it sounds like the open directory project is getting a little too open with so-called primary content providers (PCPs):
“Quite some time ago, PCPs such as Rolling Stone Magazine and (surprise!) America Online approached the top management at ODP and suggested that it would be a good deal all around if the PCPs could manage their own site listings within ODP. After all, many ODP editors were also Web site owners who managed their own listings. The difference was that the ODP editors had to work their way up through the ranks whereas PCPs were given the proverbial key to the Emerald City from day one. To add fuel to the fire, many trustworthy volunteer editors were “counseled” for deleting or modifying inappropriate listings that had been added to ODP by PCP editors.”
“Lack of representativeness and lack of transparency. Unlike the federal bureaucracy in a democratic nation, you don’t precisely know what the criteria for acceptance are. Criteria for progress through the ranks is similarly unknown. The Open Directory’s procedures for accepting new editors or accepting site submissions are no more open or transparent than they are at private companies like Yahoo or Looksmart.
Incentive for corruption and excessive categorization of low-quality sites.Yahoo and Looksmart (presumably “closed shops”) have employees performing similar functions to the Open Directory Category Editors. Think about this. Looking at it from the point of view of organizational sociology (yes, I must), the underlying reality is that these three are all organizations with rules and structures whose main output is the opinionated categorization, and importantly, rejection, of a vast number of submissions of web sites and Internet content. The key difference seems to be that dmoz category editors aren’t paid. What is the likely result of this? Think about the analogy of a country whose bureaucrats are poorly compensated. Any textbook can give you examples. All moralizing aside, extremely low pay creates an
incentive for the postal inspector or the traffic cop to engage in petty forms of corruption. What’s my city health inspector’s incentive to REALLY crack down on all the bug-infested restaurants downtown? And what might motivate a dmoz category editor to prevent their buddies’ lower quality sites from getting one or even several listings? And are they likely to think about the whole mess all fits together, or is that someone else’s problem? In fact, there are considerable incentives in volunteer directories to pump up one’s numbers of site submissions, since that is the key criterion for advancement through the ranks. The web’s best resources, therefore, are impossible to find, buried under a mountain of minutiae.
The “open” directory is owned by a $300 billion company. Most importantly — and I hate to bring this to the attention of the self-governing republic of dmoz — the relatively benevolent overseer of its operations, Netscape, was acquired by AOL, which recently merged with Time Warner, creating a $300 billion behemoth. To repeat: the Open Directory Project is owned by AOL Time Warner. The “project” now has marketing executives assigned to it, though you won’t see that openly admitted on the “About us” page. AOL Time Warner: a bastion of openness? Quite the opposite. AOL loves to be proprietary. It dislikes the “open” Internet, but just now it probably wants as much PR as it can get which juxtaposes the word “open” with “AOL.” This could help a lot in smoothing things by the regulators. Fair enough. But when that’s all done with, AOL, how about some truth in advertising?”
bummer. i still think it’s the best thing going, but i’d hate to see a perfectly good idea go to waste.