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Monkey business at DMOZ

Sites added, dropped, same domain...

     
12:47 pm on May 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Imagine this. You are an ex-editor.

You own mydomain.com. Top index page is blank, just an image with the word "DOMAIN." No funny keywords, no hidden links, nothing at all. Totally clean by the most stringent standards.

Your domain has several folders of completely unrelated websites. All the examples are made up, but I want to give an idea of the "flavors."

(1) One has your travel photographs from, say, the rocky mountains:
mydomain.com/rockymountains.
LISTED IN DMOZ. Very deep, small category. No SEO on site at all, in fact, very bad for search engines.

(2) Another has your travel photographs from, say, Miami Beach:
mydomain.com/miamibeach.
LISTED IN DMOZ. Same as for "rockymountains."

(3) Another has information about a particular element (you used to be a chemist):
mydomain.com/aluminium.
LISTED IN DMOZ. Very deep, tiny, obscure category. No competition here - no money.

None of the above are money terms, there is no competition. These are sites you have created for fun. Content, photos, cool arty graphics, AdSense that brings pennies a month.

Your main business is kites.

(4) The most popular is a subfolder about "how to FLY kites."
mydomain.com/goflyakite.
***NOT*** LISTED IN DMOZ.

(5) Your big site "how to MAKE kites" is totally on another domain. That site is your bread and butter. "how-to-make-kites*^$%.com" let's say.
LISTED IN DMOZ.

You have a nasty competitor who has seen your "mydomain.com/goflyakite" and is copying your idea on his own site.

Now, you have a link to your site about MAKING kites (your bread-and-butter site) site on ONE of the travel photograph sites (if you click on the banner, it is hyperlinked to the kite flying site). OK, yes, is a single link that's not at all hidden, but is more for spiders than for people.

The site on how to FLY a kite, mydomain.com/goflyakite, has a lot of links to your main site "mydomain.com/goflyakite" - but that's very normal. That site is not listed anyway.

So what happened a few days ago?

The three unrelated subfolder sites that were listed, "mydomain.com/rockymountains," "mydomain.com/miamibeach," and "mydomain.com/aluminium" were dropped from DMOZ, simultaneously.

WHY?

(1) Ex-editor effect?
(2) Competitor complained about the one link on one of the subfolders (he's nuts enough to do this, the guy is a creepy stalker-type)

There is no question that those sites were in their proper categories.

5:21 pm on May 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The question that will most likely come up is why the ex-editor status?

If it was just a time-out then it's probably not an issue. If it was "for cause", then there may be more to the story.

7:21 pm on May 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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If I was a betting woman, I'd bet that mydomain.com had some downtime recently and its pages were automatically placed back into unreviewed by a bot. This happens all the time; as an ex-editor, I'm a little surprised you don't know that.

Of course, there's always the possibility that your competitor turned you in for a violation of some sort or that an ex-colleague of yours is out to get you, but if so, don't you think it would be rather odd that they'd delete your personal site which clearly doesn't even matter to you, and leave your money site alone?

7:45 pm on May 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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skibum,

Why the ex-editor status? One never knows with DMOZ.

I do have a theory.

That competitor had 3 listings in DMOZ.

Let's say one was his index page, where he had a custom kite-making service, locally. He was in Regional. I had no problem with that.

Let's say the second one was the same page, but topical, i.e, kites. No problem there.

A third was an internal page of links to other sites that offered kite instructions and plans. There are at least half a dozen sites out there with pages of links to kite instructions and plans, including some that are better than his, i.e., they have no popups, no affiliate content, and better laid out.

When I was an editor, I removed that listing. I did not replace it with one of mine, nothing of the sort. Just that objectively, that page was not original content by a stretch and did not deserve a third listing. Even I have such a page, and did not consider it worthy of an entry.

The fellow started to harass me. I opened up a Yahoo account and made the mistake of sending him an explanation. I did not realize at the time that Yahoo would not disguise my IP. From then on he knew it was me.

Two or three weeks after that, or a bit longer, I started to notice DMOZ editor referrals in my log from the meta editor forum.

A few days after the visits, my login was cancelled.

That's just a guess. I could be anything. But I did have >10K edits, the overwhelming majority of which in areas I had no vested interest in. In all the catogories I oversaw, there was never any backlog. I cleared all new sites suggestions daily. I was fastidious. I did not favor my own sites, and added plenty of sites in the category that my main site belonged to.

7:51 pm on May 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Flicker, you write: "Don't you think it would be rather odd that they'd delete your personal site which clearly doesn't even matter to you, and leave your money site alone? "

The "better" site on mydomain.com is not listed yet. I did submit it, it is an excellent and unique site that in which I put a lot of effort. I will not be listed for another 2-3 years.

The "money site" - well, believe me, he has tried a lot of things to reduce its impact, including spreading false rumours that my site installed an "IP logger software" (his words) and was dangerous to visit. That guy stops at nothing. He blackmailed me to add links to his site on mine, I did not give in, and he's been hounding me ever site. He even added links to my site on his that led to adult sites. Not to mention large chunks of copyright violations that I had to fight through his web host.

I am not aware of any downtime from my hosting service, but I guess that sort of arbitrary delisting may not be fixed for a while!

8:36 pm on May 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Maybe your competitor's been hitting you with DOS attacks, if he's such an unethical sleazeball.

