My friend Eddie reports that he has upgraded and expanded his local Forest of Dean (UK) directory based upon requests and suggestions emailed in by users. The update is complete and includes an expansion into the Wye Valley area. Details at those links.
Also neat is a Screen Cast on how to use the directory.
This is the local directory I always use as an example of how to make a proper local directory and portal: directory + events calendar + announcements blog, using local knowledge that Google maps can’t match. I know that the Forest of Dean directory is heavily used by both local residents and tourists.
If you are going to visit the Forest of Dean area, I recommend you give the directory a good look.
This started out as a thinking out loud type post a few weeks ago. At that time I couldn’t really think of a straight forward use for it but my instincts told me it could be useful or somebody would figure out a use for it eventually. Anyway I spent the week before Christmas 2018 getting things set up.
Okay, a hyperlink node and “clump of links” are synonymous. If I call your link page a hyperlink node it suddenly sounds legit. 🙂
The Hyperlinks node directory is an index of individual collections of web links, by type. Therefore it indexes: blogrolls and following pages, directories, search engines, linkblogs, link pages, niche directories, webrings and other significant collections. Comments are enabled for each listing, if you have a thought on a listing, please share it. These collections often map out odd little corners of the web.
Thinking on it some more, I think it has value for: 1. discovery, finding new sites and blogs to follow by seeing what other people have taken the time to link to, 2. eventually I think it might be useful for indexing communities, 3. establishing, at least one, central index of decentralized search and the hyperlinking guerrilla war against the search monopoly silos, 4. an aid to reestablishing “surfing the web”. There may be more that I have not thought of.
The big utility for me is having a place to list these when I stumble across them, so they can be shared, rather than just bookmarking them (or worse forgetting to bookmark them).
Challenge #1: Build Your Own
My first challenge to you is build your own node: Easiest would be an old fashion link page or a blogroll/following page; or maybe a linkblog or a linkblog-directory hybrid; or even a directory. Whatever you feel like, build it and show people websites you like. Examples and ideas are in the directory. You can do this.
Challenge #2: List It Here
You might already have a linkblog, link page or big blogroll, if so you can either add the URL to the directory or you can send me the URL via the contact form (hopefully it works) at the bottom of this post and I will review it for inclusion. It dose not even have to be your own, if you run across something drop me the URL and I’ll look at it.
Or if you build something for Challenge 1, come back and list it.
The idea is to have a lot more of these all across the indieweb so web surfers can find human reviewed recommendations. Like Word of Mouth recommendations from people you trust.
I hope this is in some way useful. Thanks!
Be sure to include the URL to your node in the form below:
Kicks Condor announced the launch of his new web directory: href.cool. This is a meticulously made, well thought out tiny web directory. Each listing is curated: carefully chosen, descriptions crafted, meticulously displayed like a rare Ancient Etruscan object in a museum. But it’s more than that, it’s also a kid’s cigar box full of treasures: a couple of pretty marbles found in the dirt at the playground, a yo-yo, a mummified frog, a beloved grandfather’s service medal, a four color ball-point pen, a Doctor Who Tardis pencil sharpener and a secret decoder ring.
Let’s start with the wrapper. This is a nice touch: you get your choice of three templates. The default is cool, clean, sleek and inviting, like Taylor Swift, perfect in drapey silk. Another is yellow almost brutalist but the larger type and thumbnails make it easy to read. Did I mention it was yellow? The third is a homage to the earliest old time gray Yahoo! directory look, which might be best for working in a darkened room. And they all just work and are good choices.
The categories and sub categories are right out of that young boy’s cigar box: they represent the interests of the curator – they are not trying to please everyone or be orthodox, instead they proclaim, this is my collection and this is how I cataloged it. And you know, they make sense.
Listings have thumbnail images. On a conventional directory I’m not a fan of thumbs, but here they work well and help define the space for each listing. Without them, a category page would just be massed paragraphs of text blending in to one another. Each listing description is unique and generally tells you why Kick’s included it or why it’s cool. This is a rabbit hole in and of itself: you can spend lots of time browsing the directory just reading the descriptions without actually clicking on the links. They are great fun.
