I created a word cloud for the home page of a website I am developing. It brought home in a fun and interesting way someting we all already know – that in web communications, readers scan the page, and so it is vital to edit and clarify language.
Alright, that was fun. I took my résumé and plunked it into TagCrowd (after removing the dates since things like “oct. 2008” are not interesting) and the results were interesting. Judging by the size, I could easily tell that I gained a lot of experience as a student at the University of Guelph in Ontario. True. However, what was more interesting was to see were words like “community”, “management”, “provided”, “support”, and “team” displayed very prominently. Although I am obviously the author of my résumé, it is a strange thing to see these themes appear visually – stranger still that I am not sure it was entirely intentional.
Due to the sad blue colours in TagCrowd, I then put my resume in Wordle, played it it for a bit, and smiled a little more. Colour is good.
Now, on the topic of the wisdom of crowds, I am about 82% in favour of such wisdom. First, the 18% rant. Although more about tagging than crowds, this rant comes as a result of too much time looking for stock images on various websites, like stock.xchng. What some people think makes sense is lost on others. For example, if I am looking for a photo of a “glass of water” and the perfect image has been tagged as a “cup of refreshingness”, there is very little chance I will ever find it (unless I use special tools). The same (albeit not as ridiculous) can be said about crowds (good segway). Say some university staff-types decide that they were going to offer a very useful workshop on “engaging the university community”, but the students looking for information keep searching for “campus involvement” – there’s going to be a disconnect between the two dissimilar crowds and their respective folksonomies.
My rant was not meant to cast a doom and gloom cloud over tags (that would be the worst kind of tag cloud) – I actually find them quite delightful. To return to my previous example, if you have one person who tags “cup of refreshingness” and ninety-nine who tag “glass of water”, the crowd has made up for the individual’s eccentricities and I will have found my perfect image. Often times, common sense is not that common in one, but is common in the greater commons (future famous quote, patent pending). Seriously though, if you allow a community to create and use its own language rather than trying to artificially impose a language upon that community, I think that community is more apt to success and flourish. Otherwise, trying to impose language on the crowd may be doubleplusungood.
P.S. I have tagged this post as “refreshingness”, should you wish to find it later.
P.P.S. I’m up-to-date again. Yea!