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Submitting Websites to Multiple ODP Categories: Request for ODP Editor Input

Never? When? How? Why do some sites appear more than once?

8:57 pm on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Identify the single best category for your site. The Open Directory has an enormous array of subjects to choose from. You should submit a site to the single most relevant category. Sites submitted to inappropriate or unrelated categories may be rejected or removed.

The above language is from How to suggest a site to the Open Directory [dmoz.org].

Does it say, on its face "Do not submit to more than one category"? No, it does not. Instead, it takes the affirmative approach: "Submit a site to the single most relevant category".

In a perfect world that would be the end of it.

Here's the rub, Part I: People look at the ODP, see the same website in multiple categories, and therefore conclude that the rule doesn't quite mean what it says. That there must be an exception, unwritten or otherwise so they, too, might benefit. So, what do those people do? My guess would be that they submit to more than one category. Monkey see, monkey do? No, let's not go there.

Here's the rub, Part II: IF it takes weeks or months for a submission to be reviewed AND IF the editor of the "submitted to section" determines "No, this website doesn't belong in my category, there's a better one" then what's the chance that the approval clock gets reset when that editor forwards the website to a new editor and the time to approval gets extended by several more months? What's the chances that with this thought in mind ("Maybe it's not the right category. I'm not the ultimate judge.") that the person submitting with this scenario in mind will - as a defensive or practical strategy - submit to more than one category at a time?

Almost seems practical to me to submit to more than one category. It's what people do when they want to increase their odds of winning: They buy more than one lottery ticket.

Poor analogy? Submission is more like asking someone out on a date or to the prom? "Hey, you can't ask 2 guys/gals and you can't submit to more than 2 sections!" Yeah, but if I have to wait 3 months to know if I'm going on my next date I might start to consider the monestary. ;0/

The questions below are directed to any ODP editor that is willing to pitch in and explain, with the caveat to the members at large that there is - to my knowledge - no person who is appointed as the official ODP spokesperson.

1. What is "the official" ODP policy about submitting a website to more than one category? It looks to be "submit to only one" BUT is that rule applied with some flexibility? If it is then is that flexibility a matter of individual editor discretion?

2. Are there known cases of exceptions to this rule, where a website is found listed in more than one category? What explains this? Mere inability to track all submissions?

3. If a website is NOT to be listed in more than one category then what, if anything, can an outsider do to right this wrong - where they see that 1 website appears in multiple categories? IF there is no effective process for "an outsider" to participate in "righting this wrong" then is the legitimacy of the statement of policy (only 1 category) to be taken seriously? In other words, doesn't the appearance of exceptions to the rule with no mechanism of removing those exceptions tend to encourage the "bad practice"?

4. IF it IS EVER appropriate for a website to be listed in more than one category THEN WHAT are the criteria and guidelines for

  • Deciding whether this is an idea worth pursuing;
  • Improving the chances that such "additional listings" are approved.

This thread is NOT an invitation to the members at large to post up their complaints or even their observations or experience on this subject. We'll get to that in due course.

What I'd like is some help in building a "Library Thread" that addresses, in some detail, what - if anything - there is to say on the topic of submitting and getting listed in multiple ODP categories as it appears to be an issue that arises again and again.

IF YOU HAVE AN ON POINT QUESTION on the very point of the topic of this thread - not a comment, critique, experience, opposing point of view, whatever - please feel free to add it in the shortest possible format. The focus, again, is the issue of submitting to multiple categories.

THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO BE THE LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF WHINGING THREADS. If you have a gripe, if you are aggrieved, if you think that there has been some dishonesty by someone somewhere this IS NOT where to register it. At best I am looking for the most intelligent, well stated and well reasoned presentation of things the way they are. I somewhat doubt, since I said it myself that "there is not official ODP spokesperson", that we will manage to cobble together the definitive answer. That said, what's life for if not for trying to find the unfindable answers and resolviing the great mysteries of life? :)

[edited by: Webwork at 9:21 pm (utc) on Oct. 17, 2006]

11:50 pm on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The first issue is: there really is a difference between the EDITORS' guidelines ("deeplink in exceptional cases") and the SUBMITTAL policy ("one category only.") And that's the official policy.

