Volunteers – The Other White Meat

Volunteers – The Dmoz Days
Having spent the better part of a decade working at what some of us exes refer to as “TOD” (The Other Directory)… I still have fond memories of the time there. Entered as a rookie webmaster that ran across it back in its early days (1999), and over the years there learned a ton about the internet, SEO, and of course the nature of volunteer work.

If ya can’t laugh at yourself…
As the directory there grew it managed to become a target of a lot of folks. Some of the criticism was valid, some not, but inside it was common practice of some of us to sorta make fun of ourselves based on the stereotypes. Sure, some of the stereotypes were spot on… but as is the case in many instances, a lot were just imagined. Either way, you can argue or you can laugh, and laughing is much better for the blood pressure.

BOTW Volunteers
We have a volunteer program at BOTW too, in our Blog Directory. Obviously not of the same scope as theirs, but then we have a core group of OCD types on staff here that edit like a few thousand volunteers each, which negates the need to rely heavily on our volunteers.

We keep the program available because it offers folks that’d like to add sites at their leisure in an area of their interest. Since we rely on the paid staff for the bulk of our input, the volunteers arent under pressure to produce. They are like guys collecting butterflies… they add the ones they like to the collection when they run across them.

Maintaining the Integrity of the Program
Having heard for a decade that the Dmoz volunteers only join to add their own sites (ok, that’s occasionally true, but more often not)… the policy we’ve adopted with our volunteers is pretty simple. If someone gets a volunteer login and vanishes after a couple of adds… those are removed. Our program will not be subject to criticism for that particular reason… better to have a few that enjoy it than many that abuse it.

How Does the BOTW Blog Vol Program Work?
Basically adding blog sites is pretty simple… you pick an area of interest, you add sites that fit the criteria. If you have a site in that field, start with the other related blogs in your own blog roll. Look at related sites on THEIR blog roll. Piece of cake.

Can we add our own?
Sure. Long as you aren’t here just for that purpose, no problem. Consider it a bonus for helping. Just be aware that if we do Quality Control checks and find someone added the same site 4 times in the same category, we execute the adds, their login, and if they’re nearby… the editor. [Dang, talk about "tough love".]

Honestly, there isn’t generally a problem when we get volunteers, and as we did in my early days at Dmoz… we have a pretty good time in here. Much to be said just for the social interaction with some of the folks here, and if you enjoy what you’re doing it really isn’t “work”. [Don't tell Greg or Rob I enjoy this, they still think I'm laboring away at this job.]

Bottom line, if assisting as a BOTW Blog Volunteer appeals to you, we’re always happy to look at new folks. Just fill out the app correctly and you’ve got a fair shot at getting in. Let me know if you have any questions.

Regards ~

Rob Jones
Proud Member of The Nerd Herd
Best of the Web

Introducing the BOTW UK Directory

BOTW UK Directory
The ever-expanding BOTW is proliferating yet again—we have launched a comprehensive UK Directory that catalogs relevant British and Irish websites and your anglophile narrator is thrilled!

BOTW UK incorporates the original BOTW Directory’s extensive and comprehensive categorization methods, and the new UK Directory will offer seamless access to corresponding information in the main directory. British and Irish users can sift through categories, search for specific services, or utilize the regional pages to find relevant resources in their own backyards. For example, the localized regional categories will allow the UK audience to search on the city level. It’s the perfect tool if you’re, perhaps, searching for a bed and breakfast on the Isle of Wight.

For more information on the launch, check out our Press Release at PR Web.

As we’ve noted in the release, BOTW is concurrently launching several initiatives to help integrate interested businesses. The BOTW UK Directory Submit Service will ensure a speedy review service for membership in the burgeoning directory, while the UK Sponsorship Advertising Solutions will ensure participants’ enhanced visibility throughout the site.

So if you are a UK site owner, webmaster or marketing agency – come check out Best of the Web’s newest Directory – BOTW.org.uk and tell us what you think. We look forward to your feedback and as with the original Best of the Web, we hope BOTW UK will prove to be a great informational resource for all UK users.

Hands Across the Water (and other curses)

Phinding a Fysician….
Once on a whitewater canoe trip in the wilds, one of my friends lost a fight to a rock in the channel at high speed. The resulting gash required stitches, so we headed for the nearest town… basically a grocery store and a few houses. Seeing no medical clinic, we went to the grocery store to inquire.

You're not from round here

The owner was kindly, but education wasn’t one of his strong points. As he helpfully opened the Yellow Pages under “D” to find the address of the nearest doctor… he suddenly drew a blank look and said none were listed. We suggested he look under “Physician“.

He flipped the page… to the section beginning with “F”.

Countries Separated by A Common Language
Looking for something on the web yields similar problems. You need to search the term that’s actually present, and it doesn’t hurt to have it spelled the same way. Unfortunately, if you’re in the UK you are sometimes hampered by evidence the colonials elsewhere can neither spell nor call things by their correct name.

