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Respect For DMOZ

Ah, DMOZ.

Whilst I was scanning through Barry's blog at SEL, I came across this post he mentioned entitled R-E-S-P-E-C-T for DMOZ.

A DMOZ editor complains "Everybody loves Google, everybody loves Wikipedia - so why doesn't everybody love DMOZ?"

My blog post would be rather long if I listed all the reasons why I think people don't love DMOZ, so I'll stick to fisking the contents of the editors post.

For those who don't know what DMOZ is, and that would be the vast majority of web users, DMOZ is a largely redundant internet directory that came about back when Yahoo! Directory was too slow at processing listing requests.

Webmasters familiar with DMOZ will appreciate the obvious irony, given that you can now get a Yahoo Directory listing in a couple of days, whereas DMOZ is a hit and miss affair, specializing mostly in "miss".

Let's take a look at the points raised:

Ask people how they search the web, and most will tell you what Google does well, what Wikipedia does well - and what DMOZ doesn't do well.

Ask people how they search the web, and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who knows what DMOZ is, let alone outline it's faults.

The reasons for that will become obvious.

Perhaps you heard something on the news about the Somali pirates and want to learn more. .... Now what about Somalia in general? How did it get to this point? What's the history of the country, and what's going on with their government? How do you find answers to these questions without wasting a lot of time? This is where DMOZ shines....you can go to DMOZ's Somalia category. Start with Guides and Directories to find background information.

Students of philosophy will recognize this as an argument by selective observation. Cherry picking, in other words.

Well, it would have been had the author cherry picked an example that actually supported her argument. If you go into the recommended category, Africa/Somalia/, what will you find?

One listing.

For Wikipedia.

You just couldn't make this stuff up.

One could go into the sub categories, and whilst there are some useful listings there, there is nothing I couldn't find in greater detail in Google or Wikipedia. Helpfully, DMOZ frequently suggests I actually go to Wikipedia instead.

Who am I to argue?

Anyway, let's compare another search to see how well DMOZ does.

If I want to find out about SEO, I get presented with this category Web Design and Development: Promotion

Whilst there are some fine resources listed there, is this a useful reflection of SEO in 2009? Who are Majon International, for example? Why is Eric Ward seemingly the center of the SEO universe? Nothing against Eric, BTW.

Likewise, if I want to find out about New Zealand, it seems that "Hallidays Timber Limited" is very important, as they are the only site listed at the top level, as is - of all things - Usenet.

I could go on.

I'm sure there are great DMOZ categories, but like all things DMOZ, it's very much a hit and miss affair. Wikipedia and Google are a lot more "hit", and a lot less "miss", which is why people use them, and not DMOZ.

Sometimes they use 'relevant' keywords and page titles to game the system and achieve a higher ranking than they really deserve

Couldn't let that one go.

Apparently using keywords and page titles "games" the system. If they thought that were true, then why is DMOZ supposedly ""gaming the system" using titles and relevant keywords, too?

DMOZ certainly does irony well.

There's all sorts of relevant information to be found on the web, and the broader the topic the more useful DMOZ is.

Well, quite frankly, no it isn't.

If I want broad information, I use Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is infinitely more useful than DMOZ because it solved the problem DMOZ failed to do. It ran an editing system that anyone could contribute to easily, thus creating enormous value in terms of relevant, timely content. Updating and editorial was both transparent and immediate, which needs to happen, lest the information become outdated.

DMOZ chose to place editorial control in the hands of a small cabal of editors, and in so doing, made the directory opaque, unresponsive, and outdated.

That's the final irony.

The editorial policy of DMOZ killed DMOZ.