Wordles and tag clouds: keywords, visual representations of big data

Wordles are a type of the traditional tag cloud typically associated with blogs.

Wordles are a type of the traditional tag cloud typically associated with blogs. You will usually see tag clouds on the right or left hand navigation panes or at the very bottom of the blog interface. These Wordles help people to represent large data sets visually. They can be used for any sort of text-based document. For example, you could use them with a thesis or dissertation, a journal article or even a novel. However, like any modern tool of analysis, Wordles provides practical applications as well as pitfalls if misused.

How They Represent Large Data Sets

Wordles and tag clouds work by using a count of words with a visual representation of those statistics (of the word counts). Thus, when analyzing any text-based document the words (or keywords) that are found more frequently (a higher density) within a document will appear larger (is relative size) when clustered with words that are found less frequently (lower density). This visual analysis provides readers with a clear indication of what words the author used more frequently. You set the parameters of a tag cloud, so you could create a parameter that states that any word that doesn’t appear a certain number of times won’t be represented in the data set. You could also say words under a certain length also won’t be represented.

Some versions of the tag cloud will go further than simply having different sizes of word. They’ll also have a running total along the bottom so you can also look at the figures for word usage. This is particularly useful in shorter pieces of writing where word diversity becomes even more crucial. One other way to differentiate words and phrases one from another employs the use of colors. Instead of the size of words being the only differentiating visual artifact, colors from lighter to dark from saturated to de-saturated enhance the visual appeal of Wordles.

Overuse and the Dangers

Some people will use tag clouds to help them eliminate the potential for repeating words too many times. While this works for shorter pieces of work, longer documents won’t necessarily be represented correctly with a Wordle.

Let’s say you’ve written a novel. You might find you’ve repeated a word too many times. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve spammed the word throughout your work. Unless it’s obvious you’ve grossly overused it, it might just be a matter of spacing the word usage out.

Even if you use a word over and over again, if there’s sufficient space between each usage it doesn’t necessarily weaken your writing. By relying too much on a tag cloud, you might inadvertently create a problem that isn’t really there.

And tag clouds won’t work in every situation. In some industries, the constant repetition of a few key phrases is essential for a successful marketing campaign. Wordles are of no use in such a situation because it isn’t showing you anything you don’t already know. However, you could analyze the written content of your competitors’ websites with a Wordle to see what key words and phrases appear more frequently. You can then do some search engine optimization (SEO) studies and adjust your word and phrase selections.

Where Can You Use a Tag Cloud?

The Wordle can even find its way into the classroom. It has been acknowledged that many children learn by looking at things in a visual manner. For many students who are learning to write for the first time, they might not be able to spot when they are repeating the same words and phrases all the time.

Showing them in this way helps them to understand the problem and encourages them to pay attention to their choice of words.

And it extends further up the academic spectrum. In research papers, there is always a danger of getting too engrossed in the research to concentrate on word usage. Eliminate one too many repetitions by using a Wordle.

Social media is another area where someone might want to use a Wordle. Companies understand how their target audiences respond to a number of key phrases. They need to make sure they get these keywords and phrases in a certain number of times. A tag cloud helps them to see how many times they’re using each word and adjust their statuses accordingly.

Finally, when you have a large number of sentence-feedback on a survey or in the comment section of a blog, you can use a Wordle to decipher reoccurring themes by the words used. Of course this is only clue evidence that requires a diligent researcher to dig deeper into the texts, but the Wordle certainly provides a useable tool to get to those central themes much more efficiently and effectively.

Overall, the Wordle is a highly useful tool that can help to remove many of the weaknesses within a form of writing. Furthermore, the regular use of a tag cloud will teach you how to improve your writing going forward. It also provides other useful purposes such as researching large sets of texts. The tag cloud is a great tool if you are careful not to overuse its application or expect results the Wordle was not intended to produce.