My Secret Weapon: The Open Directory Project

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Recently I was attempting to find spot-on sources for a literature search in a subject area related to materials science.   The first place I checked was the Intellogist Resource Finder, which contains a collection of search systems, database, publications, and websites organized by subject category.  If you haven’t seen the Resource Finder, you should check it out – I think it has about the right level of granularity for a prior art search source directory.

By the way,  you can suggest additional resources for the Resource Finder in the comments section, or by contacting us.  We frequently revise and update the sources listed there.

The Resource Finder is an evolving work in progress, but when I need to cover relevant sites on the web in more depth, I often turn to my favorite source in a pinch, the Open Directory Project, also known as Dmoz (after its URL,  Dmoz bills itself as the “largest human-edited directory of the web,” and “the definitive catalog of the web.”    The open directory project is a massive collection of hyperlinks organized by subject, and each subject page is maintained by a volunteer editor,  usually an expert in the given area.

Relying on human-created subject directories is an idea that many other web services have sought to employ.  Mahalo, Squidoo, and even Yahoo come to mind as services that have relied on human editors.  However, what astonishes me about Dmoz in particular is the incredible breadth and depth of the category pages.

One of the things I like about the open directory project is that it has a hierarchical structure.  This means that it is easy to explore a subject by using the breadcrumbs at the top of each directory page to move to a broader, more specific, or related subject area.  Here is an example directory page that I found on Dmoz by searching the phrase “remote control gliders“:

Heading on Dmoz pageDmoz directory

As you can see, the top of the page is a series of breadcrumbs to broader categories.  Clicking on any of these will show a directory of resources related to the chosen topic.   The next section of the page suggests related topics that might be of interest to the searcher, such as sub-categories under “Recreation” and “Shopping”.  The directory portion of the page, in this instance, contains a list of corporations that make or sell gliders, or items related to gliders.  However, if I go one category up, to “Remote Control, ” I get a list of retailers that make or manufacture any type of remote-controlled device.

This kind of depth and coverage means that I can get a starting list of sources to investigate for almost any topic.  If company names are listed, putting them into a patent search engine may give me a starter list of relevant patents.  Or, their websites may contain product brochures for non-patent literature browsing.  The directories are not limited to company names and websites only – often they will contain relevant publications, databases, and even vertical search engines directed toward a particular topic.

Do you use Dmoz?  What other web directories do you rely on for a jump-start on a particular topic?

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Kristin Whitman. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.


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