A trial of the Zemanta Firefox add-on

I gave the Zemanta add-on for Firefox a trial run in WordPress. Download it from Mozilla.

Here’s the background. Zemanta promises to make blogging easier for you by finding you relevant images, links or tags as you type a blog post or an email. (It works in Firefox and Gmail.)

That sounds appealing, especially for writing posts that need lots of external links or would benefit from some appropriate photos. I downloaded the add-on and opened up the WordPress admin window of Web Teacher. A Zemanta pane appears on the right of the window where you enter a blog post. It shows images, articles, tags, and links. And it has a search box.

Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigning, 2007
Image via Wikipedia

Before I started typing this post, I searched in the Zemanta pane added to my WordPress Dashboard for Hillary Clinton and found this image. I just dragged it into this window. No pain.  However, it is from a campaign speech in 2007. Not exactly hot news.

Then I typed the paragraphs above, containing the words Zemanta, WordPress, and Gmail. As I typed, “relevant” images related to those words popped up on the Zemanta pane on my WordPress Dashboard. What I got were logos from those three sites. Based on those keywords, I also got suggested links, blog posts (mostly really old posts), and suggested tags (mostly the same keywords mentioned).

I tried searching for some keywords in Zemanta that seem relevant to the things I write about. I searched on HTML 5. The results were pathetic. Unrelated images, unrelated article links, silly tags. Then I searched on Web Standards. Same useless results, but one image of a guy in a blue beanie, which made me grin. (Ahh, that’s what web standards are—head covering.)

On the Zemanta site, there is an interactive demo. I took it for a spin using the text from my most recent article on BlogHer: Old People are So . . . . The results there were marginally better, probably because the article mentions several famous names and contains a number of blog links. Here’s how it looked in the Interactive Demo window.

The Zemanta Interactive Demo

I say marginally better because the images were connected to names mentioned in the text. The Articles suggested were completely unrelated. The tags suggested were a rehash of the names mentioned in the article. Had I used Zemanta when I was originally typing this post, the images would have been helpful, and as easy to grab as the photo of Hillary above. The rest of it was no help.

For some bloggers, Zemanta might be really valuable. But it’s not useful on Web Teacher. My advice— check it out to see if it returns anything helpful for the type of content you post. If it doesn’t, you can do what I intend to do: disable the add-on.

Later this week, I’ll be publishing a different article about Zemanta and the JS-Kit-Echo on BlogHer. It will appear Saturday, August 15.

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6 thoughts on “A trial of the Zemanta Firefox add-on”

  1. Virginia, thanks for giving Zemanta a try.

    I would just like to comment briefly on your experience and what you can do to make Zemanta work better for you.

    Your initial bad experience with Zemanta came from the fact that you entered keywords into the text or/and into search field. Zemanta works best with longer, coherent pieces of text. Just entering keywords doesn’t work very well as we look at the text as a whole to figure out the context in which you used these keywords and to extract broader concepts from this.

    Regarding your test on your blog post – “Old People are So . . . “, it’s an article with lots of different names and very different concepts, making this an extremely hard problem for computers to find articles that would match your perfectly. The tags are intended to reflect the body of the blog post at least in some part, so you can easily tag the blog with the names of the people that you blogged about.

    I would invite you to test Zemanta for a bit longer on a couple of your older blog posts, to see how the recommendations change based on different blog content.

    The best way to truly experience Zemanta is to just write your blog post and observe how Zemanta recommendations change as your article progresses. Don’t search, just click on things you like or drag and drop images that you want.

    Jure Cuhalev, Zemanta
    .-= Jure Cuhalev´s last blog ..Streaming video? One more addiction to be wary of =-.

  2. Jure, thanks for the tips on using Zemanta. I’ll give it a few more trial runs with longer content before I decide about disabling it.

    I didn’t mention in this post (it will be in the BlogHer post) but I really like the way it allows people to quote your blog. And it’s easy to use in Gmail.

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