Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reaction: Tag Clouds and a Case for Vernacular Visualization

This article from TIMELINE is a very interesting read by two of the big contributors of visualization, Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas. I was surprised to know that the actual concept of tag clouds as an aid for visualizing information goes back to 1976! The article gives a nice overview of how tag clouds evolved from a viz type to present and overview of text information to being one of the key graphical interactive visualizations made popular in Web 2.0. Tag clouds are not just visually pleasing, but also useful for analysis. I agree with the conflicting thoughts of tag clouds being a vernacular technique. Comparing size, font of words in a tag cloud can get very messy. These also the logical conflict of related words based on context getting separated due to sorting indexes. I feel this technique has tremendous potential. It should be used effectively in cases where it will really bring out the relationship that has to be highlighted. Just blindly using this technique may lead to more confusion and mis-representation of facts.