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Dmoz 101: Background on the Open Directory Project

Discussion in 'ODP / DMOZ' started by robjones, Sep 20, 2009.

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  1. #1
    Is this Forum for "Information" or Just "Flames?
    Threads in here are so littered with misinformation, "common wisdom" that's more common than wise, and simple ax-grinding that is there's zero chance most OPs with an honest question could glean anything helpful. This is *supposed* to be an informational forum, but like all dealing with Dmoz, it becomes a place where people come to battle each other. As an ex-editor that has no bone to pick with Dmoz I'll try to offer an unbiased picture of Dmoz as I see it, minus the heat usually seen here.

    DMOZ 101: The Open Directory Project

    A Little Dmoz History
    The Dmoz Open Directory Project has been a lightning rod for confrontation since shortly after its inception. It achieved rapid growth in the late 90's and caught on as THE place to be listed, boosted by the fact that several prominent SEs used it as "their" database. At one time it was the primary source of returns for then giants Netscape, Alta Vista, Hotbot, and others. An up and coming Search Engine named "Google" even used a snapshot of its database as their own directory.

    The popularity of the directory as a resource quickly led to problems... as the free model was attractive to spammers that'd submit every page of every site they had to half the categories. The volunteers developed a siege mentality as their queues were swamped, and publicly began to have firefights on webmaster forums. Many webmasters got the impression all editors considered all webmasters "spammers"... and looking at the conversations it was often the only interpretation available.

    With hundreds of vocal editors acting as unpaid spokesmen, the US vs THEM war between webmasters and Dmoz was on. Battles broke out all over the net with editors stating their case and webmasters accusing them of every possible form of corruption. The fact that there are thousands of editors of course lent itself to the possibility of editor abuse, and there were cases where it happened or happens.

    Dmoz Gets a Fan Club (of sorts)
    Often after editors were removed... they themselves joined the public war against Dmoz, sometimes accusing the entire editor corps of things they themselves had been guilty of. Some exes became anti-Dmoz advocates that seemingly dedicated their lives to bitching about it in forums, and have spent more time doing this than they did editing. You'll find a few of those in every forum.

    Ferreting Out Abuse: Editor Removals
    Attempts were implemented inside the directory to solve abuse problems. Sometimes this created a witch-hunt mentality that may have led to removals of editors who may in fact not have been abusive so much as merely unpopular with some of those that were involved in investigations. If misinfomation was supplied to those that were responsible for removal, then with no harmful intent they might remove someone that had done nothing more than piss off the wrong people. The guidelines are subject to interpretation, so what might fly if you were "in" might be the result of a removal if one was not. Internal politics can get messy, and we lost a lot of good people because they left when volunteering ceased to be fun.

    That said, many that were occasionally a total thorn in the side of portions of the hierarchy (myself included) were NOT booted. As such, take stories about people being canned because they "spoke truth to power" with a grain of salt. For every ex-editor booted for questionable reason there were a ton removed because they needed to be gone. There are of course reasons to remove someone in a volunteer project besides "corruption". The absolute inability to work and play well in a collaborative environment is one... and certain behaviors in outside forums while associating ones name with a project also comes to mind.

    Unfortunately they failed to remove some for that last reason who should have been removed, some who immeasurably damaged the rep of the directory while supposedly speaking on its behalf. Between the two groups, the directory developed a fair public black eye.

    Where the Editors Came From
    The directory is owned by AOL, who got it from Netscape, who got it from the founders... and it was set up to be a free resource in the days before SEs became as sophisticated. It is maintained by volunteers, and most of the early volunteers were themselves webmasters who ran across a funny lizard logo a lot of times when submitting sites and responded to the "Become an Editor" button.

    The Good, the Bad, and the Community
    Some simply showed up to add their own site and maybe a handful of others, then wander off. Many others found a sense of community and became compulsive addicts. This was before the dawn of Social Networking sites or free blog venues... and the internal forum took the place currently occupied by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, eBlogger, WordPress, and other free venues.

    Over the years there have been many good, decent dedicated editors within their ranks who are OCD to the max and compulsively add sites regardless of source. There have also been some of the type that the webmaster community seems to think represent the norm... people that got a login to boost their own sites or "goal-tend" categories to keep out competitors.

    Abusive Editors
    Those of the last type get booted when discovered, and while there I took part in helping that happen a few times (not in an official capacity I'll add... but sometimes editors run across the guys that give editors a bad name and take appropriate action to disclose it). My favorite was a guy in a skydiving category... he'd created his own "international" certification body that blessed certain sites. Coincidentally he owned all the sites certified, and had as I recall about 36 of his own listings sitting side-by-side in a small node of the directory. He got points for creativity, but lost his listings and his login on discovery.

    Typically the directory deals with these guys swiftly, and if you see something fishy it does generally help to file an abuse report on their site instead of just complaining about it in some forum. [Honest truth, I'd probably do both, but I'm kinda noisy.]

