July was a busy month with lots of new features and changes.
Stumblizer – In July I cobbled together a random website finder, sorta like the old StumbleUpon. This has turned out to be surprisingly popular. There must be a lot of bored people out there. I keep adding a few new websites to the Stumblizer index when I find something that fits with the theme.
Directory Stumble – This is another random site finder like Stumblizer (above) only filled with different types of directories. It would appear that not everyone is as enamored of directories as I am since it gets almost no use. *sigh* It was an experiment and just never took off. But it is unique. Still, I’ll keep it up because, you never know, somebody, someday, might enjoy it.
Retroweb Ring – Our new webring has gotten steady interest and I invite you to join.
Webmaster Page – I added a page listing various free things and guides we have for webmasters.
Changed Weblogs Category – Weblogs was always the category for personal blogs so it made sense to move it from under Internet to being under Personal Pages. Like this: Personal Pages > Weblogs.
It is an inventive use of Github. I definitely like directories of personal sites. Personal site directories are best populated by webmaster URL submissions, because it’s hard for an editor to figure out the themes of a site in a timely manner, and one problem here is that there is a lot of friction to submitting a site, although the email workaround is thoughtful.
I can’t help but wonder about building a similar directory site that aggregates its data by Webmention and uses the h-cards from websites to automatically update itself.
Hrrm. What happens if the directory admin finds a simply stunning site that has no webmention or h-card capability? Do we abdicate our human judgement and automatically disqualify a more than worthy site because it does not have a barcode we like? I always have a problem with using just code up front as a criteria for inclusion. Or perhaps my bar is set too low: 1. it has a web address, preferably it’s own domain, 2. the site renders and is readable to humans, 3. the site has good content. I do think a directory such as you describe is worth trying as a long term experiment.
The strength of a directory over a search engine is the human editing. Search engines cannot measure quality, only popularity. Why give up, even partially, one of your few advantages?
The second thing, I don’t think a directory in 2019 can rely on webmaster submissions alone to grow the directory. A whole new generation of webmasters have come of age without directories, webrings and the like. They don’t understand the need to submit (silos), they don’t know they should submit their URL, they don’t know how to submit URL’s, they don’t know how a directory works or how to search one. I think any new directory has to just offer URL submission, but in the end go out and find good sites.
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 like the idea, but like the author says, it’s best for working on one narrow subject for each instance which would mean I, being a generalist, would end up with 20 or 30 Fed wiki’s. Gah!
I think we start talking about federating our directories
This could help spread the net wider plus leverage two indexes for more depth. Sounds like a portal page, and the public might find that more useful.
central search engine
There are a couple of good off the shelf, open source search engines that can crawl across multiple domains. My suggestion would be to try those first, see what the bugs, limitations are before spending the time coding something new. This might be the easiest thing to execute.
Another option might be a metasearch script. It the old days there were several types: 1. Parallel search: this was the easiest, a search would simply return the top X number of results from engine1 then engine2 then engine3 etc. No attempt to blend the results or change the ranking so it was a easier scrape to code. 2. returned results and simply showed you a list of engines that had that same site in the first X results. Again these were scrapes. I don’t think these early meta search engines had any algo, you just looked at the result and if 2 or 3 engines all had that site on the first page it was probably decent. 3. The most sophisticated meta search engines use API’s and there really isn’t much we can do with that.
My point is #1 Parallel search might be doable. There may be some open source metasearch scripts around that could be adapted.
Portal: I think I will throw around portal ideas in another post rather than clutter up this one too much.
This could be as simple as a spread sheet like table cross reference: this category on KicksSearch corresponds most closely with this category on Indieseek. And a reverse one. Each cat. name being a link to that category. Might encourage deeper browsing. Also simple HTML.
Or it could be a flow chart but in any event keep it simple and clicky. (Portal)
I’m getting a brain flood of proto-ideas:
Something like Indieweb.xyz?
Twitter submit: Put out a Tweet (these could be themed) asking for submissions all they have to do is retweet with a URL they want to submit. Cherry pick the best. (Heck we could do this right now since both blogs and Twitter support webmentions.)
These could be important, because there seems to be some sort of resistance to submitting URL’s right now.
This may not be exactly what you are thinking of but:
RSS feed: the directory already makes this of the 5 newest sites added.
Directory of Directories?
This may be only useful in the future. I know we have slightly different definitions of directories, but we could easily make a directory of directories if there are enough quality sites worth indexing. I just mention this because my license for WSNLinks lets me use as many copies as I want, with full support, so long as they are on the domain Indieseek.xyz or a subdomain of it. Just FYI.
I need to capture something I suggested on Micro.blog yesterday before I lose track. Fortunately Kick’s has a copy:
Question: Wiki’s as we currently know them are more about writing (knowledge base) connected in a non-linear fashion and minimal heirarchy, so can one make a wiki/directory – a fusion of the two forms? Not quite a wiki as we presently know it but not quite a directory either, but still a portal that lists other websites and is used to navigate the web. It would need to be searchable. Next question, would it be useable, or to put it another way would the man on the street understand it? Can it scale?
I suspect Kick’s has already thought of this. I swear the guy is a walking ideavirus. But it’s new to me so I get to play with the idea.
