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Life After ODP
Until or about until Wednesday April 26, 2000, I was a volunteer editor with Netscape's Open Directory Project, and I enjoyed the coveted editall/catmv editing privileges that had been granted to me by ODP Staff Editor jiwasaki because I had "shown good editing ability." (See generally Open Directory - Profile - netesq.) However, when I tried to log on to the dmoz.org server that fateful morning, I was informed that my ODP "login [had] been inactivated." I then checked the ODP Categories where I had previously been listed as an editor in residence, and I found that my byline had been removed from each and every one of them. Basically, this is akin to coming to work one morning and finding out that your employer has changed the lock on your office door.
For the record, here is the complete text of the e-mail that I sent to ODP staff when I realized that my editing privileges had been removed:
From: David Prenatt netesq@...
Subject: ODP login has been inactivated
Sent: 4/26/2000 8:30
As I am sure you are aware, my ODP login has been inactivated. I cannot know for certain why, but it seems to come hard on the heels of two events:
1. An e-mail from Jan Iwasaki warning about my activities in the ODP Editor Forum, a situation that I assumed had been resolved; and
2. A discussion in the ODP Editor Shopping Forum about the listing of sites with affiliate tags that incidentally discussed the participation of ODP editors in outside forums.
Pursuant to the latter situation, I sent an e-mail addressed to goldm, gracel, and bruns in re my participation in the Shopping Forum thread and expressing my concerns about comments made by goldm in the Shopping Forum thread about my participation in the Search Engine Discussion forum. I am assuming that this prompted my removal by ODP staff; apparently, my participation in the Search Engine Discussion forum was inappropriate, or the e-mail or ODP Editor Forum post about the issue being discussed at the Search Engine Discussion forum was inappropriate.
I can't say that I didn't know that my participation in the Search Engine Discussion forum was inappropriate, because I did have my suspicions that staff might not approve of this activity. However, I thought it was important for ODP editors to help outsiders. Apparently I went too far.
I'm sure that there are other concerns about my activities as an ODP editor, but I honestly do not know what they might be; if I did, I would address them as well. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed working with ODP, and I would like to be given a second chance to prove myself.
I do not know the mechanics of how a removed editor might obtain appellate review of his or her removal other than to e-mail ODP staff, as I am now doing, and I am averse to discussing matters like this with other ODP editors; I have always considered this to be inappropriate. Accordingly, I would respectully request that this e-mail be forwarded by staff to interested parties such as the meta editors as staff deems appropriate.
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
[former] ODP Editor netesq
And this was the entirety of my appeal. I did not e-mail any of my friends who were still "on the inside" at ODP complaining of unfair treatment (as many XODP editors do), nor did I post a complaint in any of the discussion forums on the World Wide Web that I knew to be frequented by ODP editors. Rather, in light of the conflict of interest that I felt I had encountered with my removal from ODP, I resigned as the moderator of the ODP Guidelines - Q & A Forum at Search Engine Discussion; as rumors of my departure from ODP began to spread, I replied to curious inquiries with e-mail messages that looked something like this:
Thank you for the e-mail. I am no longer with ODP, and I am not at liberty to discuss this matter at this time. Nonetheless, I would appreciate hearing from anyone at ODP who wishes to keep an open line of communication with me.
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
aka XODP Editor netesq
[Normally, when an ODP Editor is "removed" from ODP, his or her category request logs reflect this fact; mine did not, so my status with ODP remained a mystery to most people with the exception of a few of the moderators at Search Engine Discussion who were ODP editors themselves. I considered these people to be interested parties, so I confirmed that my ODP login had been inactivated and that I had e-mailed ODP staff requesting reinstatement.]
And then I waited. And I waited. And waited. And then I got tired of waiting. And then it occurred to me that I could start my own Internet directory and improve upon the ODP model, or at the very least contribute my time, talent, and ideas to one of the many pretenders to the throne that is currently held by ODP. (See Open Directory - Computers: Internet: WWW: Searching the Web: Directories: User-Contributed Directories.) So, I moved on.
I truly enjoyed working with ODP, and I would probably return if I was given the opportunity to do so, but it's a whole different perspective being on the outside, looking in. After a while, you begin to see that (notwithstaning its phenomenal success) ODP is nowhere near as important as it seems to be, and you get tired of the silent treatment from ODP Staff and the Council of Metas who run ODP. So, you move on -- at least I did.
For further information about life after ODP, please e-mail me or visit the XODP eGroup. My e-mail address is netesq@... . All inquiries will be kept in the strictest of confidence, and anonymous inquiries are more than welcome.
© Copyright 2000 by David F. Prenatt, Jr.
Permission to reproduce this document is freely given, provided that proper acknowledgment is given to the author and that the copyright holder is promptly notified of such use. If proper acknowledgment and/or prompt notice is not given to the author and/or copyright holder, permission to reproduce this document is expressly revoked.
[The original version of this document is located at http://www.egroups.com/files/xodp/Life+After+ODP.htm .]
There have been a couple of editors expelled from the ODP more for
societal differences than actual poor editing.
For some time now, I've been thinking about contacting these and
proposing a sort of ODP alternative, or second chance, or supplement,
A place where these editors could edit, flame each other in the fora
all they wanted, then, assuming they made good edits there,
and otherwise showed that they could deal with the real ODP,
they might be reviewed for rejoining. With staff approval, of course.
Meanwhile, the good edits they made
could be reviewed by us for entry into the ODP, by ODP editors,
in large batches, say one "complete" category at a time.
Or, maybe the alternative might have value in its own right.
Perhaps this could be used to "try out" controversial reorganizations
of the directory in a way other than that the ODP itself decides on.
Perhaps it could just start with the RDF dump and go its own way,
like so many other <A
But the important question - would enough people be interested in
this? I know I asked one expelled editor, and got the response that
he would not be interested in any further work with the ODP.
Do most ex-editors feel like that, or would they be interested in
something like this?
By the way, this has nothing to do with the ODP staff, or most other
Metas. This is not official, and never will be, by definition.
This is not realized, and may never be. Just random musings,
that might never get anywhere.
There have been a couple of editors expelled from the ODP more for societal differences than actual poor editing. For some time now, I've been thinking about contacting these and proposing a sort of ODP alternative, or second chance, or supplement, or whatever.
