RubberStamped.org

December 31, 2004

Tsunami

It's a cliche to say "words cannot describe". But it's true. The horror and sense of loss is unspeakable. We urge everyone to give what they can. Tonight, up to five million people lack basic supplies to stay alive.

Categories and Ontology

Took some good advice from some good people, and have decided to reign in the empty categories a bit. Having too many empty categories wasn't a good look at this early stage. Instead, the ontology will roll out gradually.

I've hired another editor to to help build a unique dataset of authoritative websites. We don't have a free-for-all submission queue, rather we seek out internet sites and add them to the directory by hand. Quality, not quantity. We also welcome listing requests from webmasters for a review fee of $25.

The volume of webmaster submissions is also ramping up (strange for this time of year, eh), and we're seeing very high quality overall - we've only needed to reject a handful thus far.

This reaffirms my opinion that free submission policies result in mostly junk. Professional webmasters who value their domains know the value of a quality directory listing, and the value of their time. They don't want their listings buried under a pile of fly-by-night sites. Our review fee and editorial policy ensures there's a barrier to entry, and this has the benefit of filtering out most of the deadwood.

In a few weeks time, we'll have the start of something unique and valuable. Stay tuned, and happy new year :)

December 28, 2004

Living life in public

When it comes to launching websites, there are two schools of thought:

a) plan extensively, test, retest, wait until everything is ready. Launch.
b) throw it out there, see what happens

I favour the later school. I'll tell you why:

1) Feedback from the community is invaluable: if your website is cast in stone before it is launched, it's already dead. The web is an interactive space, and users shape websites' every bit as much as the webmaster does. Well, good ones, anyway. Always listen. Seek feedback. Change tact. Iterate.

2) I wouldn't have met up with Edward Lewis: Edward is a killer coder. He told me where I was going wrong, and showed me what I could do better. If I hadn't put this out there, Edward wouldn't have seen me. I'm glad he did.

3) What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger: I've tied together some good ideas (if I do say so myself). I've planned. I aim to fill a gap in the market that has been overlooked. So far, I've got stuff right. I got some stuff wrong. So I've stripped out the stuff that was wrong, and pushed more of the stuff that was right. This directory has been made stronger.

The danger: is that people will judge you once. Then overlook you.
The benefits: outweigh that risk enormously. I've got a growing list of fresh new angles I hadn't even considered before, and that haven't been covered in the directory space up until now.

Things are taking shape faster than I ever thought possible. Roll on 2005.

Topic Centers

We're populating categories with "Topic Center" sites, also known as authority sites.

We identify and select these sites using a methodology that includes both machine and human analysis. These listings are not the result of webmaster submission or paid placement. These are free listings sought out by our editorial staff.

Works like this - for every paid listing request we process, we seek out and add a less commercial Topic Center site. We also seek out non-profit and educational resources. This policy helps us achieve a balance in editorial between commercial and non-commercial interests.

Over time, authorities can change. So too will the authority sites we list. We feel that this approach will give us a unique, interesting and fresh data set. Some directories have become tired, outdated and stale because the existing data isn't reviewed and churned on a regular basis.

Unlike some directories, we are not focused on delivering quantity. Instead, we're taking a reductive approach based on the notion that communities of interest have a limited number of authorities at the center, around which the entire community orients. We're looking to identify and categorize these authorities.

We do not feel that the traditional, passive directory model of waiting for submissions from webmasters will allow us to accomplish our goals. Instead, we have adopted a model that will enable our editors to pro-actively identify and categorize authorities and, more importantly, keep these listings up to date.

In addition, our URL queue is open to webmasters who feel that their site will compliment our Topic Center listings, and those submissions are subject to a review fee in order to help fund our work.

This policy will also serve to ensure our editors time is used in the most efficient and productive manner possible, as free submission policies can often result in significant administration over-head and low-quality listing requests.

Rubberstamped.org does not carry advertising, and accepted listing requests should not be construed as such.

December 26, 2004

The value of feedback

We've been seeking feedback from the webmaster community. The value of this process has been enormous, and reaffirms my faith in the ClueTrain manifesto point 18: "Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity".

What we've gained from the process:

We've seen problem areas in our approach. We're addressing them.
We've seen technical things we could be doing a whole lot better. We're doing them.
Our copy needed tightening up. Onto it.
We've seen spelling mistakes and omissions. Correcting.
We've seen whole new opportunities in the market we hadn't even considered previously. We're very happy about that!

We will be incorporating feedback that we received, and will be introducing fresh initiatives that will change people's perceptions about directories, and the value they can bring to the web.

Thanks all. Back early January.