Monday, November 21, 2011

Reaction: Tag Clouds and the Case for Vernacular Visualization.

The article was a great read. I never knew that tag clouds had a long history dating back to late 1900s - especially the varying flavors with which tag clouds comes. And another interesting point I noted was that tag clouds became popular in the early 2000s which is more than 30 years after its initial conception. The applications of tag clouds are very diversified too, ranging from simple blogging material to the analyzing court documents.

I totally agree with the authors point of view that tag clouds can make it difficult for users to find useful text especially when all the words are of different sizes. Lexicographic ordering of the words provides some ease but things can still get messy when the words are just too many. Out of all the different styles presented I liked the "Money makes the world go round" the most because it has an added dimension of grouping elements together which the users expect to occur nearby. Also, the coloring of bubbles can be used to indicate an additional co-relation factor at which simple tag clouds fail to do a good job.

The authors have made put in good effort to argue the theoretical point of view regarding tag clouds and how it differs from practical applications. As the title of the paper says "Vernacular" meaning non academic (not standardized in some way), the practical application of tag clouds often defeats a theorists view of its limited scope and readability. As it is mentioned in the paper, a tag cloud totally violates the traditional visualization technique and powered with web 2.0 its applications are numerous with which comes the unearthing an important class of data called "unstructured text".

The authors did a great job in writing the article and by keeping arguments concise, they have been able to include as much information as possible in few pages. The ordering of the text flow has been great with the description of the history in the beginning of the article and then slowly moving on to today's applications and finishing off with a gist of why we need tag clouds. I would rate the article 10/10 as I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from it.