Tag Archives: Obama

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Word Clouds – what are they good for?

ReadWriteWeb had an interesting post showing word clouds generated from Barack Obama’s inauguration speech. 

Obama Inauguration word cloud

But what are word clouds, and how are they useful? Word clouds visually represent the frequency or importance of a word in a given text. In President Obama’s speech, we can see from the cloud that he used words like “nation”, “new”, and “people” fairly often. You can use them to compare to texts in in a sort of qualitative way – does one text have a much sharper distribution than the other?

I would say that most of the time their primary purpose is aesthetic. I’m not convinced people really use them for anything other than as nice design elements – thought I think they have untapped potential. That’s why I created the Tag Altocumulus WordPress Plugin, to try to integrate tag clouds into a site’s navigation system in a way that’s actually useful.

To generate the clouds they used Wordle, a very cool site that lets you create your own word clouds from any text.  Wordle gives you options on color, font, and orientation and you can end up with some pretty nice looking clouds. I went ahead and generated one from my paper on Tagging and Searching:

Wordle: Tagging and Searching

It does look pretty cool. Wordle also will generate a cloud from any site with an RSS feed. Here’s the cloud for my site:

Wordle: Blog cloud

Drop me a note in the comments below if you make one for your site or find an interesting text to use.

Why Geeks Support Barack Obama

ObamaI just donated $25 to Barack Obama. Much like many other geeks before me. Obama is clearly the choice of the country’s programmers, researchers, and other eggheads. Why?

Despite the explosion of baby name voting posts, I usually write about more technical topics on this blog. I’m very interested in the intersection of technology and society, and use of the internet in social interaction. So I think it’s fair to talk about that other vote that’s going on right now, the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.

As I said before, Obama is clearly the choice of the geek constituency. Don’t believe me? Here’s a graph of individual campaign contributions by employees at five large, notoriously geeky tech companies, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon:

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