May 10, 2008

"DMOZ is Gold"? Well yes, but not like that.

After more than a month with no updates to the official (staff) ODP Blog, it was pleasing to see a new post this week, and one with such a proud title too. It looked as if the unquestionable value of DMOZ to web surfers was being celebrated. Unfortunately, despite what were probably excellent intentions, the post is inaccurate, distressingly misleading, and seems to be directed at webmasters and search engine optimisers rather than the actual users of the directory.

For a start, the enthusiastic attribution praises someone who had apparently copied an older article from another site. One of the basic tenets of the ODP is to list sites with original and unique content, so this was an embarrassing oversight in an official publication.

Secondly, the recommendations in that article are quite simply wrong. 
My friend and former editing colleague shadow575 has written a comprehensive explanation of all the errors, so there is no need for me to do the same, but the following has to be stressed:
  • anyone following the advice given in the original article risks delaying or reducing their chances of being listed in DMOZ. 
(True, the staff post does quote a previous one from the Editor-in-Chief, but that message is very hard to find amidst all the underlining, updates and strike-throughs that litter the latest contribution.)

From my point of view, by far the the biggest problem is the fact that the misleading advice appeared to be endorsed and promoted by ODP staff. This is no doubt causing considerable angst among many of the volunteer editors. As shadow575 says, 
"editors have long been battling the magic bullet theory. This article basically continues all of the mis-information that editors have tried to correct for a long time."
In other words, ODP staff have undermined the long-term and patient efforts of volunteer editors in explaining the role and purpose of the directory. Even if this was unintentional (as was surely the case), it indicates a sad absence of understanding between ODP management and the volunteer community. Such a lack of communication and respect for the efforts of volunteers is an issue about which I feel very strongly, as my previous posts have demonstrated.

I sincerely hope that efforts are underway to redress the harm done by that ill-advised staff post. The quickest and easiest solution would be a follow-up post acknowledging the errors, rather than relying on the confusing and apparently hasty corrections. A far more reliable solution to the whole problem, and one which would help more than just those reading the official blog, is covered in my comments there:
"it is rather unfortunate that both the lauded article and the official ODP guidelines ("Last update: 2004") are at odds with the above-mentioned post by the Editor-in-Chief.
This inevitably results in confusion, which then requires further explanation, and often unnecessarily heated discussion.

It would obviously benefit everyone if all the "official" resources gave the same message, so I wonder if there are plans to implement any of the much-needed corrections and updates to public ODP documentation that have been suggested, discussed, and agreed upon by volunteer editors over the last couple of years?"

[Added: For readers fluent in French, there are posts on this topic in Aef Dmoz Blog and Kazhar.]

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