A new WordPress plugin called Headup was released about a week ago by SemantiNet, a startup dedicated to developing Semantic Web technologies and platforms. The plugin works on top of the company’s existing technology, and automatically adds rich content to terms that appear in your blog posts.

I installed it here on WordPress Garage so you can see it in action, but basically the way it works is key terms get a dotted orange underline (which helps differentiate them from your regular links), and when you mouse-over those terms a pop-up window appears with information tabs. These tabs display the following content:

  1. A short summary about the key-term (Wikipedia style information)
  2. Related News, Articles & Posts
  3. Related images from Flickr, Panoramio, Picasa, etc.
  4. Related Tweets
  5. Related Videos from Youtube
  6. Related Products from Amazon
  7. How your readers Facebook friends relate to the key term (requires readers to approve Facebook connection)

For geographic locations the pop-up will display a Map tab, and for films a Trailer tab will be displayed.

The field of semantic technologies is so new that Headup is only one of 9 WordPress plugins that have “semantic web” as a tag in the plugin directory.

How to install the Headup plugin

  1. Go to “Add New” in the WordPress plugin menu.
  2. Enter “headup” as the search term to find the plugin in the directory. There will only be one result for this term.
  3. Click the “Install” button on the far right, and then activate the plugin.
  4. You can configure some settings for the plugin under Settings > Headup for WordPress. There you can choose a maximum number of annotations to display on a page, how many times the same term should be annotated, and whether hyperlinks should be annotated as well.

It will take about an hour before the key terms on your site start displaying the dotted orange highlights. Here’s a short video explaining how to install the plugin:


Here’s another video overview of the Headup Blog Widget and WordPress plugin.

Why would you use this plugin?

The creators of the plugin say that by offering this type of content, you can “reduce bounce rates and increase your readers’ engagement.” Since I tend to judge the world by my own preferences, I was a bit skeptical as to whether such a feature could really achieve those goals since I prefer to find my own info rather than have it dictated to me. Luckily, my pal Mike works at SemantiNet so I decided to ask him a few questions about this plugin, their technology, the semantic web in general, and whether he agrees that Cookies and Cream is Ben & Jerry’s best ice cream flavor.

WPG: Mike, tell me a bit about SemantiNet and what you do there.

Mike: Whereas much of the activity related to semantic web is still very much academic and theoretical, SemantiNet’s products are among the few examples of practical applications of next generation web technology anyone can enjoy today.

What our technology does is identify key-terms in publications & blogs and then provide relevant and personalized related content in real-time. For example, say you’ve written a post about Barack Obama recently being elected in Oslo to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. What we’ll do is automatically identify the term “Barack Obama” as being president of the US, and suggest content related to him, and identify the term “Oslo” as being a city, and suggest content related to it too.

The big deal here is that the technology realizes that Oslo, the city, has different attributes from Obama, the person, so it will offer different types of information for each. For example, Oslo’s Headup results would include a city map, while Obama’s would not.

As for me, I’m a Project Manager in the company and am responsible for managing the company’s site and blog widget.

WPG: Call me an ignoramus Mike (don’t look so happy about the opportunity), but I still don’t quite get what the semantic web is about. Please explain and make me feel more intelligent.

Mike: What makes companies like SemantiNet exciting is that their understanding of online content goes beyond the basic key-word matching we’re familiar with from current search technologies, and enters the realm of true object identification. This is a fancy way of saying that whereas today, if you search for “Apple” you’ll get results related to the company and the fruit indiscriminately, the vision for Semantic Web is that the same search will deliver results that relate not only to “Apple” but also to “Steve Jobs,” “iPhones,” ”iPods,” etc. even if the word “Apple” isn’t explicitly mentioned in the text results.

For more information about the Semantic Web I recommend seeing Sir Tim Berners Lee’s excellent TED talk on the subject.

WPG: How can bloggers and publishers offer this type of rich information on their own sites?

Mike: To date we have three products people can use to get a better feeling for what this does: the Headup Firefox addon, the Headup publisher and blogger widget, and most recently, the Headup WordPress plugin.

WPG: Why should bloggers install the Headup plugin?

Mike: Bloggers who install our widget will gain longer engagement times and reduced bounce rates. Besides these advantages the widget has the ability, via the “Friends” tab, to enable readers to personalize their reading experience and see how the key terms you blogged about relate to their circle of friends. To the best of my knowledge no other widget out there has this capability.

A significant benefit is the fact that everything I’ve described so far is entirely automated. All you as a blogger need to do is a single one time installation of the plugin and within about an hour your entire archive will be covered. This level of automation is again, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented.

WPG: How does the widget promote engagement time and reduce bounce rate?

Mike: The widget reduces your reader’s incentive to browse away by letting them access all the related content they need right on top of your pages. Why go somewhere else when you have everything you need right where you are?

In your interview with Lior Haner from Yedda you asked, quite rightly, how Yedda was solving bloggers’ need to have conversations take place in their blog. We don’t deal in conversations, however as far as complementary and related content is concerned, we’ve pretty much guaranteed bloggers that their audience won’t have to open another tab or browse away to get the little extra that was missing.

WPG: Can bloggers contact you with questions?

Mike: For sure! I’m personally available for any support needed both on twitter @headup and via email – miked[at]semantinet[dot]com. Don’t be Shy!

WPG: Anything else you’d care to add?

Mike: I agree that Cookies and Cream is Ben & Jerry’s best flavor.

WPG: Of course you do! That’s why we’re pals.

So there you have it. I’d love it if you, our readers, would check out this new feature here and tell me what you think: is it useful, annoying, or somewhere in between?