Several years back I was introduced to Zemanta while I was attending Blogworld. I think it might’ve been in 2007 or 2008. At the time I thought it was a great application especially since it had a plug-in for WordPress and a plug-in for LiveWriter.
UPDATE – While my initial new impressions were negative, things got a little better later. (see troubleshooting at bottom of article)
There were a couple downsides to the program. Often times when you used an image from Zemanta, that image was hosted on someone else’s website. This meant that the load time of your website was contingent on someone else’s website. If they deleted the image, that could be problematic as well.
There were only a few options on how large the image could appear. This created some formatting issues. Plus there was often a border or margin around these images that made things float in weird ways. Combine all those things together and far too often you would end up with a blog post that have a lot of errors on it if something went wrong with that picture. These were errors that you had little if any control over and most of the time your only option was to delete the Zemanta section with the image all together.
Zemanta has made a number of improvements since then, and today I wanted to test and see if it was up to snuff and ready for prime time.
Here are a few things that I have noticed using Zemanta today:
After I made it this far, I was just about ready to write Zemanta off for another 3-4 years, but I thought I’d be as fair as possible and do a little user trouble shooting on Zemanta.
I tried updating my Zemanta settings. They still had my account and remembered me from years back. That was nice.
I then saved a draft version of my blog article (that Zemanta wasn’t working in) and reloaded it. This time, when I switched to Visual mode, it did not give me all three menu systems (html menu, visual basic menu and the visual kitchen sink line).
OK, so hoping things might be better…
In addition, I was seeing some in-text links (like I had seen in the latest intro video from Zemanta, but couldn’t see originally.
I tried clicking on a few of these, I could select them, but couldn’t figure out how to get them into the actual article??? Further more the Apply All function did select them all, but there was not a ‘unselect all’ option. (bummer)
This time when I clicked the Related Articles items, it did insert them (bottom of the post as opposed to right in the post) (half bummer)
When I attempted to load that same Zemanta logo image that had been suggested, it loaded it in, floated to the right per my global (all blogs) zemanta settings. Would be nice if I could edit where that goes in this blog. It didn’t crop the image down to something that wasn’t recognizable like it did last time.
The image placement options were just downright weird though. I left it in above, but if this weren’t an article about Zemanta, that just would not be something that was ready for primetime at all.
The Zemanta media library image is not loaded into my own media library. As such it is not possible to use one of these as a featured image. Most of my sites, blogs etc and 95% of my client’s sites use featured images heavily. One of the advantages of using Zemanta is access to royalty free images, but apparently that won’t help if you need a featured image too.
After I got my word count up to 895 I attempted to see if Zemanta could find anything useful in My Sources. No luck there, it showed me an image of myself running on the evening news and another of a cat at the top of a set of stairs.
Zemanta’s tag suggestion system only supplied 1 useful hit ‘Zemantta’ for this article. WordPress was a distant possibility, but tweetexchange, and crunchbase (the source of the zemanta image) and some others wasn’t on target at all.
For the record, when I tried running Scribe Seo on this same blog article, it took a dump as well. That service is normally rock solid, so I have to wonder if there is an incompatibility issue between Scribe SEO and Zemanta. If so, Zemanta will have to hit the road.
Keywords found from Scribe
php programming language, world wide web, html menus, prime time, visual basic, menu options, blog software, internet, computing, blog, wordpress, primed, images, articles, ready, loads, finally
Might as well throw in a WTF on that too!
I took the dash out of the original blog title and reran Scribe and came up with something more in the ball park
content management systems, php programming language, world wide web, html menus, weblog software, prime time, blog software, visual basic, blogging, blogs, internet, computing, images, ready, primed, wordpress, blog, articles, finally
Wondering if it might have been my title that hossed up Zemanta and Scribe, I hit the update button on Zemanta (after getting the more normal results from Scribe) but the list of articles and images was exactly the same, off base.
I found that Zemanta worked better in Chrome than Firefox 6. Personally I generally prefer Firefox to Chrome, but Firefox is slowly turning to crap and this might be an example. When I worked in Chrome I did not notice a conflict between Zemanta and ScribeSEO. I also worked with a topic about Ducks in that example, hoping to give Zemanta something of a softball pitch. That did help, although I find it ironic that Zemanta can not come up with good articles about Zemanta itself!
One positive thing, years back when I used Zemanta it would occasionally serve up porn images that had likely been named incorrectly (ergo lets say a naked person and the image was named duck so the image of the nake person would come up in the Zemanta media gallery even though I was writing about ducks, not naked people). This was awful when I was doing client demonstrations or lecturing at a conference, it was the primary reason why I dropped Zemanta years back. Can’t serve up porn images to clients nor at a conference!