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|DMOZ and AOL|
I haven't been on DMOZ for sometime but noticed that they now have a partnership with AOL(I hope that is not the kiss of death;))
Is this a financial partnership? If so will we now see more editors and quicker submissions.
AOL has owned Dmoz for quite a while. Looks like maybe they are just making this more evident.
DMOZ was owned by Netscape when AOL bought Netscape, if you remember that far back. The relationship is "patron" or "sponsor".
DMOZ keeps a half-dozen or so hot Sun servers busy; someone has to buy and administer them! And there is a variable amount of support (software development, personnel administration, legal) from salaried employees.
|DMOZ keeps a half-dozen or so hot Sun servers busy; someone has to buy and administer them! And there is a variable amount of support (software development, personnel administration, legal) from salaried employees. |
So, where are the benefits?
AOL is surely not a charity organization.
As the ODP and AOL say on several pages now, AOL uses the data for their search engines. In which way this happens exactly, I dont know.
Basically the story goes as follows: In former days, Netscape owned a directory created by their paid editors. When the ODP was in need of someone who could supply more server power, Netscape and the ODP joined forces. So the ODP was mostly manned with volunteers and additionally a number of Netscape staff editors.
The benefit for the ODP (additionally to not having to stop because of the costs) was that a number of staff _programmers_ engaged as well. The benefit for Netscape was that they could start reducing their staff. Having something that was previously done by paid personnel now done by volunteers is a lot cheaper ;-)
AOL just bought Netscape some time ago, which included the servers for the ODP. Obviously, they see a benefit from the ODP as well: We had an increase of staff power some time ago and currently some of the slower servers are renewed.
|We had an increase of staff power some time ago and currently some of the slower servers are renewed. |
Looks like the info is coming from the first hand. :)
I still wonder why keeping something which brings nothing back, in a commercial environment.
|why keeping something which brings nothing back, in a commercial environment. |
I'm one of those people that is of the opinion that most dmoz editors have other motives than simply finding the "best content on the web" just for the sake of helping others find what they want on the internet. Along those same lines, I don't believe AOL or any other major company would sink any amount of money into DMOZ if they were not getting something of equal value back. So the real question to me is what is AOL getting from it other than hundreds or thousands of links in DMOZ?
Many times commercial sites will create an information resource site for the sake of benefiting the commercial site somehow. I realize that this is Not why DMOZ was created, but I wonder if this may have something to do with why they keep it running. Surely the DMOZ directory is not just a valuable source of links for AOL, but also provides some good leverage in various circumstances.
The only other reason I can think of that a company would sink money into something unprofitable would be if they were somehow obligated by a contract. I'm not aware of any contract so I'm assuming DMOZ must somehow be profitable for AOL.
|...so I'm assuming DMOZ must somehow be profitable for AOL. |
Or could be in the future.
It is interesting that Yahoo directory is placing ads "within selected Directory categories", on the bottom of such pages.
Who are the main editors at DMOZ, anyway?
|Looks like the info is coming from the first hand. :) |
Check my profile, if you like. In fact a lot of ODP editors participate in forums like this one, and a lot of information you get is first hand information.
|I still wonder why keeping something which brings nothing back, in a commercial environment. |
Do you wonder why people volunteer their spare time for the red cross? Do you wonder why ompanies donate large amounts of time/money for charity projects?
Two reasons: The will to change something to the better, and in the case of companies, a PR effect (which does not mean Page Rank :) )
Additionally, there is some output the ODP generates: Directory data. Which wouldn't be there without someone paying for the servers. Apart from the benefit AOL can make from using that data, IMHO it reduces the worth of commercial directories a lot. Directories owned by other companies, that is. :-)
|Who are the main editors at DMOZ, anyway? |
>Surely the DMOZ directory is not just a valuable source of links for AOL, but also provides some good leverage in various circumstances.
It is, I've heard, "profitable" for AOL. I think it works this way. AOL "needs" a directory (to consider oneself a first-class portal, it's one of the functionality checkboxes you have to tick -- perhaps not the most important requirement, but still one of them.)
You may not have been around the net long enough to remember when Excite, Lycos, Netscape, and AOL all had their own independent professionally-built directories, just like Yahoo still does. All of them together didn't have the number of listings that the ODP has today... and they had problems!
Link rot was rampant. (Robozilla was the first automated directory link-checker; it was months before Yahoo followed suit.)
Professional ignorance plagued the directories -- as should be expected when people with no special knowledge in an area are compelled (by someone else's priorities) to edit there. In an example I remember vividly while mining the Lycos directory, it was obvious that their irreligious or state-church hireling couldn't begin to distinguish between all the flavors of free churches in the States; in another amusing case, an ODP volunteer who is a professional art historian spotted an humorous architecture-parody site that the professional (but Luddite) editor elsewhere had taken seriously.