What you see in an ODP category is supposed to be an editor's work, based on editorial judgment (sometimes after internal discussions.) This difference represents a genuinely distinct level of trust, and will not go away: the word for someone whose judgment is trusted on such an issue is "editor," and the way to gain such trust is to apply to be an editor.

A second issue is: standards change over time, and (as the content available on the web becomes richer) the shift is almost invariably in the direction of less deeplinking. What you see is sometimes a result of older decisions that are neither good enough to be precedents, nor bad enough for emergency removal. Even an editor should not do that today; far far less can that justify submittals beyond what the submittal policy allows.

A final issue is: a webmaster ALWAYS misunderstands the ODP by comparing his own site ONLY against the LISTED sites! You must also compare your own site against the UNLISTED sites, and ask yourself: how many better, more authoritative, older sites than your own AREN'T listed.

All suggestions are handled according to editorial judgment: that means you have to go far enough over the line to bother an editor enough for him to ask, "will no one rid me of this meddlesome webmaster?". Two or three suggestions of a listable site aren't going to reach that level. Beyond that, it becomes a trade-off: website depth against webmaster discourtesy.

I believe the editor community generally accepts these exceptions to the one-category-per-site rule:

(1) Businesses with interstate or international activity may be listed in the Business or Shopping tree. Businesses with fixed locations of regular activity significant to customers, may be listed in the Regional tree. Many real-life companies and sole proprietorships have both; and the editors would be happy for those sites to be suggested to one category in each tree.

(2) Websites that appear in multiple native languages (that is, hand-translated by native speakers) may be listed in each language. Again, editors are happy for people to help them by suggesting the site to the most appropriate (1 or 2) categories in each relevant language.

There are to my knowledge no other generally publicized exceptions.

I work a bit on e-books. My approach is that a unique electronic version of a non-vanity-published printed book is generally listable on its own account: based on the authoritativeness of the original author and publisher. There's a quantum quality leap between 200 pages of my personal unpublished and probably unpublishable raving, and 200 pages of a historical, authoritative writer doubly demonstrated as significant (once by his original publisher, and once by the preparer of the e-book.) So I'm not going to complain if someone tells me about an e-book legally available online for the first time.

And similarly, an editor deeply interested in a topic is not going to get irritated by submitted deeplinks of genuinely exceptional information.

Here we draw a deep line in the sand between commercial and informational sites. And the reason is not that the rules are different, but the TOPICS are different. A commercial site is about one topic and one topic alone: "the proprietor or company: what he/it knows, and what he/it will do for money." The proprietor's own site is obviously the uniquely authoritative source for that topic. For our purposes, the proprietor has, by definition, only one site (although it may be spread over multiple domains.) Since the subject is the proprietor (similar proprietors being grouped together), there can be no question of an "exceptional" site: each site is absolutely authoritative on its own niche, and no two sites can be compared. Generally speaking, companies and proprietors fall into groups relatively painlessly: the conglomerates that play a significant part in both semiconductors and farm tractors are relatively rare, as are the successful mining engineers who also have a worldwide reputation for translating classical literature.)

[edited by: Webwork at 12:59 pm (utc) on Oct. 18, 2006]
[edit reason] Added bold to lend focus to 2 statements. Nice work Mr. H. :) [/edit]

2:12 am on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I should point out that, as an editor, I automatically consider a website for deeplinking whenever I review it. That doesn't mean the answer is "yes" very often (as Hutcheson just explained very thoroughly, commercial sites almost never qualify, and it's even rare for a truly informational website to cover multiple topics in reasonable depth.) But it's certainly one of the things I look for as I review. When I come across a genuinely content-rich site -- a niche encyclopedia with quality articles on several topics, for example, or a museum with quality photo exhibits on several different subjects, or an academic resource with original in-depth research on multiple questions -- I'm usually quite enthusiastic about going around and listing all those informational nuggets in their appropriate places.

Deeplinking just isn't one of the editing tasks we have a mechanism to accept outside suggestions on. As I'm sure you can imagine, such a mechanism would be *completely* overrun with spam, as every webmaster out there dutifully entered the URL of every single article, product, or forum post on his or her site. :-)

12:57 pm on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thank you both for the time and effort to help clarify this issue.

If there are any other editors or metas that would care to add their knowledge, experience, perspective, policy or insights to the issues please step up and post. This is a recurring issue so I welcome as much editor/meta input as you all care to offer.

I also appreciate the WebmasterWorld members at large allowing this thread to unfold "as is", without the addition of any rancor.