With the links themselves, we are back in the museum. This is the second rabbit hole: most of these sites are unique, and precious for the reasons given by Kicks. He’s your guide for this museum tour. I won’t spoil it for you, go to the directory and look around, you won’t be bored.
Which brings me to another neat feature, the editor has given an estimate of how extensively deep each listing is in a range between 1 minute to infinity. This is either the depth of the rabbit hole or the length of alien abduction lost time that will occur on each site. And you can browse and sort the links by how much time you have to kill. I’ve never seen that before and I like it.
I know Kicks kinda wants to bring back the practice of “surfing the Web”. I think he has succeeded in producing a directory that encourages that. There is no search function. Right now the directory does not need it and it’s going to be awhile before it does, if ever. This is a browsing directory where you want to take your time and wander through the categories looking for goodies.
The critical part of me wants to find flaws with this site but it’s hard to do that because it does everything it is intended to do. It’s not a search engine – it’s not Google. In fact it is exactly the opposite of soulless, godless search engines like Google and Bing. This is a human built directory. It uses human judgement on the quality of the listings. It uses human tastes as to aesthetics, humor, value, worthiness. These are all things that the Googles cannot measure. This is not a place for fast searching, for helicoptering in to find one page to match your query. Each link is like a monograph or a tome in a library.
Perhaps linking—and spending time telling you why I linked—is good enough. Perhaps it’s superior!
I think it is.
More than anything, I hope mine intrigues you to build your own.
This is an important point. You can do something like this too. Figure out a way to list links to stuff you think is neat even if it’s just a good old static HTML link page.
Joe Jenett created a site he calls the “linkport” which combines some of the best parts of a web directory and a linkblog: “directory linkblog” to give it a generic name. I want to explain how this changes the directory building game and how you can make this Indieweb compatible.
So keep the Linkport (above) open in a tab and look at it as we go along.
The Directory Linkblog
WordPress: The basis of this is a blog script. WordPress is perfect because there are lots of plugins available to help you do it right. For simplicity sake you want to dedicate this WP install to the directory.
Search & Categories: Most old style linkblogs do not have a dedicated search or subject categories. These two things combined are what make the directory linkblog different and usable. You want to have your blog search dedicated to the linkblog. You will want to find a plugin that enhances the WP search. You want to have subject categories for every link.
One link per post.
If you take a look at Joe’s Linkport you will see all these elements. That is the beauty of it. It combines the immediacy, newness and freshness of a linkblog with the categories and listings search of a directory script. You have an RSS feed, plus you can syndicate to social networks. And WordPress is a free script available with one click install from almost any hosting company. Bang! The Walls of Jericho just tumbled down. Almost anyone can start their own directory linkblog, be it, general, niche whatever and dirt cheap too.
This does not have quite all the features of a regular directory script. There is no way for webmasters to submit a URL, although you could use a contact form. You are also limited to one top layer of categories not a hierarchy.
Now Add Cowbell Indieweb
This makes it even more exciting: add Indieweb goodness.
This means that any time you list a new link you will be telling the blog listed that you have mentioned them. This helps generate awareness of your directory linkblog and usage. Plus it expands the Indieweb.
I ran across a web directory devoted to Neocities websites: Neocities Districts. It’s a very attractive human edited directory. “Districts” are a nice nod to the nostalgia for old Geocities districts.
Neocities has a great internal search function to find sites powered by Duckduckgo. But there is value in a directory like this one, in that you have a human editor sorting the wheat from the chaff. Something no search engine crawler can really do. If you want to find some interesting Neocities sites I suggest using Neocities Districts first.
In addition to building web directories I’m a firm believer in hyper-local news as part of the future.
All across America there are small towns that are no longer directly covered by a local newspaper. Once upon a time they probably had their own weekly paper or maybe even a daily but those have shut down. They are probably served by a regional paper, but, and this is the important part, that paper does not report on the meetings of your little town’s government. Therein lies your opportunity if nobody is covering your town government.
Start a blog on your own domain. Best if it sounds newspaperish.
Start a blog. I recommend WordPress for this. Find a newspaper looking theme.
