According to Wikipedia, Zemanta is
a content suggestion engine for bloggers and other content creators. Zemanta analyzes user-generated content (e.g. a blog post) using natural language processing and semantic search technology to suggest pictures, tags and links to related articles.
If you have a WordPress blog then you’ve probably seen the little Zemanta widget, about halfway down on the Edit Post page. It analyzes what you’ve written and makes suggestions for extra content. While I think the idea is great, it really doesn’t work in a way that makes any sense to me.
Firstly, the ideas come AFTER you’ve written your blog post. That’s complete backwards. If you are looking for ideas for blog posts then you don’t want them after the post is written, you want them before you start writing. Zemanta needs information to perform a search on, I get that, but why can’t you start with a list of keywords and then use it as a research tool. Once you have some great content then write your article?
Secondly, the image search is terrible. I know it’s a stretch to sometimes to come up with a good image when you may be writing about something that’s not physical, but surely it could come up with better metaphorical images, the type you see on cheesy websites everyday. Writing a blog post about teamwork? Then you need an image of a pit crew changing race car wheels. Talking about new business? Then you need a picture of people shaking hands. Those examples are taking it to the extreme and I DON’T think you should use them – they are well-worn cliché’s, I’m just using them make a point: image ideas don’t have to be exactly about the subject of the blog post. Surely they could come up with something similar?
This image is the best Zemanta could come up with for my blog post. It really doesn’t add anything to the post.
To be fair, there is a search box in the image recommendation widget, so you can manually search for an image yourself. But I could do that on Google. Where is the ‘semantic processing’ that Zemanta is supposed to be doing to help me?
Here’s my image idea for this post. I used the Zemanta search to search for ‘broken’ and found this. Firstly it’s a much nicer looking image than a screenshot, and secondly it’s not too literal, and a little playful.
Lastly, the option to add related articles to your blog post is just lazy. People are drowning in blog posts already, they don’t need ten more to read. Zemanta should help you figure out what’s important in those related articles and build that into your blog post. Letting you tack links onto the end of your blog post is a cheap way to add bulk to your blog post. Some idea about why Zemanta thinks the articles are related may help. I often find myself exploring all the links it presents and losing thirty more minutes trying to understand the articles and how they relate to my post.
What do you think? Am I crazy? Is Zemanta really the bee’s knees? Am I just not using it right? Let me know in the comments below.