Monday, January 05, 2009


I've been trying out Apture on my blogs.

I first noticed it on the O'Reilly Radar blog on a post about Wendell Berry. Notice the little book icons next to some of the links. If you hover your mouse over one of these links, the Wikipedia article pops up. I thought that was pretty cool so I followed the "Get Apture for Your Website" link at the bottom of one of the pop ups.

It was easy enough to install - just add a widget to your Blogger layout.

It took me a while to "get" how it works. Their introductory video was good, and explained how to use it, but not how it works.

I thought you'd use it when you were writing a post, but you actually use it when you're just viewing. It must be storing the enhancements on Apture's servers and dynamically merging them into the page when you view it.

This is a bit like the services that let you add "comments" to third party web sites. The difference is that for those services, to see the comments, you had to be running some special software.

For Apture, it's the widget you add to your blog that merges the extra content. So viewers don't need any special software.

It seems a little like magic. And it's almost a little frightening since this gives Apture the ability to rewrite my blog entries. In theory they could add ads or security exploits or other nasty stuff. Not that it would make sense for them to do that, but the possibility exists. And I wonder if some third party couldn't take control of this "back door".

One big weakness is that this magic only works when you go to the blog web site. If you use a feed reader like Google Reader it probably won't work. On the positive side, a lot of traffic to blogs comes from search engines, which will take people to the web pages.

I can't see spending much time adding content with Apture. However, some of the things it does automatically, like adding pop ups for Wikipedia, don't require any extra work, and do enhance the experience if you do go to the web site.

For example, here's a link to the Suneido Wikipedia article. In a reader it's probably just going to be a regular link. But if you go to the web page for this post, you should see the little icon and get the pop up.

I may or may not keep using Apture, but it's an interesting technology.

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