Taking a page from the Open Directory, Go is inviting the masses of the web to help manage its directory of web sites. Currently in beta testing, the "Go Guides" program lets anyone participate in the process of categorizing the web.
"To date, it has been really successful. We've received amazing topics, real nuggets of gold," said Jennifer Mullin, Go's Director of Search and Navigation. About 500 guides are currently involved in the program, which will go fully public later this month.
An innovative feature of the program is that guides who do a good job are rewarded with more power and authority, while those who do a poor job are penalized.
For instance, all guides begin at Level 1, which means that they can suggest sites and approve submissions by others, but these actions must be authorized by other guides before they take effect. As their actions are approved, the guides rise in rank and eventually earn the power to do things without needing approval.
Similarly, if a guide with sufficient rank adds a site or makes a change that causes disagreement by another guide, a complaint can be issued. If upheld, the guide loses points and drops in rank.
These checks-and-balances are meant to avoid a problem that has occasionally cropped up with the Open Directory, where editors may sign up for categories and then do nothing but promote their own sites. It's a nice solution to letting the general public participate in the directory while simultaneously protecting its quality. It also appears to be working. Mullin said that the biggest problem has not been spam but instead educating Go Guides on how to write proper site descriptions.
One thing that I particularly like is that you can participate in Go Guides without having to commit to being an editor, as is the case at the Open Directory. It's perfectly valid to join, then suggest sites for whatever categories are of interest to you, rather than being locked into one particular area.
Of course, should you want to manage a category -- Go calls them Topics -- that's an option, too. New Go Guides can manage up to two topics at a time.
There are little bugs still to be worked out, such as improving the system so that sites rejected for small reasons can be easily resubmitted. But overall, I thought the program worked surprisingly well. It was also rather compelling. I planned to spend just a short time using it for this review, but three hours later, I was still at it, raiding my bookmarks to find new sites to add.
Be aware that there is a delay between when sites are added internally and when they appear live at Go -- it seems to be about a week, at the moment. And for those of you unfamiliar with the Go Directory, you can browse topics from the Go home page - just click on the "Topics" tab below the search box. Related topics also appear at the top of search results, in the "Matching topics" section.
Also understand that there are some superguides working within the system. These are Go staffers that have been tasked with overseeing the directory. I find that they quickly review and approve suggestions made to even less-popular topics that have no designated guides, and my only wish is that they were clearly identified as Go employees. Go says this may happen in the future. Basically, if you see someone with what seems an amazing number of points, they are probably on the Go staff.
The chief webmaster question is probably, "Can I submit my own site?" Certainly. If your site is of high-quality and not currently listed, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to suggest it. It doesn't mean you'll automatically get in, but it does mean that you'll probably get reviewed faster than if you used the external submit feature.
If you decide to submit your site, be smart/nice and submit some other good sites within the same topic or to different topics at the same time. Why? First, it becomes less obvious that you are submitting your own site when the submission is mixed among others. Second, by submitting other sites, you're actually helping to build the directory beyond just your own self-interest. That's the point of the program. So pick out some of your favorite sites and submit them along with your own.
Go Guides Beta
Ready to participate? Sign-up via this page.
Go Directory Help
More information about the directory, including how to submit if you are not a Go Guide. A form-based submission feature is coming.
How Infoseek/Go Works
This page within the Subscribers-Only Area has tips on doing a submission to the Infoseek/Go directory. If you've forgotten your password, retrieve it using the Password Looker-Upper at http://searchenginewatch.com/about/finder.html
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