Outbrain: A Blog Recommendation Widget

I just added a fun, new plug-in to my WordPress-powered blog called Outbrain (link here). What is it, you ask? It’s a platform for blog, RSS content and news ratings and recommendations. The widget shows recommended additional reading and offers the reader the ability to rate and recommend articles on your blog site. As Outbrain crawls your blog, the recommendations coming into your pages get better and better. Most leading blogging/RSS platforms are supported, including Blogger.com, TypePad, WordPress.org, Drupal, FeedFlare, MoveableType, and others.

You can see Outbrain at work at the bottom of each of my individual posts. For me, Outbrain is free. But for the many large, syndicated news outlets availing themselves of its coolness, Outbrain is a paid service. Correction: Outbrain’s CEO stopped by and informed me that it is in fact a FREE service for all levels of business! Another plus!

You also can buy into an additional tool called Outloud, which actively promotes your content on other Outbrain sites for $10 per month.

Outbrain is no fly-by-night service: it has secured almost $20 million in investment funding over the last three years. And they really know what they are doing: it is the very first free service I have ever dealt with that has a live chat help center! Thank you, Jackie, for helping me get the widget to work on my site! Such a relief not to have to rely on that infuriating GetSatisfaction farce. Right on top of its game, Outbrain is.

If you want to get your content into the social interaction stream, check out Outbrain. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Tagxedo: The Dressed-Up Tag Cloud

Tag clouds don’t normally hold my interest for more than, say, 6 seconds. But this app got me for a whole ten minutes! That is how long it took to create the most artistic tag cloud I have ever seen! Tagxedo is a beautiful, graphically-oriented, tag cloud generator that offers amazing controls and design-y features. Right now the service is in beta and all features are free, but creator Hardy Leung promises a premium version with even higher quality (hard to imagine – the quality is top-notch right now).  At this point, you can save the image as a .JPG or .PNG, which is a bit unfortunate as the animated image on the web interface increases the tag size as you hover in a visually pleasing way.

Tag clouds organize words into shapes and their size symbolizes their overall importance or frequency within the text that serves as the basis for the cloud. They are a great visual representation of text in our increasingly visual world. Tagxedo will create a cloud from any document or website you feed into it and will omit the little connectors like is, the, if, etc. Hardy’s tool even lets you upload an image and use that image to define the tag cloud.

Hardy uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to get the job done and I think his work is a stunning endorsement of it! Check out my (unfortunately) un-animated tag cloud created from my Twitter stream above, and head on over to have some fun creating your own (link here).

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