast content in the game, there's really no way not to have repetitious information pop up in explaining something about the game, but as a player myself, I'm a good judge of what the authors intent is, and how helpful the site would be to a player.
As an editor, my only concern is to list sites that would be of value to the information seeker, in this case, other gamers, or future gamers, so we try to be selective in which sites we use in building a category. Though there are many sites to choose from, and more being created every day, not all sites are needed.
Our main objective is to build a good category, not to list every site that exists.
What are some of the more common reasons that sites do not meet these criteria, specific to your category?
The most common thing I run into is a site that has a lot of generic information on it that can be found on most sites and a whole bunch of links to "for sale" sites selling something like guides or services. Their intent is perfectly obvious and fools no one. I might list the paid guide or services site itself, (in another area of the Directory) but not the sites that point to it. Those I would delete.
There is a place for "paid for guides and services", but not in this particular category. All of the guides here are free, so "paid guides" would be listed in another category. If a site is turned down for this category, it doesn't get deleted, it gets sent to another category, in Shopping, which I also edit.
Aside from reviewing suggestions, how do you contribute to the DMOZ directory and/or community (for example, sub-category creation/maintenance, category re-orgs, maintenance of existing listings, mentor relationships with other editors, tool building, etc.)?
Besides this particular category and several other specialized topics, I also have editing permissions for all of the United States, which means I can edit hundreds of thousands of categories within the U.S. I have spent a lot of time in moving misplaced site suggestions, resolving broken urls of existing listings, doing structural work such as creating new categories and subcategories, @links, and looking at update requests from the public.
I've mentored several new editors, some of which have gone on to become meta editors, I've led Team New York in our efforts to keep up with the thousands and thousands of new site suggestions we receive weekly, as well as investigating the thousands of existing listings that have url problems.
I've created several new initiatives that I thought were good ideas to help solve specific problems, and brought them up for discussion in our forums, and I've joined in on many other discussions over the years led by other editors and contributed my own thoughts about them.
I've also spent a lot of time on outside forums trying to answer questions from the public, and clearing up misconceptions about the Directory and editing.
I don't like to keep saying "I", because it's about "we" collectively, working as a team. We are all equals, from an editor with one small category, to our Metas/Administrators, we work shoulder to shoulder, together.
As you can see, an editor's role in the Directory is multifaceted, we do much more than sit around adding sites. There are many tasks, and they all need to be done, so our time is divided according to what interests us at the moment.
But we all started with a passion, a special interest that we wanted to share with the world by building a category for others with a similar interest. If you have a passion, please join us as editors and see why we get so excited about the categories we edit in. Experience the pleasure we get in finding a gem to list, and the satisfaction of building something helpful to others.
Jan 29th 2010 5:31PM
This week, we have a very special guest blogger! Bob Keating, our editor-in-chief, has prepared some personal thoughts and insights on the directory's next decade. Enjoy!
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The other night I was watching an old episode of the TV show "Six Feet Under," in which the character Ruth is coaxed by a friend to attend a self-help seminar called, "The Plan." The Plan uses the house as a metaphor for examining and re-building one's life. When Ruth tells her family about "The Plan," she learns it is not as new to her as it is to others. Her children believe it to be a cult, but show little concern of their mother's interests. Ruth's free-spirited sister said she went through The Plan in the 1970s when it was called something else, and then commented how Ruth's kitchen is exactly the same as it was back then. Ruth realized just how much rebuilding she had to do. She was terminally unhip and out of touch with the world around her.
As I was watching others respond to Ruth's involvement with The Plan, I began to think about DMOZ. Over a decade ago, DMOZ was a new and intriguing idea of getting the web to organize itself by having web users build it, manage it, and develop it. DMOZ had its fair share of detractors, particularly from those who argued that its model would never result in a quality, commercially viable service. Then there were those who understood the possibilities of an emerging social media, and went on to build powerful consumer brands based on the idea of self-organizing communities.
The '00s: Growth, Loss and Rebirth
Reflecting over the past decade it is too easy to come up with a list of DMOZ's successes. In the last ten years, DMOZ has gone from scrappy start-up to search industry stalwart. DMOZ data is consumed by thousands of search engines and websites in over 80 languages, from Google to smaller, special interest websites.
