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Why I'm No Longer a DMOZ Editor

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You're probably not aware of DMOZ Open Directory Project but it was a valiant attempt to index the Web which, before the days of Wikipedia and Google's excellent search engine, made a lot sense. Their site has an about page which explains what they were trying to do.

As many people reading this will know I edit (and indeed created) the Milton village web site and on that site there's two pages with links to Milton related sites, one for businesses, the other for individuals.

So back in 2009 (I think) I signed up as an editor. Later, when I tried to log in I discovered I'd been locked out: if you don't log in at least once a month this happens. Now I can see some vague logic to this if you're an uber-editor with vast areas of DMOZ under your editing command but I just had Milton. What was the point of logging on every month if there was nothing to do?

So I left it and moved on.

Three years later we had created WalkLakes and I was thinking about who I could get to link to it and remember DMOZ so I asked for it to be listed under Cumbria or Lake District or similar. This also reminded me that I really should do something about sorting out the Milton entries.

When you sign up to DMOZ you are told "you don't have to wait for someone to suggest a site, as you are expected to actively seek out suitable sites (ie. using Google) and list them directly" so as I already had done the research (and still do) I already had lots of sites which could be added to Milton's entry.

So I asked to be re-instated. Comparing the entry in archive.org to now it must have been at around this time that I added three listing for hairdressers Alexander Lawrence Hair Studio, Archie Rogers Hair and Beauty, and Harmony Hair and Beauty Salon. Katana was already there - added by another editor in the three years I'd been away. I also added WalkLakes to Computers and Internet. I'll come back to all this later.

This time I was more efficient and remembered to log on to DMOZ at least once a month so I wasn't locked out. All seemed to be going fine until I got this email from "meta editor jimnoble":

I'm just traversing Cambridgeshire and I've just stumbled across the http://www.dmoz.org/editors/editcat/index?cat=Regional/Europe/United_Kingdom/England/Cambridgeshire/Milton category.

It looks as though you've done a lot of work there over the years but you seem to have been unaware of the Regional template at http://www.dmoz.org/Test/Regional/Templates/Topical_Subcategories_-_British_English/. It defines standard category names and structures.

I've already renamed Retail to Shopping and Computers to Computers_and_Internet in compliance with the template and I expect I'll be making further changes. Please don't undo them.

I was a bit taken aback by the tone of the email. If that was me and it was the first time I'd given guidance to an editor I would have suggested that they made the changes, not done them myself.

He'd also only started: if the "Regional template" was to be followed then there were more changes still to make.

What was more worrying was that he'd added two sites which didn't fit. As he said "I'll be making further changes. Please don't undo them." what was I to do?

So I emailed him back:

OK. If I understand the logs correctly you have also adding two businesses to Cambridgeshire:Milton:Business and Economy

-- http://www.decentcleaning.co.uk/
-- http://www.charteredsurveyorcambridge.co.uk/

As you're asking me not to undo your further changes can I ask why you've added them here as the first is in Cambridge, not Milton, and the second is in Horningsea, not Milton?

In relation to the latter although there isn't a Horningsea category under Regional:Europe:United Kingdom:England:Cambridgeshire (yet) I would suggest that Waterbeach would be a better choice than Milton for any Horningsea related sites as that village is topologically nearer even though Milton appears close on the map.

The following morning I had a reply:

We list websites in their nearest localities if they are within around 3 miles and in the same county. It's also a good idea to include the actual locality in the desc if it's different to the cat name. That way, if a new cat is created, it's easy to find any entries that need to be moved to it.

Because so many websites try to appear to be in their nearest honeypot locality (Cambridge in this case) I almost invariably do a post code lookup at http://www.streetmap.co.uk/ (because it's OS Map based).

http://www.decentcleaning.co.uk/ is at CB4 0PP which can be seen to be extremely close to Milton in http://tinyurl.com/ctrnryx . Incidentally, watch for other Decent companies.

I accept your comments about http://www.charteredsurveyorcambridge.co.uk/. I'd looked at the map but not noticed the lack of river bridges. Its current listing is fine but if you feel strongly about it, by all means move it to Waterbeach: I haven't got as far as there yet.

> As you're asking me not to undo your further changes

I was asking you not to undo structural corrections; you can still edit. Just don't be surprised or offended if I or some of the 200+ other editors with permissions there choose to use them.

A rather odd exchange but I pushed Decent Cleaning off into Cambridge where it belongs and Chartered Surveyor Cambridge off to Waterbeach for the appropriate editors to add.

