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Zemanta – First Impress Review

There’s some interesting buzz around the blogosphere today about a tool called Zemanta (found via WebWare) which is a blogging tool that works in your browser as an add-on that suggests content and licensed pictures that relates to content that you are writing at any given time.

Once you’ve got it installed at any point that you start writing a post in your blog’s backend (it supports WordPress.com, Blogger.com, Typepad.com, and self-hosted WordPresses from version 2.0 onwards) it begins to suggest images, related articles, links and tags that relate to what you’ve written.

I am currently using Zemanta as I write this post and here’s the screen shot so far of what it’s suggesting so far (click to enlarge):

Zemanta-Screen-Shot

The suggestions update every 300 characters that you write – so as your article develops, so too do the suggestions that Zemanta comes up with.

When you see something that you like you can add it to your post by clicking them. If it’s a link Zemanta automatically makes the first mention of that word in your post that link (which is what I did with the first mention of ‘Zemanta’ in this post in the first paragraph.

It works similarly with tags, related articles and images. I’ll include some related articles at the bottom of this post as suggested by Zemanta.

You can see a demo of how it works in the video below:


Zemanta Blogger integration from zemanta on Vimeo.

So what do I think of Zemanta?

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. I like the concept – it has the potential to really add depth and interest to blog posts. The idea of adding related links, articles and images is a really good one.
2. I don’t blog in the back end of my blog – I use a blog editor (ecto). So I’d have to change my blogging workflow considerably to use it.
3. It’s a little Buggy – I’ve noticed even when writing this post that every time Zemanta updates my browser freezes a little and my cursor is taken to the bottom of my post, even if I’m not working on that part of the post. This is quite annoying as I jump around in my posts quite a bit. It’s also a pain because once you use Zemanta early in a post it puts a ‘Zemantified’ button at the bottom of your post – and then when it reloads suggestions your cursor gets put down below that (this could just be me, I’ve not seen anyone else complain of it).
4. Related Articles don’t always relate. They do on this article (it’s about Zemanta afterall) but I just tested it on my photography blog and kept getting ‘photo of the day’ suggested related articles that didn’t relate to my specific posts (I tested it with a few different posts).
5. In the preferences of Zemanta you’re able to add your Amazon affiliate id so that when they suggest Amazon links you can make them your affiliate links – nice.

All in all I like the concept – but it’s probably not something that I’ll be using at this point.

Keep in mind that I’ve been testing it for all of 20 minutes – so my observations are premature. I’d love to hear what others think of Zemanta?

Zemanta Pixie
About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. MrCooker says:

    I’ve tried Zemanta a month ago and was quite pleased with the suggestions it was making. The only thing I didn’t like was that on ever post you write it links back to zemanta.com.

    If that backlink doesn’t bother you, it’s a very nice tool to use.

  2. Mirko says:

    Isn’t that pushing the blogger to add links that he didn’t check? In my opinion the authority of the blogger comes partially from the facts that readers can trust him for linking to pages he liked and checked.

  3. Callum says:

    Zemanta looks interesting. They have an online demo, you can copy / paste some text into it and see what it suggests.

    If you install the browser plugin, can you use the functionality on any textbox on any site? I’m not clear on the difference between the WordPress plugin and the Firefox plugin.

  4. Darren Rowse says:

    Mirko – yes, it could mean linking to links you’ve not checked – if you don’t check them. But to be fair it has a little link that lets you visit the site in a new window to see if it’s relevant – same with the relevant articles tool.

  5. Del Sauzo says:

    Nice. I’ll check it out. It will definitely save a lot of time , but its success will eventually depend on how it decides on the context of your post.
    Good luck to the developers and thanks for the info.

  6. Callum says:

    @Mirko: Good point. The plugin suggest links, which you could then check. It could make the process of finding the links easier, but it doesn’t force you to insert them (I think).

  7. bonchibuji says:

    I have been using Zemanta for around 3 months now..its a good tool when for finding and linking to Wikipedia articles…the key words are pretty ok, but most of the time misses out the big one…

    also, when i experienced a problem, their support was superb!!

