Ron Sparks Author, Poet

Kudos to


My good friend Tomomi over at Jazz’s Journal turned me on to the “star rating” system you see at the bottom of every post now. It allows you, the reader, to rate every post. Additionally, this feature will recommend entries that you may find interesting as well.

This widget was developed by a company called Outbrain. They offer it for free to all bloggers. You don’t even have to register, although it helps if you do.

When I first installed it the widget, it didn’t work because I use a custom template. The Outbrain widget uses JavaScript and CSS to send AJAX calls back to the Outbrain server for rating storage and retrieval. Nothing earth-shattering, but the widget didn’t work with my site template.

So I emailed Outbrain and asked for help.

Within a day, Kate from Outbrain had analyzed my site and modified their widget for me. They customized it to work on my site.

Unfortunately the customization didn’t work with IE 7. It worked with Firefox, though. When I realized that IE users weren’t seeing the widget, I emailed Kate back and explained the situation to her.

Within 30 minutes it was fixed.

People – I am so impressed with this company. They get it. They give away a great product for free. They offer superior service – for free. How do they make their money?

I haven’t spent any time studying their business model – but they have impressed me so much that I would willingly and gladly purchase additional services from them. Of course, the statistical data they gather from my site and other sites is invaluable. Those gestalt figures are worth a fortune in and of themselves. Also, I can imagine “weighted” recommendation for preferred vendors coming down the pipe one day.

Bottom line, folks, Outbrain has earned a fan. I urge you to use their service if you blog.

About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


  • Nice post Ron and not just because you mentioned me. Did I read that phrase somewhere else?It’s wonderful that you had such a great time with outbrain and how they responded to your needs and so quickly!It is that kind of service that will elevate their reputation and standing in the public eye and give them a status that paid for advertising just can’t give them.Comments are not easy to get and so I thought to add a rating system so I could have ‘some’ feedback from my readers. Because the one used by wont work on my template, I searched and was going to implement the code I found here: then I cam across the widget from Outbrain when I was actively looking for accessories. I found outbrain via this post. deliberately looking now I see many bloggers have only priase for outbrian.They can add me as a fan also.

  • Ron, Jazz – thank you so much for the comments about us!! I am Outbrain’s CEO and so it’s great to see that the efforts our team puts in supporting bloggers like you gets noticed. If you have *any* other questions of feedback, feel free to use our support forum (, or email Kate, or email me directly at galai[at]outbrain[dot]com. Thanks!!

  • Yaron;My pleasure; I only stated the truth. Feel-good customer support stories are rare – they deserve to be recognized when they occur.The more I think about your widget the more like your idea. Your widget allows you to analyze the text context of every blog entry and tailor recommendations from your supported vendor list based on that context.Powerful stuff indeed. If the engine that drives your recommendation has any punch behind it, this could be huge – a win-win for all involved. Readers will get targeted recommendations based on what they read.Bloggers get the advantage of the star rating (nice draw to seed the market), as well as apparent “reach” and association with your vendors.Vendors get plugged into the blogsphere and get their content filtered contextually to people who are interested (why else would they read the entire blog post to get to the end?)I retract my earlier statement about weighted recommendations – that would be a sin. The next step would be to figure out how to get into the social networking crowd with a widget that makes sense on Facebook and MySpace.Follow that up with widgets that can just be plugged into portals – like my Google homepage. My Google homepage has all the news and stories that interest me – if you could tailor content based on THAT – that would be powerful indeed.Lastly – a mobile app for my iPhone and you would rule. Of course, some of these idea may move you out of strictly blogging support, but the idea is contagious. Imagine having your own “browser” (wrapper for Safari) on my iphone that analyzed every page I go to and has a “tab” for recommendations.Good stuff. I can’t wait to see where you go.

  • Great ideas! – thanks. We’re still small, so we’re always trying to stay focused and constantly improve what we already do. That said, I think you’ll see at least 1-2 variations on your ideas released in the near future. Thanks again – we’re excited to be servicing bloggers like you!!

  • It is a cool feature. When I first read the previous post, I couldn’t see the stars because I was on Safari, but once you made mention of them, I switched over to Firefox to use them. (That usually fixes most issues I have online.) Anyway, beats the pants off of myspace kudos, even though you know I still prefer myspace.

Ron Sparks Author, Poet

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Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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