Tag cloud

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File:Web 2.0 Map.svg
A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.0
File:Tag Clouds for Searching on Google.png
A Tag Cloud for Searching on Google

A tag cloud or word cloud (or weighted list in visual design) is a visual depiction of user-generated tags, or simply the word content of a site, typically used to describe the content of web sites. Tags are usually single words and are normally listed alphabetically, and the importance of a tag is shown with font size or color.[1] Thus, both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. The tags are usually hyperlinks that lead to a collection of items that are associated with a tag.



The first use of tag clouds on a high-profile website was on the photo sharing site Flickr, created by Flickr co-founder and interaction designer Stewart Butterfield.[2] That implementation was based[citation needed] on Jim Flanagan's Search Referral Zeitgeist,[3] a visualization of Web site referrers. Tag clouds have also been popularized by Del.icio.us and Technorati, among others. Flickr would later apologize to the web-development community in their five-word acceptance speech for the 2006 "Best Practices" Webby Award, where they simply stated "sorry about the tag clouds."[4]

The first published appearance of a tag cloud (or at least a weighted list) in the English language may have been as the "subconscious files" in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs (1995)[citation needed]; a German appearance occurred at least three years earlier.[5]

Prior to weighted list representation of tag clouds, paper maps had used the concept of weighted font size and font weights to represent relative size or importance of towns and cities. On 24 March 2009, CNN created what they claimed was the "largest word cloud in the free world" for that night's Anderson Cooper 360°. It was a word cloud of President Obama's address to the press earlier that day.[citation needed]

In recent years tag clouds gained even more popularity because of their role in search engine optimization of web pages. Properly implemented tag clouds make the website appear to search engine spiders more interlinked which tends to improve its search engine rank.[6]


File:World Population.png
A data cloud showing the population of each of the world's countries. Color visually separates the countries, font size indicates 2007 population.

There are three main types of tag cloud applications in social software, distinguished by their meaning rather than appearance.[citation needed] In the first type, there is a tag for the frequency of each item, whereas in the second type, there are global tag clouds where the frequencies are aggregated over all items and users. In the third type, the cloud contains categories, with size indicating number of subcategories.

In the first type, size represents the number of times that tag has been applied to a single item.[7] This is useful as a means of displaying metadata about an item that has been democratically 'voted' on and where precise results are not desired. Examples of such use include Last.fm (to indicate genres attributed to bands) and LibraryThing (to indicate tags attributed to a book).

In the second, more commonly used type,[citation needed] size represents the number of items to which a tag has been applied, as a presentation of each tag's popularity. Examples of this type of tag cloud are used on the image-hosting service Flickr, blog aggregator Technorati and on Google search results with DeeperWeb .

In the third type, tags are used as a categorization method for content items. Tags are represented in a cloud where larger tags represent the quantity of content items in that category.

More generally, the same visual technique can be used to display non-tag data[8], as in a word cloud or a data cloud.

Visual appearance

File:Top 500 by volume on the NYSE.png
A data cloud showing stock price movement. Color indicates positive or negative change, font size indicates percentage change.

Tag clouds are typically represented using inline HTML elements. The tags can appear in alphabetical order, in a random order, they can be sorted by weight, and so on. Most popular is a rectangular tag arrangement with alphabetical sorting in a sequential line-by-line layout. The decision for an optimal layout should be driven by the expected user goals.[9] Some prefer to cluster the tags semantically[10][11][12] so that similar tags will appear near each other. Heuristics can be used to reduce the size of the tag cloud whether or not the purpose is to cluster the tags.[11]

Data clouds

A data cloud or cloud data is a data display which uses font size and/or color to indicate numerical values[13] It is similar to a tag cloud[14] but instead of word count, displays data such as population or stock market prices.

Text clouds

A text cloud or word cloud is a visualization of word frequency in a given text as a weighted list.[15] The technique has recently been popularly used to visualize the topical content of political speeches.[16]

Collocate clouds

Extending the principles of a text cloud, a collocate cloud provides a more focused view of a document or corpus. Instead of summarising an entire document, the collocate cloud examines the usage of a particular word. The resulting cloud contains the words which are often used in conjunction with the search word. These collocates are formatted to show frequency (as size) as well as collocational strength (as brightness). This provides interactive ways to browse and explore language.[17]

Perception of tag clouds

Tag clouds have been subject of investigation in several usability studies. The following summary is based on an overview of research results given by Lohmann et al.:[9]

  • Tag size: Large tags attract more user attention than small tags (effect influenced by further properties, e.g., number of characters, position, neighboring tags).
  • Scanning: Users scan rather than read tag clouds.
  • Centering: Tags in the middle of the cloud attract more user attention than tags near the borders (effect influenced by layout).
  • Position: The upper left quadrant receives more user attention than the others (Western reading habits).
  • Exploration: Tag clouds provide suboptimal support when searching for specific tags (if these have not a very large font size).

Creation of a tag cloud

Tag cloud of the most frequently used tags at Flickr.

