Google Blogoscoped

Thursday, October 27, 2005 allows you to create your own tag clouds by providing a list of RSS feeds. The service then automatically extracts the most popular words from the feeds, and displays them as links of different size and color. Click on a word, and you are taken to snippets of the blogs covering this topic. While I’ve reported on this tool earlier this year I just now played around with it more and think it’s an incredibly cool site & idea.

Once you’ve created your own tag cloud, you can either link to it on the server. Or you can include a link to a CSS and a JavaScript so the tag cloud will be displayed on your own site. Before including your own cloud, note that the service can be incredibly slow the first time you call your page; after that, caching seems to speed it up a lot. (Speed is indeed the only drawback of this service; sometimes, there’s also a too-long delay between clicking on a tag and being able to see the results page.)

View the Google tag cloud. I’ve entered the feeds of all Google employees and official Google blogs I could find, as well as a few search related blogs (like Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Watch, Google Blogoscoped, and so on).

So what can this be used for, then? Tag clouds of a sub-set of all blogspace can help track the hot memes of the day for a certain “neighborhood.” But that doesn’t mean the bigger the link, the hotter the topic. E.g. when all you provide is a list of people discussing Apple, then naturally the word “Apple” will always be big & visible in the cloud... that alone doesn’t provide any new information (you might as well simply present new posts from your selection of feeds). However, if you now spot the tag “nano”, that would hint at a new Apple-related product.

What’s the technology behind the service? As the About page of the site tells, they’re making use of the Yahoo! API and its Content Analysis web service. This (also cool) service extracts the most important words and phrases for any given text*. The rest apparently is done with the usual LAMP approach (PHP and MySQL, in this case). TagCloud, launched by IonZoft – “a small group of developers and creative individuals located in Bellwood, PA” – credits John Herren for the original idea behind the service.

E.g. for the sentence “Italian sculptors and painters of the renaissance favored the Virgin Mary for inspiration”, Yahoo extracts “italian sculptors”, “virgin mary”, “painters” and others.

[Via Lifehacker.]


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