I am always on the lookout for tools which can help me deal with the overload of information we have to handle each day. Visualization aids really help. On the face of it, Wordle is a pretty neat way of generating “word clouds” from any text that you provide. It might not strike you that it can be used as a visualization tool to make sense of information. But Wordle if used creatively can do just that.
Wordle is described as a “toy” for generating word clouds. For me it is a powerful information visualization aid. Let’s start with what Wordle does. It allows you to create a graphical display of words and format it with different colors schemes, fonts, and layouts. More frequently occurring words are more prominently displayed on the word cloud. Here’s a ‘Wordle translation’ of Kipling’s famous poem, ‘If’.
Creating a Wordle word cloud involves pasting a bunch of text or importing it via an URL or RSS feed from a website. Alternatively, you can also use a Delicious username to get tags as a word cloud.
Wordle is a Java application and once it gets the words, the Wordle editor gives you a few fun ways to play around with the medley of words. You can opt for different fonts, different layouts, and different color schemes. Clicking on Randomize takes you through all the variations available on Wordle.
Wordle also has an advanced engine which allows you to specify weighted words combined with hex-coded colors to generate word clouds.
Make Sense of Words with Wordle
Here are some off-the-cuff thoughts on ways you can use Wordle:
Get an overview of the keywords in a long piece of text to understand it at a glance. I have used keywords to revise a study lesson quickly.
Create inspirational posters and t-shirt prints (Wordle allows you to print out the word clouds).
As a group brainstorming tool – the more cited ideas automatically shows up larger on Wordle.