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|DMOZ: Getting More Editors|
A modest proposal to cut the backlog
We all know that DMOZ needs more editors. At the same time, at least some are turned down because of possible conflicts of interest in their desired category. Still others who could be competent editors fail to apply because of conflicting priorities and lack of long-term interest in a particular category. (I have sites in various cats that have been waiting for months, but I haven't applied to edit those cats because I have neither a personal passion nor a long-term business interest in those areas. I don't want to make a commitment to these cats to satisfy a short-term need.)
The other thread started by pearl ( [webmasterworld.com...] ) who said quite unabashedly that she wouldn't do anything to help her competitors as editor sparked an idea.
Given that there is a significant population of potential editors who want sites listed, but who might be biased editors in specific categories (or who work with many sites in disparate categories), why not give them an incentive to edit a category that needs help? Specifically, let them edit a category that they have no commercial interest in, but (one hopes) they like, or at least understand. As an incentive, give them several review credits - say, after a month of being an editor in good standing, they can submit three sites for review by a high-level editor (guaranteed turnaround, say, of 5 days). Thereafter, every three months, or every twenty edits, etc., they would get another credit or two. I don't know what the right measure are, but I'm sure those with access to typical editing stats could come up with something appropriate.
Will this pose an even greater burden on overworked high-level editors? Perhaps not, if they are leveraging every "review credit" into dozens of reviews, adds, changes, etc. by the new editors.
The benefits would be simple: the (potentially) selfish interests of the new editors would be redirected to orphan or non-commercial categories that need help most. Instead of burning keystrokes at WebmasterWorld complaining about the site they submitted two years ago that's still unreviewed, the new editors could be cutting the DMOZ backlog and know that, for a limited number of sites, they would not have to worry about getting caught in an abandoned queue.
If some of the new editors are SEO pros, so much the better - they are far more likely to keep affiliate spam and bogus deep links out of DMOZ.
I've advocated a paid review option in the past, but I think this approach would expand the editing corps while minimizing conflicts of interest and keeping the 100% volunteer structure.
Would there be problems? Sure. Some new editors would bail out after their first listing or do a slapdash job to build credits, but with a bit of quality control I don't think it would be any worse than what exists now. Within the ranks of the new editors, it's likely some really good ones would emerge to start the next generation of high-level DMOZ devotees.
Many smart suggestions have been made already in an attempt to solve this problem, some similar to yours, some very different. I agree that a working scheme that could transform the frustration of some webmasters into something more productive would be highly desirable.
One downside to almost all of them is that they would involve significant administrative overhead. Theoretically, at least part of that could be resolved by technical measures, but then, ODP staff currently doesn't have the resources to build this kind of technology. The rest would have to be carried by the other volunteer editors, which immediately turns a phrase like "garanteed turnaround" into a red cloth. Not to mention that quite a few people would be pissed off in the end because their affiliate link farm wouldn't get listed that way either... ;)
The other issue is a cultural one. There's a great reluctance (and rightfully so, IMO) by the ODP editors to introduce any kind of reward system. Experience with the original Go Guides directory (not the current goguides.org) and to a lesser degree with Zeal show that the possibility of collecting priveledges based on the number of edits is an invitation for abuse in itself, unless closely monitored. You're already addressing that point, but that again places more of a burden on the senior editors.
As a third point, most of those categories that are really in urgent need of help will be completely unsuitable for a fresh editor. There may be a few that would fit into your idea, but the heavy stuff requires more experienced eyes.
Actually, your suggestion is one of those that I like better than most of the others I have seen, on a conceptual level. Just that the problem at hand is a lot more complex than it seems at first.
|Instead of burning keystrokes at WebmasterWorld complaining about the site they submitted two years ago that's still unreviewed |
I would postulate that you can divide the world into 3 for this exercise
1. Those that never want to edit in DMOZ, for whatever reasons.
2. Those that want to edit for "selfish" reasons - get their site in, maybe keep competitors out to boot.
3. Those that want to edit out of mainly altruistic "interest" in the category, again for whatever reason.
No doubt any reader of this forum could add their own groupings of prospective editors.
We could (probably) all agree that DMOZ needs more editors, and that they want them from the third group above.
Problem is that there are just not enough people in that group:(
Cornwall hit the nail on the head. There just aren't enough people in that third group. Particularly so in the case of heavily spammed commercial cats. Much easier to find editors who are interested in editing a cat about some hobby of theirs, etc. than to find editors to volunteer to slog through a pile of commercial spam submissions. Even a number of non-commercial cats have trouble attracting editors. I happen to edit some cats like this. They had a 2 year backlog of unrevieweds before I went through them.