A place where these editors could edit, flame each other in the fora all they wanted, then, assuming they made good edits there, and otherwise showed that they could deal with the real ODP, they might be reviewed for rejoining. With staff approval, of course. Meanwhile, the good edits they made could be reviewed by us for entry into the ODP, by ODP editors, in large batches, say one "complete" category at a time.
Or, maybe the alternative might have value in its own right. Perhaps this could be used to "try out" controversial reorganizations of the directory in a way other than that the ODP itself decides on. Perhaps it could just start with the RDF dump and go its own way, like so many other Sites_Using_ODP_Data.
But the important question - would enough people be interested in this? I know I asked one expelled editor, and got the response that he would not be interested in any further work with the ODP. Do most ex-editors feel like that, or would they be interested in something like this?
I think that the answer to the latter part of your question is a resounding yes. Ultimately, ODP's pre-eminent role as an open content directory will be overtaken by some other upstart. It's just a matter of time, what with 9 out of 10 new editor applications being rejected and a management team that promotes control freaks to positions of authority and then (in most cases) fails and refuses to engage in any dialogue whatsoever with potentially aggrieved parties. [No offense intended, GRuban, but I think that we both know that there has been a great deal of infighting in the upper echelons of ODP because of the independent actions of a small handful of very talented but overzealous and opinionated metas, a charge that could never be made against someone with your well-deserved reputation for discretion and diplomacy.] Assuming that this latter policy remains in force, ODP will spend more and more time fighting internecine conflicts and fending off lawsuits and government investigations arising from wrongful terminations and restraint of trade as well as various other legitimate causes of action that ODP's grandparent company AOL has all but ignored in its use of unpaid volunteers. Meanwhile, anyone who is so inclined can and will pick up ODP's open content ball and run with it. Of that, I'm sure.
Given my druthers, I'd have stayed with ODP until the bitter end, working for change within the system, but that choice has been taken away from me. And perhaps it's just as well. As I've stated previously, it's a whole different perspective being on the outside looking in. (See generally eGroups XODP Links.) [My apologies that these eGroups links are only available to XODP Members. It's the only way that I can keep any control over their content without putting them up on another Web site.]
Immediately upon my removal from ODP, I started thinking about my next gig. Surprisingly enough, I found that there are already some upstarts that have a good chance of taking down ODP, and there's no shortage of technology to bring this about. (See eGroups XODP Links : Main XODP Links List : Directory Database Technology.) This in spite of the fact that ODP has purportedly not made its proprietary software open source because of its concerns about project fragmentation. In truth, robust competition from other Internet directories is a good way to keep ODP management honest and responsive to the concerns of its constituency and the larger community that ODP purports to serve.
[For those of you unfamiliar with eGroups technology, it's basically a plain text format for Web based posts, so I would suggest composing your html replies offline and e-mailing them to email@example.com as attachments. This tends to give the cleanest results.]
Enter your vote today! Check out the new poll for the xodp
Let's try that again: Would you be
willing to volunteer for a clone of ODP
that would provide an alternative for
editors who are not eligible and/or
interested in working with ODP?
o It depends.
To vote, please visit the following web page:
Note: Please do not reply to this message. Poll votes are
not collected via email. To vote, you must go to the eGroups
web site listed above.
This is an anonymous poll. Only members can vote, and no one's
identity will be known, not even to me. All this will do is give me
a rough idea of how many people might be interested in cloning ODP.
If you are not a member and would like to express your interest in
the project described by GRuban, please feel free to e-mail me or
post an anonymous message to the XODP eGroup. All e-mail
correspondence will be kept strictly confidential.
Your Humble Moderator,
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
aka XODP Editall netesq
I have collected here some comments on the issue of dismissal procedures
that I had previously posted to
http://searchenginediscussion.com/ubb/Forum48/HTML/000003.html . In some
cases they have been slightly edited.
It is unfortunate that anyone can be fired as an editor without warning,
charges, opportunity for defense, or notification of reasons. In some cases,
such a record would show beyond any doubt that the editor richly deserved
his fate. In others it would help to thwart the "I Got Fired and I Don't
Know Why" threads that are starting to pop up here and there. In yet other
cases the mere fact of formalization of charges and opportunity for defense
would prevent wrongful firings, even if only by enforcing a cooling-down
Due process is a fundamental norm of civilized society; it protects the
innocent while demonstrating the justice of punishment meted out to the
guilty. Failure to observe this fundamental norm naturally inspires a moral
recoil among enlightened people raised in a democratic society, Beginning to
observe due process would help the ODP not only in insuring the accuracy of
its self-policing processes but in securing its reputation as a truly open
I agree that there are situations in which it is necessary to bring an
abusive editor's actions to a quick halt in order to prevent damage.
However, it is not necessary to fire someone in order to achieve this goal.
That is why the mundane law has the concept of "arrest" -- literally "stop"
-- which is separate from the concepts of conviction and punishment. In an
online context, this would translate into a preliminary suspension pending
Suspension has another benefit; it provides a cooling-off period. I feel
that at a distance of a few weeks a better decision could be made than in
the heat of anger, which is where firing decisions are usually made now.
As for warnings and notifications and e-mail contacts, I agree that they
would be good procedure. However, I know that they are not uniformly
practiced now. The case mentioned in the other thread in this forum, where
healthguru was fired without any notification of termination, is one case.
Mine is another. So now you've seen at least two cases of termination
As for email to staff, in both of our cases, no response was received when
e-mails were sent to staff after the fact. My message to bruns, who did the
firing, read as follows:
> I'm sorry you have had to undertake what I imagine must be one of the less
> pleasant responsibilities of your job. If it's not too much trouble, I'd be
> interested to know what charges were made against me. In any case, best of
> luck with the Open Directory Project.
But my goal here is not to retry my own case. I don't think that would be
very productive here. I only wish to note that some simple procedures would
help to prevent both mistaken firings and even the appearance of mistaken
firings. When someone who appears to have done no great wrong is terminated
without explanation, that does not help the project's reputation as "open."
It also costs the project at least one editor, and more than that in
In some cases living up to basic standards of due process would only require
implementing what many people already believe the procedures are, such as
clear warning. In other cases, easy-to-implement disciplinary improvements
would be better for the directory than firing, at least when editors are
capable of continued good work. This could include preliminary suspension
and a cooling-off period before judgment, as well as proportional
punishments such as timed suspensions, removal of particular categories,
removal of forum privileges, timed suspension of right to apply for
categories, and probationary periods with scheduled review. The all-or-none
condition of fired/not-fired does not allow for much proportionality of
In any case, I hope my thoughts are helpful to you and to the project, and I
appreciate the use of the forum.
