Is Your Directory Past the “Use by” Date?

Best if Used by Dec 31
Anybody that’s ever shopped for milk knows the first thing you do before putting it in the basket is to check the date that says “Use by {insert date here}”. If the date isn’t right, it isn’t fresh, and you don’t want to pay for it. Unfortunately, directories don’t have a “Use by” date clearly stamped on them. Nonetheless, if they aren’t kept fresh, like milk, they begin to stink.

Hey… Let’s ‘Slap Up’ a Directory!
Two conversations brought this topic to mind. The first came when I was involved in a discussion about domaining. Somebody was asked about the pain of renewing domains that weren’t producing, and his response was something along the lines of ‘If I don’t have a specific purpose yet I just slap up a directory’.

Fortunately this took place in a forum, so he didn’t hear me blow iced tea all over my screen.

NOTE: He’d shoot me if he saw this, but I’m comforted in the knowledge that more people read the entire TOS on Microsoft Windows 7 than anything I put in a blog.

Doing a Directory “Right”
A directory can be the easiest bad work someone ever does or the hardest good work, and there just isn’t any middle ground. We have dozens of editors working on ours, and anyone that’s ever done a directory right knows you can’t keep all categories perfectly up to date, but if you apply enough manpower you won’t be AS behind as the other guys.

Anyone that slaps up a directory as a placeholder is wasting the time of anyone that submits a site there. Oh sure… you can put up a hierarchy of links and populate it with some out-of-the-can database which may have been around a while, but if it doesn’t take serious ongoing work, it’s a waste of bandwidth.

I know here the team that seeks out and adds sites for free just because they belong in the directory is bigger than the crew that handles commercial submissions. Given the price tag, that’s a really big commitment to keeping it fresh.

That brings us to the other conversation
A friend in the directory biz was talking about writing a post on what makes a good directory. That’s a pretty short list IMO, cause there are only a few differences, but they make a vast difference in the value of the product. That said, here’s my list.

What Gives a Directory “Value”?

-1- Editorial Integrity
Simply put, that immediately rules out any auto-accept directories and all directories where the titles and descriptions are left intact regardless of what they say, and sites where placement is determined entirely by the submitter. If a human didn’t review the site and make an up down call based on the value of the site, didn’t give it a realistic description, and didn’t put it in the right place, the directory is trash.

-2- Freshness
If a directory gives you a several year old snapshot of the world, it isn’t a directory, it’s an internet archive. Face it, if you opened Time magazine and the tech section was arguing the merits of VHR vs Betamax technology… you might decide to read Newsweek (or at least you’d take a good book next time you visit the dentist).

-3- Not ONLY Accepting Commercial Submissions
There are just too many categories that will not get commercial submissions, so if a directory contains those categories but only accepts sites that drop cash on them, quality won’t happen. That’s why we offer free non-commercial listings in the BOTW Directory, free adds in the Blog Dir (commercial or otherwise), and free “Jumpstart” listings in the Local Directory. The object is to find fresh material not tracked down by our edit team.

Someone could reasonably argue that a well built hierarchy is a fourth criteria, and sure, without proper organization you don’t have a directory, you have a list… but that’s just a nuts and bolts thing. In a directory edited over many years by many hands there are going to be overlaps to unravel and such, but that’s just the mechanical side of the job, time consuming, but like proper spelling, just an expected part of the task.

Investment Drives Value
I’ve had people mention that it can’t possibly take {insert $$$} worth of an editors time to review their site, but the reason this directory differs from others is the investment made well beyond the site review. The value added by the guys that add sites NOT submitted to the commercial queue is one of the reasons BOTW products have value to begin with. The investment of the owner drives the value. It could be an investment in time, or money, or manpower, but good directories don’t happen, they are built.

Yeah yeah yeah… “Content is King”, we’ve heard it before
Hey, it’s simple, but true. The big issue in a good directory is proper content, properly described, properly placed, and constantly added. That separates directories that offer value from the ones that hold a place until a URL sells.

Now I have to go compare notes with my friend who wrote the post about her criteria for a good directory and see how we match up. My guess is we’re probably pretty close.

Meantime, hope everybody has a safe time celebrating the New Year. Best wishes from the crew here. ~ Rob

Holiday Break-in at BOTW

Police Seek “Person of interest” in Crime
Dateline: Jericho NY, 12-27-2010

Reports indicate authorities were summoned to Best of the Web corporate headquarters in Jericho NY this weekend to investigate a holiday break-in. Spokesperson for the Jericho Police Department said they cannot yet tell if this incident is related to a string of breakins that took place over the holiday weekend, but that similarities of method appear to be consistent and could point to the work of the same gang that struck the same time last year.

