Can Zemanta help you write better blog posts?

Zemanta is a really cool Firefox plugin which scans the content of your blog post as you are writing it and suggests related content!

I first heard about Zemanta when I met Jure ÄŒuhalev, Zemanta’s Community Manager, at the BlogTalk 2008 conference here in Cork earlier this year. When Jure explained it to me I was intrigued and interested to try it out.

Subsequently I met AleÅ¡ Å petič, Zemanta’s Managing Director, at the Plugg conference. Having heard a lot about the plugin, I downloaded it to try it out and I have to say I am impressed, especially since the recent release of version 0.2.1.

The changelog for this release is:

– introduced WordPress 2.5 and new WordPress.com support
– introduced FireFox 3 Beta 5 support
– increased the number of suggestions to non-wikipedia sources
– tripled our index of related articles
– we also started adding our users to the articles index

In the screenshot below you can see that for the post about Microsoft’s Live Earth Zemanta suggested images including Microsoft logos and Virtual Earth screenshots. It found articles and blog posts about the new release of Live Earth and it suggested related Tags and Links (along the bottom). Zemanta also pays close attention to copyright, making sure that suggested content is licensed as Creative Commons or approved by stock providers, so you won’t get into trouble by using Zemanta’s service

Zemanta Firefox plugin

The fact that Zemanta is a Firefox plugin, as opposed to a WordPress plugin is quite clever as it means that it only needs to be installed once and it works across the multiple blog sites I write on. It works on WordPress, WordPress.com, Typepad and Blogger.

I know Zemanta is using some Semantic web technologies so I asked how the plugin works and received the following reply:

Following concepts come handy when trying to understand the engine: disambiguation, entity extraction, hierarchical classification, information retrieval, machine learning, cross-domain background knowledge.

That didn’t help me much but maybe it will be helpful for some!

The Zemanta plugin still needs a bit of work. When writing this post, for example, I had to save the post as a draft and open it again before Zemanta started suggesting content. However, it is very useful when you are writing a blog post to be able to see other sources of related material so I predict a bright future for Zemanta.

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