I appreciate your comments.
This is the first time I have seen someone say that the ODP is not a
consensus culture of peers but a hierarchical command and control culture. I
was specifically instructed to deal with the ODP as a consensus culture by
my ubereditor , and so I believed I was acting appropriately given that
there was significant disagreement on the points under discussion, and
significant support for my side of the debate.
If in fact the social structure is one in which only the opinions of the
metas and staff carry any weight, that is a very different situation, and
one in which a different standard of behavior would be expected. Given such
a structure, a "warning" might be considered implicit in the simple fact of
disagreement with a meta-editor. If in fact the rule is that disagreement
with a meta-editor or staff is grounds for firing unless one is a
meta-editor or staff oneself, then that should be made explicit.
(I think that this is a rule that few would gladly stomach. In my view the
virtue of writing the rule down would be that it would become open to
debate, rather than being protected from discussion as it currently is by
its status as a tacit assumption.)
I do not think that as things stand there is any formal explanation of this
structure presented to editors. We may be subjected to misguided and
idealistic descriptions of the situation instead. Some explanation would
doubtless be a good addition to the guidelines.
As for transparency of the process, it's a complex issue. I'd be curious to
know why you feel it would not be beneficial. Star Chamber proceedings are a
recipe for injustice whatever the context, and injustice causes
inefficiency. Good people often refuse to serve under unjust conditions,
shrinking the labor pool and hurting morale. In addition, managers
eventually wind up spending a prohibitive amount of time cleaning up after
messes as injustice becomes endemic.
In my view, good process is good economics. Fairness is not a luxury, but a
requirement for organizational vigor.
Transparency aside, even under a closed Star Chamber model of justice there
is clear room for improvement in a disciplinary system that knows only one
penalty for any offense. What do you think of the alternative penalties I
Thanks for bringing this back on track! You've raised some interesting
I wish that it were possible to be an effective editor and stay out of the
forums, as you suggest, but that would mean that the hierarchy as set up is
perfect, and it ain't. There are large parts of the taxonomical tree that
seemed to make sense when they were smaller but haven't held up well to the
influx of new sites. It doesn't mean there was something wrong with the
original structure -- it's just that any branch looks different at a
thousand sites than it did at fifty.
The only way to deal with that is in the forums, by building consensus (in
the tacitly hierarchical form of "consensus" that is practiced at the ODP).
Unfortunately online discussion is notoriously polarized and petty. The ODP
editor forums are less dysfunctional than some bulletin board systems but
they still have the same depressing problems we old-timers have been dealing
with since the early 1980's -- lots of people with a bone to pick with the
world, people taking hard-line stances when they would soften on them in two
seconds in a face-to-face, people in positions of authority who know they
can throw their weight around and are eager to do just that, a general
inability to deal with issues rather than personalities, frothing maniacs
making it hard for anyone to keep an even keel, and so on.
It's not as bad as USENET but I'd describe it as a FidoNet situation.
FidoNet ceased to be fun after sysop abuse reached a certain level, and ODP
editor forums are well on their way to becoming the same kind of unpleasant
fiefdom, with abuse and insults flowing freely from the untouchable metas
while the lowly others are solemnly and privately counseled that if the
people on top say spread, they'd better not ask for K-Y.
The only answers are to adopt a servile Confucianism or live with the
taxonomy however bad it may be -- or, of course, to leave. I don't think
this lives up very well to the ideal implied by the word "open", as in "open
society," or the attempt to claim the mantle of the open source movement.
Due process would help counteract this authoritarian trend because the
things some people are being popped for would look downright silly if there
was as basic a requirement as a written statement of charges. That doesn't
mean nothing that looks silly would ever happen but the record itself would
be helpful in the maturation of the system. After a few lookalike instances
people would start to look askance at the next one. "Oh no, not _this_
again! Excuse me, gmblfrotz, but how many complaints for disrespect can you
Other basic institutions of discipline in the open society include
proportional punishment, lighter penalties for earlier offenses than later
ones, cooling-off period before trial, recusal of interested parties from
judgment, and so on. They would be easy to implement, and they would lead to
a more humane culture as well as greater overall efficiency.
If they're not implemented then the only result can be an increasingly
stratified culture, with editors promoted not for capability but for lingual
stimulation of the appropriate posterior. This brings with it a decline in
quality. More talented people are often more difficult people, but if these
people are willing to be polite and productive they will accomplish more
than the output of ten times as many mediocrities who think servility and
submission are the only ways to get ahead.
This is not, I hasten to add, to say that only mediocrities can work in the
current system, only that selective pressures are being established that
will tend in that direction. There are many talented people whose talents in
the social realm will enable them to get ahead even in such an unpleasant
situation, or who are talented despite having adopted authoritarian models
of right social order. But if we are focused on content and quality, I think
we should note that far more mediocre than talented people are able to get
ahead in such a "don't make waves" situation.
I hope these thoughts are helpful and will not simply provoke some new flame
war. This is a troubling situation and I think we need some straight talk.
Tim Maroney tim@...
Although I'm not a big fan of private message boards, I have decided
to take David up on his offer to join this group. I will try my best
to keep my input constructive, but given the fact that few of you
have much appreciation for the circumstances that led to me becoming
x-ed, I don't know if we have enough in common to make cooperation
possible. Personally I have come to the conclusion that none of these
evil empires can be changed by passive internal forces, the rot is
too high up, and too deep. What is required is a competitively
accessible, "better" alternative-- unfortunately from where I'm
sitting I can see nothing that looks like that on the viewable
horizon. My contribution "The Better Way Directory" (
http://donotgo.com ), I think, incorporates some interesting features
worth building on, but without access to any traffic streams, and a
substantial amount of help, it will likely just represent more wasted
Here's an interesting link if your considering joining go.com.
