Interview with an Editor: Merlin1
by dpen2000

dpen2000: Tell us a little about yourself. 
merlin1: Well, I'll be 30 at the end of August (!); I've been married for 4 and a half years to Jonathan, who is also my business partner, and we have a beautiful two and a half year old daughter, Emily Dana. Apart from my qualifications in Astrology, I also studied International Business, and am fluent in Italian, German and French, with a smattering of Japanese and Arabic. I've held a variety of business positions in my career, but had always wanted to practice astrology full time - four years ago that dream came true when we upped sticks and moved to the other end of the country and set up business at the same time. Elysian Astrology is going from strength to strength, so if any webmasters out there want some astrology content for their sites, come and talk to us! We also own a new age/metaphysical store. Not sure what else you'd want to know! 

dpen2000: How long have you been a dmoz editor? 
merlin1: Since 1st October 2000. 

dpen2000: What was the first impression you had of dmoz? 
merlin1: First impression as an editor was that it was overwhelming. There seemed to be so much to learn, and the whole thing was so... vast. It took me about 10 days after receiving my log-in to actually do any editing - I logged in, looked round, thought 'I'll never get the hang of this!' and went away again, before daring to come back. Not a very auspicious start, but I'm glad to say my impressions got much better, very quickly. 

dpen2000: Can you remember who made you an editor? Do you still have a copy of your acceptance email? 
merlin1: Yes, it was icxcnika. And yes, I do still have a copy of the email. 

dpen2000: What was your first category? Why did you choose this one? 
merlin1: The first category I was accepted to was Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/New_Age/Products_and_Services/Stores - which no longer exists, as my first mini re-org was to refine and rearrange that part of New_Age to become New_Age/Shopping. However, this wasn't my first choice of category. I had originally applied to edit Society/Religion and Spirituality/Divination/Astrology - little did I realise then that it was far too big for a newbie editor. I had wanted the astrology category as I'm a professional astrologer - I chose a small subcat in New Age as second best since I also run a metaphysical/new age shop and have a general interest in the area. 

dpen2000: What is your favorite section of the directory? Why? 
merlin1: I'm torn between saying Regional/Europe/United_Kingdom or the Society tree in general. Regional//UK because I'm very proud of the work that we, the UK team, are doing in there - we've got a huge backlog of unreviewed sites, and a lot of cleaning up and house-keeping to do, but editors are starting to pull together and that's nice to see. On the other hand, the whole Society tree is fascinating - it's home to so many controversial topics, including all of our variations of religion, ethnicity, sexuality and politics, and of course Society/Issues which does a good job of trying to present all viewpoints on a huge variety of topics. Other areas which I find very interesting, but have never been involved in editing, include Arts/Literature and Science/Anomalies and Alternative Science

dpen2000: Which editor inspires you the most? Why? 
merlin1: Icxcnika. I admire the depth of her knowledge on all matters religious and spiritual, and also the patience and calm with which she handles the difficulties of the Society/Religion and Spirituality section. I think that must be one of the most difficult areas of the directory to edit, given the maelstrom of religious sensitivities which need to be balanced against the need to provide a clear and objective structure. Icxcnika has also given me a lot of guidance, right from the start of my dmoz career, and provided sympathy and sensible advice at a time when I was on the verge of quitting. 

I also admire and am inspired by the many editors who regularly take the time to help and advise in the New Editors forum - I think it's vital that we all remember what it was like to be a 'newbie', and to encourage and assist new editors in whatever way we can. And an honorary mention to pageland, who answered my very first nervous newbie question in the forum with patience, clarity and encouragement. 

dpen2000: If you could have any tool added to the editing tools what would it be? Why? 
merlin1: My preferred option for a new tool would be one that I know has received some discussion recently in Bugs and Features - a facility to keep robo errors which have been unreviewed separate from ordinary greens. When I started editing Regional//UK, I was frequently coming across sites which had been unreviewed due to a robo error many months ago, but which actually only needed minor tweaks to fix them. So they had been sat for months in unreviewed unnecessarily. Then another robo run came along in May - and another just recently - and now there are many more thousands of robo errors lost in unreviewed all over the directory, which could sit there for months. If we had a tool which could pull up all the reds together, it would be much faster and easier to deal with them. 

dpen2000: What tool of the tools do you use most? Why? 
merlin1: Probably the one I use most is the multi-feedback tool, which I think is by pchere. It's essential for the role of UK New Editor Welcome Wagon Co-ordinator, as it's an easy way to email 20 or 30 new editors at once with the same welcome message. I do love the multi-link editor too, however, although I seem to recall it was rather scary the first time I used it! And I have used the demozulator a lot, mainly in New Age and Divination, which dramatically cut back on the number of reds I had to face in there over the last two robo runs. 