Into that environment came Looksmart, with plans of charging these folk ten million or so dollars a year for the privilege of using THEIR directory, professionally built by professional librarians -- and, for a brief time, actually GETTING that kind of money. Of course, Looksmart grew rapidly, partly by taking ODP listings without attribution -- I recognized some of my own (poorer) descriptions!
Also into that environment came the ODP, which offered its work for free. And suddenly Looksmart started offering the portals several million dollars a year (ad-revenue sharing) to use its directory. And eventually losing all its customers except Microsoft, whose concern for quality is well known -- and going all-ads, all-the-time, except for Zeal; and finally, dragging Zeal down with it.
The lessons: (1) Building your own directory costs tens of millions of dollars per year, (2) but even then wouldn't match the ODP quality in abstruse areas, so that (3) the ODP, free, is a better bargain than any subsidized alternative so far created. (4) Top-down-management schemes, in addition to their intolerable financial cost, impose a significant limitation on quality far lower than what the unmanaged chaos of the ODP regularly achieves.
These are all economic issues of a sort: but not the kinds of issues webmasters have to deal with, so that it's understandable you'd be puzzled. And, for that matter, it's not the kind of thing EDITORS usually have to worry about -- so long as the servers are up, the surfers are out.
|Two reasons: The will to change something to the better, and in the case of companies, a PR effect (which does not mean Page Rank :) ) |
Hm, let me remind you: this is year 2006.
What change brings any directory listing today?
How many users go to a directory looking for info?
In case of a company: Do you really want me to believe that average Joe knows that AOL owns DMOZ, which in turns provides him with all that carefully selected links for free?
>In case of a company: Do you really want me to believe that average Joe knows that AOL owns DMOZ, which in turns provides him with all that carefully selected links for free?
Nobody here has said any such thing, you made it up yourself. I wouldn't recommending believing anything from that source, but I can't stop you.
I'd say the ODP isn't aimed at average Joe (that is, middle school grade levels, or, like most internet advertising, the gullible or ignorant fringe of that). Average Joe doesn't use a card catalog. Average Joe probably doesn't use a library, for that matter.
The ODP is really more like senior high school level: the fringe of people who read for the fun of it as well as out of general curiosity, who browse in bookstores and libraries.
|How many users go to a directory looking for info? |
How many users go to any given website looking for information?
Google and a few other websites may get a single digit percentage of all web users as visitors.
But most websites -- even ones successful enough for their owners to be buying yachts -- get under one millionth of one percent of the total web traffic on any given day.
If we are counting visitors to data, then there are many millions of websites far less revelant (if we are counting users looking for information as you suggest) than DMOZ.
|How many users go to a directory looking for info? |
How many users go to any given website looking for information?
This is weird logic, Victor.
The point here is very simple:
How much traffic an average listed site gets from DMOZ or any other directory compared to search engine referrers?
|The ODP is really more like senior high school level: the fringe of people who read for the fun of it as well as out of general curiosity, who browse in bookstores and libraries. |
So, DMOZ evolved from a reliable source for masses to a favorite reading for casual above average selective surfer.
"Oh, look: Business: Financial Services: Insurance: Third Party Administrators: => Mycompany.com ¦ Provider of self-funded direct reimbursement dental plans."
Is that why people are so excited by being listed there?
|How much traffic an average listed site gets from DMOZ or any other directory compared to search engine referrers? |
From the viewpoint of evaluating the worth of DMOZ you are looking at it backwards.
Imagine (I have not idea of the numbers so this is imagination) 10,000 people a day use DMOZ and its licencees and each of them find 5 relevant websites as a result.
That's 50,000 successful searches every day. Far more than most websites do for their visitors.
On the other hand, there are around 5,000,000 sites listed in DMOZ so (all other things being equal, which they aren't), each of those sites could expect a visit from a DMOZ user once every 100 days.
Is that "3.5 referrals a year: useless"? as a webmaster might think
Or "3.5 million happy customers a year: a force for good
in the search industry"? as some DMOZ editors may feel.
|Do you wonder why people volunteer their spare time for the red cross? Do you wonder why companies donate large amounts of time/money for charity projects? |
Do I wonder why people "volunteer" their time working on a meta web directory?
I think most people can understand why people donate time to red cross and other charitable organizations. It's a lot harder to understand why people would donate time to a web directory.
If someone wants to donate their time or money to something they believe in or a cause they care about, surely they can find a more effective way than volunteering at a meta web directory.
|It's a lot harder to understand why people would donate time to a web directory. |
It made a lot of sense in 20th century.
But using the same wording today to justify one's engagement is indeed laughable.
