Sep 122011

Updates: July 2014 – word clouds, or maybe even wordclouds, are still with us, and making a little more sense in the big world of data. See Suprageography’s London Words, preparatory work for a Big Data and Urban Informatics workshop in Chicago. Gosh! Sep 2014: calligrams are back!

Word clouds, who needs them.  I’ve previously considered them as a sort of cherry on the cake, but in the days of data visualisation are word clouds actually harmful or simply the ‘mullet of the Internet’?

Wordle is weirdly popular.

From Tracy Playle’s Wordle review:

You can dump in a random selection of text to create beautiful word clouds. You can manipulate the word clouds, changing the size of words, the colours, fonts and layouts. I’ve seen these used in marketing and communications, and also seen them used regularly in reports as a creative way of sharing feedback about an organisation, product or idea.

Wordle is often used in event wrap-ups as a visualisation of the most tweeted words with a particular hashtag, but does a word cloud really tell us anything? I can’t really decide if the results are useful or just ‘cool’. Any creativity lies mainly in manipulating the results to suit – see how lucky I was with a Wordle from the February 2011 #lawblogs event:

Wordle: Blogging makes lawyers better

A couple of Wordles popped up in my feedreader last week:

  • ALT-C 2011 wordled – Sarah Horrigan wordled her own tweets from the UK’s learning technology conference and was happy to see a healthy balance between the two, plus terms such as education, listening and students sticking out more than the names of tools or technology specifics
  • Political slogans – in the run-up to Thursday’s general election in Denmark Kaas & Mulvad have wordled candidates’ campaign slogans. In the red corner emerge stem (vote), velfærd (welfare) and ansvar (responsibility), while the blues come out fighting with livet (life) and pengene (money).

I’ll add any other interesting examples I come across below.

Other word cloud tools:

  • NEW (July 2013): Textal app | review
  • Infomous – text visualisation tool, see quick post on my CPD blog
  • TagCrowd (show frequencies next to words, group similar words)
  • Tagxedo  – “word clouds with styles”, create word clouds from any URL, Twitter ID etc. Update, Jan 2012: I’ve used Tagxedo to make a beagle shaped word cloud for my @beaglechat account
  • Tagul – lets you assign links to words in the cloud and other fancy things. Update, June 2012: puffin word cloud from IslandGovCamp
  • Textal – also finds pairs (words that were generally paired with the word selected) and collocates (words which the word was usually found next to), which can be exported as text files and sent to an email account; review
  • Tweet Cloud and Tweetstats both allow you to make a word cloud from your own tweets. Tweetstats also lets you Wordle your tweets.

More word clouds:

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