April 11, 2009

A DMOZ/ODP Fairytale

Let's start with a nursery rhyme.
Does everyone remember this mindless but catchy children's song? Then sing along:
Ten green bottles, hanging on the wall
Ten green bottles, hanging on the wall
But if one green bottle should accidentally fall
There'd be nine green bottles, hanging on the wall
and so on.
[ BTW I learned from Wikipedia (of which more anon) that apparently this is the English version, with the Americans (naturally ;-) ) going bigger and better with "99 bottles of beer". ]

Warning: Star Wars allegory alert.

A long time ago, in an Open Directory Project far, far away, the DMOZ Emperor decreed that nine of his most loyal and experienced startroopers should become "Volunteer Administrators", and he gave them special powers to rule the rest of his Empire.

For a couple of months everything continued much as before.

But then strange things started to happen behind the forcefield hiding the Admins from the community: one by one, they started to disappear! The first one to go simply vanished suddenly, without a word.

Soon afterwards another started drifting away, making occasional ghostly appearances which grew farther and farther apart until all that remained was his toolbox, glowing gently.

Seven green Admins.

The next departure was the most admirable, because of all the remaining Admins this person was the only one who took their guidelines seriously:
"Actively participate in the functioning of the Admin group. In addition, administrators should be visible in discussion forums and editing activities. If time constraints do not allow an active level of participation for an extended period of time, the individual is expected to resign from their Admin privileges."
Six green Admins.

All Admin discussions are secret, so nobody really knows what happened next, but over the next year or so there were fewer and fewer sightings. Rumours abounded, of course, and one Admin was even thought to have run away and joined the circus! Two more were simply assumed to have discovered that life outside the Empire was more appealing.
Down to three green Admins.
So for another year or so, the directory was managed by just one-third of the original group, although except for the one mentioned above, the others all retained their special powers, and would swoop in unexpectedly from time to time, to ensure they were not forgotten.
Not surprisingly, this lack of effective leadership meant the whole of DMOZ started to lose its way. A great many experienced editors left, and a cloud of gloom and despondency settled over ODP-land.

News of all this eventually reached the Emperor, who made one of his rare appearances to announce that he had chosen seven more of his most loyal startroopers to become Admins.
Ten green Admins!

There was much rejoicing at this indication that he still cared for the directory. Now the community would regain its lost energy! The editors would have direction and strong leadership! DMOZ would triumph once more!

But almost immediately, unexplained things started to happen once more, out of sight in Admin-land.
Two of the remaining original group soon vanished (while still retaining their powers of course), but one of the new Admins decided to relinquish the super-powers.

And then the only still-active member of the original group resigned altogether.

Back to six green Admins (uh oh, here we go again).

Of those six, only four have been seen in the community often enough to be well-known, and now one of those has recently resigned.

So out of 16 people specially chosen by the Emperor to manage DMOZ, we are left with
4 invisible and inactive Admins,
2 invisible but apparently active ones, leaving
just 3 who are effectively fulfilling their roles.

I certainly hope this is not
~~~ THE END ~~~

But then, all this is just a fairy tale, so perhaps all is well and there's a happy ending after all!


budalata said...

...And Then There Were None

cmic said...

Amanda, I don't think we can blame any of them for the actual situation. Let's face it : Dmoz is a very very little project in the big AOL/Time Warner business. Some big changes for AOL are planned, with the new boss, etc. It's not the right time for us to complain, because no one at AOL pull the plug as they have done with some other projects, teams, etc.

If this project still exists, it's because
1. the editors, from the newbie who listed 3 sites to those who have, listed many thousands, whatever their administrative role is.

When the administrative level was created, we thought it could help the project to grow up. Perhaps the people behind that solution are not any more involved at AOL. Who knows ?

We don't need administrators to run this project, honestly. All we need is unbiased editors, enough editors to do the peer review, enough experienced editors to maintain the directory, coach the newbies and lead by example. And of course some ops to keep the servers on, 7//, 24/24, 365/365.

Perhaps it's not the project we have dreamed of, it's no more the best project of the web. But it's still there, people still want to be part of it, people still want to get their site listed on the ODP - Dmoz, because the editors provide a good resource.

A-Very-Little-Editor said...

I have to admit that I am somewhat disheartened about DMOZ. I really, really wanted to become an editor and was thrilled to the point of bragging to my immediate family members about it when I was accepted.

I have, however, been very disappointed at the lack of response to and discussion about my carefully considered questions on the board.

There are some people (you being one) who sincerely make an effort to help, but I'm afraid there just aren't enough of you. I feel like I'm moving along rather blindly.

I'm not giving up, but ODP had an incredibly enthusiastic volunteer in me and are wasting an opportunity to use me.

I would love to progress in the ODP, but at the moment I feel like I'm jumping up and down waving my arms and no one sees me. All your posts about how to recruit and keep volunteers are right on the mark!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a "view from the inside" for those of us who felt that life was better on the outside ;-)

Nice to know that things haven't changed much, and decisions made back then were the right ones.

d'Moz said...

And she fights for her life...where the people are pleasantly strange...she looks at the rain as it pours...with the thought she is caught by a thread...nobody knows, nobody knows....

Life. As. We Know. It. Will. Change.
It always does!

Unknown said...

I'm afraid I don't understand that last comment, but the video was amazing, so thank you for posting. :-)


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