I don’t know what to make of word clouds. By fall of 2012 I had made about 20 theoutershores posts and I was getting curious about the words I was putting on paper and their frequency in my posts. Even though my posts are short, after about the first 15 I had pretty much lost track. A word cloud, I thought, might be a way to analyze what I was writing. Word clouds are an attractive choice because they’re easy to make, provide a quick superficial analysis (they’re basically a ranked list) and they are visually pleasing. For example, I love seeing my words in the fish shape I’ve chosen; it’s close to a credible surfperch.
In October, 2012 I posted my first word cloud, the one featured above, on the TOS facebook page. The words are from the text of the first 20 theoutershores posts. The size of words is an index of how frequently they are used. Surfperch is the biggest word; that’s no surprise. Another relatively big word is color. If you’ve followed theoutershores much you know that I think about surfperch and color a lot.
I’ve been feeling, lately, like my TOS posts have evolved a bit, so I decided to make another word cloud, one from my 20 most recent posts, to help me evaluate the idea of change. The product is what you see in the image above. Using more or less the same rules as in the first word cloud, the words surfperch and color are still prominent but other words, especially beach and sand, and a group pertaining to tides and intertidal zones have increased in relative frequency. That makes sense to me; these things are on my mind a lot and have been the focus of recent posts. If you compare the two word clouds you may notice other differences. If you are interested in making your own word clouds, try tagxedo.com. But these fish-shaped images aren’t the only TOS word clouds.
Above is a screen capture of a portion of Beachcombing, a tag cloud for all TOS posts. You see the full tag cloud along the left sidebar of every TOS post (if you are on your computer). Beachcombing is a search tool. If you want to see all of my posts about evolution, for example, just click it on the tag cloud. The biggest, and thus most frequently used TOS tags, are words like ecology, marine biology and nature. I tag almost all posts with those tags because that’s what theoutershores is about. The next biggest words are more specific. Amphistichus rhodoterus and redtail surfperch are the biggest of the more specific tags, which is great with me because, after all, redtails are King of the Surf.