It has been estimated that the Open Directory Project increases in size by 1000 listings per day. So what kind of sites are editors eager to list? This thread is the place for editors to share some of their additions.
Each week I flip through my local newspaper and inevitably finish with several urls from articles torn out to add to the ODP. Recently I have listed several local activist groups trying to address county issues. These types of sites are typically unsophisticated, but present a range of information. The webmasters also seem to improve over time.
Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum object to the Montgomery County Public Schools' Board of Education's proposed new curriculum on Family Life and Human Sexuality for 8th grade and high school students. Although their home page is cluttered for my tastes, you can figure out immediately what their mission is and what the status of the issue is. I also see that they have been adding more and more peripheral information. They used to have forums, but those got taken down after getting extremely contentious, nasty, and slanderous.
Mid County Citizens Alliance is primarily focused on the Montgomery County's planned development at two sites in the mid county area. They have a pretty straightforward layout with a fair amount of background and discussion of the issues. My favorite thing is a modified aerial photo where they cut an image of existing development from one photo to superimpose on the undeveloped land being discussed. Pretty simple, but it really gets the point across!
The Longdraft Road Coalition is the newest addition to the county's activism websites. It's a little rough around the edges - for example, when you arrive on the home page, there is no context for the issue. Where is this road exactly and why should I care? But despite the lack of good navigation from the home page, they do have content about what their purpose is, what they've been doing, and what is coming up.
I'm looking forward to next week's paper to see what interesting tidbits appear.
After watching the very poignant TLC documentary "The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off", which recounts the story of Jonny Kennedy, a 36-year old man who died in 2003 from skin cancer that he developed as a complication of Epidermolysis Bullosa, I realized that we didn't have a category for this genetic disorder. So I hunted down some relevant sites and created it.
That's frequently how I end up editing -- I see something on TV or read something that makes me go hunting for information and then I find myself creating a category for that information or beefing up an already existing category. Sometimes it's a TV show or actor, other times a place or a health issue; sometimes important and sometimes fluffy.
I tend to find myself wandering all over the directory, usually updating broken links, finding replacements, but I often found myself dragged back to the same thing....
See, I love travelling to new places. I love finding out about those places both before I go (to find restaurants, hotels, etc), but also to find out about something that I have seen while there.
While a search engine is great for the second question (put in your question and see what comes up), they tend not to be so good for the "what's there?" type of thing. This is where I think the ODP Regional categories really have potential. I can go to a category for a locality, and see what editors have thought worth a listing. I have made many neat discoveries (often telling friends who live in the area something they didn't know) and so I love to spend my time working on finding other sites of that ilk.
And for people who want to avoid hotel and restaurant chains, having websites listed for those sort of independant businesses gives people the information they need to make informed choices, as an alternative to the hotel "cheap booking" sites.
A friend had a baby and her daughter was born with hypotonia. I didn't know what that was, but we were both concerned. After reading about it on the net, I had gathered enough urls for a new category on the subject.
I really have fun taking a small regional category with very few listings and finding sites for it by searching through other directories and links on other sites. I even find myself noticing URLs posted on signs, vehicles, or advertisements that lead to a great, content rich site that I can add to the directory.
I came across one site when I was in a local photography business. I asked about a really cool looking photo of a young man running using prosthetics. The person in the photo ended up being the owners son and he had a web site. cameronclapp.com
Taking a category from 30 to 100 listings is really fun.
This week's local newspaper gleanings brought to the ODP:
Operation Second Chance - a relatively new local charity which aids in the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded service men and women and assists in housing modifications for the disabled. A lot of these wounded come through Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, D.C., so this is of local interest.
Brave Dave - an avid golfer as a school boy, Dave Gearing was afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis, and sponsors an annual golf tournament to raise money to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
And this one I picked up from a charity stand at the local 4th of July parade:
Alex's Lemonade Stand For Pediatric Cancer Research - Fighting childhood cancer one cup at a time. A little girl with cancer decided to hold a lemonade stand when she was 4 to raise money for "her" hospital. In the last five years, they've raised over 2.5 million dollars.
I can tell you that there is one type of site that is becoming increasingly difficult to list: local real estate agents.
We treat real estate agents differently than we do a lot of businesses, and much of that treatment is a result of historical directory abuse by agents. As a result, real estate agents are entitled to consideration of a single listing in the locality where they physically have their office. We do not give real estate agents listings within Business/ only within Regional/.
The challenge facing real estate agents comes down to one thing: unique content. It seems that the vast majority of real estate agents are signing up with one or more of the companies that have a selection of pre-defined site. We call them templates.
Now we are not opposed to the use of templates, nor do we reject a site out of hand because it uses a template. That is a business decision that is not our place to challenge or penalize. But, the use of a template does not guarantee automatic inclusion in the directory – in fact, the opposite is nearly true. When we review a real estate site that is using a template, we are searching for unique content beyond that agent's name and address.
We expect to find things such as the agent's own listings, or a featured property that tells why it is featured, or a complete bio that really talks about what this particular agent brings to the table. Instead we see canned biographies that have seven words changed from the last one we saw, or recycled agent photos. Yes, we have seen the same agent's photo on multiple sites. We see sites with no listings, or no featured properties. Think of it this way: every real estate agent site has a link to the local MLS (so that is not unique) links to the same pages about schools (so that is not unique), links to the same area attractions (so that is not unique), and so on. Links, unless they are exceptionally well organized and offer the visitor something that no other set of links offers, are pretty well not unique.
So if an agent is using a template, we pretty well know the areas that are completely lacking in unique content, and those where unique content might be found. Just before writing this I reviewed seven real estate agent sites in one state. Every single one used the exact same bio (changed to have their individual name), not a one of them had a listing, only one of them had a featured property, none of them had any degree of unique content. It was as if each agent signed up for a website, paid their money, gave their name and address, and went merrily upon their way, content in the knowledge that they had a website. Only none of them got listed, because none of their websites really offered anything to the surfers, and that is who we care about.
I've had real estate agents, in this forum, tell me that the reason they don't do unique content, is because it is hard to do.
That, dear reader, is why we put such a premium on it.
Fairly recently we added a category dedicated to Nicolaus Steno. He was a talented seventeenth-century Danish anatomist. His study of comparative anatomy led him to observations and hypotheses which are the foundations of modern geology. He was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1988.
Before the price of gasoline became prohibitive, we took a trip to Northern Arizona, visiting Flagstaff, Jerome, Prescott Valley and Young. While doing the tourist thing we scarfed up every handbill, flyer, and freebie publication we could find.
Now, lots of new sites are being added to smaller communities in Northern Arizona. These are sites that were never submitted, and may never have been submitted. They will just "appear" in the directory, and the site owners may never even know they are listed.
I recently went to the exhibits of an international photography event, the 'Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie' in Arles, France ( Accueil - Les Rencontres d'Arles ). Good opportunity to get and list URLs of a few sites in Arts/Photography...
In a few days the winner of the Booker Prize for Literature will be announce, the Booker Prize being a competition open to authors from Ireland and Commonwealth countries.
All the authors who have been shortlisted for this year's award now have categories (and sites) within the Directory's Author Section.
Sports/Events/Olympics/Winter_Games/2006_-_Torino has filled out quite a bit in the last three weeks or so. Some of the major media outlets don't have a special section on the games until just before or even after the games start. The Olympic sites I've seen this time seem more useful and easier to navigate than for past games.