I've been fooling around with tag clouds. Trying to learn what they are all about. Their purpose - usefulness or lack thereof. I built a bicycle blog tag cloud to see if it would be a useful way of perusing the hot topics being talked about in the bike blogosphere. You know, just kind of track the buzz, which is really the whole point of a tag cloud anyway.
Ok, now try it out and then skip down below for some of my thoughts.
The tag cloud was developed using a service called, what else, TagCloud. Now the tag cloud is supposed to be something that changes regularly so by the time you read this it may be vastly different from when I last reviewed it for my comments.
First of all, it seems that Velorution and Surly Blog dominate the tags. I'm not exactly sure why this is. I fed the service an OPML file that included over 100 blogs including all of the blogs in my blogroll. I think the service may need a few days to cache the posts from blogs that have not already been added to its database. The only reason I believe this may be true is because I tried to do a Go Clipless tag cloud which took almost a week to populate. (There is a reason this service is still in beta).
I removed all of the news services I track as they often have redundant stories which too heavily skewed the tags to particular topics. Plus, I am more interested in tracking the conversation then the news itself.
I wonder how the tags are actually generated. I am surprised that there are no references to 29ers or singlespeeds. I know these terms come up regularly so I have to assume that the service is evaluating the words in the post against a list of pre-defined tags or keywords. It doesn't seem to add new tags so I wonder is there some master editor at TagCloud that is sitting there updating tags every so often?
The service only seems to offer up to six results for anyone tag. There is no next page for additional stories that it matches. Also, it doesn't seem to highlight the tags occurrence in the excerpt it provides so sometimes you have to read the whole article to see why it was selected.
Anyway, once more of the blogs I've selected are spidered by TagCloud it should get more useful. Play around with it a little and let me know what you think. Are these things useful or just more Web 2.0