Tag clouds (and tagging)

29 Jan 2009 - 12:32pm
5 years ago
8 replies
1402 reads
usabilitymedic
2008

Hi All,

Does anyone know of any resources regarding the drawbacks of tag
clouds or the debate about their value versus their drawbacks. I have
a bee in my bonnet about them and would like write a point of view but
want to do appropriate research first. I found one previous thread
herein and intend to google into the wee hours but if anyone can help
shorten my research time by pointing me in a direction, I’d be most
appreciative.

And of course, if anyone in the group has opinions, they are most
welcome as well J

Thanks,
Maureen

Maureen Murphy
President

516-670-8000
www.usabilitymedic.com

Comments

30 Jan 2009 - 5:10am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Hello Maureen,

If you have access to the ACM Digital Library, you'll find some articles
that might be useful. For example, here is one that has some information on
the visual properties of tag clouds:

Bateman, S., Gutwin, C., and Nacenta, M. 2008. Seeing things in the clouds:
the effect of visual features on tag cloud selections. In *Proceedings of
the Nineteenth ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia* (Pittsburgh, PA,
USA, June 19 - 21, 2008). HT '08. ACM, New York, NY, 193-202. DOI=
http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1379092.1379130

Here is a portion of the abstract:
"Tag clouds are a popular method for visualizing and linking
socially-organized information on websites. Tag clouds represent variables
of interest (such as popularity) in the visual appearance of the keywords
themselves - using text properties such as font size, weight, or colour.
Although tag clouds are becoming common, there is still little information
about which visual features of tags draw the attention of viewers. As tag
clouds attempt to represent a wider range of variables with a wider range of
visual properties, it becomes difficult to predict what will appear visually
important to a viewer. To investigate this issue, we carried out an
exploratory study that asked users to select tags from clouds that
manipulated nine visual properties. Our results show that font size and font
weight have stronger effects than intensity, number of characters, or tag
area; but when several visual properties are manipulated at once, there is
no one property that stands out above the others."

A few more Web references:

Kasser, O., & Lemire, D. Tag-Cloud Drawing: Algorithms for Cloud
Visualization. Proc. Tagging and Metadata for Social Information
Organization Workshop. In conjunction with WWW '07. 10 pages. Available at
www2007.org/workshops/paper_12.pdf

Hassan-Montero, Y., & Herrero-Solana, V. Improving tag-clouds as visual
information retrieval interfaces. Proc. InfoSciT2006. 6 pages. Available at
http://www.nosolousabilidad.com/hassan/ improving_tagclouds.pdf

Zeldman, J. Tag clouds are the new mullets. Accessed Sept. 8, 2007.
http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0405d.shtml

You might deconstruct tag clouds into goals, objects, and attributes and
look at the consequences of changes in those items:

Number of items presented
Algorithms for sizing
Size difference to input difference
Color
Font
Ordering (alpha versus most frequent to least frequent)
Size of text
Goals and whether there is a user goal that calls for tag clouds
Degree of clutter of the cloud
Number of words allowed in an item in the cloud
Using other variables beside frequency to create the cloud
Adjusting the tag cloud (look at the cloud by gender/age/and other
variables. I might be curious what items are popular with "Interaction
designers" for example.

Chauncey
..........

On Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 1:32 PM, USABILITY MEDIC
<medic at usabilitymedic.com>wrote:

> Hi All,
>
> Does anyone know of any resources regarding the drawbacks of tag clouds or
> the debate about their value versus their drawbacks. I have a bee in my
> bonnet about them and would like write a point of view but want to do
> appropriate research first. I found one previous thread herein and intend
> to google into the wee hours but if anyone can help shorten my research time
> by pointing me in a direction, I'd be most appreciative.
>
> And of course, if anyone in the group has opinions, they are most welcome
> as well J
>
> Thanks,
> Maureen
>
>
> Maureen Murphy
> President
>
>
>
>
>
>
> 516-670-8000
> www.usabilitymedic.com
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

30 Jan 2009 - 5:20am
Mike Padgett
2008

// Sorry, forgot to CC the list! Please see below:

Hi, Maureen!

Maureen said:
>> Does anyone know of any resources regarding the drawbacks of tag clouds or the debate about their value versus their drawbacks.

Not offhand, but here's as good as any place to create a resource, eh?

Tags themselves are great for a list of reasons longer than the Bayeux Tapestry. However, I have one key drawback I can think of right away about tag *clouds* and that is accessibility. As far as I can tell, the purpose of a tag cloud is 100% to serve visual users unless some fine respondent wants to shoot that down.

It is at any rate not at all straightforward for the user of aural and/or low vision technologies to "get" the value of a tag cloud.

Time and again, I see less popular tags in tiny, tiny text. Resize the text in the browser and the big tags fill the entire viewport!

