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Old 05-17-2005   #1
Jeff Martin
 
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Editorial: The Lords of Ye 'Olde ODP

Ive always supported the ODP and fully bought into what they wanted to accomplish. I remember in the 90's when they where much smaller than they were today. The ODP has a lot of good sites properly listed and a few questionable. But what has become upsetting is I have heard that a directory that started out with a meaningful purpose run by volunteers, under the banner of open-source, who wanted to not just help the community, but to help people, has fallen into disarray.

It reminds me of one of my history classes when we discussed the feudal government system that run through Europe around the Middle Ages of A.D. 476 to 1453, sort of a "chaotic order system." It seems that at least some ODP volunteers have decided that they are Lords of their editor areas and in the Resource Zone forums. As Lords they are judge, jury, executioner and responsible to no one. They can speak to you in any manner they wish and if you raise your eyes towards them to disagree, no matter what your tone or what facts you try to bring to their attention, you are censored or perhaps even banned.

The ODPs Social Contract is based on the Debian Social Contract; however the Debian Social Contract is designed to aid both the people who are there to search as well as those that have information/software to offer; “Our Priorities are Our Users and Free Software.”

After doing some reading of other sites and blogs, it seems that the ODP is on a slippery slope. They have the power, albeit unchecked, to decline a site for whatever reason they deem necessary without ever having to explain why. Asking why will most often get a response to go look in the "reasons for no inclusion" area. Many (who are legitamate) wont find a reason there why there site was not included. If you ask for more information or try to present information as to why your site should be listed you are said to be arguing with the editor (Lord) and risk your thread being closed, censored and even your account being banned. Editors can shield themselves from having to volunteer any information by saying that anything they were to say would just give spammers an edge. Isn’t that like the age old cry of the oppressor who caries out oppression under the banner of “national security”?

It’s like being George Castanza in Seinfeld, standing in the Soup Nazi kitchen line and daring to say that you didn’t get any bread with your soup. "NO SOUP FOR YOU! NEXT!!"

Unfortunately power has run unchecked, and most of us know where that leads, which is why our Founding Fathers did their best to implement a check and balance government system. Far from perfect, but imagine government with no checks or balances and you have a Feudal system of government, or worse.

To put a constructive nature on this editorial piece, I would like to submit that perhaps a system of accountability is needed to keep editorial power in check. This system should be public and open for input by all. Perhaps editors should be publicly elected by non-editors…granted, I’m shooting from the hip here. However, even not-for-profit business and charities are regulated and audited by outside sources. Any other constructive ideas for a means of accountability for the ODP are very much welcome.

Note: No, I have not personaly had a site recently rejected and yes I still believe in the underlying purpose and original vision of the ODP.
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Old 05-17-2005   #2
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Funny thing. I was passing through there yesterday reading up on things and ran across this request for submission status.

http://resource-zone.com/forum/showthread.php?t=38628
http://resource-zone.com/forum/showthread.php?t=39049

I was banned for saying their responses were what a 4th grader might say lol. (my comments were deleted)


I could only see that he was denied because 1. the editor is a design critic or 2. Spammers scrapped the serps and the site was in the scraped results.

both of which are not a cause for exclussion the 2nd one of course means that anyone that gets links from some crappy spammer scrape is screwed when submitting to odp.

They're worried about being spammed but give a rdf dump of the entire directory to anyone that wants it which brings the reason TO spam them...
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Last edited by seomike : 05-17-2005 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 05-18-2005   #3
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I have heard that a directory that started out with a meaningful purpose run by volunteers, under the banner of open-source, who wanted to not just help the community, but to help people, has fallen into disarray.
I think you're starting from a partially false description of how it started out. It's easy to attack something by describing it falsely and then complaining about details related to that falsehood.
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Old 05-18-2005   #4
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I could only see that he was denied because 1. the editor is a design critic or 2. Spammers scrapped the serps and the site was in the scraped results.
That's because your vision was poor. Your other site http://www.usarealestatelicense.com/ is listed, submitting multiple related sites is specifically disallowed. Related information spread over multiples URLs is treated as one site.
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Old 05-19-2005   #5
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That's because your vision was poor. Your other site http://www.usarealestatelicense.com/ is listed, submitting multiple related sites is specifically disallowed. Related information spread over multiples URLs is treated as one site.
I understand your point, this is posted on DMOZ as "Do not submit URLs that contain only the same or similar content as other sites you may have listed in the directory. Sites with overlapping and repetitive content are not helpful to users of the directory."

