Presidential tag cloud has compiled a text database of the speeches and documents made by all the US presidents, and generated a tag cloud for each.

It’s a fascinating way to explore history. Scanning the clouds allows one to determine what issues were most important to the president at the time.

I’ve always thought tag clouds were an intriguing way to visualize information… and this type of experiment is a great example of good information design. In addition to weighting the common themes by font size (bigger is more frequently used or important), a color shading is added to indicate a temporal relationship (brighter is more recent, dimmer is “older”). Therefore, in each tag cloud, a single image can show the relevant words of a given text, the importance of each, and the temporal relationship between them.

Tag clouds can go wrong, too. My own, which is automatically generated by code in my WordPress theme (read: I didn’t write the code), doesn’t do a good job of encapsulating monkeyPi (in my opinion). But when it’s done right, it’s a fascinating example of how malleable information can be.


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