If your interested in functionality issues please read this.
arttworks the unrecommended wrote:
> Although I'm not a big fan of private message boards, I have decided
> to take David up on his offer to join this group. I will try my best
> to keep my input constructive, but given the fact that few of you
> have much appreciation for the circumstances that led to me becoming
> x-ed, I don't know if we have enough in common to make cooperation
Ah, but you see, you will no doubt be a source of entertainment here, as I will
allow you to post anything that you want (absent serious threats of civil or
criminal sanctions), and perhaps you will be able to use your notoriety to
network with people here who share your vision of what an Internet directory
should be. If my e-mail is any indication, there are a lot of lurkers
> . . . Personally I have come to the conclusion that none of these
> evil empires can be changed by passive internal forces, the rot is
> too high up, and too deep. What is required is a competitively
> accessible, "better" alternative-- unfortunately from where I'm
> sitting I can see nothing that looks like that on the viewable
> horizon. My contribution "The Better Way Directory"
> ( http://donotgo.com ), I think, incorporates some interesting
> features worth building on, but without access to any traffic
> streams, and a substantial amount of help, it will likely just
> represent more wasted time.
Check out the links that are available for members. [I wish I could
make these links generally available, but then I would have no
control over their content. To all: Please feel free to
redistribute anything that you find in the links or files section
that is only accessible to members.] You will find that the Open
Content movement is swiftly going the way of the Open Architecture
movement that IBM began in the early 1980s. This is something of
which I would have remained blissfully unaware, but for my abrupt and
unceremonious departure from ODP.
BTW, as for your being "unrecommended," I must confess that I
secretly enjoy watching you reveal the inner secrets of the ODP
forums. You are a perfect villain. I, too, still have friends on
the inside, and I receive quite a bit of confidential information
from them, but I don't see any purpose in using that information to
muckrake and sling mud. Truth be told, however, I think it's more a
matter of personal style than an issue of right or wrong.
[Which reminds me, laisha, goldm, et al.: Try to remember the old
Sicilian sayings: "Silence is a friend who will never betray you."
And "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead." So, if
y'all are inclined to breach ODP policy and discuss my removal with
parties who are outside of the circle of ODP staff and metas in an
effort to discredit me, I will be obliged to defend myself against
your defamatory comments by whatever means are necessary. OTOH, if
you'd like to discuss the circumstances of my removal from ODP with
me, I will be very happy to do so off the record. My telling the
story of my removal from ODP was simply incidental to my moving on to
new projects and helping other people move on to life after ODP.]
Ciao For Now,
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
aka Your Humble XODP Moderator netesq
I have to say that I'm more honored to be invited to the XODP discussion
group than I would ever have been to be knighted with metadom. But I
should begin my introduction here with a disclaimer: I have not been
removed from ODP, at least not yet.
I'm rather surprised, actually. After getting fairly upset and being a
general pain about a particularly discouraging issue, incl. frivolous
attacks on my least favorite meta, and then subsequently being inactive
for about two months, I would have assumed they would have axed me under
the general guidelines for inactivity.
I might as well have been removed, since I more or less gave up. After
being told I was a bad editor, I spent some time going through old edits
and altering them to conform to the reigning pedantry. I gave up, because
I wasn't interested in poking and prodding and picking nits on links (some
I had made, some not) in cats which I had strong personal knowledge of.
(If anyone is still interested in alternatives for moving on after ODP,
I've been spending some of my free cycles and bandwith on the Everything
project, at www.everything2.com.)
I encountered the same cone of silence and misinformation among the metary
as some of you have regarding your removals. I don't understand what the
prevailing thinking was. You don't effectively remove someone for a cat
that they have edited for two years and expect them not to have lots of
questions about why. IMO if you can't bring forward a rap sheet of
ignominous crimes and charges against an editor, you shouldn't be removing
them for cats. And after two years as an editor, and in that cat, I was
effectively removed from it for "not enough experience". I.e., 'not enough
edits', which IMO is _not_ the same thing. (Incidentally, the meta who
removed me had been an editor for less than half as long as I had.)
I came upon a thread in the Meta/Editall Forum, where some metas hold
court, as it pleases them, entitled "Why was I rejected?"; foolishly I
thought this would be an avenue for appeal, which it wasn't. In fact, I
was told that there is none. It was silly of me, it seems, to think that
there was any way to appeal.
Anyway, without going down the old road, which isn't really on topic here,
let me just say a few things for the moment. I don't have particular
gripes with the staff, although the handful of paid editors were initially
difficult to deal with, as they were granted extensive permissions without
acceptable knowledge of the directory OR the workings of its community. I
respect Skrenta for spearheading was is still a landmark project, and in
the earlier days when his presence was more felt, I was always pleased
with his direction.
I think that the internal structure of ODP is atrophying. As ODP has
developed as a business model, the staff editors have pulled the metas
into what netesq now calls the Council Of Metas. I don't think it was
supposed to be that way. Before that developed, ODP policy and direction
was decided through discussion and debate (lengthy if need be) among the
editorship. Now the unordained editors are occasionally thrown a bone but
for the most part, unless a big stink is made, nothing significant can be
decided by any group of people who are not metas.
There are two conflicting views of the ODP societal structure as it
were. At one point I was under the impression that it was an open system,
something akin to a democracy or an anarchy. I think it was very open at
one point. Perhaps it got too crowded to stay that way. Eventually it
became clear that it was a laissez-faire autocracy. Eventually after that
it became an aristocracy akin to monarchist feudalism. Like lords of
medieval times, we were all given fiefs of categories, and called by the
king(s) to serve him in his war against Yahoo. In the process, many were
knighted; and now that the war has ceased (victory being claimed of
course), the nobles have nothing better to do than play with the lower
I mourned the loss of the freer ODP structure a long time ago, before
hardly anyone else noticed. It's inevitable really; any group will go
through this rapid aging process, especially on the Internet. Even though
I already knew it, DMOZ has taught it to me harder than any other project.
The Internet was promised to be a place where people could iron out
differences in an amicable fashion, work together in diverse groups, and
where the sorts of class lines that exist in RL were gone. Unfortunately
it rarely lives up to that promise.
Netesq, I'm not clear what your intents are with the XODP, but thank you
for inviting me and I hope something good comes of it.
Keith D. Tyler, Lynn MA romulus@...
Please feel free to invite anyone who you think might be interested in joining
this eGroup. I've already received quite a few names of XODP editors that I'm
trying to track down. As well, I've contacted a number of people who took the
initiative to contact me when they noticed my abrupt departure from ODP; ODP
Editor romulus is the first active ODP editor whom I contacted directly, and I
was reluctant to do so. One prohibition that I would like to suggest is that
against using ODP Editor Feedback to contact current ODP editors; if you've been
in contact with them previously and/or can find their e-mail addresses
elsewhere, that's different, IMHO.
