December 12, 2008

FAQ about ODP/DMOZ editing
Part 3: Settling in

This is the last in a short series about becoming a volunteer editor at ODP/DMOZ (The Open Directory Project).
The introduction can be found in Part 1: Applying.

For many volunteers, what starts out as a minor interest soon becomes an absorbing hobby, so this post explains how editors settle into their roles once the first confusing steps are behind them ...
(A small resident of Fraser Island, Queensland)

"Will I be limited to the DMOZ category I applied to?"
Short answer: Only to start with.

A longer answer is found in "Applying for New Categories":
Getting approved to edit a new category is easy if you take the time early on to learn the editing guidelines. We seek to promote editors who have a record of adding quality to the directory. The ODP benefits most from having as many good editors as possible with permissions to edit in broad and diverse areas. If you add quality sites and lots of them, then you will be systematically granted higher and more diverse editing privileges.
"How much time am I expected to spend editing in ODP/DMOZ?"
Short answer: As much or as little as you feel like.

A longer answer is found in "Becoming an Editor":
There is no time requirement. We appreciate any time you can commit to improving and developing the directory. In order to keep the community thriving, editor accounts will expire after 4 months of inactivity. This allows another editor the chance to take over an area where an inactive editor may have left off.
If your account expires, you can
request reinstatement.
"What if my category is all up to date but I don't have enough edits to apply for another one?"
Short answer: There is always something to do which will help the directory and add to your experience.

Many new editors assume they must wait for suggestions to arrive from outside the directory, but in fact there are many places where volunteers can look for good sites to add, as explained in "So it's OK to find and add sites myself?"

In some categories, however, there may not be many more sites to add, but the editor can still improve the category by checking the existing links to be sure they work, are correctly listed, and that they have titles and descriptions meeting the current guidelines. All these activities are very worthwhile, and provide valuable experience. Such efforts are always taken into consideration when an editor applies for permission to edit in another category.

Another very useful way of gaining editing experience is to create a brand new category in the editor's own Bookmarks. These editor-created categories can be seen by the public, but are not included in the RDF dump, so they are like categories-in-waiting, and when ready, they can be incorporated into the main directory.

"What resources are available for ODP/DMOZ editors?"
Short answer: Extensive collections of tools, tips, advice, and forum threads.

Over the years, editors have developed tools, written tutorials, and assembled an astonishing amount of information with the aim of making editing easier, more productive and more enjoyable. For example, the DMOZ Documentation Project provides additional examples and explanations to help editors interpret the official guidelines, and the DMOZ Newsletter Archives contain articles on an impressive variety of subjects.

There are also all sorts of useful shortcuts and scripts available to editors, and everyone is encouraged to suggest further improvements to help fellow volunteers. Many editors have extensive IT experience "in Real Life", and there are plenty of opportunities to discuss technical matters pertaining to the directory, and to participate in development projects. In fact the editorial community includes experts from almost every field, and this wide range of knowledgeable people is one of the great attractions of being a volunteer.

I hope this has been helpful. 
Now go and apply

December 07, 2008

FAQ about ODP/DMOZ editing
Part 2: Getting started

This post follows on (obviously) from "Part 1: Applying", so after a brief pause (hah!) to admire my Kangaroo Paws, I'll get on with the FAQ rather than repeat my explanatory introduction.

Anigozanthus "Yellow Gem"

"What happens when I get accepted as an ODP/DMOZ editor?"
Short answer: Your new hobby begins!

You will receive the standard Welcome letter providing details of your login and password, as well as explanations of how to access the editing interface, forums, and editor resources. In addition, you might receive a specific welcome from the meta-editor or catmod who accepted your application. There is a lot to read in this document, and some very useful advice and links, so you are strongly advised to keep it somewhere handy and refer back to it over the first week or so. 
By the way, your login details should never be shared with anyone, so if you want to reply to your joining meta/catmod, be sure to leave out those details from the copy.

"What's the first thing I should do?"
Short answer: Read a bit. Edit a bit. Repeat.

Most new editors are astonished at the amount of information available to guide and assist them, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. As with any new skill, it takes time and practice to edit well, but even the most seasoned volunteer started as a newbie, so we all understand what it is like. After bookmarking the Editor Guidelines for easy reference, and reading the New Editor FAQ (requires editor login), the best thing to do is dive straight in and try making one or two edits. 
You might make a mistake, but you won't break anything, and almost everything can be reversed. The more often you keep returning to the guidelines the quicker they will become familiar, and you will soon feel at home.

"Will someone be checking my edits?"
Short answer: Very probably, and if not, you can ask.

Many volunteers enjoy helping new editors, and there are numerous ways this takes place, either on an individual level or as part of a larger project. In addition, it is likely that one or more of the 200+ editors who can edit all over the directory will notice that a new editor has arrived, so they might stop to help as well. 
On the other hand, if a new editor feels their arrival has been overlooked, or if they need assistance for any reason at all, they are encouraged to ask for help in the internal forums (requires editor login) or by sending direct feedback to another editor.

"Do I have to review all the submissions?"
Short answer: Definitely not.

Editors are volunteers, so there is no editing activity that they have to do, beyond following the policies and guidelines of the ODP.
However, a primary role for all editors is building the directory, and sites can be found in all sorts of ways, including personal experience, search engines, newspapers, television, online reference material, advertisements, journals, and organisations. The sites suggested by other people form a collection which is just one place that editors can look for sites if they wish.

"What if there aren't any sites suggested to the area I edit?"
Short answer: See above for other places to look for sites.

"So it's OK to find and add sites myself?"
Short answer: Absolutely!

If editors know of sites which will add value to the directory, they are actively encouraged to add them, no matter where they belong. If the editor does not have editing permissions in the category where a site belongs, he can send it there through internal channels and it will be reviewed by another volunteer at its destination. If the required category does not yet exist, or if the editor can't find the right place, he can either ask for assistance or list the site in his Bookmarks.

Next: Part 3: Settling in


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