You should look into it, because that can hurt you, not only with DMOZ, but with Google, Yahoo, and any other professional search engine or directory for that matter. There's nothing "arbitrary" about a website automatically deleting nonfunctional links--it's pretty much the only way to stay up-to-date.

12:23 am on May 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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You didn't contact DMOZ and ask why your login has been cancelled?
3:27 am on May 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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That's not something that would get a response. It is a double-edged confidentiality issue. But it usually boils down to "there's something important here, that we don't think we can trust you to handle appropriately."

Dealing with competitors is obviously one of the harder things to handle, although I haven't looked at the logs to see if it was thought to be an issue here (and of course, couldn't discuss whether or not it was an issue.)

A competitor complaint would, at worst, merely cause another review of a site: what happened after that review wouldn't be controllable by the competitor.

Ex-editor sites are frequently listed, so it would have to be something more than "merely" an ex-editor effect.

Another possibility: I'd wonder if Robozilla came knocking and was turned away -- and therefore automatically de-listed the pages for subsequent editor review.

4:21 am on May 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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As long as we're here, I should also mention that having a link from one page of your site to another isn't considered a "violation" by ODP standards. If you have one website selling kites and another with chemistry information on it, there's nothing wrong with linking from one site to the other. The absence or presence of a link to the kites site wouldn't make us more or less likely to list the chemistry site. Neither would the two sites being on the same or different domains. How you structure your website is your business.

The only things that would make a difference is A) whether the chemistry site already has one ODP listing (in which case a second listing under a different URL would be deleted as a duplicate), and B) whether it has real content or not. I know Helleborine is using random examples, but there aren't actually that many websites out there that really do have valuable scientific information about aluminum, much less *unique* valuable scientific information about aluminum. There are a lot of dumb sites with titles like "Aluminum Insights: Aluminum Boats Fishing Used!" and no content except for a scraped Google SERP. And there's a lot of stuff in the middle, with a couple lines of stuff about aluminum that everyone already knows, or an article copied from the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or a fluffy paragraph on how aluminum is really important and the importance of aluminum should not be underestimated by students of important aluminum, or something like that.

In my opinion as an editor, I'm almost always VERY happy to list a deeplink that includes truly UNIQUE information (i.e. information that you really can't find anywhere else online at all.) It's absolutely fine with me if that website has a link to your money site on it. Or it's fine with me if it's a subsite of your money site. All I care about is that you're bringing the information. But the information really does have to be UNIQUE to merit that consideration, and some people seem to have a rather strange concept of what the word "unique" means--like, the exact same information with a different color scheme. That isn't really unique information from the reader's side.

In this particular case, though, it's likely none of these remarks apply at all. Since all the links that were hosted on ONE domain disappeared and all the links that were hosted on the OTHER domain are still listed, then like Hutcheson, I'm guessing there must have been a problem with that domain (whether caused by your would-be saboteur, a code change on your part, or just by random bad luck.)

4:40 am on May 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I didn't think the link would be a "problem" but you never know. That competitor hounded me while I was an editor, he might have harassed some junior editor, who knows?

The "aluminium" site is legit, with craft activities I made up myself, etc. All framed in lovingly made graphics. It has a single ODP listing, and deserve no more than that. Not a single word is scraped, though you might argue there is a limited scope of what you can say about "aluminium."

Maybe Robozilla paid a visit during an instant of down time. Krap. I am beginning to think there's something wrong with my hosting service because for the past 3 weeks, email forwarding is off. Doesn't sound like it could be related, but I am running low on explanations.

11:40 pm on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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...and did you get the ear of a friendly meta and report the competitor that was hounding you, while you were still an editor?
1:00 am on May 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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No, I did not get an opportunity to "get the ear of a friendly meta." It happened too quickly, and unbeknownst to me. There were several "friendly metas" that were familiar with my work. They might have defended me, I can only guess.

The competitor emailed me though DMOZ asking me why his deeplink was removed. He already had two links, as I wrote earlier. One in topical, and one in regional. I let the regional one go, though I knew that in fact, he did not have a brick and mortar business. That's something I was privy to from being "in the loop," yet I did not make use of the information. I treated his listings with the same ethics and integrity as all the other listings I reviewed.

The deeplink was just a links page, of the type that nearly every site on that topic is bound to have, and I didn't feel it was worth a third link.

I explained this to him, and he didn't get back to me. He figured out who I was from my IP, and, knowing him, must have complained vehemently and violently of editor corruption. Had I known this ahead of time, I might have beaten him to the punch.

I had no reason to suspect he would do such a thing; and I was not given a voice. My 11K+ edits in areas far removed from my own, the hundreds of categories that I meticulously kept at zero "unreviewed" on a daily basis counted for nada.

10:48 am on May 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have no proof that the above was the reason was I was unceremoniouisly locked out.

Maybe I should explain why I think it is so.

Soon after my editing privileges were removed, my competitor's deeplink appeared in the listings.

I think that was pretty telling.

The funny thing is, I then made a "corrupt editor" complaint, suggesting the editor that had included his deeplink was corrupt! In my complaint, I inluded 6 URLs from other similar webpages, some better and more recently updated, and without popups.

Soon after my own complaint, his deeplink was removed again.

His deeplink is still unlisted, to this day...

12:53 pm on May 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Not to mention my rock-solid conviction that I was beyond reproach... that my conduct had been fair, ethical and in accordance with the guidelines - one hundred percent.

I thought my fellows editors would defend me, because they would have to see that I was impartial and correct through and through.

Haha.