I agree that the administrative & technology issues could be a deal-killer due to the lack of technical resources. I think a tracking system could be set up that would handle most of the overhead, but it isn't clear that anyone has time to write such a system. It all seems like a big Catch-22. There are major problems, but no resources to address them.
Most not-for-profit ventures do what it takes, more or less, to accomplish their objectives. They'll raise funds, solicit grants, etc. The current DMOZ situation seems untenable in the long run - it's part of a for-profit corporation and can't conduct itself like a non-profit organization, the for-profit parent isn't allocating sufficient resources, yet going to an optional paid-submittal scheme isn't compatible with the ODP's altruistic mission. Something is going to have to give...
Cornwall seems to hit the nail on the head a lot when it comes to DMOZ topics :)
A lot of that backlog could be helped by retaining those who get discouraged and quit.
I'm a new DMOZ editor (2 months). I started with a reg cat with 3 listings, now it has 21 and got great reviews from experianced editors who coached me and reviewed it. I applied to greenbust another similiar cat and was given full editing priviledges for it (the next day!).( and I beleive being an editor is a priviledge)
I have to say, though, that my first month as a new editor was very trying. If it was for the fact that I am stubborn as a mule and not a quitter, there were many times I contemplated doing just that.
One of the most discouraging things was the way some editor nit-picked. (not the ones helping, just others throwing in their two-bits in forums)
My tips to any one who wants to be a DMOZ editor:(IMHO)
1. Use the forum as infrequently as possible.(i.e. to ask for help but avoid debates about minute details)
2. No matter what you do, someone will find fault...just follow the guidelines and do your best.
3. Remind yourself that what you are doing is actually for the little guy...the hundreds of small portals and other site who count on DMOZ for their directories.
4. Remember...What goes around comes around....the selfserving will get what they deserve, eventually.
FTR: I would love to dive into more cats, but its seems the deeper you go, the more politics....got enough of that at work.
I also joined Zeal... rethinking that one, not impressed.
I agree rogerd, I've suspected for quite some time that DMOZ is more a liability to its owners than an asset.
Last AOL directory from RDF was July 2002.... why not in Sept? No sign of Feb's either (a little soon to tell though)
>Most not-for-profit ventures do what it takes, more or less, to accomplish their objectives. They'll raise funds, solicit grants, etc. The current DMOZ situation seems untenable in the long run - it's part of a for-profit corporation and can't conduct itself like a non-profit organization, the for-profit parent isn't allocating sufficient resources, yet going to an optional paid-submittal scheme isn't compatible with the ODP's altruistic mission. Something is going to have to give...
The ODP could never charge based on their charter:
Also, please note that the only shortage in allocating resources the ODP has is they *really* need a better server. I just checked, and on the public side the ODP actually wasn't even usable. However, beyond that problems like the backlog of over 2 years in the queue in many categories is something that throwing money at the ODP wouldn't help. The ODP model is based on volunteer editors, not paid staffers doing the editing. I think AOL/Time-Warner is caught between a rock and a hard place with the ODP. The ODP is definitely more of a liability than an asset. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time to Netscape. However, at the moment I have to figure Netscape is a dead duck unless they sell something other than that web browser hardly anyone uses today. But, the problem is that if AOL/Time-Warner were to give the ODP the heave-ho, this could be very bad from a public relations standpoint. Thus, my guess is AOL/Time-Warner will have to keep the ODP going as it is a "white elephant" to them. AOL/Time-Warner is so rich they can afford to keep around a losing proposition like the ODP. Personally, I wish that Google would supply some money at least for decent hardware for the ODP. Google does have an interest as the ODP is the Google directory. Only problem with that idea is that if Google is a financial backer of the ODP then they run the risk that any editor corruption that may happen from time to time would be seen as "Google corruption", and hurt their image.
Why buy the cow when you're already getting the milk for free...
|My tips to any one who wants to be a DMOZ editor |
1. Use the forum as infrequently as possible....
2. No matter what you do, someone will find fault...
3. Remind yourself that what you are doing is actually for the little guy...
4. Remember...the selfserving will get what they deserve, eventually.
How very true.
What is often forgotten by the tooth and nail evangelists for Dmoz (the "DMOZ can do no wrong" category) is that it is (can be) a very "political" organisation, particularly as editors progress up the editorial ladder.
DMOZ wishes to attract true "experts" in each field, but the "experts" (let us assume that they are real experts, not self servers) can and do become disillusioned for the very reasons that OntheEdge puts forward.
Result "55,363 editors" claimed on front page, but at a guess I would doubt that many more than 1000 are editing in any volume or with any regularity.
