Tag Archives: word clouds

Design graphic-design information design Jindal Jon Stewart last.fm Map App of the Day maps Obama site-navigation spatial maps tag clouds tagging The Daily Show visualizing music volcano monitoring

President Obama vs. Governor Jindal by Word Cloud

In the world of political blogging, the President’s speech before a joint session of Congress (basically a state of the union speech) is already ancient history, but I thought this was interesting enough to post. I’ve mused before on how word clouds and tag clouds can be useful – here’s a nice qualitative example.

Here’s a word cloud of President Barack Obama’s speech – major themes are apparent in large type, such as “economy” and “health.” You can also tell something about the urgency of the speech, with words like “now,” “new,” and “plan” showing up rather prominently.

Word Cloud of Obama's speech to Congress

Contrast with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s response, seen below. The three most dominant words are “Republicans”, which is understandable, “government” and “Washington.” I think this illustrates pretty clearly the thrust of Jindal’s speech, that the federal government can’t do anything right.

Word Cloud of Gov. Jindal's GOP response to Obama's speech

This isn’t a political blog but I do want to give a quick shout out to all the geologists out there who do important work like monitoring volcanoes. It’s ridiculous that Jindal, running a state that lives and dies based on natural disaster monitoring, would call out volcano monitoring as his example of pork spending.

Both word clouds made at Wordle.

Map Apps of the Day: Islands of Music and the Continental Zodiac

Two interesting uses of maps today, one is a completely non-geographical map that illustrtaes data while the other is a completely artistic use of geography.

Islands of Music

Last.fm is  a great service – I’ve written about it before.  The best thing about it is the copious and collection of interesting data on music tastes (you can even see how geeky your taste in music is).

Like many other web sites Last.fm has a tagging system, and so it interesting to see how different tags relate to each other – are hip-hop fans more likely to listen to ambient or heavy metal?  One very cool way to do this is with a map.

islands of music from last.fm

See the orginal version here, complete with mouseover descriptions of the different islands.  Visualizing music tatses as a map makes some interesting findings pop out – the long continent of folk, psychadelic, and metal in the northeast, for example.  Deathcore and emo are on the same continent, just on opposite sides of what I call You-Don’t-Understand-Me-Dad Bay.

This is an alternative to more conventional tag cloud or word cloud representations, though I’m not sure which presents information more clearly.

Another thing that strikes me is the similarity to video game maps – perhaps because of the iconic color palate.  Though we might think of them geographically, video game maps are equally artificial ways to relate to a big pile of numerical data.

World maps as Chinese zodiac

Artist Kentaro Nagai has used the continents (and major islands) as a medium to create the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac.  See all of them here.

I particularly like the economy of arrangement in the rooster:

Rooster from Chinese zodiac

…and the sheep for it’s nice use of negative space.

The sheep from the Chinese zodiac

Thanks to Chris for the link to the Zodiac

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.