Testing Zemanta

I was testing Zemanta today on this blog (WordPress).
That’s a Firefox add-on that “Have your browser understand what you are blogging about and suggest pictures, links, articles and tags to make your posts more vibrant” (from the Zemanta site).

Zemanta ReviewAll you have to do to install the add-on is click the download button at their site and install the plugin in your Firefox browser. Zemanta works with WordPress.com, Blogger.com, Typepad.com, and self-hosted WordPresses from version 2.0 onwards.

Whenever you’re writing a new blog post, Zemanta kicks in after typing about 300 characters and saving your post first. It shows at the top right hand side of your ‘Write’ area and it allows for a manual update.

Zemanta does a contextual comparison of the text in your post and image titles, image descriptions and the articles where the images were used in originally.
Zemanta also suggests article links, which they retrieve from their own database, where they index around 300 top media sources and numerous blogs of their users.

Next, this add-on provides you links, shown just below your ‘Write’ area, but most of them point to the Wikipedia site. I also found links to WordPress, Blogger.com and Firefox.
And finally, Zemanta also suggests tags just below the Tags box. My guess is they take them from the suggested articles, but I’m not sure.

I wasn’t very impressed by the suggested pictures. They come from Wikimedia Commons, Flickr and various stock photo providers. For this post, most suggested pictures were logo’s from Wikimedia, Blogger, WordPress and Firefox. You can add them by hovering your mouse over them and then click the plus sign that comes up.
The code to show these images was always added at the top of the post and looked so awful I didn’t even bother to add one. No images dimensions were included and all images are linked.

The same applies to the links that are suggested. For this post links to Firefox, WordPress, Zemanta, Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia showed up. That could be improved.

The articles that Zemanta suggest can be useful. Because this post is about their service, a lot of the suggested articles linked back to their site, but while managing some older posts, I also saw links to John Chow, TechCrunch and other famous blogs. Clicking an article inserts it in your blog post like the one below, but again, the code is awful and it’s inserted at the bottom of your post, so I had to copy and paste the code to get it below this paragraph.

The tags can be a very useful addition too, but when you click them they’re not only added to your tags, but it also adds a ‘Zemified’ icon to your post, like the one you see at the bottom. Of course, you can delete this image, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you can use it in future to bookmark your posts.

All in all, I think Zemanta isn’t very useful yet, but it can be in the (near) future. It’s still under development, so I suggest you keep an eye on it.

Here’s some additional information:
Some Fun With Zemanta by Andy Beard
A content suggestion engine for blogging? That could work… by Mike Butcher at TechCrunch

Check this add-on out and if you’ve used Zemanta, post your comments below.




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7 thoughts on “Testing Zemanta

  1. andraz says:

    Hi from Zemanta!

    I have to say your review is pretty interesting. However as we work very hard to try to make Zemanta as good as possible I’d like to ask you for a bit more constructive criticism.

    How exactly would you change the HTML code inserted (keep in mind this has to work across most of the blogs, it cannot be your css dependant)?

    What kind of free images would you expect for an article like this?

    Where would you want the images placed? How would you determine where to place the code?

    What concrete improvements would you wish for?

    We try to listen to our users, so feedback is most welcomed! It helps if it is very concrete so we know how users would like it fixed.

    Oh, and some preferences are probably coming in one of next iterations, so this might mitigate some issues you have.

    bye
    andraz from Zemanta

  2. Case Stevens says:

    Hi Andraz,

    I was anticipating your hard work to make Zemanta a great add-on, as I wrote in my post it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

    You insert some pretty impressive code when including an article, but I feel you make it difficult for yourself. Why not just insert the link and let the blogger worry about the lay-out. We can easily change our CSS individually to make it fit the page. Personally I don’t need the fieldset feature.

    The same applies to the code for the images, including the Zemified image. Do you have more plans for using that one?

    I really would like to see more images coming from the Creative Commons section of Flickr, as they deliver great images that are widely used by the blogger community. Something like the PhotoDropper plugin.
    And maybe the link to the source of the image can be on the next line, so appropriate credit can be given.

    But my main problem using your add-on was, that I wasn’t able to insert an article or an image at that point in my post where I wanted it.
    I replaced my cursor several times, adding a few extra lines to insert either one, but always had to copy and paste the result from the bottom or the top.
    Due to the ‘overload’ of coding I had to be very careful with what I was copying and pasting. Now, I know what I’m doing, but it will be very difficult for beginners, for whom this will be a great resource.
    Inserting articles and images at the cursor point would be quite an improvement already.

    Again, my impression is that you want to deliver too much. I really think this has potential, but develop it one at the time to make it perfect. My guess is that it shouldn’t take too long to do so and you’ll soon end up with a perfect product.

    Does this help?

  3. andraz says:

    Hi,

    yes this helps a lot.

    We want to also appeal to bloggers that don’t know anything about HTML or CSS and do not want to edit the code themselves. So we created a solution that does all the heavy lifting instead of them.

    However some pro-users like you have shown interest in having more control over code inserted. So we will definitely take some steps in next iteration or two to resolve this.

    Also more images are being taken into consideration, from flickr also. Yes, Zemified image will get additional uses in future iterations of the service. Currently it allows us to discover where Zemanta is being used so we could take actions like including content of bloggers that are using us back into the index or create statistics.

    bye
    andraz

  4. andraz says:

    @funked:

    Don’t worry. Zemanta suggests only stuff that you can use (CC licences and similar) or that you might be able to use under fair use and you can check the precise license yourself.

  5. andraz says:

    funked: we make sure that we suggest only stuff that you can use. Or at least can easily check if you could use it (for example stuff that you might use under fair use rights)

    Full automation is impossible, but we do our best.

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