Zimbio – Interview with Tony Mamone

I’m pleased to welcome Tony Mamone, CEO and co-founder of Zimbio, to the Search Lounge. Zimbio is a free community site that allows anyone to create a portal on any topic. There are portals on all kinds of topics ranging from Film Noir to Soccer in Uruguay to Stephen Colbert to…on and on…
Zimbio recently went from invite-only to being open to the public, so go check it out and create a portal on your favorite topic.

Hi Tony. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can you give us an introduction to how people get started with using Zimbio?

Zimbio is a community site that helps people research and learn about any topic. You can browse the site to learn about topics ranging from the Tour de France to Election 2006 to Nutrition Education. Each topic has its own portal, which includes a collaborative directory of recommended websites, photos, and other media about the specific topic, and related commentary by other members in the form of a group blog.

You can also start a new topic to help you organize your research and connect with other people who share your interests, or to help you promote your experience and knowledge in a particular subject

What are some of your favorite portals people have created on Zimbio? And also what are some of the most popular portals?

Right now, Tamara Hoover seems to be popular. She’s the Texas art teacher who’s been battling the local school board about some photos that were posted on flickr. We’re also starting to see more and more interest in political portals such as Hezbollah, “Election 2006”, and Senator Kay Hutchison.

In terms of my current favorites, here are a couple of interesting portals:

. McMurdo Station Antarctica – it was one of our first portals, and has some great blogs and photos about scientists doing research in Antartica. Plus, I like penguins.

. Bird Flu – This portal has great links about Avian Flu and the spread of H5N1.

. Web 2.0 Company Blogs – This one includes an organized list of blog feeds about web start-ups.

. Energy Conservation – People have shared tips about ways to conserve energy. I also like to scan for recent news and blogs about the topic.

. Africa Travel – I’d love to go on a safari, but for now I just check out the photos and blogs that people post.

Are there portals you’ve seen that you never would have imagined would be created? I’ve seen some unusual ones myself, like the one about Meat Thievery.

Who knew there were groups of folks interested in Bookcrossing or Rejected Cartoons. Its really neat to see what people build. And yes, gotta love the list of recent meat thieves!

Every time a user-generated site is created people wonder what motivates the users. I’m thinking of ODP, Wikipedia, flickr, etc. So, *ahem*, what motivates people to use Zimbio?

We make it quicker and easier for you to learn about a new topic by helping you benefit from the wisdom and work of others. You can piggyback on research that’s already been done by finding existing portals. You can then post questions or just browse the recommended links and articles on the site. Or if we don’t already cover the topic you’re interested in, you can start a new portal and use our bookmarking tools to organize your online research and connect with like-minded people. It’s really easy to start a new topic and once you do, you get a browser button that helps save and organize links, feeds, and photos.

If you are a blogger or someone who is passionate about a particular subject, you can use Zimbio to get your message out to a wider audience. You can dual post blog articles on Zimbio and link back to your personal blog. Or you can start a portal about your favorite organization, social mission, political candidate, etc in order to raise awareness of the issue.

Which kinds of topics work best as portals?

The more specific the topic, the better. For instance, Gilad Shalit or Senator Hillary Clinton instead of “Politics.” Zimbio returns great results for related news and blogs when the topic is distinct. Other members also tend to share their opinions in the group blog or forum when the topic is well defined.

How are search engines handling Zimbio pages? Are the crawlers keeping up with the rapidly changing content you guys have? Assuming search engine traffic is an important part of your business, what steps are you guys taking to generate search engine referrals?

We index well in Google. Googlebot found us right away and we now show up in search results for searches such as Cyril Dessel, Runescape Hacks, and Carlos Mencia Comedy. We’re still a very new site, so hopefully we’ll start to see more traction from Yahoo and MSN soon. We concentrate our efforts on making it easy for people to post content; then make that content available to the search engines.

Zimbio portals have a ton of information. As a user yourself, what’s the first part of the page you look at when you go to a new portal?

First, I get myself informed about the topic. I read the description in “About this portal” and check out the top couple of recommended inks. Once I’m up to speed, I try to stay informed by scanning recent news and blogs in the trackers. I also like to check out other people’s opinion about the topic – and for that I usually read the group blog or forum.

How are you getting the word out about Zimbio now that you’ve gone beyond the invite-only stage?

Zimbio is a community site – it has a grassroots feel to it. We encourage our existing members to tell friends and colleagues about the site. We also respond to bloggers who want to write about or review Zimbio.

What kind of new features can we expect to see in the future?

Soon we’ll begin to feature specific categories on Zimbio. Our first featured category will be Politics, starting in September. We’ll be featuring bloggers who write about politicians, candidates, elections, and political issues. Political bloggers can sign up for a profile on Zimbio and dual post their blog entries to appropriate portals. We’ll then feature the best blog posts and link back to the original blogs. It’s a great way for bloggers to get the word out about their personal sites.

Thanks for your time! Anything else you’d like to add?

We always appreciate feedback and ideas. So if anyone would like to make suggestions or learn more about Zimbio – please visit our company blog at http://www.zimbio.com/portal/zimbio.

About Chris

I'm Chris and I've worked in the search engine industry since the late '90s.

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