Hall of Shame: Open Directory Project

I recently volunteered to help edit a small category within the Open Directory Project (ODP). The ODP describes itself as “the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors“.  The project is honourable and worth supporting amidst the sea of sharp practice and commercial superficiality that floods the modern Web. There appears to be a desperate shortage in most categories of editors to help keep up with the  tide of new websites (please forgive the lazy aquatic metaphors).

The message I got back by email was “… you have chosen a category that is … broader than we typically assign to a new editor. We would encourage you to re-apply for a category that … is smaller in scope, in order to increase your chances of being accepted …  If you wish to re-apply, you must fill out another application … Please do not reply to this email“.

Now, I could have taken umbrage given my experience and CV at the verdict that I couldn’t be trusted with what is a very small are of content. But, that’s entirely their decision to make and I have no grounds for complaint there. What really irks is the needless and insulting “If you wish to re-apply, you must fill out another application”. The application process is not trivial – it requires thoughtful responses, some research, and samples of work.  How difficult would it have been to enable me to log back in to my online application and edit it to select a narrower category and resubmit? At the very least the original submission process could have sent me an automated email containing my responses so that I could cut-and-paste them into a new application.

To be fair, I probably spent only about 30 minutes on  the original application. But, I’m not short of things to do and was volunteering my time and expertise. The inconsiderate response really doesn’t motivate me to spend another 20 minutes redoing things from scratch in the hope that I might be accepted to a programme that will require me to commit a lot more time voluntarily.

So, into the Hall of Shame goes the ODP. I hope they improve their systems soon as it’s a shame to see such a worthy project fail to reach its potential for want of some simple changes. The lesson here is that a small investment in improving a process can produce disproportionate benefits – something that I’m pleased to say we aim to practise routinely at Kent House on our client projects.

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