Then I started added categories using the "Regional template" as that seemed to be what I needed to do and shuffling entries around to fit. It takes a long while to do this as the DMOZ software is clunky, to say the least. For example if you empty a category you can't delete it immediately as it takes a while for the software to notice that it's empty.

But I was making slow progress in re-categorising things. Until I logged in last night to be confronted by this message (his highlighting):

Hello ,

You will be able to log in and access your dashboard as soon as you acknowledge this message, but you are advised to take it seriously, and to act on it promptly.

You've chosen to ignore the dashboard feedback from makrhod on 2009-09-11 regarding fair editing of associated websites and our editing guidelines. You've also ignored the welcome back email from elper regarding editing style on 2012-11-26. This is unacceptable and further transgressions are likely to lead to the permanent closure of your editor account with no further warnings.

1. Since your most recent reinstatement, you've created a number of categories that don't comply with our Regional Template. It's important to comply with this so that editors passing through can find their way and so that the categories can be cross linked with county level. I've fixed the category's structure.

2. Your placement of listings is often at odds with the template.
- Taxi companies belong in Transport if it exists, otherwise top level.
-.Travel and Tourism websites belong in Travel_and_Tourism if it exists, otherwise top level.
- Health websites belong within Health if it exists, not Business_and_Economy.

3. UK legislation requires that commercial websites have street addresses. There's a good summary at Out-Law. The Sites to Include section of our Editor Guidelines also cover this under its trustworthy section. You can still list a website without an address in Milton but it must at the very least mention Milton on the website itself.

4. To a first approximation within Regional, we list websites just once at the lowest level that includes all of its addresses. For commercial categories, deeplinks are deprecated. Listing tesco.com within Shopping (was Retail) was risible and I've removed it.

5. Our editor guidelines ask that descriptions take the form Description = Subject + Content and elper reinforced this in his email. Most of the descriptions within Beauty and Cosmetic Services , created just a few days after elper's email are frankly terrible. We've noticed that the only acceptable one is for a website created by you.

6. walklakes.co.uk is not listable in Milton and certainly not in Computers_and_Internet (was Internet). It's hardly the first place that a surfer would look for Lake District walks and I can't believe that you ever thought it was. I've noticed that you designed the site and I can only assume that you did it for SEO purposes. This is editorial abuse and will not be tolerated. It's already pending evaluation within Cumbria so just delete this instance.

You can do good work, as archive.org prior to you recent reinstatement shows, and we'd like that to continue. On the other hand, your current slipshod editing and verging on the abusive editing can't be allowed to continue.

I hope this warning finally gets your attention.

Volunteer meta jimnoble

Ignoring the overall tone, given that he's writing to a volunteer, let's just look at this message in detail with my comments added in between.

You've chosen to ignore the dashboard feedback from makrhod on 2009-09-11 regarding fair editing of associated websites and our editing guidelines. You've also ignored the welcome back email from elper regarding editing style on 2012-11-26. This is unacceptable and further transgressions are likely to lead to the permanent closure of your editor account with no further warnings.

I'd completely forgotten the "dashboard feedback from makrhod", whatever that was, and the "welcome back email from elper" was clearly template text but the tone of this open paragraph really didn't help with what was to come.

1. Since your most recent reinstatement, you've created a number of categories that don't comply with our Regional Template. It's important to comply with this so that editors passing through can find their way and so that the categories can be cross linked with county level. I've fixed the category's structure.

Well no he hadn't. He'd started fixing it, and then he seems to have lost interest. I had to add more categories to match the "Regional template".

2. Your placement of listings is often at odds with the template.
- Taxi companies belong in Transport if it exists, otherwise top level.
-.Travel and Tourism websites belong in Travel_and_Tourism if it exists, otherwise top level.
- Health websites belong within Health if it exists, not Business_and_Economy.

I agree, and that's why I was working on getting the thing to comply with the "Regional template" as he'd not done so.

3. UK legislation requires that commercial websites have street addresses. There's a good summary at Out-Law. The Sites to Include section of our Editor Guidelines also cover this under its trustworthy section. You can still list a website without an address in Milton but it must at the very least mention Milton on the website itself.

As I said in my reply "Errr ... OK". I'm still not sure what point he was making in relation to this one.

4. To a first approximation within Regional, we list websites just once at the lowest level that includes all of its addresses. For commercial categories, deeplinks are deprecated. Listing tesco.com within Shopping (was Retail) was risible and I've removed it.