This in turn means that the metas, who screen new applicants, do not find it a satisfying job doing such screening, and, as I understand it, screening of new applicants is not therefore a major priority of metas.
Hence applicants get disillusioned as shown in so many threads...and so the spirl turns in on itself.
|... the only shortage in allocating resources the ODP has is they *really* need a better server. |
I definitely agree with the server part, but it seems like they are woefully short on tech staff and paid editorial staff, too. Alexa tags ODP as the 154th most visited site, and my guess is that it is one of the worst-performing sites in the top 300. Months to complete an RDF dump, etc., shouldn't be acceptable. If AOL/TW is really going to hang onto DMOZ, would it kill them to throw a few more techs and servers into the mix? I really think AOL would serve the world better by enlisting a blue-ribbon board of directors for DMOZ, and then spinning it off as an independent non-profit with enough capital to keep it going for a year. The industry has enough heavy hitters that a few donors could make DMOZ much more viable than it is now.
>> Months to complete an RDF dump, etc., <<
This has been dealt with, and is now history. Four new dumps have been produced since earlier this month.
ODP editors have no inside track to AOLTW management. It might be an interesting topic for a shareholder resolution though :).
AOL tech support has no inside track to AOLTW either.
I emailed them asking how come the directory hadn't been updated since July 02 and got a hilarious form letter, telling me ODP was "the backbone" of their directory and went on to brag about it's 800,000 web sites, collected and organized by more than 14,000 expert editors worldwide, with more than 3,000 new sites added daily. (yes i just got that last week)
When I pointed out their outdated data, they continued to reply with form letters (even re-iterating the same data).
What a joke!
That form letter from AOL pretty much confirms what my belief is. Namely, I don't think AOL/TW gives a rat's ass about the ODP. However, they've figured giving the ODP the axe would cost more in bad PR than paying to keep it alive. The truth is the ODP really doesn't need that much money to keep going. Because the editors do the real work, all the ODP needs is one administrator, one tech person, and sufficient hardware and bandwidth. They currently have those 2 staffers. Main problem now is the hardware issue. The public side of the ODP is so unusable at the moment that us ODP editors pretty much are the "Google directory people". dmoz.org itself I would rate as totally useless at the moment.
"divide the world into 3 for this exercise.."
You can add a fourth:
4. People that have appied to be an editor and finally given up in frustration.
g1smd, I was citing the lengthy RDF dump issue not so much as an outstanding problem but rather as an example of the lack of resources and customer orientation currently evident. Few "real" businesses faced with that kind of problem would just plug away at it for months - they'd put their best people on it, and if they couldn't sort it out in a day or two, call in outside consultants. The RDF is the major "product" at DMOZ since it feeds Google et al.
>4. People that have appied to be an editor and finally given up in frustration.
I dunno how many people are in this category who aren't those applying for the wrong reason. Best bet is to start out applying for some small, neglected category that isn't in a spammy area where the topic interests you, and you know a lot of worthwhile sites that could be added. Usually those are approved. Once you are in and asking for newperms, then it becomes more they need to find specific reasons to give you the thumbs down.
|Usually those are approved. |
Might I ask on what you base this statement?
Encouraging existing editors, who have gone idle or just dabble would help.
I myself would be a much bigger contributor if simply building a high quality directory was all that ist was about.
But, unfortunately to a lot of people its not.
One of cats is one over the <i>suggested</i> level that you should even consider subcats. Meanwhile, a whole bunch of cats that need attention, such as unreviewed.
It was made perfectly clear to me that I would be out of line to apply for any of those cats until my subs are made.
Now that sounds like a simple task, but it's way more complicated than one might think.
As a new editor, my choice of subcats (using reg. guidelines) will still be picked apart, and I will be send back to alter them, multiple times.
So much of new editor's time is wasted in pursuit of perfection.
To clarify what my point was in that last post:
Too many resources (new & experianced editors) are being wasted debating if you should put a comma after and.
My idea is this:
Build the cat
When all are cats have no old sites waiting for unreviewed, go back and touchup, make sub cats, etc.
Another way DMOZ could really get productive is to designate "Grammar Editor" who only Job is to go through the cats and look for simple errors, and "Guidline Editors" who simply review for things like titles in the description, use of inappropriate words (like best,etc).
There are a LOT of people out there who would make great editors, but may have horrible grammar (like me! on the grammar anyways.)LOL
I think there's merit in giving priority to clearing the unreviewed backlog, OntheEdge, although quality still needs to be maintained.
