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NYT developer: Word clouds are bad data journalism

Discussion in 'Online Journalism' started by Turtle Wexler, Oct 14, 2011.

  1. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    via Romenesko:

    This guy calls word clouds the "mullets of the internet" ... I would agree it can be a lazy way to introduce a visual element for online presentation. To me it falls into the category of "just because we can, doesn't mean we should."

    Thoughts? Other examples of using online tools for the wrong reasons?
  2. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    WTF is a word cloud? I clicked on the "visual representation" link and saw a bunch of multicolored words, but it wasn't anything I've ever seen in my life. Who does them? What is it? What's the purpose?
  3. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Word clouds can be an illustrative complement to analysis. They shouldn't take the place of analysis or be confused with it.
  4. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    If I come across a word cloud used as analysis, I immediately theorize that the authors are too damn cute for their own good.

  5. prhodes

    prhodes New Member

    Word clouds take up a lot of real estate that could otherwise be used for something useful. You could perhaps put an ad in that space, or social media buttons or whatever. I remember when these first started showing up - it was like "hey, that's cool," but that quickly wore off and they became annoying. Most sites avoid these nowadays. When I see one it turns me off as I think the owner put it in there without doing any research to its usefulness, thereby signaling a spam site. Avoid them.
  6. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    From a design perspective, they're OK. They can pull in readers to a centerpiece that might be tough to illustrate otherwise because they're cute and shiny. From an analysis perspective, when used as an infographic, they're terrible.
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