November 28, 2008

FAQ about ODP/DMOZ editing
Part 1: Applying

In the unofficial ODP/DMOZ forum recently, I found myself answering extremely familiar questions about becoming a volunteer editor in the Open Directory Project
I am certainly not alone in this regard, and many of my volunteer colleagues have patiently repeated the same information far more often than I have, in weblogs and forums over many years.  There are also several authoritative places where people could find the answers, but they don't seem to look there before posting their questions - or perhaps it's natural to hope for a new answer. ;-)
So although this series of posts is merely adding to the pile of almost identical information, perhaps if it is repeated often enough, in different ways and places, the message might get out there. It's worth a shot, anyway.

That's a tiny skink on one of my ripening peaches, by the way, but as for my own credentials in providing these answers (which should always be the first question of course) you can check them out in an earlier post.

Now let's get started ...

"Why be an ODP/DMOZ editor?"
Short answer: It's a fascinating hobby, a chance to be part of an international volunteer community, and it helps people everywhere to find useful material on the internet.

Many people have given longer answers, of course, but one recent account was written by friend and fellow editor laigh in the official ODP blog: "I ( heart ) DMOZ...Why I Joined And Why I Love It"


"Is it difficult to become an ODP/DMOZ editor?"
Short answer: Not at all.  Editors come from all age groups and nationalities, 
with widely diverse skills and knowledge.

A longer answer is found in "Becoming an Editor":
Everyone is welcome to join the ODP.  All you need is an interest or passion and a computer. While there are no specific pre-requisites, we seek people who have a genuine interest in building a directory that is free of commercial interests and favoritism. Fairness and objectivity prevail here. ... Potential editors should demonstrate a keen eye for spotting quality and useful sites, attention to detail, and possess good grammar, spelling and communication skills.

"Any tips for making a successful editor application?"
Short answer: Read the instructions on the form, do a little homework, and be honest.

A longer answer is found in "Becoming an Editor":
We view the application as an indication of how you will edit. A thoughtful, well-written application that is free of hype has a far greater chance of getting accepted than one that is sloppy, poorly-written, and full of promotional, subjective language. Finally, be truthful about your affiliations with any Web sites. Webmasters, site owners, and friends and relatives of webmasters and site owners are free to join. However, you should be up front and honest about these affiliations.
Note: As far as helpful tips are concerned, a much more comprehensive answer can be found in the blog of my friend and fellow meta-editor, shadow575, who has written an excellent guide called Become an Editor.


"How will I know if I've been accepted or not?"
Short answer: Feedback is sent after the application has been reviewed, 
whether or not it was successful.

Longer answer: Each application is reviewed by an experienced volunteer editor - a meta or a category moderator (catmod). This can take anything from a few hours to several weeks.  
  • If the application is approved, a welcoming email is sent with further information.
  • If the application is rejected, a form letter is sent with a list of common reasons, and the reviewer may add specific comments.
The most common reason for an applicant not receiving any feedback is that it has been caught by a spam filter, so anyone applying to ODP/DMOZ is advised to set their email program to accept everything from ;-)
Unsuccessful applicants are almost always encouraged to try again, after attending to the issues raised in the feedback, and many current editors have been accepted only after submitting a more careful or complete application.
To help increase the number of editors, volunteers at the unofficial public ODP forum provide an advisory service for applicants (but please follow the instructions before posting).


"Can I be an editor even if I have a site to be listed in ODP/DMOZ?"
Short answer: Certainly. Many editors join for this reason, 
but as long as they are willing to be impartial, they are welcome.

A longer answer is found in the guidelines on "Conflict of Interest":
Everyone is welcome to apply to join the ODP, including those who own, maintain and promote websites. Editors may have business or other types of affiliations relevant to the categories they edit, and may add their own sites or sites with which they are affiliated. However, it is contrary to the goals and policy of the ODP for editors to add only their own or affiliate sites, to engage in self cooling or other forms of self promotion, or to exclude or disadvantage a site that belongs to a competitor for the purpose of harming the competitor. 

Next: Part 2: Getting started

November 19, 2008

ODP/DMOZ meta-editor report card (2)

It's almost 4 months since I bowed to the inevitable and requested reinstatement at ODP/DMOZ, and more than six months since I posted a summary of my contributions as a volunteer meta/kmeta-editor.