I think part of the confusion here is that marketroids think of a site as being "for an audience". The ODP is "from a community." There's a big attitudinal difference there.
As the MST3K writers said, "the right people will get it." And the right people can select themselves: we don't have to go around targeting them.
|And the right people can select themselves: we don't have to go around targeting them. |
No doubt, I am pretty $ure about that.
>It's a lot harder to understand why people would donate time to a web directory
Because we're rather boring people who enjoy organizing things?
Embarrassing admission: my personal book collection which I have in my home is categorized by subject, and the fiction section is alphabetized by author.
Once a librarian, always a librarian, I guess. But I'm sure each of you spends some of your time doing something other people would laugh at as an unrewarding waste of effort as well. (-:
It's a lot harder to understand why people would donate time to a web directory.
Lets say a particular person enjoyed improving the quality of web listings for what they found personally interesting. Maybe they might donate the whole hour a month it takes to be an editor.
I like the enthusiasm.
Why don't you guys start your own directories.
In that way you could provide much more to the community.
Not really. I don't have anywhere near the spare time it would take to maintain a directory the size of the ODP's literature directory all by myself. This way, my efforts get added to the efforts of all the other literary-minded online librarian-types, and their effects are multiplied.
Plus I don't have to worry about hosting it, dealing with the traffic or the web maintenance, setting up link-checking tools and spam-blockers, etcetera. I keep up a small niche directory for a nonprofit organization I like, so I know how much work it takes to maintain a quality directory. I wouldn't be able to do that in my free time for a topic as broad as "literature," but I like spending some of my free time pitching in on one.
Look, I don't say there are no some good, mislead freaks out there.
We all have some weird moments.
But please, refrain of insulting me by insisting that you do it for the sake of helping the community.
Community don't use DMOZ listing anymore.
Who is "community", and how would you know what he does or does not do?
Uh oh, that's too much meta-physical for this topic.
Reverting from metaphysicality to pragmatism: I was in the process of creating my own (small niche) directory when I found the ODP, and certain obvious facts obtruded themselves on my conciousness (no matter how!):
(1) the dmoz.org site would HOST my directory, providing high-quality tools for me to use.
(2) the dmoz.org site would PROMOTE my directory.
(3) the dmoz.org site would attract people who would fill in the niche categories NEAR my directory, thus making my effort part of a more comprehensive collection.
(4) the dmoz.org editors formed "a" community unlike most communities in being both fascinating and fascinatable -- which exceeded most communities in my conception of shared public spirit.
I know that other editors took this same route: even today, the best candidates for ODP editors are those who would be pursuing ODP-like missions on their own even if the ODP had not existed. And there are such people, even though, I grant you, they are rarer than life insurance salesmen or couch potatoes.
|...would be pursuing ODP-like missions |
Would you remind me and repeat the holy mission, please?
|And there are such people, even though, I grant you, they are rarer than life insurance salesmen or couch potatoes. |
Yes, all 70,000 of them concentrated on one place, following the mission.
On a more serious note, I appreciate very much (and try to contribute) to the real missionaries, such as php.net, almost the whole linux community, even Wikipedia, etc.
However, today I don't see DMOZ under the "etc" flag.
There's the beauty of the net: people who share a mission, no matter how few or many there are, can cooperate to address it. (I participate in a different set of communities than yours -- but I've cooperated with some people who've also participated in entries on your list where I chose not to be active. As I recommend to others, I've acted: I focus on a few subjects where I could make a significant contribution. And I look for communities that are compatible with my approach -- or at least, that I'm willing to work compatibly with THEIR approach.
Because there is more to a community than simply a shared mission. It's inevitable that not everyone can work together -- and it's inevitable that people who have a choice sometimes prefer to work alone, or to start a new community rather than join an existing one.
That's why I was disappointed to see Go and Zeal disappear. They gave different perspectives on the information-cataloging mission. (And when you're looking at very complex objects, multiple perspectives are capable of providing information that a single perspective simply cannot.) They were able to harness the energy of people who weren't willing or able to work within the ODP community or procedures -- and thus feed more resources into the same mission. They gave more options to people who (like me) are interested in that kind of mission. Even though I personally didn't use them, people very much like me did. And so I think their demise was a genuine loss to world culture.
Wikipedia has a worthy goal and an interesting approach to that goal, whether or not I ever use it. (I do, occasionally.) But I don't care to work in that environment. (I'm not going to run down their community, of course, just because I don't know it.) I chose to contribute to other encyclopedia-type projects -- which, of course, have distinct advantages over wikipedia, as well as distinct disadvantages. Multiple perspectives, again, and again A Good Thing.
But actually, it's also A Very Good Thing that most people care about something else more than they care about ANY of your communities -- or any of mine. The world has too many problems, and problems too complex, for one approach, one community, to solve everything.
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