However, in my opinion, this rule is overlooked when an editor feels like doing so. Example: About.com. How many listings of about.com are really necessary in the directory? Specifically, the following two listings in the directory contradict your statement and the statement of DMOZ.

Both of these pages are listed and clearly have similar and overlapping content.

1. http://weightloss.about.com/health/weightloss/

2. http://weightloss.about.com/mpboards.htm

- Same left side navigation
- Page #1 links directly to #2
- Same subdomains

If DMOZ is going to have standards, then they should hold everyone to the same standards.
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Old 05-19-2005   #6
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Not an editor on this occasion. Those URLs were listed several years apart in different categories by different editors. Most of our editors are human. They aren't omniscient and I'm afraid that that kind of situation is going to occur from time to time.

That doesn't provide a justification for deliberately flouting the submission guidelines and then complaining when caught. Be happy that the stated penalty wasn't applied .
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Old 05-20-2005   #7
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That doesn't provide a justification for deliberately flouting the submission guidelines and then complaining when caught. Be happy that the stated penalty wasn't applied .
Who are you speaking to? This is an editorial piece, not a request for status from a surf on your forums.

I have looked at the threads SEOMike has listed and taken some time to look at the submitted site and the site usarealestatelicense that was mentioned.

1. It looks as if the usa site doesnt offer a product/service for California. When you click the state link it just sends you to the submitted site. So, a person who comes to the usarealestatelicense site and is looking for any sort of materials for California, must go to the submitted set.

2. The submitted site seems to be a real estate school (it looks to have state approval or cert or whatever).

Quote:
I understand your point, this is posted on DMOZ as "Do not submit URLs that contain only the same or similar content as other sites you may have listed in the directory. Sites with overlapping and repetitive content are not helpful to users of the directory."
It seems to me that there is a difference here. These sites have different content and products and courses. The submitted site is an actual school with specific content for their state whereas the usa site is meant to sell a handful of products to most other states (no state courses).

These sites are aimed at different people. The usa site looks to sell exam prep software and not much else. The submitted site looks to sell state courses, textbooks and few other products to people considering a career in real estate.
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Old 05-20-2005   #8
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It seems to me that there is a difference here. These sites have different content and products and courses.
I didn't want to get into the specific site argument, but I am sure you are right on second look. I was attempting to provide an example to show that the guidelines are ignored when DMOZ feels like it. The more important point is that there are editors denying a site for a reason where there are sites listed that violate that reason. This is inconsistent and innappropriate in my opinion.

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Those URLs were listed several years apart in different categories by different editors. Most of our editors are human. They aren't omniscient and I'm afraid that that kind of situation is going to occur from time to time.
Now that you know, and are an editor, perhaps you should contact the editor of those categories to tell them about it. If I tried in resource zone, I am sure that I would get nowhere.

The point of the editorial was to propose that there should be some better oversight and I couldn't agree more. Could you imagine if Firefox was run as losely as DMOZ. How many versions of the browser would be available? How many wouldn't work?

Last edited by krisval : 05-20-2005 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 05-20-2005   #9
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I didn't want to get into the specific site argument, but I am sure you are right on second look.
Very right, neither did I. This is meant to be a constructive forward thinking approach to providing reccomendations as to how the editorial system at DMOZ could be improved upon and how we can hold editors who are borderline abusive and certainly disrespectful towards others accountable for their actions.

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a person who volunteers; to volunteer is to choose to act in recognition of a need, with an attitude of social responsibility without concern for monetary profit, going beyond what is necessary to one’s physical well-being. -(Susan J. Ellis and Katherin H. Noyes, in By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers, Philadelphia, 1978)
I think thats one of the best definitions of what a volunteer is.

