Zemanta Adds Blog Ephemera


A photo of Joi Ito's moblog.Image via Wikipedia

I’m all for anything that makes blogging easier and richer – great blog publishing tools, super widgets, anything to add value to my blog that doesn’t suck up too much of my time. That is why I was interested to hear about Zemanta which claims to help your browser “understand what you are blogging about and suggest pictures, links, articles and tags to make your posts more vibrant.”

Well that sounds great, I thought. Over the years, my blog posts seem to have less links, rarely any pictures and tags are often a drudgery to develop. So I added Zemanta to Firefox. And then…all hell broke loose.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. What happened at first was incredibly unexpected and cool. Suddenly my Typepad and WordPress and Blogger blogs had additional features that appeared on the posting pages. Right now as I write this, for example, I see to the right of this text box a selection of images under “Gallery,” a list of articles, and below the text box, there are a list of 7 links and 8 tags, all supplied by Zemanta .

Here’s where the hell begins to break loose. First, take a look at the image embedded above. It is Joi Ito‘s moblog. So how did my browser and Zemanta decide this was relevant based on what I said in the paragraphs above this one? There was an option for a lovely Firefox logo which I could have used but also:

  1. a screenshot of WordPress
  2. a screenshot of Blogger
  3. a screenshot of WordPress’ administration page

After typing 300 more characters, Zemanta then fed me a closeup shot of Joi Ito (hi Joi!), the Typepad homepage, and various Firefox screenshots.

The links Zemanta gave me were slightly more relevant but since I mentioned Joi Ito and his moblog, some links are totally off track now. The links listed at this point:

  1. home page
  2. blogs
  3. Typepad
  4. Zemanta
  5. screenshot
  6. Firefox
  7. Joi Ito

Zemanta also gave me the following tags:

  1. Firefox
  2. Zemanta
  3. Blog
  4. WordPress
  5. Typepad
  6. Mozilla Firefox
  7. Joi Ito (Hi again to Joi!)
  8. On the Web

In terms of articles, they are almost all about Zemanta. Rather than listing them, I’ll add some to this post. In fact, let me add everything I can right now from Zemanta to this blog post and see what happens. (Sound of hell breaking loose).

See what I mean? On the one hand, the idea behind Zemanta is interesting, but on the otherhand, the results are, frankly, chaos. And am I the only one who thinks the company’s name – Zemanta – sounds like a new pharmaceutical? “Is your blog getting you down? Are you not feeling the social in social media? Have you hit a virtual brick wall? Zemanta can help…”


Amit Aviv


I wrote a FireFox extension that helps bloggers easily add links to their posts. It uses Google search for link suggestions (not only Wikipedia) and OpenCalais for the semantic analysis.
It’s still alpha code, but I think it’s already useful and fun to use.
Check it out in kaalga.com
Would love to hear what you think.

Thanks, Amit.

Jure Cuhalev

@FiZ: makes sense. Sometimes abstract technological things are the hardest to create good suggestions for.

If you would be willing to donate an extra minute to Zemanta by giving us a copy of this article (either here, or to my mail – jure@zemanta.com), I’ll make sure our engineers take a very good look at it, and that by our next iterations people with similar blogging style, will not want to hurt us.


Jure Cuhalev, Zemanta


I was equally intrigued by the idea of Zemanta but turned off by the poor execution just the same. I wrote an article and got tags and links for things like the wikipedia definition for “site” and a link to Blogger when I’m writing about CSS 3 and webkit vs. mozilla. I thought “maybe it just needs more content to work with”, but like the village idiot, the more time I gave it, the stupider it got. The image was a screenshot of the gmail login page and the tags made as much sense as the links (which is, to say: none). It’s a great idea, but such a hideously flawed implementation that I’d rather stab the developers in the face with a toaster for even considering this product an alpha, god forbid- a finished piece of software.


@katherine: I’d be very interested if you can do a comparison. Both services offer tags, but from very different viewpoints on what is actually a tag.

@vaibhav: Images are 1/4 of Zemanta. What about the rest?


Katherine Coombs

@Aliza: I haven’t tried Zemanta…yet. I’m half tempted to give it a try as the Calais add-in isn’t giving me fantastic results. It could be struggling to make sense of my sarcastic tone and Australian lingo though! ;-)


@Katherine: you tried tagging with Zemanta? Any comparison on which tags you like more? :)

@Roberto: Well question of other languages is much much deeper, we have to support it throughout the stack, add linguistical processing for that specific language, etc. Just giving related news in Spannish would be very half baked.


Not bad, not bad. I’ve been playing with it a little bit and, although it has some problems with the context (which is to be expected) not all the results are bad and the tagging also works fine, specially considering that I tested it on a Spanish language blog.

It’d be nice if it could detect the language set on the blog and refer to sources in that language. Something for a later version?

Katherine Coombs

Hi Aliza,

I don’t (yet) have much faith in many of these products as there’s simply too much information on the web, not enough understanding of context etc for them to really get it right.

So in the meantime I’m happy to manually create links when as is I need them. After all, it’s not onerous since I don’t link that much.

But tagging is another story. I installed the Calais plug-in to auto-tag my posts and archives. A real time saver. Go to http://banking-on-it.com/?page_id=22 to see the plug-ins that I’m talking about.

Certainly it’s not “the” answer, but it helps me. Until the semantic web and smarter search engines catch up. More on that at http://banking-on-it.com/?p=17 if you’re interested.



Hi from Zemanta,

glad to read your review!

I think you and Zemanta managed to get into positive feedback loop. You writing about where Zemanta went wrong and naturally Zemanta than tried to zero in on the the new text you have just written :).

Try avoiding positive feedback loop and try it out maybe on some articles you have already written. Just press edit, don’t save, to try it out… :)


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