Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Linking Wikipedia Articles to ODP/dMOZ Categories

While following up on a previous XODP Blog post narrating the death and resurrection of ODP, I found a link in a post on the Text Technologies blog pointing to a post on Joost de Valk's blog entitled DMOZ and Wikipedia: how it should work:
"Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. . . . An encyclopedia should contain references to other articles in that encyclopedia, but doesn’t nescessarily have to have external links. A directory’s major purpose (at least the ODP’s major purpose) is to contain external links, chosen by editors to be of high quality.

"[ . . . ]

"On some articles, editors have linked to DMOZ, and removed almost all external links. That, to me, looks very good. The links in DMOZ have been checked, and should be of high value, in Wikipedia, this is impossible to do, as anyone can add his [or her] own link."
A truly open Web directory would be a great companion to Wikipedia, but linking a Wikipedia article to ODP and eliminating all other outbound links from that article will create many more problems than it will solve, a fortiori when one considers the uncertain future of ODP.

Astonishingly, no one seems to be pointing out just how bad this idea really is, much less why. When it comes to quality control, ODP's track record is much worse than Wikipedia's, so much so that both MSN and Google now allow webmasters to opt out of using ODP's meta data for their site descriptions, whereas Yahoo! has its own human editors to provide site descriptions. Add to this ODP's historical backlog of hundred of thousands (perhaps millions?) of sites, with a typical wait of some six months or more for a site submission to be reviewed, along with the total lack of transparency in the purportedly Open Directory Project, and Joost's idea makes about as much sense as amending the United States Constitution so that the current President Bush can be elected for a third term and stay the course in Iraq.

Assuming, arguendo, that ODP did not have systemic issues with quality control, was not a black hole for site submissions, and actually was an open directory, the idea of removing relevant outbound links from Wikipedia and replacing them with one link to a purportedly authoritative and comprehensive Web directory would be bad enough all by itself. One of the best things about Wikipedia is that it is a centralized clearinghouse for information on keyword-based topics, and a list of relevant outbound links is a logical component of such an online reference. To this end, many (if not most) Wikipedia articles include easily verifiable citations that link to other websites. Consequently, I find it hard to believe that more than a handful of Wikipedians would take Joost's suggestion seriously, but well over a thousand Wikipedia articles currently use a DMOZ link template, and Wikipedia's external links guideline was revised on November 16, 2006 to make the use of this template the norm. Notwithstanding the six week outage of ODP's website, this recommendation remains the status quo.


Anonymous Joost de Valk said...

I intended my article as a start to the conversation, I'm glad it has done so :)

When writing my article, I was thinking about an ideal DMOZ, which worked and had no problems whatsoever. I'll digest your opinion some more though ;)

Thursday, February 22, 2007 4:44:00 AM  

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