As I'm sure you all know, membership is not required to view the messages posted
here at the XODP eGroup. However, membership is required to vote in member
polls and to view the links and files sections. If I could open these sections
up to non-members without losing control of their content, I would do so, so
please feel free to download and distribute the contents of the links and files
sections as you see fit.
Your Humble Moderator,
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
aka XODP Editall netesq
David Prenatt wrote previously:
> Please see http://searchenginediscussion.com/ubb/Forum48/HTML/000007.html .
My original post in the above-referenced Search Engine Discussion (SED) thread
was an exact copy of the "copylefted" document found here at eGroups. (See
http://www.egroups.com/files/xodp/Life+After+ODP.htm .) However, the powers
that be at SED asked me to remove the copyright notice as well as all references
to eGroups, which I did. Then they locked the thread and moderated it out of
existence, finally removing a substantial amount of material that was left by
I have been expecting this for quite some time, given that many SED moderators
are also ODP editors, including meta editors goldm and laisha, and I am very
grateful to SED for giving me the opportunity to tell my story for as long as it
did, _a fortiori_ given the inherent conflict of interest that my post
presented; a very special thank you to SEGuru, owner of Search Engine
Discussion, and TheKnight, moderator of the Ex-Editors for DMOZ Forum.
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
aka XODP Editall netesq
If you get a chance, please check out Hotrate. (See
http://hotrate.com/referral.asp?ref=netesq .) It is a favorite destination of
ODP expatriates. What I really like about it is that it includes keywords as a
data entry field for all site listings and that it requires two editors to
complete any "action": One to suggest the action; another to approve it. The
former feature yields better search results; the latter keeps abuse to a
minimum. [In addition to the use of keywords, Hotrate relies upon editor
opinions to determine the relevancy of site listings.]
What I *don't* like about Hotrate is its emphasis on multi-level marketing. I
don't think there's anything wrong with making money, (but see
http://www.gnu.org/motivation.html ), but the Hotrate sales pitch is all hype.
My guess is that the average ODP editor could make about $50.00 a month as a
Hotrate editor/reviewer, and that the average full-time Webmaster could
supplement his or her income by about $250.00 a month by generating advertising
revenue, perhaps more if the service becomes more popular. [Hotrate's initial
launch was in December of 1999, but there are still only faint whispers of its
existence to be found on the Internet. (See
Promotions (and demotions) to higher (and lower) levels of editing privileges at
Hotrate occur when an editor has accumulated a certain amount of experience
*and* obtained favorable reviews from more experienced editors (or unfavorable
reviews, in the case of demotions). Everyone at Hotrate begins as a level 1
editor/reviewer. As a level 1, you may suggest opinions (two cents each) and
new sites (three cents each) anywhere in the directory. These suggestions are
then reviewed and approved by editors who have level 2 privileges or higher.
Approvals of suggested sites and opinions are also compensated (one cent each).
Similar procedures are in place for site modifications/moves/deletions and
category creations/deletions, which are suggested and approved by higher level
editors. Needless to say, the higher you go in the Hotrate hierarchy, the more
supervision you need to do, which leaves you less time to suggest sites and
In sum, I think that Hotrate has a lot of potential. It is an interesting blend
of open source ideals (i.e., it's user built), proven marketing techniques, and
innovative search engine technology. Admittedly, it's not really open source or
open content, but it's still user built, and it's still small enough for people
to get in on the ground floor and keep management honest.
Your Humble Moderator,
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
Aka XODP Editall netesq
As a Hotrate "expatriate" I suppose it falls to me to add some
context to David's endorsement. I think, if you couldn't survive the
gauntlet of imbeciles at ODP you will stand little chance at this
idiot annex. The management has sold out to the same control freaks
that run Dumbzo and go.com. So, unless you like kissing ass, or
forcing others to kiss yours, you'll find nothing but frustration at
hotrate. The real giveaway that no one there has a clue is its
silly "site review" gimmick, what a colossal waste of bandwidth,
unless of course your interested in what 50 people think of a site
about a boy and his frog.. If you look at the categories and how
disproportionately their filled, you'll soon realize that
the "editing community" is just spamers and kids. In sum, hotrate
has no potential as an efficient Web directory, it might however be a
nice place to learn the art of the pyramid scheme. See
http://www.donotgo.com/hotr.htm for more.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "David Prenatt" <netesq@d...> wrote:
> [Which reminds me, laisha, goldm, et al.: Try to remember the old
> Sicilian sayings: "Silence is a friend who will never betray you."
> And "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead." So, if
> y'all are inclined to breach ODP policy and discuss my removal with
> parties who are outside of the circle of ODP staff and metas in an
> effort to discredit me, I will be obliged to defend myself against
> your defamatory comments by whatever means are necessary. OTOH, if
> you'd like to discuss the circumstances of my removal from ODP with
> me, I will be very happy to do so off the record. My telling the
> story of my removal from ODP was simply incidental to my moving on to
> new projects and helping other people move on to life after ODP.]
Hey, everybody! Michael Gold aka ODP Meta Editor goldm, aka owner of
Detection.net [you know, the cool site listed in
s/ ], aka Captain Ahab (okay, I admit, I just made up that last moniker) has
apparently seen the message reproduced by me above and consequently has sent me
an e-mail using his official ODP byline. However, the tone of Mike's message
was rather paranoid, ominous, and threatening, and I am informed and believe
that sending such an e-mail was an action that was taken by Mike independently
(i.e., without the knowledge of and against the express policy of ODP staff
and/or the Council of Metas), so I have forwarded his e-mail to staff@... .
Notwithstanding the circumstances giving rise to my removal from ODP, I still
have a deep and abiding respect for ODP management, and it is my sincere hope
that Mr. Gold will be properly "counseled" for his inappropriate actions.
[Those of you who are still ODP editors may wish to review goldm's category
request logs. This guy has apparently had his meta editing privileges revoked
by ODP staff at least once before.]
The White Whale
I wonder if instead of trying to create an exhaustive directory
around the volunteer concept (just another ODP)... if the model that
makes the most sense is something akin to what About.com is doing.
