Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Open Directory Project: C-L-O-S-E-D

People with new web sites are advised to get listed in the Open Directory Project. It's striving to be the largest human-edited directory on the web. A listing provides a very high ranking link that increases the prominence of your site, and it's free, unlike the Yahoo Directory.

Here are my own results.

I started submitting sites last winter. Usually, I was careful to only submit one site at a time, as instructed. I may have violated this once.

I compared my sites to existing sites in the webcomics categories. I did not see a quality or archive size issue.

Over the next ten months, I submitted a total of six times. My sites never appeared in the directory, and I never received a reaction. Attempts to inquire were thwarted by emails that bounced back.

I saw little or no change in the directory's comics listings during that time.

The directory is filled with invitations to become a volunteer editor. Figuring this would put me in touch with someone, and that they probably lacked help in comics, I applied. Ten minutes later I received an email telling me that they had more editors in comics than they need, and requesting I apply for another topic.

That's not likely.

Because I manage a webcomics list, I am pretty familiar with most active webcomic titles, plus lots that have dropped away.

The Open Directory Listing for online comics is filled with unfamiliar titles. Unfamiliar, because they're dead, and have been for years.

A few sites aren't exactly dead. The comic is, but there are links to a blog that has updated within a few months of now. They're not about comics.

In the "D" section, picked at random, are about 65 titles. I should recognize at least half, but only spotted about six I know to be active.

All those comics editors -- what can they be doing?

Usually non-pathological human behavior that defies easy explanation traces back to incompetence. It's a polite way of saying the people in charge are unable to meet even the most basic requirements of their assignments.

Or, were this project honest enough to require people to sign their real name to editing actions, we might discover that webcomic empires built not on quality but on early arrival, fearing competition, have stacked the deck by squatting in editor positions. That seems far-fetched to me, but the roster of approved comics contains names of people who have been caught executing similar hi-jinks. Once caught, always a suspect. Multiple times caught, well hello. With one exception, the people I think of first as possibly being capable of such a scheme are present on the roster. (I don't report most of the stories of human weakness that reach me, because I'm really here to write about comics, not duke it out with some comics demagogue's born yesterday fanboy brigade.)

Wikipedia's comments on the topic lacks attribution: "There have long been allegations that volunteer ODP editors give favorable treatment to their own websites while concomitantly thwarting the good faith efforts of their competition." The site, owned by AOL, has experienced some documented issues in the past.

I'm all for archiving comics of the past, but linking to them is a sorry way to do it, because it requires somebody to keep paying the comic's hosting bill. Offering a comics directory should also give users current titles (vastly underrepresented) and some sorting of dead links. I could whip that list into order in a month, part-time. I would like to know who and what is staffing this department, and who is over-seeing it, because if the rest of the Open Directory Project is in similar disrepair, it's a lost cause.

Roughly Every 3rd Link is a Dud Like These
Legend Knights - dead over 4 years
Demonic Boppu - dead since '06
Otaku Life  - dead for years

I encourage everyone to submit their comics today (takes about two minutes.) As is so common, the less there is at stake, the more tenaciously people protect their turf, so please share any outcomes.

Here is direct submission to the directory. You'll be entering your comic, URL, brief description, email, Captcha code and agreeing to terms. That's it. Make a note of your submission, and check it every 3-4 weeks. I'd like to know if anyone gets in.

Navigate in from ARTS at dmoz.com if you want to list a comics site that is not a comic, and you need the right section.

Note: I accidentally published this several hours early, so I'm just going to leave it.