What I’m thinking of is a wikidirectory which would index outside links but be capable of cross indexing, the way wiki’s do, within the listing’s description field. You could also have a field below the description for Editor’s notes. (ie. “This is yet another niche directory run by BradEnslen which means it is all done in GSA gray and boring to look at.” Wherein the words in italics would lead you off to a page on either niche directories or a page on BradEnslen which would have a linked bibliography of all known web sites made by said BradEnslen.)
It’s really interesting but it would be a nightmare for one person to maintain if it had any size.
Still there is a germ of something interesting there.
Right now, in the West, web search is highly centralized. About 90 percent is in the hands of one company with one index of the web: Google. The other 10 percent is split between Bing with it’s own index and a few others. But wait it gets worse, most of the “few others” use Bing’s index and some use Google’s index. Only a couple of other, very small, search engines actually crawl the web and have their own search index.
Both major search engines are really set up to find brand name, corporate, commercial web pages, or at least, they favor those. The non-commercial blogs, personal sites, the fun websites the Indieweb movement wants to encourage, don’t get the same sort of traction.
So we have too few search engines which are not focused on independent, non-commercial websites. What do we do?
IMHO one way to fix this is Decentralizing Search:
Have 8 major search engines with their own indexes. We may be moving toward that but progress is slow and the Web so vast that it is very expensive to set up and run a major web crawling search engine. This won’t happen overnight.
Have many small directory type search indexes. There are still enough good directory scripts around that one can set up a directory, with a lot of features, at a very low cost.
Blogrolls, link pages and maybe webrings. We used to surf the web, we can learn to do it again.
It’s #2 above I want to discuss. If we create many hundreds of directories and search engines, large and small, all dedicated to the listing of interesting or fun independent web sites and pages, then we create our own discovery network. Each index is a unique collection, presented differently from one another it helps break the dependency on Google and Bing in the near to mid term, at least until more major search engines get established.
And by “directory” I mean: A. a directory intended to help navigate the web NOT to sell links for SEO; B. traditional directories like Indieseek.xyz, also newer types of directories running hand coded scripts, hybrid directories that somehow incorporate a crawling spider, directories that incorporate webrings, local business directories, niche directories, even automated directories of some sort. Whatever kind of index human ingenuity can invent. By this means we start taking back the web and remaking it into something we can better enjoy.
This is not going to replace big crawling search engines. And one directory, even 100 times the size of Indieseek, is not going to make a difference, but large numbers will. If everywhere we throw a stick we hit some directory people will start exploring, just like they explore bookstores, libraries or snoop through the bookshelves at a friends house.
20 years ago, when all the search engines sucked, I and others searched for websites with a battery of maybe 10 favorite search engines and directories in our browser bookmarks. It’s not hard to do that again IF the tools are available. That is my vision of decentralized search. We don’t have to wait passively for others, big companies and venture capital, to solve the problem for us, we can do it now. Ourselves. That is the beauty of the Web.
Indieseek.xyz is my stab at a proof of concept. I know Kicks Condor is working on his own directory vision and that other concepts like Wiby.me are out there. Coders take a stab at it. If we can do this, you can do this.
Somebody asked me, “Is this it,” about the 300 some odd sites in Indieseek? No, that’s just the start. This is my winter project, adding more sites, while the winds are blowing outside. But I wanted to get it launched before the holidays because I’ve got a lot of meat world stuff to do before the end of the year.
Yeah, it will grow. It does not pay to be passive. But its never going to be a Curlie.org. There is no point in duplicating Curlie – one is enough. And there is no point in duplicating what the big search engines do. The trick here is to find our niche and not garbage the index up with needless noise.
This is Indieseek. Here’s the Home Page and here is the directory. The whole site should be responsive to work on phone, tablet and computer screens. I’ve already written a features post which lists many features but really it’s best to just explore and find stuff.
The site is a fusion of a WordPress blog and WSNLinks, a very powerful directory script. The reason I went this route was because WordPress can be equipped with Indieweb.org plugins which lets other sites communicate with Indieseek and lets Indieseek communicate with them. A directory script, on it’s own, just cannot do that. Hopefully I will write enough compelling posts to keep the whole site from sliding into obscurity.
This is a small starter effort to address how websites get discovered, especially new blogs and websites. For a decade we’ve all been syndicating out to Facebook and Twitter to get traffic, because that bypasses Google. Well, Facebook and Twitter are slowly closing down syndication from blogs, which leaves us all, once again, at the mercy of Google. I don’t think the Web should rely on just Google and Bing for website discovery. We are fools to put all our eggs in just two baskets.
I have no illusions that one, old school directory is going to take on Google, but you can read my essay on decentralized search for more insight into what I’m thinking.
Right now this is a tiny directory. I’ve filled it with a starter set of links (Brad’s bookmarks, mainly) 🙂 so you have something to explore but also to do two things: 1. show that there are websites and pages out there that don’t always rank well in the search engines but are worth seeing, 2. List resources to encourage people to build their own non-corporate blogs and websites.
Now I have a favor to ask: Please submit your blogs, photoblogs, podcasts, microcasts, static sites. Especially, please add, the personal blogs (those blogs that are about everything) because those are the hardest for me to try and describe on my own. There is a Help page with simple instructions.
Beyond that, bookmark us, use us as we grow, tell your friends, spread the word, tip your server, be kind to those less fortunate and flip the bird to our monopolist Corporate Overlords.