Of course, a particular About.com guide can "suck" - but at least
they don't form the underlying directory for dozens of major search
engines and portals. Nor do they pretend that the whole thing is like
some massive community service project akin to the Peace Corps.
It was the ideology of openness + the free distrib model that
hoodwinked many into using ODP as "*the* directory." But it is
just "one approach"... and not necessarily one that will reign
supreme long term.
As people become more discriminating, will companies like About.com
and Looksmart, which make significant investments in high quality
editorial staff, win out in the long run?
Any bozo can categorize links, but I don't believe that the public is
looking for "just any bozo" to lead them to the good stuff.
Just some opening thoughts... good to see you all and I hope this
little group can get a bit bigger so we can have some productive
--- In email@example.com, gary@d... wrote:
> Although I'm not a big fan of private message boards, I have
> to take David up on his offer to join this group.
It was not my intention to bombard notice boards across the Internet with tales
of my removal from ODP. I intended one post on Search Engine Discussion, which I
made a couple of days ago, and then someone informed me that it had been
removed. It was not inflammatory, but more likely embarrassing to ODP and I
assume that it must have been removed for that reason. As ODP appears to be
verging on a totalitarian enterprise wishing to control what is said about it, I
am posting it here. Again I repeat that I am not wanting to enter into a
slanging match (nor do I harbour any desire to edit again for ODP :-) ) . I
merely re-post the original in its entirety :-
Like Netesq, I was fired as an ODP editor. Like Netesq no reason was given, nor
was there any e-mail from either a meta or staff to tell me that I had been
thrown out. I was not an editall, but I was a reasonably senior editor with
something over 20,000 edits. Unlike netesq, I have no desire to be re-admitted
back to ODP.
I do not believe that editor abuse, cooling of sites, bad editing, or any "real"
reason existed for my removal.
Everything I did was in the open and in the forums (I can call them that now,
rather than fora). I would say that my removal was for "questioning" rather
than "blindly following". I am used to running a business of my own where
productivity matters, where things that need done must get done. ODP insists on
not just strict adherence to the Guidelines, but that the Guidelines themselves
should not be questioned. It is Orwellian in concept, but no doubt they would
argue was the only way of running it). Further there is an unfortunate
incentive to do less oneself and gain points by letting others make "mistakes".
The current reorganisation of Regional is substantial, perhaps more substantial
than most people realise. It may well be that staff themselves do not realise
where they are going (either that or there is in-fighting among themselves as to
the direction). Certainly ODP does not want editors to question this. If it
works, it will put ODP at the head of all information dispensing on the Internet
- whether it has the human resources to put it all in place is another matter.
Probably the best analogy I can produce, without being accused of flaming, is
with the Marines. ODP wants Grunts, not Officers or even senior NCO's. At best
it will take lance corporals, and I would be the first to accept that I am not a
good lance corporal. I have ideas and I do ask questions, and I have a pride in
seeing anything I work on improve.
There is a major flaw in the ODP system with a complete lack of feedback to
editors, particularly at lower levels. Staff simply ignore e-mails. A burden
falls on the junior NCOs to try to keep the morale of the troops up and answer
their questions, but without knowing what is really going on, this is difficult.
The result is burn out, resignations and present disappearance of many senior
editors just below meta level.
Indeed following the resignation of all cats by an editall last week, I was
considering giving it up myself. As that editall said, it stopped being fun.
Happily the decision was taken out of my hands :-)
It is not my intention to pursue the issue of my abrupt firing by complaining
across the Internet or to ODP, I am happy to go. I merely consider the member of
staff that fired me extremely rude and cowardly for not having the courtesy, if
not the courage, to e-mail me of her action. No doubt she thought it a great
wheeze to have me trying in vain to log on during Tuesday, in ignorance of the
fact that she had stopped my ability to do so. It perhaps sums up the failings
of ODP staff to manage the unpaid volunteers - do not bother to communicate.
I have a great deal of respect for George Ruban ( someone from whom a number of
other metas could draw inspiration from - sorry about that remark George), but
in my case nothing would bring me back to ODP now. I am already on to new
projects, and ODP is behind me even though I was only fired on Tuesday! No
doubt other ex-editors will have other views.
The thought that I wish to leave here is that if ODP wants to run a successful
organisation, then at some point it will need proper personnel management . No
organisation that is short of workers can afford to gratuitously loose those
that it has.
Unreviewed in DMOZ are out of control (lack of editors, or at least ones
prepared to control unreviewed)and all sites submitted are not getting proper
attention (it is not good form to raise this within ODP). One has to accept that
editors in ODP are doing the unpaid job for a reason, unfortunately that reason
is in the majority of cases not an altruistic reason , nor should one expect it
to be. As long as a reasonable watch is kept on suspect and on new editors this
should not become too large a problem - the problem is that there are not enough
"non suspect" editors to progress through the middle ranks.
Once they have, then they need nurtured and managed properly.
I would like to think ( OK I know erroneously) that someone in staff will bring
in some form of personnel management. You cannot run something that size (25,000
editors so they say) without some sort of hands on management - it must also be
true to say that ODP does not have enough staff to manage.
It is also perhaps indicative of the paranoia of the system, that I have
refrained from naming people in order to avoid other editors being fired. It is
not my intention to get involved in a debate here, I am just making what I hope
is a constructive statement. To avoid the abusive, I am not adding my name, but
anyone with access, can work it out from the facts of this posting, so to that
extent it is not anonymous, and I am happy to answer personal e-mails from them.
>> That was the post that Search Engine Discussion removed completely - no doubt
the moderator of that board had their reasons for censoring it, it really does
not concern me. It does concern me that free discussion should be allowed
outside ODP if not inside it.
Over and out from me.
I read carefully through the forums at SED and I think if you are truly looking
for the reasons that you were dismissed from the ODP you need look no further
than the following thread:
As a senior editor with the title and duties of Editall I would imagine that
helping and assisting more 'junior' (less exalted) editors has to come as part
of the course. I am sure you have claimed dismay when other senior editors
(e.g. Metas) have failed to aid and lead from the fore.
In the forum thread referenced above you made an error in judgement (IMHO) which
gave a webmaster (who had shown an agressive tone already) the *appearance* of
your support for his right to harrass an editor who had simply followed the
"Nonetheless, (IMHO) you have presented a strong case as to why ODP should
reconsider its policies in re Web sites such as yours. I'd like to help you, but
I'm not sure that I can: There are many policies (official and unofficial) at
ODP that I think are misguided, but I am only one editor, and I have often found
myself under attack by other editors by virtue of my candor."