BOTW Vice President Robert Schmid says so far the staff has been unable to determine what if anything may have been taken, though it has been discovered a quantity of milk and cookies left unsecured near a Christmas tree appear to be missing.

As of this report there are few clues to the identity of the perpetrator(s), but authorities have asked the public to be on the lookout for a “person of interest” who according to multiple sources may have clues relating to the breakins. He is described as an elderly white male with a full beard who appears “jolly” and has a midsection that “shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly”.

Though not officially declared a suspect in this case, he has reportedly been served previously with temporary restraining orders in various jurisdictions in conjunction with stalking charges after numerous minors claimed “he sees them when they’re sleeping and knows when they’re awake”. Charges were later dropped, and though he is not considered dangerous, police do want to verify whether he is in fact keeping a list of naughty children, possibly for purposes of retribution.

The individual was last seen on Dec 25 wearing a red suit with white trim and driving a late model miniature sleigh led by eight tiny reindeer. As of newstime no license number for the vehicle has been made available.

Happy Holidays from Best of the Web. :)

Editor Abuse at Dmoz…

Common Knowledge vs Experience

Don’t worry. Nobody dies in this story. ~ from George of the Jungle
I was cruising a directory forum this week and saw one of the ubiquitous mentions of editorial abuse at Dmoz. As some of our own crew once honed our skills in that venue, I’ll toss my 2 cents in on the topic for clarification.

“What is Your Quest?” ~ Monty Python
Years ago in response to rumblings of abuse in the Adult section I went on a personal crusade to expose it. I’d heard it stated as fact by so many who claimed to know… it should have been easy to do. I had a login, I could verify the facts, I was ready to kick some corrupt editor butt.

To get the facts firsthand I signed up in an Adult Webmaster forum and became involved in a discussion about “Dmoz corruption”. I begged people to report specific instances… and checked them out individually.

One guy, the big-man-on-campus in that section, was adamant. Turned out he was an ex-Dmoz Adult/ editor who had been removed “for cause”… the cause being what he was accusing others of. The fact that he was an EX spoke to the point that what he mentioned wasn’t allowed, and provided a clear example of how it had been handled when he did it.

Still, so many others in that forum were certain it went on, so I asked for specific categories, something I could check. I wasn’t in their forum to defend Dmoz, I was there to nail the source of their complaints. “Just give me a lead, I will check it out and the SOB that’s doing it is history.”

The truth? You can’t *handle* the truth! ~ Jack Nicholsen
Sometimes in the open, sometimes by PM, I was given cases to check, specific categories where supposedly all the sites were owned by one editor, all competitors were turned away, etc. I checked every one given, and despite the fact that I truly *wanted* to find it, I came up with nothing that resembled abuse.

One guy claimed his sites had been removed by a competitor. I asked for URLs. On checking, one he thought had been removed was listed (he was just looking in the wrong place). Another had never been in the system, so it couldn’t have been removed. In yet another case, the category supposedly being goal-tended by a resident editor did not have a resident editor and had not been edited by ANYone during the period the reported abuse happened.

The reports of categories populated by defunct sites didnt pan out either. They have a link-checker (Robozilla) that periodically sidelines dead links. He is not sophisticated, may miss sites re-purposed or parked. In the process of trying to ferret out abuse I did clear a few sites that needed to go, but again it was not abuse involved, just needed tending due to the aging of the database. After a month, I gave up the quest. I thought finding abuse in the Adult/ section would be like shooting fish in a barrel, instead it turned out to be a wild goose chase.

Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it. ~ Lewis Carroll
I did during my most active years at Dmoz see cases of abuse. Those I saw I reported, and those I reported were dealt with rapidly. Though the “common knowledge” on the net does not match my experience, I can only speak to my own experience. The widespread abuse I was told about was either fabricated or boiled down to cases of inattention, benign neglect, or deferred maintenance… but not editorial abuse.

As is often the case on the net… “common knowledge” is often more common than knowledgeable.

Anyway, thought I’d toss that out there. Not suggesting abuse never happens there, they wouldn’t have a button to report if it didn’t. Just mentioning it cause I see “common knowledge” passed out in SEO forums regularly when the advice is often incorrect or dated. I feel directories have a viable role in cataloging the net, separating the wheat from the chaff, and whatever faults Dmoz may have, they generally aren’t the ones most frequently attributed.

“God bless us every one” ~ Tiny Tim
No directory is valuable unless it has good editors. Many of the best editors we have learned the trade there, so for that I owe them a debt of gratitude and have no problem mentioning it. I’ll probably see more from there as long as they continue to train good ones, so I wish them a healthy and productive future.