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Editing should be fun, not life threatening.-bobrat at the ODP forum
And submitting a site to the ODP should not be an offensive, degrading and insulting experience.

http://resource-zone.com/forum/showp...26&postcount=4
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Last edited by Jeff Martin : 05-20-2005 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 05-20-2005   #10
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Discontinuation of site status checks

And now, no one has any way of getting anything at all out of the ODP.

Now there appears to be complete secrecy as to what happens after you submit a site. You will not when or if a site submitted will be approved or if it was disapproved. Also, there is a good chance, due to the broad intrepretations to guidelines, that you will never know why your site never appears in the ODP.

So much for an "open source" idealism, but then again, the Feudal Lords never had to explain anything to the surfs.
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Old 05-20-2005   #11
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ODP has never been open source - Open Source is something totally different

The Open for ODP only means the directory RDF files are Open
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Old 05-20-2005   #12
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ODP has never been open source - Open Source is something totally different. The Open for ODP only means the directory RDF files are Open
That's semantics. Noone is saying that the source code for the directory should be available. The use of that term is absolutely related to the ODP and valid as described by ODP itself.

"The ODP is an Open Source inspired, volunteer managed initiative"

"The ODP was developed in the spirit of Open Source, where development and maintenance are done by net-citizens, and results are made freely available for all net-citizens."

Both directly from http://dmoz.org/help/geninfo.html#runs
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Old 05-20-2005   #13
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Seems DMOZ will be losing out on a valuable method of communication between itself and webmasters, and simply help exaggerate the complaints against it.
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Old 05-20-2005   #14
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I think it's beyond the call of duty for volunteeer editors to have to research state laws when a site's submitted, unless it was part of their original job description in their employment contract when they were hired.

But as a point of general interest, in California you have to sit for the state real estate exam and pass it to become a licensed real estate agent.
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Old 05-20-2005   #15
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Trying to move on to ideas to improve the directory.

I know the ODP is non-profit, but it is owned by a for profit corporation. For profit corporations spend millions of dollars promoting charities, supporting local initiatives, and ginving back to the community.

Check out AOL's own page about this: http://www.corp.aol.com/whoweare/comminv.shtml

What am I leading to. AOL should create a group internally whose job is to oversee the ODP and ensure that their corporate image is upheld and the standards are being met. This group should be responsible for choosing editors and monitoring their conduct.

What would be the benefits?
- It would create good will between webmasters and AOL which would ultimately continue to improve AOL's image in the marketplace. Forums are a funny thing. Word gets around Bad or Good and a good image would eventually filter to users.
- Potentially create media buzz. Noone I know outside of Webmasters has even heard of the ODP. If they did a press release about the reorganization to improve the quality of ad free directory/search, this would be a great press release to the general public and help them once again in the marketplace. It would get the word out to AOL subscribers and to investors.
- If executed correctly, I think the benefits could outway the costs of creating a professional oversight group.

....Just some thoughts.
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Old 05-20-2005   #16
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What am I leading to. AOL should create a group internally whose job is to oversee the ODP and ensure that their corporate image is upheld and the standards are being met.
Nice concept, but how much do corporate suits understand about a directory like ODP, and about what webmasters do, and *especially* about what SEOs do - which is probably most of what editors have to contend with?

Who would explain to the suits what kind of stuff is pulled, and how to spot the clues and recognize when ODP is getting gamed with submissions?
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Old 05-20-2005   #17
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Is suits a dirty word You raise good questions. They are a huge company and I am sure have a ton of bureaucracy. I don't know how you would convince them, but I do believe this.

AOL is for profit and they are running a not-for profit property. Unless there are some community/social benefits to running it, they eventually will do something about it. Maybe scrap it all together, sell it, or focus on it. The budget must be minimal right now because AOL has had it share of growing pains in the past few years. If it was a significant expense, they would have already done something. However, at some point someone will realize that it is there is no benefit and make a decision. Usually these types of decisions come from new management, a consulting firm, or necessity due to poor earnings. At one point....I was a suit Low level suit, but a suit.
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Old 05-20-2005   #18
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However, at some point someone will realize that it is there is no benefit and make a decision.
Oh, but there is benefit - huge benefit and huge value.

