Love them or hate them?

If you’re a blogger, you’ll be familiar with Tag Clouds.  They usually appear in the side panel, and are a group of words of varying sizes — where the size indicates how frequently it’s been used as a category or tag in the blog.

You either love Tag Clouds or hate them.  I read a journalist’s article recently who hates them – he insisted that good writers should be able to communicate their content by using a great article heading and an article summary.

He has a point.  But online, where web users are inundated with information, and web pages are scanned for pertinent topics rather than read word-for-word — Tag Clouds have a valuable role to play.

Role of a Tag Cloud

I use Tag Clouds in all of my blogs, and I prefer to read blogs with Tag Clouds.  When I arrive at a blog from a organic search or inbound link, I scan for the Tag Cloud.  If the topic of the article I landed on, features largely in the Tag Cloud, that infers it’s a frequent blog topic.  So I’m more likely to assume the author has a modicum of “subject matter expertise”, and this adds weight to how I consume the article.

If I enjoy the article I landed on, my next step is to click on Tag Cloud to find related content.

Of course, if the article was less than stellar, it’s a roll-of-the dice whether I read any more of the blog – and this decision is usually dictated by my time constraints, i.e. is this a lunch-time surf, or am I just ambling through the blogosphere!

Create adhoc Tag Clouds

As well as having your blog automatically generate a tag cloud, you can also use one of the free online Tag Cloud creators.

My Tag Cloud Creator of Choice is Wordle. To create your Tag Cloud, you can either:

  • Paste in a bunch of Text, or
  • Enter the URL of any blog or blog feed, or any page that has an Atom or RSS feed

I’ve used both methods, and you can check out my Wordle.  I created my:

These last two were “gifts” I generated on other bloggers behalf — I used them as a virtual Greeting Card.  But my Tag Cloud exploits haven’t been confined to the blogosphere.  I also used Tag Clouds to create a group of PowerPoint slides, I created for a work presentation.

Tag Clouds at Work:

I’m not a big fan of slides with lots of text on them.  I think the slides should just include a few bullet points, and the presenter should talk to the topics.  As soon as you put a whole lot of text on a slide – the audience sits and reads it, rather than listening to the presenter.

So for my presentation I created 8 content slides – and then used Wordle to generate Tag Clouds out of them.  The words I used most frequently, showed up larger in the Tag Cloud, and it was obvious to my audience, what the slides key topic was focused on.

Although there were some audience members that weren’t too keen on this off-kilter approach, I’m glad I’ve managed to transition Tag Clouds from my online universe to my corporate castle.