It seems to me, at some point, the problem of commercial silos of web search engines must be addressed since 1. a near monopoly is held by Google, 2. both spidering engines (Google and Bing) are oriented towards brands, data mining user profiles, advertising and the commercial. […]
Niche directories can still work when tied to an interest community (just ask almost any local Chamber of Commerce). Filter blogs might work too.
Fantastic. Yes! This is exactly the problem. It’s very difficult for a new participant to make headway because they simply get lost in the pile.
I think all of these approaches need to be reconsidered just like you’re doing, but I want to focus on directories—which are still very much in vogue, but are unrecognizable when compared to the old Yahoo. The big directories these days are Reddit and Pinterest. (And Wikipedia, like you say.) Delicious was one of these too. They are directories because they are topic-based catalogs of thought.
Niche directories exist in the form of stuff like Pinboard, Hacker News, Lobste.rs and so on. So, Hacker News acts basically like a directory of thought for its community. And the users there spend their time pruning and curating this directory.
All of these directories struggle with a sort of memory failure—no one really plumbs the archives of these sites—but that makes perfect sense given that the focus is on absolute recency. Part of the spectacular failure of Yahoo-style directories was due to no sense of recency (a heartbeat) on all those links.
The nice thing about Yahoo was that you could categorize yourself. Reddit, Pinterest, Pinboard—you have to wait for someone else to find you.
To your point about filter blogs: I think there used to be an answer here. It used to be that for topic-based technology blogs, much of their grassroots content came from mailing lists. Mailing lists used to be the primary announcement system for software. (If you look at technology blogs, they are much more commercial now.) So the mailing lists acted like a completely open submission system where you could safely self-promote. And then blogs skimmed their favorite stuff out of these. (IRC and web forums also acted as support systems here.)
So here’s what I’d like to see in a directory:
- Allows self-promotion. No one wants to leave a software (or fan art, essays, open question) announcement to their lonely blog. You want to push it out to the relevant community yourself.
- Sorting isn’t driven by upvotes or algorithms. You shouldn’t need to have to figure out how to game the system. Yes, these algorithms help prevent spam. But they enable clickbait!
- Drives users to the blogs themselves. Reddit isn’t just a directory—writers post their thoughts directly on Reddit. But those writers aren’t given all the tools. First off, the posts are limited in their layout. But also, they aren’t given syndication and identity tools like blogs have.
- Personal views of the directory. Right now it seems that we have this idea that our moderators should have the power to decide who’s in and who’s out. But this was never true of mailing lists. I still like the idea of killfiles. You block the specific users and blogs that drive you nuts.
I am trying to accomplish some of this with my directory Indieweb.xyz, but I’m also not sure it will all work due to self-promotion having problems of its own—in addition to being a dirty word on its own.
At any rate, wonderful post. Thankyou!