Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Post Mortem on Zeal

Search engine guru Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch fame reported yesterday on his Search Engine Watch Blog that LookSmart will shutter the Zeal website on March 28, 2006. In notifying users of the imminent demise of Zeal, LookSmart took the opportunity to plug Furl. To its credit, LookSmart gave its community of volunteer Zealots some notice. One can only wonder what plans LookSmart has for the Zeal namespace, which currently has a Google PageRank of no less than 8/10.

Last year, LookSmart CEO Dave Hills reached out to XODPer Michael Doyle (aka Polecat) in response to an e-mail that Doyle had sent Hill narrating Doyle's misgivings about Zeal's misguided editorial policies. Said editorial policies were being interpreted by Doyle's supervising editor at Zeal "as meaning that if there is any direct selling activity then the site is commercial. A collector offering to buy and sell has been deemed commercial. . . ." According to Doyle, "This modified Editor's policy, if strictly applied, would actually create a . . . disenfranchised group of . . . sites that lack the resources to pay LookSmart . . . , but are not allowed to be listed on Zeal due to some subjective guideline rule interpretation."

I replied to Doyle, "When Zeal was first acquired by LookSmart, some expressed serious doubts about the practicality of having a community of volunteer editors being subjected to the content control policies of a commercial directory staffed by professional
editors. Apparently, such doubts were well founded. . . .What astonishes me is that there are still some people who are interested in joining indexing communities like the late great ODP, Zeal, JoeAnt, and GoGuides. Even more astonishing to me is that there are still people out there seeking to exploit volunteer labor."

A short time later, I ran into the proprietors of GoGuides and Best of the Web at Search Engine Strategies San Jose 2005, and I was impressed by the fact that they were both doing quite well with their Web directories, but it wasn't that big of a mystery as to why. As I noted previously on XODP, both of these Web directories rely upon a paid submission model. This is not to say that any and all volunteer-edited Web directories are doomed to failure, but rather that there is nothing inherently evil about making a profit, and that economic viability can help insure the success of any worthwhile enterprise.


Blogger Internet Esquire said...

I was scooped by Rob O. Zilla before I could repost this to the XODP Yahoo! eGroup.

Friday, March 24, 2006 8:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is over a year later and the ODP has reached a new low in irrational and cruel editor dismissals. While editor compostannie, who had been contributing to the ODP for 6 years with great devotion, was seriously ill, she made some innocent mistakes in a category. She tried to login one day and found the door shut in her face. A few editors left in protest, but the rest chose to continue on with the cult.

I can't wait for DMOZ to shut down permanently, and for editors to find more productive activities. I don't think approving websites draws the brightest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 6:26:00 PM  

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