In the book, “The Design of Future Things,” Donald Norman observes that automation is a dangerous goal because pursuing it usually passes the point of diminishing returns. In contrast, augmentation of human effort (e.g., bicycling as augmented walking, writing/drawing/painting/composing as augmented thinking) is a worthy goal that retains the proper balance between technical assistance and human judgment.
A new blog tool called Zemanta has emerged, and it’s worth a look for a number of reasons, whether you blog or not. (Unfortunately, to see its power, you need a blog.) Most interestingly, it strikes the proper attitude toward augmentation over automation, and leverages the network effect very well. Here’s a rundown of its benefits:
- It is very easy to install. It is right now in beta, as a Firefox plugin. You download it, and it works. That’s all there is to it.
- It’s a marvel of engineering economy. I am still amazed at how it knew how to insinuate itself into blogging tools’ widget bars so seamlessly, and with apparently no system burden.
- It’s clever. Type a few sentences in a blog entry, and it fetches suggested images, tags, and links. It also suggests related articles. Click on any one of them, and they are integrated. It’s that simple.
Of course, this may have a downside, such as blogs that suddenly all start centering on Zemanta-recommended links and sites. Also, the suggested entries may start to have commercial entries as part of the set, to give Zemanta a business model. But I’ll take the chance. Zemanta makes blogging faster, easier, and more web-enabled.
(Additional note: There has been an attempt at automated authorship. Read about it in the New York Times.)