  8. My Zemanta article is one of the three you chose to be linked from this article, so thanks!

    Because I’m linked, I received a trackback from this article:

    http://makemoneyonline.d85.org/zemanta-first-impress-review/

    I assume that person didn’t have permission to reprint your article in its entirety. I just wanted to bring it to your attention in case you didn’t get a trackback on it.

  9. tim says:

    From a creative perspective, this may be quite a handy tool. It could help get the creative ball rolling if you’ve hit a wall. My concern is that it could also allow bloggers to become lazy and less thoughtful in the content they publish. Thanks for the quick look.

  10. Thanks for the info Darren, Ive just installed the add on and will test it out.

  11. Looks intriguing enough to give a try. We’ll see it works on WordPress.com.

  12. I was thinking it would be great if they could make it like Google custom search where you can load your OPML file in for specific feeds to relate your posts to. I too ran into issues with the posts being unrelated. I also don’t really like giving free links any more to Wikipedia which is the links that they currently supply from inside your post. But it’s a great idea that I hope with grow.

  13. bonchibuji says:

    Darren,

    Inquisitr has also featured a story on Zemanta today? (http://www.inquisitr.com/one-word-for-zemanta-useful)

    Coincidence?

  14. Rob Brydon says:

    If they could make a plugin for Live Writer, I would be all in.

    I like the concept. It might cut down on research time. The progression of this tool will be interesting to follow.

  15. Dot says:

    heh i guess that you could build a system ASAP using this..

    and i agree that it’s interesting

  16. Lee says:

    I have tried Zemanta. While I did not care for the tag or the related links suggestions I found the images suggestions to be useful. I don’t use it on a daily basis but it can come in handy if you don’t have a lot of time to hunt for an image for a post.

  17. omg I love it! I wasn’t sure I wanted to install it until I tried out the demo and saw how the links work and the images were pre-formatted! I had to install instantly right after that…

    Oh and the amazon thing is nice, using Zemata on my newest blog now gaban.com

  18. Louis Liem says:

    I’ve using it since 2 months ago. It wasn’t always providing relevant articles and pictures. But when it did, it hurts no one to add them to my post.

    You can remove the “Zemified” link. It’s not imperative to include it though.

  19. James Lewin says:

    With a lot of techbloggers using TechMeme for story ideas, adding auto-suggested links and images is just going to increase the amount of pablum being generated.

    Short term – this might make posting quicker for you, but it will reduce your differentiation, which is likely to hurt you in the long run.

  20. liam says:

    Am I right to think that usually if you were writing a post you’d already have an idea of your topic and some source? This tool seems a backwards way of working to me.

    For me it would kind of take something away from blogging, usually when I read a post with links to sources, I feel that I’m being linked to something which the author themselves has found and wished to share. Using this tool would sort of take that personal touch away, as you’re not getting related content based on the authors preferences, but instead getting linked to something which has been generated based on keywords.

    However I do think it’s a really neat idea, so I’m a little torn. I don’t see myself using it, but I can understand 100% why bloggers would see this as a great tool

  21. Jordan says:

    Huh. I’ve been marking those trackbacks as spam.

  22. Gasper Zejn says:

    Hi,

    first of all, thank you for your review.

    @Rob Brydon, Live Writer plugin is planned, yes, hopefully in a release not far in future. You can also follow the Live Writer thread at http://getsatisfaction.com/zemanta/topics/are_there_any_plans_for_a_windows_live_writer_plugin

    @Darren Rowse, I’m glad to see your review, you might also check today’s new feature, called ‘reblog’ for simple reblogging a post you’ve seen on a blog that uses our tool. You can also read the details at http://www.zemanta.com/reblog/

    We’ve also noted your ‘bug report’ about the cursor annoyances.

  23. Agreed, it is interesting and I will probably give it a whirl. Thanks for sharing.

  24. I’ve been using Zemanta for a while and really like it – I’ve even had some of my posts listed as related artciles (I’m not sure how it sources them). I didn’t know that I could add my amazon id though so I’m off to do that!

  25. I had heard about it on Twitter and am glad you posted about it.

    I like the idea as well, but I’ll confess – I’m used to simply using site: and intitle: tags etc to find useful helpful links for my blogs.

    It would probably be good for those folk who haven’t completely mastered effective searching online.