DMOZ has scaled to become, and sustained itself as the largest human-edited directory of the web. Over 84,000 editors (and growing) have contributed over the years, listing of more than 4.5 million websites total. DMOZ has been a major influence in the rise of social media, inspiring the creation of projects like Wikipedia. Its model for collaboration has been refined and improved upon to form the basis of a number of other editor-contributor projects.
At the beginning of the last decade, DMOZ was managed by a small staff that had the goal of turning DMOZ into a self-regulating community of editors. DMOZ has pushed the limits of community self-regulation. Today, DMOZ operates primarily as a self-governing meritocracy in which day-to-day activities – from editor account requests to submission suggestions and editorial quality – are wholly managed by the community with limited staff oversight.
A review of the past decade would not be complete without mentioning the day DMOZ went dark in late 2006 after a catastrophic operations failure. The herculean efforts and steadfast dedication of its technical editors and community leaders brought DMOZ back to life.
Over the '00 decade, DMOZ has grown to be one of the most successful collaborative projects on the web. It has outlasted its commercial counterparts, and continues to be relevant in the search industry. The keys to its longevity and usefulness are its dedicated community, its open, collaborative editorial model, its non-commercial nature, and open data distribution channel.
The '10s: Looking Ahead
As easy as it is to come up with a list of DMOZ's successes, it's equally easy to come up with a list of things it can improve upon. This list is well documented in the annals of editor forums and search engine industry blogs.
Much like Ruth's kitchen and her life in general, DMOZ still looks and operates much the same way it did a decade ago ... avocado green appliances and all. While DMOZ receives hundreds of editor applications, and lists thousands of websites each week, it needs a new Plan – a new blueprint for the future of how the web is organized, and how human organized data is consumed.
Using traditional web directories as a means for information discovery is a thing of the past. However, the need for organized web-based content continues to grow exponentially. The future of DMOZ does not lie merely in improving its toolset, making it more SEO friendly, or convincing others of its collective brilliance. Its future lies in turning the entire thing on its head.
In 2020, here's what I hope will be listed as the early successes of DMOZ during the '10s – and since DMOZ has been a bit like the Hotel California to me, I might even be writing it:
- Developed an API to DMOZ data that allowed editors and developers across the web to write new applications using DMOZ data
- Transformed from a fixed-path directory, to the largest faceted system for organizing information on the web
- Become a major influencer in bringing the semantic web out of the lab and the enterprise, and into the entire web, popularizing Web 3.0 applications
- Transformed DMOZ from a single service operated by a relatively closed and exclusive community to a suite of products with multiple levels of participation and engagement, particularly around communities of interests, both commercial and non-commercial.
And hopefully that's just 2010. What's said in the years ahead depends on how the web community shapes DMOZ and develops new ways of using its data and services. I'm excited by the future of DMOZ as much as I was in January 2000.
Jan 27th 2010 7:30PM
Happy New Year!
Now that 2009 is officially in the books, it's time to take a look back at the year that was. We've already heard about our editors' many projects and accomplishments this past year, so I thought we'd take the opportunity to look at some of our directory statistics and some trends we've seen throughout the year.
As we've highlighted in the past, the DMOZ user base is incredibly international. In 2009 we had visitors from over 236 countries and territories around the globe. While five countries (US, UK, Germany, Italy and Canada) still account for the bulk of the visitors, we've also had visitors from emerging markets including India, Russia and China as well as from smaller areas such as Micronesia, Chad, Andorra, Benin, Christmas and Easter Islands – even Vatican City.
According to ComScore, an independent company that measures internet usage, nearly 60% of these visitors were between the ages of 18 and 49; of these, 52% are male and 47% are female. The top two sources of traffic are Google and Wikipedia.
In terms of the directory itself, we added more than 2500 new editors and more than 7000 editors contributed to the project this year. Editors made nearly 2 million editing actions, including more than 700000 URLs added or updated, and created more than 26000 new categories.