Start attending meetings of your town government. It’s probably one night a month. Take notes ask questions.
Write up a brief summary of the meeting: topics discussed, action taken on your blog. Keep it impartial stick to the facts. Try to explain to your readers why the town is doing it the way they are – why it’s important.
Even small towns these days post transcripts of town council meetings, usually as PDF’s. Most town citizens will never take the time to read those. They are more likely to skim your summary.
Spread the word around town. And hand out flyers to people with your URL.
Put up a contact form, encourage clubs, churches, civic organizations to inform you of upcoming events and post those for free. The local library always has stuff going on, post that.
Make a business directory: you can probably find a plugin for WordPress. List all the local businesses and civic organizations. List the clubs and their meeting places and times.
Everyone has a smartphone with a camera these days. Walk around town. Take photos of interesting stuff. Heck, have Mr. Smith pose for you while he’s raking leaves. Post it on the blog. Or get a photo gallery plugin. People like seeing what’s going on around town at a sidewalk level. People like seeing their name in the “paper”. You can do a heck of a lot just with photos and captions.
If there is no “shopper” newspaper you might add a classifieds script.
Take some good photos of the town. Turn them into ePostcards with “Greetings from MYTOWNNAME” and get an electronic postcard script. Visitors and locals alike enjoy these.
Fill the vacuum left by not having a little hyper local paper.
Cover people’s hobbies when you hear about them: if you admire somebody’s yard and flower garden ask to interview them and take pictures then post. If somebody has a big model train layout, introduce yourself and ask to write a story about it.
None of this costs much except some time. This is perfect for somebody who is retired. You are helping knit together a community again. Go to the library, chances are they may have the archives of the old weekly town newspaper that went belly up 50 years ago. Read through the archives from 100 years ago. Small town papers were folksy a lot of the news was gossipy stuff: Robert Smith’s parents from Peoria are visiting him for a week. Delinquent kids are breaking bottles on the sidewalks in Founder’s Park. There is no reason your little news portal can’t do the same. Get the community involved in reporting news: post photos sent in of the Volunteer Fire Department fund raiser,
You are going to have to play with the scale here. Your town may no longer have many businesses left open in town proper. If everybody has to go to the next town over to shop then list those businesses in your directory.
Keep you blog’s comments open and as easy to use as possible. Use Akismet or other plugins to prevent spam. If you get a fair amount of discussion, consider adding a forum script for the local wags to discuss stuff.
It may take awhile for word of mouth to spread but keep at it and it will. Make friends with the local librarians, they will help you find resources to hone your craft and if they like you they will help informally spread the word.
It’s a good way to become involved, become self informed about your community and give something back by sharing.
A local directory covers a defined geographic area. It may be a region, town, city, county, state. While a local directory lists website URL’s, they are not required. It’s primary mission is to connect the searcher with a location or business. It does this by listing street address, phone number, business hours, URL, Description, map location, comments and reviews. If you think Yellow Pages or even Google Maps you get the picture.
Google Maps and Yellow Pages are also going to be your major competitors. You need to focus on what you can provide that the big nationals can’t: 1. Your local knowledge and experience, 2. your ability to find stuff in person, boots on the ground, 3. free listings.
Local Directories can be a good sideline for a person that designs websites for local businesses.
There are lots of different recipes for a local directory:
Comprehensive Directory that includes several of the above or all of the above.
Note each one of the list above could be a stand alone how to blog post which I’ll write Real Soon Now. If you want me to expand upon something, for now just ask in the comments.
The important thing is you need to look at your area: what does it offer, what do you need to know when you are looking for something, what does the competition overlook? A tourism guide won’t work in an area that has no tourism and nothing to build tourism around. Likewise, a Town News and Event Portal won’t work if your town is well served by a local newspaper. But so many small towns are only served by regional or county wide papers, so if the paper does not do things like cover town government meetings and when the book club meets you might have a niche.
