Words: beautiful, meaningful, colorful

Word clouds are visualization of a given text based on the frequency of the words it contains. A word cloud generator will usually eliminate punctuation and common words and mostly display nouns.
They follow a simple rule: the bigger the word, generic
the more often it is used.
Why I use word clouds?
I have been using word clouds for several years now either for research purposes or visualization.
When it comes to displaying the key concepts of a website, try
twitter account, rss feed or text (be it literary or not), word clouds can be very helpful. As they display the most frequent words in a inputed text, word clouds can help researchers formulate questions about the messages, the semantic and linguistic liaisons of a text. Similarly, they can also give an insight into the tone (neutral/positive/negative) of the text but to confirm it more in-depth textual analysis would be needed.
Additionally, they can  be used in framing analysis as a preliminary method to establish the key concepts within a given text. A verification of frames would be necessary and triangulation of results is highly recommended but word clouds could be a visually appealing element in the analysis.
Finally, word clouds (depending on the platform used to generate them) could be used in language learning.
Some word clouds generators

  • Wordle.net – generates word clouds starting from a given text (just use copy/paste), from any website or blog that have an RSS page (this includes twitter accounts), or from a del.ici.ous ID. Word clouds can be printed, saved on Wordle or shared on the web. It provides an option of displaying the word frequencies and increasing or reducing the number of words displayed, two options which can be veryuseful for research.
  • Tagxedo.com – generates word clouds starting from URLs, Twitter IDs, del.ici.ous accounts, news, search and RSS and it can combine their results into one graph. It has a wide range of display options, shapes and custom fonts. Here are some more examples. The platform also has an option for creating a custom handwriting font.
  • ManyEyes – The platform does a lot more than word clouds. It provides support for different languages which can be extremely useful when aiming to eliminate common words from the text.
  • ABCya – created a word cloud only based on a copy/pasted text. It allows deletion of words from the text as well as the display of two words together (the user needs to insert ~ between the desired words).
  • Tag Cloud Generator – generates a flash dynamic cloud based on a given url. The platform has a WordPress plugin and could be useful if looking for a more appealing way to highlight the categories, tags or keywords used by a website.
  • WordSift – displays an inputed text (copy/paste) in a tag cloud (linear, spaced). Once clicked the page shows a visual thesaurus for the word together with excerpts from the text and google images search results to match the term. This could be a very good platform for teaching languages as well as a good aid for qualitative researchers as it points out the paragraphs where the words are to be found.
  • VocabGrabber – based on a copy/pasted text, the application generates a tag cloud where the words have different sizes based on their frequency within the text and a different color which posits them within a specific subject area (geography, people, social studies, etc.). It uses the same Visual Thesaurus like WordSift but also displays a definition of the text together with an excerpt. Good for language learning and qualitative textual analysis.
  • Other platforms include: Tag Crowd, Word it Out, Image Chef, and Tagul.
Have you used any of these before? How, in what circumstances and what was your experience with them?
Do you know other word/tag cloud generators? Add them here!

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