BOOK REVIEW: Building clouds… in cyberspace


Tag clouds
Building Tag Clouds in Perl and PHP
Jim Bumgardner
O’Reilly
Ebook in PDF format
2006
ISBN: 0596527942
Pp 48
$9.99 US, $12.99 CAN
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/tagclouds/

Tag clouds? What are those?

O’Reilly’s new e-book ‘Building Tag Clouds in Perl and PHP’ by Jim Bumgardner explains a concept every serious user of cyberspace would have at least heard of.

Says Bumbardner: “Tag clouds are everywhere on the Web these days. First popularized by the web sites Flickr, Technorati, and del.icio.us, these amorphous clumps of words now appear on a slwe of web sites as visual evidence of their membership in the elite corps of ‘Web 2.0’.”

Wikipedia says: “A tag cloud (more traditionally known as a weighted list in the field of visual design) is a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a
single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.”

If you’re a content person like this reviewer, why bother at all about all this stuff? As long as I get my neatly-laid out keywords that give me a clue of what’s where, why worry?

But then, someone has to do the job of getting the tag clouds to work. And that’s where this book is born out of a need.

It may be a fad. But one which has “real merits” when used popularly, as Bumgardner explains. This e-book analyses what is and isn’t a tag cloud. It offers design tips for using them effectively, and also shows how to collect tags and display them in the tag cloud format.

Interesting background on issues like craiglist’s weighted cities list, and statistically improbable phrases (SIPs) or capitalized phrases (CAPs) lists provided by Amazon.com. SIP has word order corelating to the improbability of the phrase.

In the CAP list, the word order relates to the frequency with which the phrase appears in the book.

After some interesting history about tag clouds — which takes us to Flickr (who doesn’t know this photography-sharing web site?), tag roots in the blogging community, and Jim Flanagan’s Zeitgeist idea — things start to get technical.

There’s code, graphs and how-tos.Time for me to leave it to techies, who prefer raw coding to merely writing book reviews!

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