Over email I asked Zemanta’s Director of Products, Boštjan Špetiča, to discuss his firm’s new blogging discovery / auto-suggestion service and the WordPress plugin they recently released:
What is Zemanta?
Zemanta helps you create rich posts by recognizing your topic and suggesting useful links, tags, and pictures. So it makes the web experience nicer for both authors and their readers. Zemanta is a relaxed state of mind, where you focus on creativity instead of tricking the search engines to show what you are looking for.
How was the company formed, and where are you located?
The company is based in London and all our development is based in Slovenia, where the founders are from. Our core contextual technology was developed for a project for generating online archives of national television.
After that, we figured it’s a shame nobody is making this experience available to everyone online. We applied for Seedcamp, a European version of Y-combinator, won, and then moved everybody to London for a three-months geek picnic experience. Since then we’ve raised funding and launched the service in March of ’08.
Why should bloggers use the Zemanta WordPress plugin?
It’s painless, it’s pleasant, it takes most the friction out of creating the content. The question is, why would anyone not use it?
Describe the process you took to create the WordPress plugin. Any lessons learned about plugin development you could share with others?
When we first started working on Zemanta WordPress plugin, we did not know much about WordPress platform or PHP. So we set a modest goal of making a plugin for version 2.5.
We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of information you can find on Codex or when that is not enough, in the WP community. Our advice to those, who might follow our footsteps would be to read introductory articles on Codex and read relevant parts of code of other popular plugins that perform similar tasks. It’s amazing how quickly you may reach your goal even if you are a novice when it comes to PHP and WP.
How is Zemanta different from other related-content products and services?
Some only offer some of the functionality (i.e. tags), some only help the readers instead of authors, some are simply hard to use. We are a one-stop-shop with special attention paid to usability and design.
We are also offering access to increasing number of premium content, where we make sure it is appropriately licensed. Sometimes people think we are just an interface to some picture search, while we actually do much more to deliver only the best select images.
What’s been the most surprising event since you launched your product?
Fred Wilson blogging about it. Twice.
What new features do you have on the roadmap that users of your WordPress plugin can look forward to?
Most prominent new feature on the roadmap is the ability to limit suggestions to your preferred trusted sources, or your friends or your own feeds. Along with more freedom at layouts, this will make our service very much personalized, as it should be in the social media.
Thanks Boštjan for your time. You can read more about Zemanta on their site, and download their WordPress plugin from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory.
Boštjan is the Director of Products at Zemanta, and blogs frequently at bostjan.konstrukt.it.