Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or in This Case a Picture of a Thousand Words

Recently I've been working on a roadmap for decision support and business intelligence tools within our business. While I had little trouble pulling this together for most scenarios and tools, when I came to look at visualisation tools I was a little stumped. Most of what I've done in the past has been GIS centric - mashing up data with various layers from a GIS tool to speed business decision making or expose things that might otherwise be obscured in a sea of data. I had a passing familiarity with some other visualisation tools such a Tableau but went hunting for others. One of the less obvious choices was actually introduced to me in passing during last year's Gartner Symposium. It's called Wordle ( and can be used to create word clouds, visually highlighting the words that appear more frequently in a given body of text. As a test I pointed it at my blog and got the word cloud below back (Click here to go to a bigger version of this on Wordle's site.).
Funky? Cool? Yes! (Well at least in my opinion). But, does this sort of technology have an application in the corporate word? Perhaps? I've been mulling over a few ideas:

  • Feeding Wordle long documents that are given to me to read. If I see enough prominent words in the resultant word cloud that interest me I read it. If not I file it!
  • As a means of mining semi-structured data. A colleague of mine talks about finding the gold amongst all of the documents we have scattered across local drives, file shares and document management systems. Perhaps this is a way of speeding the process of finding that gold. 
  • As a type of dashboard to sit over internal social media feeds (Yammer, etc) or other internal collaboration tools - drill down to the source discussions only if you see key words that matter to you.
Drop me a line if you're already doing something with a tool like this, I'm keen to hear what's working for you.

1 comment:

  1. Scotty

    My wife uses it in two ways. Sanity checking papers she's written to see if they have the right emphasis. Checking papers she's looking at for the same reason.