There’s room on the net for plenty of directories, so to all you directory owners and editors out there… Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a productive 2011.

How to Become a BOTW Editor

Occasionally I field questions on the topic of who edits the Best of the Web Directory products, and how one becomes a BOTW editor.

Posting about it here hits the following two birds with one stone:

  • A) To serve as a map for those interested in the role
  • B) It will serve notice we are in growth mode and could use more folks with the talent and interest in editing here.

What are the different editor roles at BOTW?

BOTW Staff Editors – Employees -
These are employees that work out of our New York Headquarters. Their primary functions include handling the commercial submissions to multiple BOTW products… including but not limited to the BOTW Directory, BOTW Blog Directory, BOTW UK and Ireland Directory, BOTW Local, etc….

They work under the same guidelines as the other editors, so sites they deal with are placed, titled and described no differently than sites handled by any other editor. Staff eds aren’t really the subject of this post… for that you have to talk to the guys at HQ. [See BOTW Careers]

The Nerd Herd – Contract Editors -
This team of contract editors does NOT work the commercial queues. The team is composed of dozens of longterm directory editors, most of whom learned the role and proved themself via many thousands of edits in a volunteer capacity at other venues. They do handle the Free queues (see prior blog post) for BOTW, BOTW UK, and the Blog Directory, but *most* of their edits come from hunting down sites they consider “Best of the Web” material.

They handle most taxonomy and hierarchy issues, quality control, add necessary crosslinks, and fill areas that would be under-represented if we relied solely on submissions. Several are responsible for monthly “What’s New” posts and Daily Editor Picks in the various directories. The structure of The Herd is extremely flat by design. They are a team of peers, and IMO probably the best collection of directory editors in one place.

They work from wherever they are (hence the reason I avoid using the cam on Skype) and are paid monthly based on the contributions they make. They do not have a “quota”, and though they try to pretend otherwise when staff’s around, most would probably do this even if they didn’t get paid for it.

BOTW Local Editors – Contract Editors -
BOTW Local is a free map-based service that directs people to brick and mortar businesses. The Premium Submissions to Local are handled by staff editors, and the guys editing the Free “Jumpstart” submissions were initially recruited from the ranks of the Nerd Herd. They handle many thousands of sites submitted for free to the BOTW Local’s “Jumpstart” queue monthly.

The documentation in Local promises an up/down call inside 6 months for free submissions, but the reality is the editors there have kept the time to a fraction of that… and are improving on already good response times as we’re adding additional support for them. Like the rest of The Herd, they’re paid based on what they do.

Volunteer Blog Editors
Volunteer blog editors are as the name indicates non-paid, but the program covers a variety of needs. Just as most of The Herd got into the directory world by volunteering to edit some area of interest and discovered they have a need to organize that borders on mental illness, I’m sure there are others like them (OK, us) out there.

The volunteer blog program allows even those without a history of editing to get into an area of interest and share the blogs they think are “Best of the Web” with others by adding them to the directory. Though they are doing so in a volunteer capacity, they are part of our editing forum and have an excellent chance to learn from some good folks.

They also put themselves into an excellent position to move into our paid editor corps should they show the desire and the ability.

How would someone join one of these groups?
If someone wanted to become a member of The Herd, our contract editor corps, there are two ways…

  • -1- Have an outstanding history of directory editing elsewhere and contact me directly. That’s an available option, and assuming a level of verifiable experience it’s a perfectly legitimate route.
  • -2- Enter via the Volunteer Blog Editor Program and do a sterling job… and whether you express an interest in being a member of The Herd or not, you’ll probably get an email from me asking if you’re interested.

CODISALS – aka: The fine print
— a) There is no monetary reason for doing it via method 1 vs method 2… as there is also a volunteer actions requirement in the Herd payscale at the start. The number isn’t large compared to what most of us did as volunteers ourselves, but FTR, in the very beginning the Herd pays the same as the Volunteer Blog Program… which eases paperwork in the event someone signs up and just doesn’t stick.

— b) Yes, you CAN add your own sites as long as they…

  • 1. Fit the criteria for an add
  • 2. Get no favors in titling/ placement/ description
  • 3. You have access to that section…

BUT… in the event that’s all an editor joins for, or if they go into freelance competition with the commercial queue, it would be dealt with swiftly. A single button can undo those adds. BOTW editors take their credibility personally, so I wouldn’t even have to find it myself.

How Much Does The Paid Crew Make?
The editors aren’t in danger of replacing Bill Gates on any list Forbes publishes, but it’s a lucrative way to engage in what was once our hobby. We’ll discuss specifics in a less public setting, but some make an excellent “2nd check” and some do it as a primary income.

