Tag clouds are a great way to get a quick summary of the concepts in a piece of text and their relative importance. When combined with a timeline and a set of chronologically-ordered content you can quickly see how ideas morphed overtime. This is a great way to track the changes of a company, industry or even a country – heck it would be interesting to see my Del.icio.us and Flickr tags this way.
Todd Bishop of the Seattle-Pi’s Microsoft blog has done just this for a look at Microsoft’s history. He compiled a set of 90 Microsoft memos, emails, book introductions, advertisements, and speeches. He then used Chirag Mehta‘s open-sourced and CC-licensed Tagline Generator to analyze and display them. The result is an interesting peek into the morphing of Microsoft’s (and the tech industry’s) goals and challenges (for another interesting application check out Chirag’s US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud Timeline).
It’s interesting to watch the rise of the internet, search, google, and linux via the tag cloud. There’s also a marked fall in the focus on the PC over the years.
Update: In the comments, Brent Fitzgerald posts about a Del.icio.us tag-timeline generator he recently wrote.
Hi, what a coincidence. I actually wrote a little timeline webapp called Yummy for my del.icio.us tags last week. You can view your own tags as well. It uses a double slider to allow adjustment of the date range.
Check it out:http://plw.media.mit.edu/people/brent/yummy/