Kudos to all who have made 2009 a success! We're looking forward to an excellent 2010.
Dec 8th 2009 11:48AM
Directory & Community Development
Greenbust Effort & the Purple Push
makrhod headed up two projects to process long-standing edits. During the first, she encouraged editors to process greenbusts that had accumulated over time. The result was that greenbust edits were completely cleared for all directory branches except for World, and even there the number was considerably diminished.
In the Purple Push, makrhod again organized editors to process all update requests. This effort was completely successful. Thanks to the efforts of many editors, the directory was declared completely update-free (for a little while, anyway).
Both of these were incredible achievements and representative of the amazing collaborative efforts of our editors. Thanks to everyone who helped with these initiatives!
The Shopping/Food editors held a week-long "Foodbusters" challenge to process the unreviewed sites in this area of the directory. This resulted in 211 new listings in this area.
Between March and July, bluestar fixed over 38,000 typos in titles, descriptions, category descriptions and submission notices across Business, Computers, Games, Health, Home, News, Recreation, Reference, Science, Society, Sports and parts of Regional.
Geocities closed down in November rendering thousands of listings obsolete. Beginning on the day of Yahoo's announcement in April and continuing throughout the months leading up to the closure, editors worked tirelessly to find replacement sites (where possible) and remove any outdated listings.
Addition of Current Events Categories
This year, editors dedicated a great deal of time to updating existing categories and developing new categories to cover timely events. Examples include:
The work of numerous editors made these categories possible. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the effort!
A new class entered Editor School this year. This mentorship program pairs newer editors with more experienced mentors to help mentees gain additional knowledge and experience in editing.
Official DMOZ Blog
Keeping this blog running throughout the year is a collaborative effort between the editor community and AOL Staff. Editors help with all aspects of the blog including editorial calendar development, writing and editing posts and responding to common questions and concerns from our readers. artisands, hiraeth, glippitt, lisagirl, mollybdenum, imrankhan, crowbar, jensarentoft, laigh, and stevek have each contributed at least one post in 2009; and chaos127, johndouglas, laigh, mollybdenum and photofox have kept everything running smoothly.
International Growth & Development
Expansion in World/Thai
Thai editors, under the leadership of vorapon, have done a phenomenal job of building out the Thai language categories. In 2009, the number of listings has doubled from 2000 to 4000.
Creation of World/Sinhala
This year, editors under the leadership of sirisusara created a new category for sites in the Sri Lankan Sinhala language.
World/Punjabi_Gurmukhi Script Changes
Editor hswaseer has been busy converting the titles and descriptions from transliterated Punjabi into Gurmukhi script.
Expansion of United Kingdom Regional Categories
Editors in the UK regional categories made tremendous progress this year. The England category topped the 125,000 listing mark; Scotland increased by 30%; and the Isle of Wight increased from 600 sites and 30 locations to 1800 sites and 60 locations.
Expansion of World/Russian
The World/Russian branch increased by approximately 9000 sites. Editors in this area performed over 80 topical reorganizations and created a Russian sub-forum in Resource Zone (link). An additional 250 editors joined this branch; additionally, two Russian editors were granted meta privileges and an additional two were granted top-level privileges in World/Russian. In 2009, there were 25 posts and 3200 comments on the unofficial Russian DMOZ Blog (in Russian).
Personal Milestones & Achievements
New Editor Achievements
wszp joined the project this summer and has to date made 708 edits including 273 unique adds.
Use of DMOZ RDF Data to Improve Directory Search
Over the summer, tanstaaf1 created a site to improve DMOZ usage and promotion of the World/Russian and World/Ukrainian branches through improved search functionality. The site is built on the RDF data and provides better results than the built-in ODP search because of an improved ability to handle Russian and Ukrainian morphology (inflections, word forms). For each category displayed in the search results, the user may view listings and (based on permissions) edit that category or suggest & update site listings.
You can give this a try in English & in Russian with these sample categories:
Sadly, we lost two of our long-time editors in recent months. Both ianillo and brmehlman made countless contributions to the directory and to the DMOZ community overall during their many years of volunteer service. They will be greatly missed.
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