    Internal Management: Metas and Admins
    As the project grew there was a need to create a hierarchy in order to manage it. This created the team of Metas to manage the editors, and as that grew, a team of Admins to manage the Metas. Some in these roles have done an admirable job. Others were simply prolific editors without people skills who were moved into a role they were ill equipped to perform. The latter cause more problems than they solve internally, often running off decent newbies or even longterm rank and file editors through control freak behavior. This does not describe all of the hierarchy, but it does describe far too many of them.

    AOLs Involvement
    At the same time, the company that owns them has promised much but delivered little, basically because there is no payback for AOL given the hippie freebie non-revenue model. As a result the project was left like a car up on blocks in the yard for years, they felt it had value and wouldnt divest it, but they didnt know HOW it might have value. So, they mostly ignored it. This inattention culminated in the database crash of ODP in 2006 when AOL techs accidentally over-wrote the entire database with an Op system. The scheduled backups had been ignored, and it was thru the efforts of one or two dedicated guys that came up from the editor ranks that the database was largely retrieved from bits and scrap, but the entire submission queue was lost.

    Why Does it Take So Long to Get Listed?
    Because the directory has no direct income and a volunteer editor base... not only is it a spam magnet, it has no revenue to deal with the problem. Nobody is going to send 50 adds (especially listings that dont match the listing criteria) if their credit card gets hit for each one. They WILL when it costs them nothing. The volunteers of course cannot be MADE to edit anywhere or at any given day, so there will be categories that sit dormant with lots of listings waited to be added... in many cases with very nice sites buried in a flood of spam. Eventually all sites get looked at and added or rejected, but it can be really fast or terminally slow depending on who edits in that area.

    What if there is NO editor
    Any category can be edited by an editor that is "higher up the tree" from that category... and those potential adds show on their dashboard. Also, there are people in the directory with "editall" privs, and they can edit there. Every category has an editor even if there isnt an editor shown on that page. That said, some categories get a lot more attention, and some get a lot more spam, and both affect the speed of reviews in that vicinity.

    Buying Your Way In?
    ODP offers itself as a free directory and if someone publicly offers to purchase a listing it will likely result in their site being banned from inclusion. Add to this the fun quirk... there are editors that work in the SEO industry. That is allowed in their guidelines, and has been since the start. If they add a site in the course of their business, yes, that could be viewed as "puchasing" a listing. Confusing? Yeah. Still I doubt those SEOs are a large part of the adds. Anyway, if it boggles the brain, understand it isnt a public utility, so we have no say. Simple fact, it's theirs to run, we just need to figure out the best way to deal with it if submitting. Those opposed may start their own directory, as thats how this one got started... three guys that saw a niche and did something about it.

    But Only Editors Get Their Site In!
    Naah, they have millions of listings, and they aren't all editor sites. There are still a lot of editors in there that add sites on their own effort from various niche sources where they find them, and plenty who brave the spam and edit the submission queues. It is of course true that only editors are capable of adding a site at will (if they have edit privs in the appropriate spot) and can thus avoid the frequently long wait for a listing. That is simply the way it works. They pay dearly in time for that particular opportunity.

    Becoming an Editor
    So yes, if you become an editor you have an edge in that respect, but it doesnt outweigh the time you'd spend editing other sites if you do the job right. If a listing there is really worth spending hundreds of unpaid hours... feel free to send an app, but approval of those is just as spotty as site approval. Einstein might get rejected to edit some small physics node and the neighborhood goof who wrote a good app might get approved. Just depends on who looks at the app. Remember they will ask you to disclose ALL sites you are involved with, and they will check. If that's a problem you really shouldn't apply.

    So basically, don't become an editor (or even try) if you just want your site(s) listed. It isn't worth the effort or the work involved. A good reason to become an editor is if you're seriously Obsessive Compulsive and just love to share info about some niche with others. Those guys make good editors, the rest just compound existing problems.

    ---

    Conclusions
    In a way Dmoz is a victim of its own model, its own popularity as a resource, and of failing to curb a crowd of unofficial spokesmen. The directory suffers more than most from linkrot because of its age, and the databsae size has declined over the last 5 years because the link spider "Robozilla" is killing old dead sites faster than the declining editor base can add them.
    SEMrush
    All this said... it is still a respected resource and has a place in a links campaign, so see below.

    Strip away the politics and look at Dmoz as a link
    Forget about the name, and what you have is a large directory (typically betw 5-6 million links) with good PR and an enviable position as the basis of the Google Directory. Though it no longer has the exalted effect on SERPs it once had, it is still a meritable backlink and as it costs nothing, worth the few minutes it takes to find and submit to the right category.

    ---

    Submission Advice
    They will NOT send you feedback if you get in or are rejected, and getting in (even with a great site) is hampered by the fact that some queues sit unseen for extended periods due to the volunteer model. This is compounded by spam burying good submissions.

    Constant re-submission may earn you the label of "spammer" and get your sites marked for deletion on entry. The answer is to submit and then walk away. Worrying or bitching about it won't change the process, it is what it is.

    Take a few minutes and submit to this one, (in the right category, with a realistic description). It can't hurt. If it gets in, good. If not, hopefully it wasnt your entire links campaign. If that's the case you're doing this wrong anyway.




