10 Ideas to Save DMOZ

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DMOZ, also known as the open directory project, is the largest human edited directory in the world and one of the most ‘trusted’ link directories on the internet.

However, in recent years it’s been steadily falling in popularity and the search engines no longer regard it as highly as they once did. More importantly for users, search engines have become progressively smarter and more sophisticated, which means that human edited directories like DMOZ aren’t as important.

Unfortunately, despite the good information DMOZ had to offer, there were several major problems. DMOZ always took forever to get your site updated or even added, editors update the categories so infrequently that the data was often old and the site itself was rather bland and boring.

However, DMOZ was still chugging along until a couple of weeks ago, when the editor and submissions portions of the website inexplicably went dead.; there haven’t been any updates since September. The question now is what are they (the AOL Search business group) going to do about it?

As of yet, the jury’s still out. Nobody knows what will become of DMOZ, but there is a lot of talk floating around in the editor forums at DMOZ; below are some directions that might be interesting for DMOZ to go in. The list is by no means comprehensive, so please feel free to add your own ideas.

1) Bring it up to web 2.0 standards and open it up as a ‘weighted’ wiki (user-edited site, like Wikipedia); perhaps have it weighted so that the more edits users make, the more important sections they’re able to edit. For example, you wouldn’t want to have just anyone edit an entertainment category that go thousands of hits, so you might pre-qualify the editor according to standards, a test, their editing history, etc.;

2) Become a comprehensive best-of guide. Reduce the amount of sites in each category to a specific number (say ten sites in each category) and have it work more like an editorial style guide where editors picked their favorite sites out of a list of voted on sites gathered from user data;

3) Go local; have the entire ODP rebuilt to focus on geographic locales (this model often works best with the directory style anyways), then provide other sources of local information on each category page (weather, area guides, etc.);

4) Open source the code and all the information, then let the developers and users run wild and see what they produce;

5) Feed other information sources into the individual categories and listings of DMOZ so users get news and info about what’s going on in the world that relates to that category. For example, if you look at the SEO category, you might see then top ten Google, Yahoo or MSN news stories related to SEO, and so forth;

6) Make it into a Digg-like site, where users decide which websites are best; go all out with browser plug-ins and feeds of the top added sites in each category;

7) Add commercial aspects to the directory. For example, charge for a highlighted listing or top position. This would offer some money to the editors and give value to the buyer because of the extra traffic and attention a ‘highlighted’ submission might draw; sell it or let a commercial company take it over and convert it into a paid directory or a portal-type entity; add PPC advertising or Adsense because profit sharing for the editors would virtually ensure that volumes of people would volunteer to edit;

8) Allow the queue, or sites waiting to be edited, to be viewed publicly in a special area, so users can see the most recent sites that have been added. Allow website owners to set up business profile pages and use all the standard networking tools (messaging, friends, etc.). Additionally, set up the ODP like a social network of website owners waiting to get their sites listed;

9) Go non-objective; set it up so actual people’s opinions about the website are listed below the site. Have the user information available immediately and create the largest online democratic voting area online. You could still have editors oversee the whole thing, but let the users drive the site with comments on the websites they like and those they don’t; let people submit the site description and extra the bio stuff so the directory is actually getting real information. An example might be a whole list of questions like “where is your site going” “who should visit your site?” “what does your site offer users?” etc.;

10) Give every editor a blog where they talk can about what’s cool, what’s not and what’s news in their category, then stream all the information together. This would make DMOZ a huge provider of information, complete with RSS feeds for each category. The entire process of posting information into the blog and choosing sites could thus be built into the editor interface.

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About the Author

Aurora Brown is the editor and head copywriter for Social Media Systems online marketing company and specializes in producing powerful, accessible content for the web. She co-authors the 3net Search Engine Marketing Blog and is working on her first novel.

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  • http://www.votemoz.com VoteMoz Editors

    I’ve long felt that dmoz could use some improvements similar to those you’ve suggested – but you’ve communicated them far better than I could, and have ideas beyond what we’ve thought of so far. Your article inspired me, though, and I and a couple friends are giving it a try to see if we can make a better Web-2.0-ish platform for managing DMOZ-like directories. One other burdensome thing about DMOZ is the license. If you were to add an 11th Idea, I’d say they should re-license their stuff under an easier license to use (say, Creative Commons, or GFDL, or whatever Wikipedia uses). Otherwise we might try starting from a clean slate of data and launching a separate open directory under a more standard license.

    It’s not done yet – it’s just the first quickie beta we threw up there – but more of the ideas you mentioned are coming soon.

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