Jonathan Feinberg, over at Wordle, has created an intriguing device (he calls it a “toy” but I’d use that word only in the sense that people once called computers “toys”) which creates a word cloud that includes most of the words from any text you input (you can paste in text, give it a URL of a web page, or put in a del.isio.us user name). [To the left is the Wordle for my blog without this new post.]
It then creates one of those frequency cloud pictures that shows what words you’ve used, with the size of word reflecting how often it was used in that text.
At first glance, you might think it was a toy — someone posted one called love iphone/hate facebook — but already a few interesting clouds have turned up. There’s one called “Things i want to say to you, but can’t” which features such words as chance, life, don’t and (of course) love.” That one feels almost as revelatory as PostSecret.
There’s another one on today (so many get posted that you’re never going to find these easily unless I give you URL, since Jonathan doesn’t give any sort of databasing search tool), called “What did YOU wear today?’ and another one which was put up by Wired on people’s thoughts on the iPhone.
The possibilities are tremendous — as a way of visually representing the way people are thinking at any given moment. Here, for instance in the Wordle for an article on today’s Huffington Post about Karl Rove (the link to the original article is here). The largest words seem to be Obama, government, money and Shiite. A recent Washington Post column by Dana Milbank on Rove creates a different Wordle with the biggest words being Rove, Karl, House and travesty (the original article can be found here). An article from conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, has this Wordle, with the biggest words read, rest and post.
Helpfully, Wordle will remove common words (like “the” and “and”) if you ask it to, so you can straight for the content and you can get deeper into the text’s actual meanings.
The holy grail of marketing on the Web is measuring its readers. The next step after that is making sense of what you measure. Wordle is an interesting way of making that “sense” more visible.