This is where I get twitchy as I have precisely this problem with the Milton site: a lot of businesses in Cambridge serve Milton, if I start listing those on the village site I'm doomed. So under businesses I list any organisation employing people in Milton. DMOZ clearly doesn't and this is apparently "risible". Lovely.

5. Our editor guidelines ask that descriptions take the form Description = Subject + Content and elper reinforced this in his email. Most of the descriptions within Beauty and Cosmetic Services , created just a few days after elper's email are frankly terrible. We've noticed that the only acceptable one is for a website created by you.

Now this is the one that got me angry. He has a point in relation to the first part although to be honest I'm not sure what more I want to say for any of the entries under Beauty and Cosmetic Services. The Katana entry is longer because someone else added it and it's more than I would write.

But that's not what got me angry. What got me angry was that this point, the only one he embolded, then goes on to claim that the reason the entry for Katana (I assume) is "acceptable" is because it is "for a website created by you". So he's accusing me of promoting a site I developed in preference to the three other sites.

How he came to this conclusion I have no idea. Especially, and this is the real icing on the cake in all of this, because when I was re-instated I discovered I was expected to declare any web sites I was associated with. So I ended up sending a long email to jimnoble listing all the web sites I'd worked on, many of which were in Milton, unsurprisingly. If he'd had bothered to look at that list he would have discovered that Katana wasn't on there (not indeed are any of the other hair salons).

The bottom line is that he was libelling me as this message as presumably visible to other editors with sufficient permissions.

6. walklakes.co.uk is not listable in Milton and certainly not in Computers_and_Internet (was Internet). It's hardly the first place that a surfer would look for Lake District walks and I can't believe that you ever thought it was. I've noticed that you designed the site and I can only assume that you did it for SEO purposes. This is editorial abuse and will not be tolerated. It's already pending evaluation within Cumbria so just delete this instance.

So, to be clear, a business based in Milton can't be listed in Milton automatically. The implication seemed to be that it has to be "the first place" someone would look. Well that's true of many businesses in Milton (which I also list and which he doesn't mention here). He may have a point over the category, for me it is a "Computers and Internet" business in relation to Milton as that's what we do here but I can see the argument that it should be listed under "Travel and Tourism".

The "SEO purposes" is always going to be a problem of course in that I'm wearing two hats. And that's why DMOZ asked for, and got, a full declaration of all the sites I'm involved in. Including WalkLakes and lots of others, including several others now listed under Milton. But for me to exclude Milton sites just because I'm involved with them would be ridiculous. What matters is that I'm not biased towards them in particular. If I was, as he implies in 5, then there would be a problem. But I'm not being.

And the final kick in the teeth is "It's already pending evaluation within Cumbria so just delete this instance.". Yes, it is indeed pending, and it has been for months. So while I've been working for DMOZ sorting out Milton nothing has happened to the entry I would have like to see added for the benefit of any visitors to DMOZ.

You can do good work, as archive.org prior to you recent reinstatement shows, and we'd like that to continue. On the other hand, your current slipshod editing and verging on the abusive editing can't be allowed to continue.

I hope this warning finally gets your attention.

Volunteer meta jimnoble

Well yes, it certainly got my attention. I replied, categorically denying his accusations in point 5, and then resigned as editor. I've got more important things to do.

But here's the thing, compare Milton to the other villages listed under Cambridgeshire on DMOZ. I had 65 sites listed there. Most villages of a similar size have less than ten. Histon and Impington, for example, another Cambridge necklace like ours but a lot bigger, has only fourteen. Waterbeach just north of us and also bigger, has only six.

With some encouragement I might have been continued working on DMOZ and resolved the quality issues which concerned him in his point 5, indeed I was even thinking of offering to take on some more nearby villages, starting with Waterbeach but after this message I have no desire to any longer.

Thinking about it now I concluded DMOZ is dying anyway: the back end software is clunky as hell, there's no automated email for new actions from what I saw so it relies on you logging in and doesn't bother to tell you if you need to log in just to prevent being locked out. It's also of note then when I mentioned this to Beth last night, and she's someone who's using the Web every day when she's not out researching walks, she said "What's DMOZ?".

Which sums it up really.

Tags: websites Written 03/04/13


Previous comments about this article:

On 06/04/13 at 10:29am Paul wrote:

For the record today I got an email from jimnoble in which he did have the grace to apologize for his accusation about Katana although the rest of it had much the same tone as the previous message.

Shrug. I'm well out of it: I don't need this sort of stress.

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