Flickr is among the top 40 most popular websites on the Web today. It’s not surprising since it serves a very useful purpose. Instead of attaching photos to an email, a person can simply upload the photos to Flickr and then refer people to it. Most photos are meant to be shared and after it’s been seen, it’s archived. In short, most photos have a very brief life. Look at them once then move on.
Aside from the typical user, bloggers—like me—use Flickr as a photo repository. As of November 2008, it claimed to host more than 3 billion images. That’s according to Wikipedia (a site even more popular than Flickr).
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Flickr was the first popular website that used tag clouds.
What’s a Tag or Text Cloud?
It’s a visual depiction of the word content of a website. The most frequent words are depicted. Additionally, each word in the cloud is emphasized according to its frequency. Numerous variations exist but this is the basic idea.
What’s the difference between a tag and text? Tags are text that are placed at strategic locations in the code that comprise webpages. Tags are important because search engines like Google use tags to add webpages to its database. For an example, look at the bottom of this blog entry. Its tags are: analysis, cloud, depiction, father, flickr, google, photo, psychology, seo, tag, technorati, text, visual, wikipedia.
Since I created those tags, they’re referred to as user-generated tags.
Let’s examine a text cloud example that was created from this paragraph. The word “word” appears seven times. In this paragraph’s text cloud (shown below), the word “word” is emphasized by its size and thickness. The word “word” is the largest and thickest word in this paragraph’s text cloud.
This text cloud was created through Wordle.
The first text cloud above is a one-time depiction of some content found in one of my father’s published books. “One-time” means that it’s a snapshot. It’s a static depiction of content. Dynamic clouds also exist, like the one at Flickr’s. Dynamic clouds update at periodic intervals or on demand. Dynamic clouds are typically created by third-party web-based services such as Technorati or Wowzio. These services are currently free.
This blog’s dynamic cloud is hosted by Technorati. It’s on the left sidebar. The other blog that I maintain has a dynamic cloud that’s hosted by Wowzio. I use two different providers because providers are not always operational. I wanted to spread the risk so if this blog’s cloud doesn’t appear, it will in the other blog.
Clouds are an example of innovation being spurred by a new medium (the Web) running on technology (the Internet). A Stanford student explained it this way:
When we look at a text cloud, we see not only an informative, beautiful image that communicates much in a single glance, we see a whole new perspective on text.Would you like to play with clouds?
TagCrowd is taking tag clouds far beyond their original function:
The list goes on and continues to grow.
- as topic summaries for speeches and written works
- as blog tool or website analysis for search engine optimization (SEO)
- for visual analysis of survey data
- as brand clouds that let companies see how they are perceived by the world
- for data mining a text corpus
- for helping writers and students reflect on their work
- as name tags for conferences, cocktail parties or wherever new collaborations start
- as resumes in a single glance
- as visual poetry
In the future, TagCrowd will develop into a suite of experimental tools and tutorials that empower social and collaborative uses for text clouds and related visualizations.
Our mission is to push the innovation envelope in online and face-to-face communities of all stripes.
These three sites create static clouds. Enjoy!