dpen2000: Do you have a favorite mozilla? Which one? Why? 
merlin1: I like the Bridal Mozzie best, I think. Just because it's so well done. I also like the Saint Mozzie with the halo, because it's very versatile if you think laterally! The Regional ones with flags are also nice and colourful - especially the Wales one, but then that could be because I'm part Welsh! 

dpen2000: What forum do you spend most time in? Why? 
merlin1: Regional, closely followed by Society and New Editors. Reason being that my biggest category by far is in the regional tree, and so that's logically where most issues requiring my attention crop up. I spend a lot of time in the Society forum too, reading even I don't have anything particular to contribute, and I enjoy keeping an eye on the New Editors forum to see if I can help out. 

dpen2000: What were your ambitions when you began? Why? 
merlin1: My one and only ambition in my early days was to get to where I had first wanted to be - Divination/Astrology. It was slow going! But on the way I developed more and more interest in the rest of the New Age section, and so that became my second goal, once I had been eventually accepted for Astrology. Once I was actually in dmoz, it became clear that neither Divination nor New Age had any really active editors, and needed cleaning and TLC, so that's what I aimed for. It was only after I had been here for quite a while that I decided to try my hand at editing in Regional, where I started with my home county of Lincolnshire, in England. Then I got bitten by the regional bug, and was determined to make it to the top of Regional/Europe/United Kingdom. So my ambitions have changed a lot as I've gained more experience. 

dpen2000: What are your ambitions for your future at dmoz? 
merlin1: There's a lot more to be done in Regional/Europe/United_Kingdom, which I hope to have a big hand in - ideally I would like to push the unreviewed there down to around 5%, and significantly increase the number of listed sites from the current 80,000 - that barely scratches the UK potential. I also hope to help sort out the many overlaps and generally have a huge tidy up in there. Outside of Regional, I'd like to progress further in the Society tree; eventually I would hope to be able to edit top level Society, as there is such a wide range of fascinating categories in there. 

dpen2000: Can you imagine yourself as an editall? What would you most enjoy about it? 
merlin1: I would love to be an editall, yes. I think what I would enjoy most is the freedom to move around the directory. There are few areas that don't interest me, so the variety would be wonderful. I'm a keen 'site collector' in as much as I have hundreds and hundreds of sites waiting to be loaded - I feel an odd compulsion, when I come across a specialist magazine or somesuch, to strip it of its web addresses and collect them for 'future use'! At one point I did send off hundreds of sites from my bookmarks, although I've been too busy to do much of that recently. But with editall privileges it would be lovely to be able to add sites directly as well as dealing with those which are already there. 

I would also love to be a catmod. Although a catmod's area of focus is much narrower, I hugely enjoy the editor-editor contact and the mentoring aspect which is part of a catmod's role. Of the two positions, I would probably prefer to become a catmod, although of course, like most of us, I don't suppose I'd say no to either! 

dpen2000: Which newbies have most impressed you over your time here at dmoz? 
merlin1: Well, there's you! Very impressive! Also holford, who has very quickly worked his way to Regional/Europe/United_Kingdom/England level, and has shown a lot of diligence and persistence. Raina in the society tree seems to be able to turn her hand to most things. I've been involved in mentoring a lot of new UK editors, and many of them have shown a lot of determination and tenacity in getting to grips with 'the way we do things round here'. Recently denisnelson and edwardeldridge have both shown patience and a big willingness to learn, which is always a delight to see. 

dpen2000: What advice would you most like to give to aspiring newbies? Why? 
merlin1: The first and most important piece of advice would be to hang in there! It does take a while to get used to dmoz, and we all have to go through a learning curve. I think many new editors are very disheartened when they realise that there aren't hundreds of submissions in their categories. They apply to a bigger one, get turned down, and then we lose them in droves, I think! So - hang in there, and don't take rejection too hard - there are very few of us who haven't been rejected at some point! Hand in hand with that piece of advice I would also advise all new editors to get to know their bookmarks, and to use them to their full potential for practice, for building dummy categories before applying etc. And finally - read the new editor's forum regularly, never be afraid to ask questions, and if at all possible, find yourself a mentor! I think the one on one contact that a mentor can provide really makes the difference sometimes between who makes it and who doesn't. And remember, it's supposed to be fun! If you find it's no longer fun, take a break. 

  - dpen2000