Then if you're just using CSS to do your font sizes, how do you effectively emphasise the relationships between tags for aural users? Plus we already know that Aural CSS has about as much support as Rod Blagojevich:

http://lab.dotjay.co.uk/notes/css/aural-speech/

You could take a different approach by supplying additional, perhaps hidden, info. In working up to his last example here ...

http://24ways.org/2006/marking-up-a-tag-cloud

... Mr Francis quite rightly bemoans the lack of semantic "infusion" but his finished example is not particularly engaging for a user of assistive technologies.

Consider the effect of our poor old screenreader hacking through that tag cloud. Listening to that would be like spending a wet weekend in Bangor.

Just in case you think I'm getting a bit puffed up about this, I use a badly marked up tag cloud myself on my own site. I even hide the tags themselves. Why? Well for one thing, it's my site and I'm allowed to. But really it's because when you hide the tags themselves and just show the block, then do some stuff to harmoniously randomise the colours, the result is web-based Mondrian, and I love it. It's a visual effect and I love Mondrian. But then I wouldn't presume to take a blind person on a date to MOMA.

Thanks,

Mike
-------------------
www.mikepadgett.com
-------------------

>
>>Hi All,
>>
>>Does anyone know of any resources regarding the drawbacks of tag
>>clouds or the debate about their value versus their drawbacks. I have
>>a bee in my bonnet about them and would like write a point of view but
>>want to do appropriate research first. I found one previous thread
>>herein and intend to google into the wee hours but if anyone can help
>>shorten my research time by pointing me in a direction, I’d be most
>>appreciative.
>>
>>And of course, if anyone in the group has opinions, they are most
>>welcome as well J
>>
>>Thanks,
>>Maureen
>>
>>
>>Maureen Murphy
>>President
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>516-670-8000
>>www.usabilitymedic.com
>>
>>
>>
>>________________________________________________________________
>>Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>>To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>>Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>>List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>>List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

30 Jan 2009 - 8:33am
Jackson Fox
2006

Maureen,

As Chauncey mentioned, there has been a lot of academic work done
analyzing the effectiveness of tags and tag clouds. In addition to
the ACM library, I recommend checking out CiteULike for papers about
tagging (via, appropriately, the "tagging" tag).

http://www.citeulike.org/search/all?q=tagging

-- Jackson

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30 Jan 2009 - 11:18am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> Does anyone know of any resources regarding the drawbacks of tag clouds or
> the debate about their value versus their drawbacks. I have a bee in my
> bonnet about them and would like write a point of view but want to do
> appropriate research first.

I can't talk about the actual data from the 40-participant usability study I
was involved with about the usability and understandability of tag clouds,
but I can tell you this:

Almost no one understood the logic of the weighting of the tags. Many
thought that certain links were larger because they were things the site
designers wanted them to click. Some thought it was just "a design
thing"—done purely to create visual appeal. While a few people came close,
only one person accurately described how the tag cloud worked, and that was
by reading to the moderator the instructive text, word for word, that
explained it, and he did this only after being asked to—he ignored the text
prior to this point. The instructive text appeared beneath the page title
and above the tag cloud. In other cases, instructive text appeared beneath
the tag cloud, at the bottom of the page, and went entirely unnoticed.

Mostly, people just didn't care. It didn't help them, it sometimes confused
them, and when looking for something specific, they strongly preferred the
search function.

In my experience, it's much more effective to use a straight, ranked list
and avoid the cloud view. Giving slightly more visual weight to
frequently-clicked links, as Yahoo's homepage sidebar offers, can be
helpful, but I don't think it's necessary by any means.

-r-

30 Jan 2009 - 3:41pm
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

Hi there,

Yesterday I happened to stumble on this report on Tagging from the
good folks at Pew Internet:

http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/201/report_display.asp

Cheers,
Liz

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30 Jan 2009 - 3:37am
Miles Dowsett
2008

The debate about taxonomy versus folksonomy has been a hot topic for a
while now. I think there is huge value in both disciplines and would
recommend their collective use.....where the context lends itself
well - this is the important part.

I don't see one being superior over another; it has to be dependent
on the product, the context of that product and the users mental
model of that product and its use - that has to be the focus - they
are just vehicles in allowing users to complete their goals.

Just Google taxonomy and folksonomy and you should get more than
enough resource to write a compelling article. Let us know when
you've finished it and how you got on.

Best wishes

Miles

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2 Feb 2009 - 10:27am
usabilitymedic
2008

Thanks all. Lots of good stuff here, both in comments and direction.
When I have something cogent, will share it.

Hope to see you in Vancouver later in the week.

mm

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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2 Feb 2009 - 11:29am
Alex ONeal
2008

Speaking as someone who's worked with online taxonomies since 1991, and been
trained in systematics since the eighties, I'd like to point out that there
cannot be a debate between taxonomy and folksonomy. One is a specific
version of the other.

The debate is between pre-determined taxonomies and community-determined
taxonomies, which are called folksonomies. And both can be used to enhance
each other powerfully.

bests,
Alex O'Neal

--
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is
now.

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