Thank you all.

[edited by: Webwork at 1:13 pm (utc) on Oct. 18, 2006]

1:58 pm on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Basically there is not much to add to what hutcheson said, otherwise some of us might already have.

(Hutcheson made a big effort to put it in a very good way this time)

[edited by: Webwork at 2:27 pm (utc) on Oct. 18, 2006]
[edit reason] Always a positive approach please [/edit]

7:20 pm on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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OK, I'll take another bite...

Why do some sites appear more than once?

And there absolutely isn't and won't be any rule that says, "if a site has X-many contributors and/or X-many pages and/or X-many man-years of development time and/or X-many months of uptime and/or X-many page views per millenium and/or X-many submittals per fortnight, then it gets X-many extra listings. It just doesn't work that way.

And sure, the center of a web developer's work is the website itself, but a reviewer works on a TOPIC, not a SITE.

So, I'm working on a TOPIC. My attention comes to a particular web PAGE (not SITE! remember, Google searches serve up pages.)

OK, is this SITE listed? If not, that's a side issue to deal with. If it seems listable, either list it here, or send it to some other topic (to come to the attention of someone interested in THAT topic.)

If the site is already listed, then that's usually the end of the issue. (If the site is already listed in a nearby category, that's nearly ALWAYS the end of the issue: category boundaries are at best a bit fuzzy, and directory users are expected to be able to browse around a bit.)

But the question comes back: how about this TOPIC? Suppose this page were to be on its own domain, would it be one of the top resources for this topic; would it add significantly to the value of the topic? does it possess extraordinarily high authoritativeness (such as, its author being recognized by other authorities as an authority)? Does the TOPIC absolutely NEED this listing?

So one site might get several listings because it happened to have some of the best articles available on various obscure topics that editors happened to have researched; another site might get nothing, because its articles were all on similar subjects, or its articles presented no special authoritativeness, or its articles were on subjects that had been well covered by other, dedicated sites, or its articles post-dated the time when the topic had been last deeply researched by an editor, or even its articles were on subjects so obscure as to not yet have been researched.

And for "extraordinary" sites, as Flicker mentioned, the likes of Smithsonian and BBC and Project Gutenberg (and on a smaller scale, the occasional really-dedicated-hobbiest site), an editor might well notice that the quality of the articles warranted considering how many of them might well be cornerstones of their respective topics.

Whether the WEBSITE "deserves" the listing is simply not a consideration. Nor is the number of listings the website already has (although their LOCATION might be relevant.) Even whether the "article" deserves a listing isn't really the issue, but "did the TOPIC NEED the article?"

So, if you're trying to get an ODP listing (either the first one or an add-on, then focus on two things (1) NON-competitive content: the content that, if you develop, you'll have NO competition for, and (2) information that YOU are the expert on, because of your long experience and unique studies.

Failing either of these criteria, you may find "getting in" extremely difficult. However, it may not be as difficult as surfers would like it to be.

In the contest of this reality, making an appeal like "this is a competitive category, I need more ODP listings to hit pay dirt" to an editor is ESPECIALLY ill-considered. If you do it, don't be surprised at what happens. You're tapping into a very deep well of very bad experiences, and you should expect a maximally unfavorable emotional reaction! I think this is the other side of why some discussions go so bady ... bad. The webmaster talks about being (or not being) provided (gratis!) a "fair deal" or "level playing field." But the editor was creating a rock garden, not a playing field; and sees his hard-planted flowers stolen for commercial gain, and his landscaping torn up by games-players.

Maybe the best way to deal with this is to turn the question around. Because the ODP isn't a way of gaining a reputation, it's a (humanly imperfect) way of recognizing one.

"So why," you ask yourself, "am I not generally recognized by both the hoi polloi and the illuminati as an authority? And then why do I think the ODP should be any different?" Or perhaps, "I'm recognized by the United Luddites of Hither Sneggling as the highest authority on Pre-Cambrian Philately: so why does the ULOHS perspective affect the ODP so little?" Or finally, "I'm generally recognized as an authority, is there something about my website that gives the wrong impression?"

Meanwhile, ODP editors will be asking the other side of the question, "What reputations on THIS topic haven't yet been recognized?" for unlisted sites -- and for listed sites, "Why was THAT idiot recognized as an authority?"


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