Some DMOZ apologists suggest that the backlog isn't really as big as it looks, with one reason being an accumulation of spam submissions. What about giving some senior editors the power to designate specific domains as "spam domains" and automatically remove all related submissions from the queue? I don't know how much junk this might purge, but it could be worth a try if there are many oversubmitted sites in the backlog.
Still, I think that DMOZ needs to address the active editor shortage sooner rather than later.
|What about giving some senior editors the power to designate specific domains as "spam domains" and automatically remove all related submissions from the queue? |
Do you honestly want to give that much power to "some senior editors"?
The basic problem I see (just my thoughts) is that there is not a single soul in this world who is willing to spend time on something he/she has no personel interest in.
Why should anybody want to become a DMOZ editor? If not for commercial reasons it will be for "EGO" reasons.
"I will not list websites with a blue background"
"I will not list competitors"
"I will not list websites who conflict with my personell ethic, moral, religious, political etc. values"
And of course: "I don't even review a website if it is not in my language"
The whole idea to build a directory based on the "goodwill" of "volunteers" is bound to fail due to human nature.
Any resource of quality needs binding guidelines that are available and communicated to the public as well as structured controlling of editors.
This means PAID staff and costly overhead!
There are business models around that could make a quality human edited directory possible.
Unfortunately, the Internet community would have to accept that we are not living in a perfect world and that nothing comes for free!
It never has been!
During the hype, free access was paid by dot.com advertisers. Nowadays access to quality information needs "free" user registration (resulting in tons of commercial emails in your inbox) or subscribe to paid services.
At the same time, the "invisible" Internet is growing and is probaly allready outnumbering the public available webpages. In my industry, it is absolutely hopeless to try and find relevant information on SE's like Google - Google is excluded from relevant information simply because it does not make sense to spend resources on compiling information and then give it to Google for free.
The Future? SE's like Google will have to pay to be allowed to crawl websites with quality information.
Well, Laisha, I presume there are some who could be trusted to carry out such an activity responsibly. (That's why I said "some" and not "all".:)) Any organization delegates specific powers to individuals based on past performance, and I don't see why that couldn't be done here.
What I don't know is whether such an activity would have any meaningful impact. It might affect such a small percentage of the backlog as to be meaningless.
Thanks for nudging us back on topic, cwnet02, although I disagree mildly with your "not a single soul" premise. I think there ARE some altruistic people who will edit a category (or many categories) because they enjoy it or because they think they are contributing to a valuable project. There just aren't enough of them currently involved in DMOZ at this point in time.
The options would seem to be:
1) Attract more altruistic individuals to edit, and/or convince the existing volunteers to volunteer more hours.
2) Provide non-monetary incentives (e.g., the suggestion in the original post) to increase the available editor-hours.
3) Increase the number of paid staff, or provide targeted monetary incentives to increase the available editor-hours.
Each of these has major problems, and 2 & 3 might require some restructuring of the charter. But from my bug's-eye view of things, there's not any management vision or plan to move in any direction at all.
cwnet02 is absolutely correct. ODP is internet's utopia. Just like communism - a noble idea, but is overly corrupted, due to human nature. There are noble men, but to few and far between.
Google, copied entire directory and the next smart move should be hiring editors, who would sign a noninvolvement agreement in the subject that they are editing.
I am sure that people in countries like India who are English literate would be glad to edit for low pay and would not risk being suspended to involve personal matters.
|The basic problem I see (just my thoughts) is that there is not a single soul in this world who is willing to spend time on something he/she has no personel interest in |
That may be true, but it is not strictly relevant. Someone with a passion for Norwegian Butterflies may dedicate their life to spreading knowledge about them. They may become a DMOZ editor to help do that..
That's a personal interest. Not a personal financial interest (which is what you may have meant) but a personal interest nonetheless. And that urge, to a greater or lesser extent, drives many DMOZ editors who want their subjects to be presented in the best possible light.
This may not work ideally for people who want their commercial website to be promoted by DMOZ. But then, DMOZ may not be the best possible structure for impartially presenting commercial websites.
If it isn't, then the commercial interests should stop moaning about that, and simply band together and set up another Directory -- maybe in a year or so they can demonstrate that "paid humans do it better".
But to want to change DMOZ because it does not fulfil commercial needs is close to claiming that it has failed because it is too successful. That doesn't make sense to me.
>>Usually those are approved.
>Might I ask on what you base this statement?
From what I have read Laisha, most who apply to small, non-spammy cats get approved as editors. My guess is most who don't sent in apps that either made the submitter's literacy doubtful, or showed they had no regard for the guidelines. And, think for a second. If metas were in the habit of usually giving the thumbs down to spot on applications in small, low-risk cats, the ODP wouldn't have any editors at all.
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