They’re paid on production, so editors get a raise whenever they want, it becomes effective when they do.

Where to go from here if interested?

Those that need to contact me directly (ie – Method 1 above)
Use my email: robjones @ . I’ll repeat this is not the best route if you don’t already have heavy directory experience which is easily verified. Doesn’t mean we must know each other personally, just means this route assumes you’re seasoned, know the ropes, and there is info for us to go on available.

Those going the Vol Blog Editor Route:
Go to a category in the BOTW Blog Directory where you’d like to edit for starters, click on “Become an Editor” at the bottom, and fill out the quick online application. The Blog Dir has a fairly flat tree, but if you’d like to improve your chances of acceptance, start lower instead of higher. Doesn’t take long, and could lead an enjoyable past time sharing sites you discover with others… or even a career change.

That’s it… if interested, follow the directions above and we look forward to talking to you. Hope you have a great day. ~ Rob

Submitting to BOTW’s Free Queue

Huh?! BOTW has a “Free Queue”?!
Yeah, it’s a deep dark secret. Everyone knows BOTW only accepts paid submissions, right? Naah. If somebody has a hobby they’re passionate enough about to create a site for, or a charity creates a site to help out people in need, expecting them to pay for review would be harsh, not to mention avoiding such sites for lack of a review fee would contribute to holes in the directory’s ontology.

Criteria? Non-commercial sites ONLY
I’ll repeat this a few different ways to avoid misunderstandings, but the criteria are listed clearly in the signup process so if you miss it, you can catch it there. The free queue is NOT for commercial sites.

Repeat: Sites engaged in commercial enterprises are not accepted. A scholarly site about “Flora in the USA”, probably qualifies. A pictorial site named “Flora DOES the USA”, probably doesn’t, but someone may give it a long look to be sure. Seriously, just submit sites that qualify please.

Define “Non-Commercial Sites” Please
Thank you for asking. I’m sure there are many possible ways of defining that, but the bottom line is we will consider entry based on the following criteria…

BOTW considers the following sites “Non-Commercial”

  • personal home page about an individual, musician, or artist;
  • community websites about the community, local sports, dance, movies, parks, and more;
  • local non-profit organizations such as those involving neighborhood associations and volunteer opportunities;
  • school websites from kindergarten through college;
  • places of worship such as churches, temples, synagogues, sanctuaries, mosques, shrines and more.

And of course, there’s the safety line that says…

“Please note that the above listed are the minimum site criteria only, and BOTW editors use additional factors in deciding whether of not to accept your site for inclusion.”

Translation: Meeting the base definition of “non-commercial” doesn’t guarantee entry. We DO still review for quality.

How Do I Submit to that Queue?

-1- Go to the category in which the site *best* fits
For example, that research scientist who created “Flora in the USA” could submit here:

-2- Hit the link at BOTTOM… “Submit a site to this category”

-3- You see 2 boxes. Click one on right, “Non-Commercial”
BOTW Submit Site Buttons

-4- You Now See the Instructions and Criteria (4 Part)
Read the four parts, which clarify the criteria for acceptance and the instructions for submission. If your site qualifies, hit the “Submit” button.

Then go through the process of filling out the blanks, just as you would on any directory submission. Title it correctly and write a reasonable and concise description. If the editor sees a need to change these, they will, but the better yours is, the more likely it might get used.

Congrats, you just submitted a site to Best of the Web entirely free of charge.

Other things to remember about the free queue

  1. Unlike commercial submissions, there is no guarantee of when it will be considered.
  2. Blogs may NOT be submitted to the BOTW Dir (free or otherwise), but there is already a free option in the BOTW Blog Directory.
  3. Submitting multiple times not only doesn’t increase your chances, it probably reduces ‘em.
  4. Submitting to the wrong category slows the process. Just take my word for it.
  5. Did I mention yet that sites that don’t fit the criteria aren’t considered? :-)

The free queue is a courtesy extended to those that build sites for reasons of courtesy. It is NOT a black hole, the sites sent to it ARE considered for inclusion, they just don’t get the guarantee of speed available via the commercial queue and they do have to fit the criteria.

As always, *neither* queue guarantees acceptance if the site doesn’t pass inspection for quality. Anyway, if you have a site that fits the criteria I absolutely advise submitting it to the free queue unless you just have to have it listed inside the timeframe offered to clients.

By the way…
If on reading the criteria for acceptance to the non-commercial queue you discover your site does NOT qualify as “non-commercial”, hit the back button to get to the two boxes again, and hit the button that takes you to the Commercial submission queue. We like those too. :)

Have a great day. ~ Rob

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