Maybe not for individual webmasters whose sites don't get in, but aside from anything else there sure is value for the IR community at large, and AOL has enough of a vested interest in search to know the value. That's reason enough to keep it going, just that by itself.

Nothing against suits mind you, but suits wouldn't have the slightest notion of how people game the search engines - or how they game ODP - and how to detect or even suspect when it's being done.

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Seems DMOZ will be losing out on a valuable method of communication between itself and webmasters, and simply help exaggerate the complaints against it.
Brian, you mean by shutting down the site status forum? If so, I posted my thoughts over here, not to take this one onto another topic

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...ead.php?t=5784

Last edited by Marcia : 05-20-2005 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 05-20-2005   #19
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and AOL has enough of a vested interest in search to know the value
Regarding benefits to the web overall, I don't want to get into that one, but I disagree with the statement that it benefits AOL/Time Warner. The question to ask is does it improve the value of the stock for shareholders? I see absolutely no current benefit to this.
- Not profitable
- Doesn't create brand recognition for either Netscape or AOL
- Probably provides minimal user traffic for Netscape and AOL
- Is a cost center
- Not even mentioned in the annual report at all never mind a benefit
- Don't see how it enhances the search. Netscape and AOL use Google's engine. If ODP data is used directly, it is certainly well disguised.
- Netscape no longer uses it directly and redirects users to web search. http://open.netscape.com/

An argument can be made that some open source initiatives help corporations. ex. Sun and Java. In the specific examples I am aware of, there is an underlying reason. Sun wanted Java to compaete against Microsoft. Make the software platform independent so that users could use their systems as well. Maybe it didn't work so great, but at least that was the idea to benefit the company's earnings. Microsoft just announced they will provide open source code, but you can bet it will somehow benefit their bottom line at some point.

If you still disagree with me, I would like to know your reasons why you think it benefits AOL/Timewarner as a for profit company.

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suits wouldn't have the slightest notion of how people game the search engines
Yahoo is professionally run and pretty darn good. But I don't propose a paid editor scheme. I was referring to the choosing of editors and professional oversight of the directory as a whole while maintaining volunteers. If editors are doing things that are against policy or are creating an air of resentment, I think the "suits" could a very good job. AOL is already one of the top properties on the web. They certainly have professionals who understand search and if they didn't have the expetise, they have enough money to hire it. Nothing is perfect and adding professionals would not make it perfect, but I think it would help with oversight.

Last edited by krisval : 05-20-2005 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 05-20-2005   #20
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Nothing against suits mind you, but suits wouldn't have the slightest notion of how people game the search engines - or how they game ODP - and how to detect or even suspect when it's being done.
They wouldnt need to. They only need to know that they dont know enough to run it and need to get someone who who is knowledgable to manage it overall. I think thats where your lower level suit would come in.

Hopefully this will establish a public means of communciation between ODP editors and the people of the web as well as have a policy that not only enforces quality standards but conduct standards of editors who represent the ODP. Any complaints (and praises) of an editor should be addressed and dealt with publicly and archived for trending.

It does nothing for the image of the ODP (or its owner) to have editors belittleing and insulting people in the resource-zone forums.

That being said more editors should be brought in. No more of this volunteer to be an editor, fill out a form and sample and get back a two word email (if you ever see an email) thats says..."No way."

Why not get vertan volunteers to TRAIN people who have the motivation to become an editor. Have people sign up, complete some reading and complete a few mock-up tests to show their seriousness, then assign them to small categories and let them work their way up under an establised editor. Give more people a chance to participate who are willing to show their level of commitment. Hopefully this would ease the work for editors and allows them to assist the users of the ODP more freely and openly both the searchers and the submitters.

Lets help people get into the ODP instead of helping them stay out of it.
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