Keep in mind, a local business directory is not limited to just businesses and organizations like churches, libraries and the YMCA. Because you have maps you can also list local natural attractions, hiking or biking trails, scenic outlooks, parks, farmers markets, best fishing spots, bird watching spots, train spotting spots, swimming areas with and without lifeguards, all the things that leverage your local knowledge that Google and Yelp miss.
Directory + Blog
Most local directory types are well complimented by having a blog. The blog lets you have a voice and fresh new content in a way that a directory alone cannot do.
A big city directory (eg. DigiLondon) can probably get by without because big cities are sort of anonymous places. But a dining guide might want a blog for restaurant reviews.
Choosing Your Business Directory Script or Plugin
You can chose between a stand alone directory script or if you use WordPress as your blog there are a number of business directory plugins available for WordPress. Here is my listing of some resources.
One thing to look out for is you want a script or plugin that is being actively improved and maintained. Most people prefer Google maps for their directories, but Google could shut down their API or raise their prices for use at any time so you want a directory script that either A. gives you a choice among map provides right out of the box, or B. is being supported so if Google cuts everybody off the software developer is still around and can switch you to Bing Maps or some other alternative.
Various other scripts can enhance a local directory: forums can add a local social network element for discussion, photo gallery can be a place for people to post local photos. Whatever you think might enhance your directory.
Take a look at a small local directory and personal blog combination: Life in the Forest of Dean. The owners blog about retired life and gardening, they added a local activity section and a first class local directory to give something back to their community. That directory gets a lot of visitors, both from people outside the area and also from local residents. The area covered incorporates a number of towns and villages and it’s just big enough that the local people can’t always know that a new eatery opened in the next town, or where to buy firewood, etc. So the directory serves both locals and tourists alike. Notice that the directory part is ordered by towns with each town serving as a top level category. This is very good organization listing by geography.
You can always start by making a local directory for your own use if you want listing the places you eat at, shop at, go to. And keep adding more over time. Or you can have some other plan for somehting from the list above. The process will work best if you enjoy it, enjoy getting out, exploring, taking notes and pictures.
These are my thoughts on building a multi-directory search portal.
At the most basic level this would mean that with one search box and one search, you would search the indexes of 2 or more similar web directories.
Such a portal could exist on either it’s own domain or on a subdomain. Domain is probably better should other directories come along. (Random thought: Could portal be part of Indieweb.xyz?)
Minimalist or Portal?
Minimalist example would be search.yahoo.com which is just an uncluttered search box vs. yahoo.com which is a full blown portal considered cluttered by some.
Unifying the Search
My suggestion, and it is just a suggestion, is to beta test with a free open source crawling site search that can be set to index more than one domain like either phinde or sphider. One of these might work perfectly or will show it’s limitations but the learning experience of trying these first will be useful prior to coding a custom search. (What would be icing on the cake is if Chrome based browsers would recognize this search form and allow you to add the search to the browser. Search installed on a person’s browser gets higher use.)
Optional Portal Features:
Cross Index of Categories: I already touched upon my idea under “categorization systems” here. This could be on separate pages from the search form above. I kinda like this idea: no scripts just a page of plain HTML so low overheard and cost, it might encourage people to browse rather than search deeper into both directories.
Web Search Form: Example: Searx. script.) Not sure what i think of this. On some level you are competing against yourself. OTOH you are giving the user more reasons to use your portal. I have done this before with both dropdown menu and radio buttons on the search form and very few people used it.
Leverage RSS Feeds: Use headline feeds from our blogs, and newest listings to keep portal fresh and not just a searchbox. Free.
I’m not married to any of this. Just throwing out ideas as they flit through my brain-pan.
Why yes we do. Although he’s getting kinda old and is a grumpy old git and he hobbles more than crawls. When he’s not mopping the floors and washing the bottles he can be found adding URL’s to our directory. Generally he can add about 20 URL’s a day, sometimes 25 if we juice him up with caffeine. After about 20 site reviews he starts going all cross-eyed. We tried naming him Bradbot but it never really took. 🙂
Not really. Indieseek does have a meta tag fetcher. When I put a URL in the field the meta tag fetcher tries to grab that page’s Title, Description and Keyword meta tags and fill in those fields. It does the same thing when the public submits a URL and it saves some time.