I won't be updating those statistics, because although I have resumed my previous levels of activity, I have no desire at all to highlight my (unpaid) contributions, contrary to the waspish rant by (paid) staff. Instead, I would like to suggest a subtle re-naming of my position. But first let's recap ...
Until I realised the extent of management indifference to the volunteer community, I was an enthusiastic and unfailingly up-beat advocate of the ODP/DMOZ model. But in order to continue with a hobby I enjoy and a project in which I still fervently believe, I have had to remove the rose-tinted glasses and substitute blinkers.

So rather than continue trying to "fight City Hall" or "tilt at windmills",
I have reluctantly chosen the more Zen-like path of ignoring the many things over which I have no influence, and instead concentrated on those aspects of editing where I know I can make a difference.
As I have previously lamented, this makes for a rather isolated existence, far removed from the energetically diverse community in which I was delighted to participate.
But at least it protects me from the inevitable exasperations and disappointments inherent in any large organisation lacking a competent and dedicated management team.

So what is this new term? Well, it arose from a recent news item announcing the inclusion of a new word in an authoritative dictionary, and which I feel neatly encapsulates my current feelings as a "mehta/kmehta" editor. ;-)

November 09, 2008

What goes around ...

I've never really had a clear idea what people mean by karma, but I am a firm believer in the less esoteric concept of "what goes around, comes around". (And I certainly don't mean the song!)
Like many people, I find it comforting to think that there is some sort of natural justice at work in a world which is otherwise so obviously and dispiritingly unfair.

I have recently experienced three such instances, and although they are of microscopic importance, they have reassured me that this benign force still exists, even if we seldom see it at work.

As we all do, I occasionally find a valuable item that has been left behind by its owner, and like most basically honest citizens, I hand it in to the nearest authority. It's just one of those things you do, and I've never thought any more about it.
A couple of months ago I carelessly left my wallet on the platform of the rather seedy train station where I start my one hour journey to work, and it was not until I alighted at the other end that I realised what had happened. In that hour, anyone would have had ample opportunity to use my credit cards on a spending spree at the nearby shopping complex, so I was very anxious to report their loss without further delay.
A succession of exasperating events (no ticket to get me through the gate, absent station staff, dead phone battery, non- functional public telephones, missing phone books etc etc) delayed me for a further 15 minutes, so I was "in a bit of a state" by the time I finally contacted a friend to ask them to look up the necessary numbers and make the calls for me. In an infuriatingly calm voice, my friend asked if I'd got the message from the train station that my purse had been handed in over an hour ago. They'd found his number in the wallet, but nobody could reach me because of my dead phone battery.
Apparently some kindly and honest person had noticed my purse as they alighted from the train I boarded, so it was abandoned for less than a minute, thereby avoiding notice by the less honest folk who frequent that station. I thanked the anonymous person in a letter to the local paper, and I do so again now. I hope they get some small piece of good fortune in their turn.

The second serendipitous event happened during (of all things) my grocery shopping trip yesterday. I had made the infuriating error known as "Choosing the wrong checkout line", because the older lady in front of me had inexplicably turned her trolley around, and now had to reach over the bulky handle to lift her items onto the checkout. Despite some optimistic little jumps and a flailing arm, she couldn't grab any of them, so of course I unpacked her trolley for her (trying not to take too much interest in her choices, because other people's shopping is always far more fascinating than one's own). 
Naturally, she did not use this time to find her purse in her handbag, so there was another long delay while she rummaged around for her credit card and decided whether she wanted extra cash, but I maintained what I hoped was an expression of terminal good nature and tried to think about wildflowers.
After I finally made it out to the carpark and had loaded my groceries into the car, I returned my trolley to the bay. (Oh all right, I admit I'm not always that conscientious, but I do make an effort sometimes.) As I did so, I noticed something in one of the trolleys ahead. Feeling a bit foolish, I pulled out the intervening trolleys and reached the treasure: a large block of chocolate and a tube of toothpaste! They had obviously fallen unnoticed from a shopper's bag, and there was no way of knowing which store they came from, so I accepted this as simply a laugh-out-loud moment, and more than an adequate "reward" for helping a senior citizen. :-)

The third event was not specifically good for me, but it shows that chance is indeed a funny thing. At a recent community festival, I entered a competition run by the local government, with questions about fire safety in a semi-rural area like ours. The main prize was a large hamper of fire protection equipment like extinguishers, blankets, smoke alarms and the like. I didn't notice the minor prizes, so I was very surprised to get a phone call last week congratulating me on having won second prize: a ride in the fire truck, complete with lights and sirens. Hooray!

