Building a Better Word Cloud by Drew Conway.
From the post:
A few weeks ago I attended the NYC Data Visualization and Infographics meetup, which included a talk by Junk Charts blogger Kaiser Fung. Given the topic of his blog, I was a bit shocked that the central theme of his talk was comparing good and bad word clouds. He even stated that the word cloud was one of the best data visualizations of the last several years. I do not think there is such a thing as a good word cloud, and after the meetup I left unconvinced; as evidenced by the above tweet.
This tweet precipitated a brief Twitter debate about the value of word clouds, but from that straw poll it seemed the Nays had the majority. My primary gripe is that space is meaningless in word clouds. They are meant to summarize a single statistics—word frequency—yet they use a two dimensional space to express that. This is frustrating, since it is very easy to abuse the flexibility of these dimensions and conflate the position of a word with its frequency to convey dubious significance.
This came up on Twitter today even though Drew’s post dates from 2011. Great post though as Drew tries to improve upon the standard word cloud.
Not Drew’s fault but after reading his post I am where he was at the beginning on word clouds, I don’t see their utility. Perhaps your experience will be different.