Community Search Blossoms
From The Search Engine Report
July 5, 2000
The popularity of the Open Directory has not been lost on new search companies. Several are trying to tap into human power both as a means to locate, reorganize and rate information. Here's a summary of new players looking to leverage communities into better search.
Allows anyone to create "guides" about different topics. A guide is simply a list of links, but Clip2 makes it easy to create link lists or web logs without knowing any HTML. Visitors to the site can search or browse for topics of interest, and relevant guides will be displayed. Visitors can also chose to "subscribe" to guides by adding them to their own Clip2 account. There's even a nice mechanism that allows the guide's owner to send or receive email from their subscribers. Guide builders will find an option to import links off of any page you find, which is somewhat of a concern because it could also make it easy for others to take links off pages you've created. On the other hand, all they can do is import the links and titles, not any descriptions you may have written. An "Add It" tool for your browser also makes it easy to import the link and title of any page you visit. Ideally, the tool would also import the meta description tag from the page, if one was present. Bookmarks or favorites can also be imported. Guides you create can be public, open to anyone, or "private," accessible only to those you allow. To help searchers, public guides are also assigned ratings. All guides begin with a rating of 10, and ratings go up if people discover and make use of information within the guide. Overall, Clip2 is a great place to visit if you've always wanted to build and share a link resource around a particular topic but have lacked the skills to create web pages. It's also a place where searchers may come across great nuggets of information. For instance, be sure to use the Top 100 Guides link from the site's home page. Mixed among too many guides of affiliate links are fun sources of info, such as a the Computer Gaming for Girlz guide, a concise Harry Potter guide and the gruesome yet fascinating celebrity Death List guide.
Like Clip2, Octopus allows anyone to create collections of information around different topics that are called "views." Views are extremely powerful. In addition to links to web pages, a view can contain parts of web pages, images, "informational elements" that pull data such as sports scores into a view, and more. Even entire web pages can be added to a view, which is convenient, but which also raises some issues of legality, somewhat similar to the issue of pages being framed. All this power comes with a price. Octopus is a harder system to get used to, at least initially. However, the price may well be worth paying, especially if you have recurring informational needs. For instance, in just a few minutes, I was able to make a view for several major search companies that contained their names, addresses, company descriptions from Hoover's, one month stock prices, annual financial information and even their logos. All of this was done by dragging and dropping elements. Moreover, I could easily change the view and even export information into a spreadsheet. It sure beats copying and pasting information HTML into a spreadsheet for analysis. Searchers coming to Octopus can perform keyword searches or browse the Octopus directory (click on the Directory button at the top of the page, to do this). As the site has just emerged from beta, the content still hasn't quite developed. For that reason, I think browsing may be the better way to go, rather than searching, which may not come up with good hits. When entering a category, you'll discover both "Octopus Views," created by the Octopus staff, and "User Views" that are created and shared by Octopus users. User views are ranked in order of how popular they are (meaning how many unique visitors at Octopus view them each day). For a good introduction to the power of Octopus, visit the site's home page and try on of the Top 5 User Views listed at the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Overall, if you are an informational professional, Octopus is a must visit, especially if you deal with company information. Do note that the painless installation of a small, 15K Java applet is required.
Cherry-Picking The Web
The Standard, April 17, 2000
More background on Octopus and other "metabrowse" sites.
There are several bookmark-based search engines now, such as HotLinks.com. Quiver also uses bookmarks to power its directory product, but the company isn't aiming its service at consumers. Instead, Quiver's hopes that vertical portals will chose its technology to create targeted directories. For instance, a tennis web site might get bookmarks from its visitors and thus have a bookmark-based tennis directory that might be especially relevant to its users. As a demonstration of its technology, you can also search at the Quiver site (from the home page, click on the Quiver Technology Preview image). Unfortunately, there's no web-based system that allows you to contribute. Instead, you have to download the 1 MB Qbar applet. The applet also keeps track of browsing behavior (anonymously, the company says), in order to refine Quiver's results.
In the future, I'll take a longer look at the sites below. In the meantime, here's a quick overview of them:
Adding and rating sites is a snap -- and I've had some reports from webmasters that it can be a traffic booster, as well.
Money is a prime motivator here. Become a member and get paid for participating, as you also do if your site or people you know send traffic to HotRate. Upon my quick initial review, I found the listings surprisingly good, editors that appear very dedicated and lots of help information. Non-categorized results come from Google.
In beta for the past two months, Wherewithall also offers money to its editors. Unlike HotRate, the difference is that earnings are tied to maintaining a good category, rather than any actions throughout the site. Data comes initially from the Open Directory Project, but Wherewithall editors can build out categories independently of the ODP. Wherewithall has also made provisions so that existing ODP editors can continue to work in both systems at the same time. If you are an editor, you might get over there now and claim your category, if this site sounds of interest to you. For the time being, ODP editors have the priority.
In preview mode, the community submits and rates sites. There's also an altruistic monetary incentive. Your activities can help raise money for charity. Non-categorized results come from Google.
Life After the Open Directory Project
Traffick, June 1, 2000
Former ODP editor David Prenatt found one day that he could no longer log in to perform his editing work. He soon realized that he had been expelled from the project. Far from a rant, Prenatt eloquently chronicles his ouster and illuminates aspects of the Open Directory with detachment. Prenatt describes a rather fearsome world where speaking up equals being attacked and highlights a backdoor allowing some large content providers like Rolling Stone and AOL easy edit control over their listings. This is obviously one side of the story, and any community has its problems. Nevertheless, it highlight problems volunteer directories may encounter.