    Data points, Barbara

  26. Live Crunch says:

    Guys are from my hometown, ljubljana Love the zemanta have been using it since day one.

    Yet as you said I use other editors but from time to time I do give credit to others like today I wrote an update on Zemanta.

  27. kristarella says:

    Thanks for the review. I was wondering what the point of it was since I already write in my browser… now I see the related links and tags and all that might be useful.

    I think I prefer to use links that I’ve discovered, seems to me that I’d only want to endorse something I like or think is useful. I like to write out the code (images and links etc) in my posts; does Zemanta only have WYSIWYG?

    Maybe Zemanta isn’t for me, but it seems okay.

  28. I tried it and I didn’t like it. Maybe because i’m not really a niche writer yet.

    I’m going to stick to scribefire instead.

  29. H.E.Eigler says:

    I’ve been using this for a few months. Sometimes I don’t use any of the suggestions but I have been using it for pictures because it saves a lot of time. Today, it found me a Harold and Kumar movie pic and It meant I didn’t have to go look for it. It’s great for that kind of thing :)

  30. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I’m finding I like it MORE as time goes on. I had a comment on my own post about Zemanta which I thought was impressive. They’ve obviously been following what people are saying and working to improve the problem.

    I find my cursor moves to the top of my page with every update, not the bottom. And this is a problem I’ve only noticed in the past few days.

    I rarely use the related posts feature and mostly use it for adding images to posts where I don’t already have my own image I want to use.

    You can actually delete the “zemified” icon if you choose.

    I didn’t know about the Amazon affiliate feature though. Will look into that further. Thanks.

  31. blog4net says:

    nice post, darren. i will test it to see if it is useful for my blog.

    after all, i am blogging the internet. :-)

  32. cb says:

    I’ve just tried it a couple of times following reading this post. It’s a nice tool. I have found the images most useful followed by the tags because they suggest quite obvious things I might not have thought of!
    I would use it much more when the Live Writer plug in is up and running – because I like writing in Live Writer so much more than on directly on WordPress,com

    But thanks for the suggestion. I don’t follow many internet or blogging related sites so had never come across it!

  33. I originally reviewed Zemanta here. At that time, I thought it was pretty cool that I could automatically spruce up my posts with images and links without hunting around myself.

    I have since changed my opinion. The fact that it refreshes and moves my cursor is the most annoying thing EVER. The images it suggested for my most recent post on RTM were totally useless so I still had to hit up Flickr to find something.

    I would have to say that it made writing my post take longer and was less enjoyable than usual. It may be great for some people, but it sure doesn’t work well for me.

    (sorry, totally messed up my previous comment.)

  34. Gasper Zejn says:

    @Lightening@Lightening Online, @Rahsheen Porter, just to let you know, we have now fixed the cursor annoyance. Be sure to clear your browser cache before you try again.

    Gasper Zejn,
    Administrator,
    Zemanta Ltd

  35. After reading your post, I decided to give Zemanta a try. I played with it on a couple of my blogs and was impressed with what it could do, particularly in the realm of suggesting tags and providing automated Amazon links in my WordPress editor. I was prepared to push forward with using Zemanta on all my posts regularly when the thing just died on me. The plugin says it’s updating with new suggestions and appears to be working as it always did, but now no new links, tags, photos, or articles get updated. I don’t know what might have happened, as I didn’t change anything about my blogs’ configurations or add any other plugins before this happened. For now, at least for me, Zemanta just plain isn’t working.

  36. Kate Foy says:

    Zemanta has proved a reliable and time-saving source for blogpost enrichment and licensed images. Do check the automatic links it suggests to ensure it’s what you want. I’ve had no problems with the wandering cursor!

  37. Nancy Nally says:

    I’ve been using Zemanta now for awhile on my Typepad hosted site. For me some of the most useful things are that it makes it easier to put in Technorati tags, and sometimes finds images that are helpful. Also, it has lead me to some articles that have not only been related to the currently being written piece, but that I have saved as notes for information or inspiration for new pieces.

    The only problem that I have had is that occasionally when I launch my posting window for some reason Zemanta doesn’t launch. I blame this on the frequent updates that have been happening with the Firefox 3 launch. The fix is to exit the posting window and re-enter it. It will usually launch then.