Fri 6 Mar 2009
Wordle is a very cool (and very popular) tool for visualizing word counts in text. It creates these beautiful, stylish little word clouds. See below for an example. It has one fatal flaw, however, that makes it pretty, but pretty useless in a practical sense: you can't specify phrases that the cloud should keep together.
For most words I wouldn't need to do this, but a few key phrases need to stay together. In the cloud below, for example, I need to tell Wordle to keep 'social dilemma' and 'public goods' together. This simple function would allow me to add huge amounts of meaning to the visualization. This would be so easy to implement that I can't see why Wordle doesn't do it.
A secondary fun feature, probably not so fatal, would be to include some simple stemming features to combine frequencies of the same words used in multiple tenses, plurals, etc. There are a variety of open-source packages for doing this.