If I told you that there´s a Firefox-Plugin available that plugs into your WordPress, would you believe it? You´d better do, because there really is. It´s called Zemanta and it doesn´t only plug into your WordPress-Admin but also into almost any other relevant blogging platform. As of October 2008, Zemanta as a Firefox-Plugin can be used with Bloghosting-Providers, such as Blogspot, WordPress.com (which should be very good news to a lot of people), TypePad, Ning, MySpace, LiveJournal and Tumblr.
Beside the Firefox-Plugin Zemanta offers native plugins for self-hosted blogs under use of WordPress, Movable Type and Drupal. Microsoft Live Writer aficionados do also have the chance to use a specifically designed plugin for their Live Writer engine. This is labeled Tech Preview though and might not necessarily work as expected under certain circumstances.
I make use of thewherever I do not have the oppurtunity to install native plugins and so should you. The functionality doesn´t differ. But if you´re into blogging under different identities using one and the same Zemanta preference setting for all your blogs might make you lose your mask sooner than you´d wish to.
Now what´s Zemanta all about?
As you write your articles in your favourite – let´s say – WordPress environment, Zemanta sits beside you and keeps suggesting links, tags, pictures, related articles other bloggers wrote in a kind of sidebar, just under the section where the save and publish buttons are located. Every 300 characters Zemanta updates these suggestions depending on what you wrote in the meantime. In addition to that you can also push the update button to get new recommendations at any time you want to. Both ways work astonishingly perfect. I´m writing this article staring at the screen keeping my mouth wide open.
While Zemanta suggests articles from other sites covering the same topic, you can click on these suggestions to effortlessly populate a list of related articles which appears at the bottom of your post. Scroll down for an example.
Just under the texteditorfield you will find suggestions for links to be automatically set relating to your content. If for example you happen to use the shortcut DNA, Zemanta would be able to automatically set a link to the Wikipedia definition upon that shortcut. This is unquestionably a productivity enhancement you´ll have been waiting for.
Nice but not necessarily lifesaving is the fact that Zemanta also provides you with tags they think you should use.
As Zemanta suggests pictures to illustrate your posts with you need to keep in mind that there might be copyright aspects involved. The pictures populating your sidebar are mostly from the CC-Sections of Flickr, while some derive from Wikimedia Commons. These might not be problematic, as long as you check the appropriate license with your own eyes.
Zemanta makes that task quite easy by presenting you a popup with the required information when your mouse hovers the picture suggestions. Unfortunately some of the pictures are stock material, some others only give vague license information (e.g. “might be fair use”). While Zemanta claims to have things settled with the providers of stock material I would nevertheless advise you to not use these images. No image is beautiful enough to justify the risk of getting into trouble for using it. If you find vague license information keep your hands off that material too.
In addition to all these automatically chosen sources you can set your own preferences after registering for a Zemanta account. Your own sources are then used in conjunction to the automatically integrated. You can specify your Flickr name, you can set your Amazon-ID, you can include your Twitter and other social networks accounts, as well as your favourite RSS feeds.
Now for the bad news. Zemanta works best if not only for bloggers blogging in english. German and other languages are not integrated and therefore suggestions to a german blogpost could only by plain chance lead to more or less expected results. If you´re blogging about international brands though, there might be a slight chance you could possibly get some useful suggestions. But if you are at least eventually blogging in english, Zemanta is definitely something to keep an eye at.