Interview with Zemanta: Improving the Way We Blog


More and more people are discovering the wonders of web 2.0 technology, working with things such as wikis and social networks. However, nothing has been rising faster than the amount of people learning about blogging. Blogging is a great way to post your ideas, research, thoughts, or random ramblings online and share it with the mass of internet users who stumble upon it.

Zemanta is a web 2.0 service that is changing the way we blog. It allows for us to manage posts, add media content, and rearrange the page layout with absolute ease (you can check out a demo here).

Ranging from people who blog for fun to the ones who do it for a profession, Zemanta has members of all areas. I got an interview with the site’s creator Bostjan, so please enjoy digging deeper into the exciting new web 2.0 app Zemanta!

What is the idea behind Zemanta, and what are some of the different things users can do with your program?
Zemanta helps you create rich posts by recognizing your topic and suggesting useful links, tags, pictures. 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.

We see bloggers and e-mailers using it as research assistant, as inspirational tool and simply as the most efficient way to embed and link rich content in their texts.

How did you come up with the idea for Zemanta?
The founders were having a drink on a hot summer afternoon and realized that nobody is offering smart contextual tools to the growing crowd of creative writers. We have had the technology handy from previous enterprise projects we did, so we decided to give it a shot.

Looking back we still don’t see many services solving these problems – creating content is hard, packaging this content so that it fits the modern reader’s taste is even harder. We want to take the friction out from this process and enable everyone to focus on what they have to say.

How can Zemanta be used in a professional business setting?
Windows Live WriterJust like individual bloggers, professional writers and journalists face the technical obstacles when authoring for the web. Zemanta enterprise gives them full control over what gets recommended and how, so they can focus on what they do best – tell a story.

How long did it take to develop the site and app from conception of the idea to how it is today?
The backend technology was already a year old project when we started working on the current idea. From then on, we needed 6 more months until the first launch in March 2008. We have been improving all angles of it since.

How did you come up with the logo for your site?
We knew we wanted to communicate the concept of enhanced conversations, social media, human creativity, and extension of it. We worked with a very talented designer, who proposed a couple of sketches and the balloon with the plus sign we use now was a clear winner.

Zemanta Home Page

About how many people on average use Zemanta for their blogs?
Since launch, we’ve had more than 90k downloads and an incredible usage rate – it seems that users who discover Zemanta immediately become fans and very few stop using it. We also keep close conversations with them to understand their needs and expectations, and make sure the product offers all they need.

How difficult was it to adapt your app for all of the different web browsers out there?
We knew from the start we wanted to have Zemanta available on as many platforms as possible, so we designed it to be portable. Open source platforms like Firefox and movable type were easy to develop for, more proprietary were sometimes very painful. Luckily after initial effort, all maintenance for new releases is rather simple.

We are quite proud of our plugin for Windows Live Writer, which is among the most popular ones in our user base. We wish chrome, safari and opera offered reliable plugins infrastructure, so we could be present there as well.

Are there any upcoming ideas or updates you’ve got for Zemanta?
We released email support in February and are looking closely at what users are saying about it. We also hope to be able to expand the language support outside English markets – being Slovenians ourselves, we know how important it is for non-English speaking users to have access to same tools as mainstream.

Zemanta Supported Platforms

What is your favorite social networking application and why?
Twitter, because it allows me to compensate the lack of time to read news and hang out with friends with a different way of following what’s important in their lives and in the world, and to arrange semi ad-hoc tweetups without any pressure.

If you had any advice for someone starting their own web 2.0 site, what would it be?
There is a lot of advice one can give, and they vary on the stage you are in. Some are obvious, like use cloud-computing, web-based mail and office. On the business side, a very important thing we learned was to measure – whatever you are set out to develop, make sure you can measure every step and every feature. There is really only one rule – if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

And on the personal side – talk to everyone, even if at first they seem as a waste of time – for everyone you should be able to think of a question they can help you clarify. Make sure you talk to more people than anybody else you know. It pays off sooner than you’d think.

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About the author

Inside The Webb

Inside the Webb is a blog based on new and popular web 2.0 sites, and all things social media. Here at the site, we try to collect all of the information we can on some of the most intriguing websites out there. We often publish many interviews throughout the months, all exclusive interviews with founders and developers of new social web apps.

About Author

Ian Carnaghan

I am a software developer and online educator who likes to keep up with all the latest in technology. I also manage cloud infrastructure, continuous monitoring, DevOps processes, security, and continuous integration and deployment.

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