    * Rob Jones started as an editor at Dmoz in '99 shortly after it began and left in 2008 to work in the directory industry. This post is to clear misconceptions frequently distributed by entrenched combatants on either side. Stripping away the politics and religious fervor, we're just talking about a directory. That point gets lost.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
    robjones, Sep 20, 2009 IP
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    SEMrush
  2. trustnobodynever

    trustnobodynever Peon

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    #2
    flames or truth ? most of peoples who have something different from official copy/paste post's made like Jim's ones ( yeah is true just watch yourself at hes post from this forum and resource zone forums - same texts copy pastes over and over again .. ) ... so most peoples who saying something different getting infractions and getting banned from this forum yeah myself got some of them and was banned for months :) ...

    again same question flames or truth ? Dmoz is having LOADS of spam sites added here and their editorial applications are AUTOMATICALLY declined , giving out some kind of auto-responses based emails :)

    thanks for the future infractions ;)
     
    trustnobodynever, Sep 20, 2009 IP
  3. jimnoble

    jimnoble Well-Known Member

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    #3
    I can't quarrel with most of that Rob - just one tiny subsection.
    As a meta who's accepted over 2000 editor applications over the years, I don't believe that approval is spotty; it's just that some metas are easier to fool than others :). I know I was in my early days. If Einstein lied, didn't understand the scope of the category or couldn't spell, then yes, he'd be declined. Unless there were serious integrity issues though, he'd usually be encouraged to try harder.

    To be successful, the application form should be treated as seriously and as honestly as a job application - because that's what it is :).
     
    jimnoble, Sep 20, 2009 IP
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  4. trustnobodynever

    trustnobodynever Peon

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    #4


    since you love to cut always from text and sometime to change the sense of the phrases :) take a look one more time at what's come out from that words :) .... and maybe can I have such job too :)?

    and to be honest ... not even you or anyone else can be so great and so fast to say within minutes one of applications for editorial '' job '' was good or right . I think we have discussed that before , months ago if you are trace my old posts you can remember about what i`m saying ...
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
    trustnobodynever, Sep 20, 2009 IP
  5. caprichoso

    caprichoso Peon

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    #5
    This forum is for information. Unlike in resource-zone, there is no censorship here servicing DMOZ's good image. Here people can share their experience (awful most of the time) interacting with DMOZ. And their posts doesn't get edited nor removed. This forum shows a more realistic DMOZ.

    Personally, if I want to know the "official" word about DMOZ I can go the the static html where guidelines are published. Or even I can go to resource-zone, ask something and get a bunch of copy paste from the same guidelines multiplied by the quantity of editors online in the forum.

    Here I see that I'm not the only one who thinks DMOZ is getting worst every day.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
    caprichoso, Sep 20, 2009 IP
  6. Anonymously

    Anonymously Well-Known Member

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    #6
    Well you really would not expect RZ to be spending most of its time putting DMOZ down, would you? LOL

    Here you can mix with ex-editors and those who sites have been declined and those refused as editors, so yes one would expect that many here see DMOZ on the slide. But it is interesting how small the number is of editors and of opposes, the same names keep appearing. I think RJ shows that his long love affair with DMOZ is really still not over, why else would you spend so much time talking about them?

    I can understand that as an editor who has spent up to 40 hours a week on DMOZ editing over 9 years that I feel quite a commitment to it, I fail to understand why people who claim to be sort of neutral, no axe to grind, not an ex-editor or reject want to spend so much time talking about what they regard as a failing project. If its as ill as most of you make out, it must be ready to fall over next week. Dash, they have been saying those things for years.

    I think the significant statement by Rob is that this forum is used combatantly, when it could offer genuine information to people, but Rob you have been as combatant as any!
     
    Anonymously, Sep 20, 2009 IP
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  7. caprichoso

    caprichoso Peon

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    #7
    In the first place I have to do something while compiling C++.
    As for DMOZ falling next month, I don't think so. I said it's getting worst, which doesn't implies a prediction about the time of death. In fact, DMOZ will be kept online long after his death. So, death on DMOZ is something you can see from different angles. From some of them it will never die, from others it's already dead.
     
    caprichoso, Sep 20, 2009 IP
  8. trustnobodynever

    trustnobodynever Peon

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    #8
    yeah sure take a look at this pic .

    or maybe i can post it here too
    [​IMG]
     
    trustnobodynever, Sep 20, 2009 IP
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  9. caprichoso

    caprichoso Peon

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    #9
    I can only speak about what actually happened to me so far. In resource-clones I got banned just for keep posting and speaking my mind. I've limited my self to answer some threads by pointing out DMOZ's obscure points.
    Here I had a totally different experience. I don't feel a limit in what I can say here.
     
    caprichoso, Sep 20, 2009 IP
  10. syted

    syted Notable Member

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    #10
    At last! A well written, informative post written from a reasonably neutral perspective. It's about time this forum had a sticky :).


    Isn't that what he meant as 'spotty'.
     
    syted, Sep 21, 2009 IP
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