If seeking legal specialists… US-based editors will likely have placed the “Solicitor” you’re seeking under “Lawyer” or “Attorney“. Meanwhile someone in Wales is searching “Barrister” with limited success.

BOTW Kicks the Yanks Out of the UK
OK, not physically, but we did decide that our customers and clients in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland might be better served if our taxonomy didnt assume you spoke and spelled like US citizens. Simply a matter of dealing with reality. We decided to add some local color (or in this case… colour).

A new group of editors was hired to overhaul the UK & ROI portions of the directory, and the new editors are natives of the area. There is simply no substitute for firsthand knowledge of the language and idioms (or the geography for that matter… it doesn’t do to have a non-native try to handle Regional: London).

Our Thanks to Resident Magician
The credit for the work goes to a relatively small but strong UK team led by “Merlin”… and in our opinion they bring to mind the Churchill phrase once applied to the RAF… “Never have so many owed so much to so few….” Once complete it will look like everyone’s UK section would look if they’d only had a decade to think about it. Special kudos to GavinK, Robo, Rzan, Specop, and others involved in this massive effort.

Who Benefits?
Well, besides making it easier for surfers to find what they’re looking for, it probably has a benefit to our clients in making their sites more findable. Seems like a win-win for everyone. The work is ongoing, but feel free to stroll the UK area of the directory and let us know if it seems better, or if you see areas of concern. We value your input. :-)

Regards

Rob Jones
(aka: The “good” Rob)
Proud Member of “The Nerd Herd”

BOTW Local Updates

A little more than a month later, and we have made some great strides with our Local Search offering. What a wild month it’s been.

We built out and opened up a couple of dozen additional cities, and now have more than 30 cities active. You can find a partial list of the activated cities here on our Browse by City/State page. We are trying to methodically roll the cities out, concentrating on providing the city content in a user friendly, intuitive manner. We’ll be tinkering some more with the layout of both the city index and the search results.

We introduced the Local version of the What’s New, modeled after the one we have been using on the web directory for years. As time permits, and higher priority items are completed, we’ll expand the page with additional metro-centric content, to further provide the user with relevant information.

Additionally, we added a cool feature known as the Local Observer. The Local Observer provides real time updates of all activity across BOTW Local. User reviews, thumbs up and down, new business listings, stars, and more. It’s a fun way to keep an eye on what our users are doing on the site, and to see where the activity is.

To date the spiders are receiving the site very well, indexed pages climbing daily. Though we still have “noindex, nospider” tags on the majority of our pages, a quick snapshot of a site index query in Google shows 533,000 pages indexed. We have seen a surge of business submissions, and while our programmers work diligently on our review process, we are currently experiencing a bit of a backlog, and the free Jumpstart queue isn’t getting the eyeballs that it will once we iron out all the details. Our editors are anxious to get in there though, so once we let ‘em loose, it should be a couple/few days to get up to date. We appreciate your ongoing patience :)

Business owners with reviewed listings have reported that they have seen some very impressive results for search queries for their businesses, and we have received glowing feedback from businesses and users alike. Our traffic continues to push ahead, and we are ahead of our growth goals. With new features planned for users we fully anticipate strong user growth to continue for the foreseeable future.

As we continue to strengthen our user base, we plan on introducing new features for businesses in the coming weeks. Enhanced interaction with users will enable the business owner to cost effectively reach users in their communities. BOTW Local is attracting people who want to know about businesses in and information about their community. Take advantage by getting involved now.

We hope you enjoy the new features and cities we have added, and we look forward to providing you with even more in the weeks and months to come. We welcome any feedback you have that would help us in providing users with a better experience.

BOTW Local Goes Beta

Anybody working online can attest to the wisdom in planning for twice the time and money that you forecast for any project. We have learned that if you are planning on doing something in the local space, you’d better be prepared to double that a couple of times more.

After nearly two years of research and development, BOTW has brought it’s local product, BOTW Local to public beta. Though still a little clunky along parts of the ride, the BOTW Local offering provides users with details on over 16 million businesses and local information from cities throughout the United States. The initial list of cities that we spent time working on include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Miami.

BOTW Local is a free service where users can rate and review local businesses, find information including phone numbers, location, directions, hours of operation, and more. It’s not cluttered like other local offerings, with ease of use at the center of our development efforts. Users can search for businesses in a specific city, or browse categories for each city. Users can see businesses on a map, and find out further information about businesses by visiting the business details page for individual businesses.

BOTW Local is also free for business owners. Business owners can claim their business with our free JumpStart page, where the business owner can provide users with additional information about the business. For owners looking for increased visibility, we offer the Premium business listings and Sponsored business opportunities. Each option provides the business owner with a great opportunity to cost effectively reach users in their community.

We have much more planned for BOTW Local (outside of smoothing out those bumps). Stay tuned for more social features, and enhanced account management. We’re continually striving to offer users and businesses the best possible experience, and we look forward to providing additional features in the months to come.

We hope that you enjoy our newest offering, and we welcome any feedback you may have.

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