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Introducing “Timecloud”: Dynamic Word Clouds (beta)

By Linkfluence - October 21, 2009

Linkfluence is known for its web cartography expertise, but that’s not all we do. Maps are tools, they define a territory, a “playing field”, which we can then mine and analyze. One way of analyzing the context and content of discussions is by creating word clouds: word clouds provide a convenient albeit imperfect overview of the gist of a large volume of content. Unfortunately, word clouds are typically used as ‘snapshots’ of said content at a given time. This is fine when looking at homogeneous content, but becomes counterproductive when trying to analyze trends, rise or decline of certain words, brands or concepts over time, particularly when considering the ebb and flow of online conversations.

We have been working on this issue for some time, with the objective of combining the convenience of word clouds with a chronological dimension to follow semantic trends. And here it is: “timecloud” allows you to manipulate the time line and update the associated word clouds accordingly.

In the following example, which represents a “timecloud” for the brand Apple within the Mac-fans community, one can easily visualize which words, brands, adjectives come and go over the past 90 days. Unsurprisingly, “iphone” and “app store” remain very prominent throughout the entire period, while product launches like “snow leopard” or “tablet” pop up at the time of the launch then recede in the background.

Hence, this “timecloud” not only displays the most frequently-used words over the selected time period, it also shows the evolution of the conversation through the appearance and disappearance of those key words and concepts. It is also possible to toggle the “list mode” (icon in the upper right hand corner, next to the magnifying glass) to display all the words with the same size, including “unused” words (in light grey) for the selected period. When selecting a word on the tag cloud, a graph will appear at the bottom, showing relative volume of mentions over the entire timeline. Using the ctrl key, one can select up to four words and follow their evolution over time.

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