Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reaction: Tag Clouds and the Case for Vernacular Visualization

This paper introduces the history and applications of tag clouds, which are used for visualizing textual information. It is a very interesting and informative article. The author, while describing the advent of tag clouds, presents the various forms in which they were used to provide and derive useful information from a collection of text.

Currently, tag clouds are used in many websites and are not limited to traditional ones like Flickr. The paper mentions single word and two word clouds. Even our class website presents an interesting example of tag cloud usage, where the heavy font of the word 'reactions', denotes that the largest amount of posts on the blog have that tag. Tag clouds can also be timeline based. In my opinion, using tag clouds for visualization depends heavily on their layout, how fonts are applied to the words inside them, the colors used and also the ordering between them. An interesting example was presented in class yesterday by a group which is working on tag clouds for their project.

The paper also mentions some problems with tag clouds, such as finding a specific word, or the problem of long words being difficult to spot. Personally, I feel that tag clouds are one of the simplest and better methods for analyzing large amounts of text, although it may take some time getting used to. They can definitely be used as a starting step in that direction.