In principle, the font size of a tag in a tag cloud is determined by its incidence. For a word cloud of categories like weblogs, the frequency of use for example, corresponds to the number of weblog entries that are assigned to a category. For small frequencies it's sufficient to indicate directly for any number from one to a maximum font size. For larger values, a scaling should be made. In a linear normalization, the weight <math>t_i</math> of a descriptor is mapped to a size scale of 1 through f, where <math>t_{min}</math> and <math>t_{max}</math> are specifying the range of available weights.

<math>s_i = \left \lceil \frac{f_{\mathrm{max}}\cdot(t_i - t_{\mathrm{min}})}{t_{\mathrm{max}}-t_{\mathrm{min}}} \right \rceil</math> for <math>t_i > t_{\mathrm{min}}</math>; else <math>s_{i}=1</math>

  • <math>s_i</math>: display fontsize
  • <math>f_{\mathrm{max}}</math>: max. fontsize
  • <math>t_i</math>: count
  • <math>t_{\mathrm{min}}</math>: min. count
  • <math>t_{\mathrm{max}}</math>: max. count

Since the number of indexed items per descriptor is usually distributed according to a power law [18], for larger ranges of values, a logarithmic representation makes sense [19].

Implementations of tag clouds also include text parsing and filtering out unhelpful tags such as common words, numbers, and punctuation.

See also


  1. Martin Halvey and Mark T. Keane, An Assessment of Tag Presentation Techniques, poster presentation at WWW 2007, 2007
  2. Paul Bausch, Jim Bumgardner (2006). "Make a Flickr-Style Tag Cloud". Flickr Hacks. O'Reilly Press. ISBN 0596102453. http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/flickrhks/chapter/hack14.pdf. 
  3. A copy of Jim Flanagan's Search Referral Zeitgeist was available at archive.org but has since been blocked. In the comments of a blog entry, a user identified as Steve Minutillo attribute the idea to Jim Flanagan, stating that Flanagan's site had such displays in 2002.
  4. http://www.webbyawards.com/press/archived-speeches.php#2006
  5. Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari (1992). Tausend Plateaus. Kapitalismus und Schizophrenie. ISBN 3883960942. 
  6. Article: Free tag cloud generator script for PHP web pages Retrieved 2009-11-17
  7. Bielenberg, K. and Zacher, M., Groups in Social Software: Utilizing Tagging to Integrate Individual Contexts for Social Navigation, Masters Thesis submitted to the Program of Digital Media, Universität Bremen (2006)
  8. Kamel Aouiche, Daniel Lemire, Robert Godin, Collaborative OLAP with Tag Clouds: Web 2.0 OLAP Formalism and Experimental Evaluation, WEBIST 2008, 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Lohmann, S., Ziegler, J., Tetzlaff, L. Comparison of Tag Cloud Layouts: Task-Related Performance and Visual Exploration, T. Gross et al. (Eds.): INTERACT 2009, Part I, LNCS 5726, pp. 392–404, 2009.
  10. Hassan-Montero, Y., Herrero-Solana, V. Improving Tag-Clouds as Visual Information Retrieval Interfaces
  11. 11.0 11.1 Owen Kaser and Daniel Lemire, Tag-Cloud Drawing: Algorithms for Cloud Visualization, Tagging and Metadata for Social Information Organization (WWW 2007), 2007
  12. Salonen, J. 2007. Self-organising map based tag clouds - Creating spatially meaningful representations of tagging data. Proceedings of the 1st OPAALS conference, 26-27 November 2007, Rome, Italy.
  13. Apel, Warren. "ManyEyes Visualization and Commentary: World Population Data Cloud.". http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SIk76IsOtha6qFGgix3cI2-. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  14. Wattenberg, Martin. "ManyEyes Visualization: Ad cloud". http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/Sh3S9FsOtha6OdUrBNWFF2-. Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  15. Lamantia, Joe. "Text Clouds: A New Form of Tag Cloud?". http://www.joelamantia.com/blog/archives/tag_clouds/text_clouds_a_new_form_of_tag_cloud.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  16. Mehta, Chirag. "US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud". http://chir.ag/phernalia/preztags/. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  17. "Collocate cloud". http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/corpus/search/collocatecloud.php. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  18. Jakob Voss: Collaborative thesaurus tagging the Wikipedia way. April 2006 [1]
  19. Kentbyte: Tag Cloud Font Distribution Algorithm. June 2005 [2]

External links

ca:Núvol de paraules da:Ordsky de:Schlagwortwolke es:Nube de palabras eo:Vortonubo fa:تگ کلود fr:Nuage de mots clefs gl:Nube de datos ko:태그 구름 it:Tag cloud lv:Birku mākonis hu:Címkefelhő nl:Tag cloud ja:タグクラウド pl:Chmura znaczników pt:Nuvem de Tags ru:Облако тегов sv:Taggmoln tg:Абри баргаҳо tr:Etiket Bulutu uk:Хмарка тегів zh:标签云

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