The thing is (for those who haven't read previous posts), I am a volunteer with the local Bush Fire Brigade, and one of the people qualified to drive the fire truck
So a ride in it wasn't quite the thrill you might have thought. LOL

However, I passed the prize on to a friend with 3 small boys, and I am very happy to know that they (and their father) had a day to remember.

November 02, 2008

On the up and up

As I've mentioned before, my natural tendency is to be a "glass half-empty" sort of person, so I've refrained from posting for a couple of weeks until my "bio-rhythms" (does anyone still believe in them?) return to the positive side, or my chakras re-align ... or whatever.* 
So today, for a change, I'm going to leave my latest exasperation with ODP/DMOZ until the very end of the post, and instead concentrate on  things which have lately made me remember that I am a lucky person.

1. I love where I live.
Kalamunda is an outer suburb of a big city, and might be nothing special except for the fact that each day I can go walking in natural forest and bushland just up the road, seeing native birds, animals, and wildflowers
Yesterday I walked for over an hour and a half without seeing anyone else, and yet scenes like are within a mile of my house.

True, it takes me an hour and a half to get to work, but that's only 2 days a week, after all, and trains are great for making a fidget like me sit still and actually read a book!

2. I enjoy my work (paid and unpaid)
My class of medical students are nearing their annual exams, and getting very anxious indeed about how much they have to learn. So for the past few weeks I've been giving them impromptu quizzes to show them that in fact they already know most of the material. It's been a cross between light relief and revision, because naturally, they all enjoy watching someone else having to act out a symptom or draw surface anatomy on themselves. This week they enthusiastically answered questions about blood results, tremor, and  Xray interpretation using coloured pens, scissors, butcher's paper and glue ..."Gen Y meets Play School".

One of my volunteer activities has been delayed for months due to an unfortunate administrative bungle, but last week the adult literacy tutor programme finally linked me with a student, and we begin our weekly lessons tomorrow. His main difficulty is with spelling and punctuation, so as one of Nature's inveterate typo-spotters and apostrophe police, I can hardly wait to get started. Fortunately, there are plenty of adult literacy resources on the internet, and I've already got some teaching material from the excellent BBC website.

3. The obligatory ODP/DMOZ whinge
On the whole, my strategy for enjoying the editing experience is working out OK. It's a lot more isolated than I like, and sadly I still hear too much about poor management and lack of respect for the volunteer community, but I learned a very painful lesson indeed, and no longer tilt at those windmills myself.
So in comparison to my ultimately futile indignation and deep disappointment at the way most of the volunteers are treated, today's comment is no more than a single raised eyebrow.

I'm puzzled to see that the much-heralded official DMOZ/ODP blog has become a succession of articles written by editors, when for many years there has been a publicly available, editor-produced ODP Newsletter chock-a-block with similarly worthwhile and informative pieces. Of course I completely support the wider publication of such efforts, as part of our ongoing efforts to make the directory better known and understood, but I thought the blog was meant to be something new.
Mind you, just over a year ago, the Editor-in-Chief promised weekly posts, so it has certainly been a relief to see more frequent entries, after many embarrassing months of silence. Perhaps the purpose of the blog has changed since it began, as AOL staffers have come and gone. Anyway, I'll now retreat under my Cone of Silence and resume my meditative chant. ;-)
Better still, I'll go and enjoy the late Spring sunshine in my back garden, eating mulberries from the tree and watching the honeyeaters on the grevilleas and kangaroo paws. 

*Personally, I blame the two long anaesthetics and the month of post-op complications, for the simple reason that it therefore becomes someone else's fault. ;-)


Related Posts with Thumbnails