Just from reading that one thread I can but imagine the abuse that the editor
took via e-mail in addition to the constant questioning of a point very clearly
stated and in the written guidelines. Thats the submittal guidelines as well as
the ODP editor ones.
Quote: "Sites consisting largely of affiliate links should not be submitted."
While you stated:
"I am informed and believe that the policy under discussion here is an informal
one that was adopted by the editors-in-residence of the Shopping categories,
some of whom are meta editors. [One of the non-meta Shopping editors has posted
here and narrated his/her understanding of this policy and the underlying
rationale for it.] It would be very difficult for me to convince the Shopping
editors that they are wrong to exclude your site, as I would be perceived as an
outsider, but the editor-in-residence from the Shopping cats who has posted here
seems to be willing to help. I wish you luck, and I encourage you to be
persistent while maintaining the very reasonable tone that you have been using
I believe that this gave an overall impression (albeit unintentional) that you
gave a rather bullying webmaster false hopes that the guideline was not official
and indeed could be changed by simply persisting to badger the Shopping
editor(s). Said editor did indeed receive further badgering upon misleading
It is my hope that you may take on board the possible perception that
(intentionally or not) you encouraged the false understanding that many
guidelines can be changed by simply badgering an editor, and were thereby a
contributor to an editor receiving such badgering all to no purpose. I would
think that many Meta editors (who are often teasingly said to have no life
outside of DMoz, would argue that an Editall should have known this guideline
Perhaps understanding this will aid you in better addressing any apologies /
humility / redress for the transgression made to staff and/or metas (and
probably the editor who took the badgering).
A person who's words I often admired once suggested that a defence of "Your
Honor, I forgot that armed robbery was agains the law" could work. I would add
to that however, that it would not likely save the accused's job as a security
guard of the place robbed. I would imagine that senior editors are not supposed
to forget the guidelines.
My sincere best wishes,
When I first saw this "armed robbery" analogy used on SearchEngineDiscussion.com
(a.k.a. dmoz editor types' hangout), I commented that it reflected on the
mindset of some ODP loyalists that an editor involved in a dispute with a higher
editor would be compared with a (guilty) *armed robber* facing a trial judge.
People who handle authority well do not relish their capacity to "judge" but
some higher-ups at ODP evidently do.
Am I being a bit melodramatic? Well... I'm not the one who brought ARMED ROBBERY
into this... what is going on inside the head of someone who thinks that's a
I posted a similar comment at Searchenginediscussion some time ago, but my
viewpoint was censored, and the thread in question was closed. Luckily, that
won't happen here.
> A person who's words I often admired once suggested that a defence of "Your
Honor, I forgot that armed robbery was agains the law" could work. I would add
to that however, that it would not likely save the accused's job as a security
guard of the place robbed. I would imagine that senior editors are not supposed
to forget the guidelines.
> My sincere best wishes,
> Never lose a file again. Protect yourself from accidental deletes, overwrites,
and viruses with @Backup.
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> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
While editing a post for formatting earlier today, I received a second post from
the same poster with detailed instructions asking me to edit the first one. In
light of the buggy eGroups software (or rather the lack of familiarity that
posters here seem to have), I will be happy to format posts here to make them
display properly, but I will not engage in detailed editing of content. [If you
really want to make my job easy, please edit your post in html and attach it to
your e-mail as an html file.] I will also be happy to delete any posts at the
request of the poster before or after I have completed formatting them and/or
approving them for posting.
BTW, I claim no proprietary interest in XODP; I see myself as a caretaker until
institutions and mechanisms of self-government can be put into place. In the
meantime, I will allow and encourage shameless self-promotion by XODP members.
Please: Introduce yourselves; get to know each other; network. If it gets to
be a real problem, I will moderate irrelevant posts with a scheme similar to
that employed by slashdot.org. [On a related note, I received inquiries from
XODP members about linking to XODP and contacting potential members. Please
feel free to do so.]
As for other things, I am receiving a great deal of e-mail that looks like it is
intended for anonymous posting on XODP. If this applies to e-mail that you have
sent me, please state so.
Your Humble Moderator
XODP Editall netesq
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Andrew Goodman" <andrew@p...> wrote:
> Am I being a bit melodramatic? Well... I'm not the one who brought ARMED
ROBBERY into this... what is going on inside the head of someone who thinks
that's a useful analogy?
Well, I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition!
Latest reports have quoted Ammon Johns as saying:
> In the forum thread referenced above you made an error in judgement which gave
a webmaster... your support... to harrass an editor who had simply followed the
guidelines. I can... imagine the abuse that the editor took... in addition to
the constant questioning of a point very clearly stated... in the... guidelines.
...[T]his gave [the false] impression that... the guideline was not official and
indeed could be changed by simply persisting to badger the Shopping editor(s).
This is something that comes largely in part, I think, from the environment that
existed in ODP when netesq and I began our editorships there.
A lot of newer editors, including newer editors who have become metas via the
virtue of high #-of-edits, either weren't aware or interested in the original
origins [sic] of the ODP Guidelines. They were advised to follow them, and even
to retroactively keep up with them when they changed (it's a great, cheap way to
get a higher NOE, actually) by re-editing any older links into line with new
Anyway, my point is this: The original, and first few revisions, of the ODP
Guidlines were a *summary of Forum discussions*. That is, decisions had been
made among the editorship, in the Fora/ums, via excellent (but often found
painful and unnecessary among the timid) debate.
The loss of that open direction (pun intended) and the shift to a closed
authority was the first thing that I really mourned about the old ODP.
But the feeling stuck with some of us, especially those who were not embraced by
those who spent their efforts becoming meta and accruing social circles of power
once there. The latter gained the power to make decisions on such things as
editing guidelines, the former (like me) kept aflame the hope that we could
affect decisions on those things by being expressive, giving examples, and
pointing out exceptions and flaws. In other words, through engaging debate.
My explanation is that the many who saw no need, or who were made uncomfortable,
by such silly processes as debating policy, were able to convince enough people
to replace this silly laissez-faire system with a much more simpler system of
having decisions made for them.
I hate that sort of system, and I feel sorry for those that prefer it.
Keith D. Tyler, Lynn MA romulus@...
