12 July 2008


If you want to have fun, try out Wordle, a neat free software program to make word clouds*. You can input any text or an RSS feed from your website, a blog, or anything else. Once the cloud is made, you can edit it to change color, format (horizontal, vertical, rounded, etc.), language, and other characteristics. Then you can save it (even as a PDF), print it, or add it to their online gallery for others to see (and use).

The author of the program (Jonathan Feinberg), an engineer at IBM, says that you can use any of the Wordles you create (or the ones from the gallery) for any purpose you want, including making money. Wouldn't it be neat to have a poster or t-shirt with a Wordle made from your library's website or mission statement? Or from your club or organization? I made Wordles based on the University of Illinois Fight Song, the Beloit College web page on academics (note that the largest word is students, showing their orientation), and the RSS feed from this blog. You can see the first two in the gallery, search on "University of Illinois Fight Song" or "Beloit."
Oh yeah, the gallery is searchable--a neat feature. Try searching on the "Lord's Prayer"....

There are even business applications for Wordle. Karen Blakeman [RBA Information Services, Caversham, Berks UK] wrote on BUSLIB-L, "I was alerted to using tag cloud generators for business purposes by Sue Hill of Sue Hill Recruitment. Her organisation sometimes pass candidate CVs and job descriptions through a cloud generator to highlight which words are being emphasised and used more than they should. I've used Wordle to look at individual promotional materials for membership organisations and events. Some turned out OK and were focussing on the topics we intended to promote, but for a few it became obvious that the advertising had failed because it had all the wrong buzzwords. Very illuminating!"

*In case you don't knoow what a word cloud is, here is the Wikipedia definition: "A tag cloud or word cloud (or weighted list in visual design) is a visual depiction of user-generated tags, or simply the word content of a site, used typically to describe the content of web sites. Tags are usually single words and are typically listed alphabetically, and the importance of a tag is shown with font size or color."

URL: http://wordle.net/

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