See http://searchenginediscussion.com/ubb/Forum48/HTML/000009.html .
Please allow me to state my public support for the right of Search Engine
Discussion to set and enforce its own moderation policies as it sees fit.
Furthermore, let me state that I have the highest respect for Daron Babin (owner
of Search Engine Discussion) and Ammon Johns (moderator of the Ex-
Editors for DMOZ Forum at Search Engine Discussion). In light of recent events,
perhaps some of you think that this is misguided loyalty on my part, but I truly
appreciate the opportunity that Search Engine Discussion gave me to
tell people about my mysterious departure from ODP.
For the record, I never wondered why I was removed from ODP, notwithstanding the
straw man arguments that have been made to the contrary. I stated what I
believed to be the reasons and rationale for staff's action (based upon my
information and belief) in the appeal that I made to ODP, asking for
reinstatement. Furthermore, I believe that the evidence giving rise to my
information and belief is and always has been in plain view for all inter ested
parties to see.
As for allegations that I had been warned that I needed to straighten up and
fly right, this is a sham. Those of you who are ODP editors can view the
"warning" that was given to me by ODP Meta Editor goldm in the ODP Editor
Shopping Forum. A true and correct copy of my reply, which I believe only
hastened my departure from ODP, is available at the following location for XODP
Members to view and distribute as they see fit:
The previous (totally unrelated) warning that I received from ODP Staff Editor
jiwasaki (approximately four weeks prior to my removal from ODP) is reproduced
in its entirety at the following location for XODP Members to view and
distribute in accordance with fair use of copyrighted materials:
My reply is at the following location for XODP Members to view and distribute as
they see fit:
I invite all interested parties to examine the evidence and make up their minds
for themselves. I also invite ODP's official representatives to comment
publicly on the offical reasons and rationale for my removal from ODP.
David F. Prenatt, Jr.
aka XODP Editall netesq
Latest reports, considerately edited, quote George Ruban as saying:
-> The directory as such really would appreciate some help. Remember, we're not
-> doing this for the Metas, we're doing this for the users.
What frustrated me most just before more or less giving up, is the
inconsistent ways in which ODP wants 'help'.
To me, now, the entire phenomena of "Help Wanted" cats is misleading, and
trying to lend a hand and pick up a cat where "help" is wanted is to get
yourself in more trouble than its worth. The spiel is "these cats have
lots of unreviewed, please help clean them out." Fine, I say; I know the
topic, no one else is expressing interest, and even though I don't have
the time to give it that much attention, I'll lend that helping hand and
take the cat to clear out that unreviewed.
But now you can't keep that role. Since you picked up that cat, you're
responsible for everything in it. Even -- and this burned me -- even links
and edits in that cat that *you didn't make.* That's wrong, unfair, and
I'm not going to turn what was supposed to be a simple unrev filtering
into a janitorial service for superceding eds who dump crap links into
-> Most of Northeastern U now has real descriptions, thanks, except for
Each of those edits, especially in Academic Departments, irritated
me. They were all simply redundant. To the extent that they were helpful,
they were also totally redundant. I was tempted to simply give them
descriptions so that they would like this:
Department of Biology -- Homepage of the Biology department.
Department of Chemistry -- Homepage of the Chemistry department.
There was really not much else of practical use to add as
descriptions. The sheer monotony of the task compelled me to actually try
to make them moderately more useful by adding mostly useless info like
"oh, they have minor programs too, and both B.A.'s and B.S.'s." Of
course, searching every page for that minutiae, with the limited time and
bandwith I now have available to me, took the rest of my practical
As for Administrative Departments -- look, if you don't know what a Bursar
does, what can I do about it? Does every C&U cat have to define the term
in the description? What else would be useful? Again, I'm tempted:
Bursar's Office -- The office of the Bursar.
-> aren't as bad, but could be used to nitpick, since some listings are without
-> descriptions, some with exclamation points.
In those two, I am not the only editor -- but I'm being held responsible
for all edits in the cat. I don't accept responsibility for anothers'
edits, and I shouldn't have to. This happened to me a lot in A/M/B/I/ICP,
-> Second, if you fix those, look over your other cats to make sure there
-> aren't gaping wounds... and then apply for Massachusetts,
I didn't even want Massachusetts through the whole issue. I dropped it and
attempted to pick up a subcat instead, where I was going to plan to filter
unrev. I dropped it because I knew I didn't have the time or resources to
take responsibility for the whole state cat anymore. (I thought that was
a show of personal responsibility.)
It still doesn't make sense to me that I was refused for a cat which I
had already been superceding editor of *earlier the same day.* Fine, it
was excused away with "you're a bad editor", but the reason given
*initially* was "lack of experience". (Which I assume was judged by the
meta in question by my N.O.E., which, because I have a full time job,
other interests, and no longer have the luxury of a fast home connection,
has never quite met the standards that some have attained -- especially
highschoolers and college freshmen who can afford to blow off most of
their classes [as I once could].) That was an insult, and no one can
expect me not to be ruffled by it. Netesq's issues about lack of
directness from metas and staff applies here. I had to raise a fuss
before all the accusations of bad editing came out -- no one was going to
tell me otherwise.
It's clear to me that 1) I can't assume only those roles and
responsibilities that I want to assume or that I can handle. I either take
them all or I don't take them. And 2) I can't sustain my outside interests
and also attain the stature that affords respect and receptiveness within
Well, it's supposed to be a volunteer project, and if you ask me, the
expectations of the volunteers (and the measure of their value) is way out
Keith D. Tyler, Lynn MA romulus@...
PS: I'm also tired of being the Forum Crank -- as well as a beacon of
knowing-what-I'm-talking-about in the Computers/ forum, fighting against
staff eds and appointed toplevel metas who don't. If the staff insists on
putting no-talent marketroids in charge of that cat, they deserve to see
it get screwed up. I can't believe I had to explain the difference between
a SQL server and the SQL language just the other day, before a
not-quite-knowledgeable ed was talked into merging them by another.
So, great, ODP has all these good little editors who comb and brush their
links to fit the guidlines -- but meanwhile, unfortunately, the cats are
getting all convoluted because these guideline-treading eds don't actually
know about what they're editing. You tell me which is worse.
Maybe I'll keep a few of the cats I have left, but no more trying to make
a difference for me -- there's nothing rewarding in it.
Just address an email to email@example.com
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