Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wordle Word Doodle

I’d been interested in Wordles since sometime last year when I encountered the term in a forum. I was so unfamiliar with the term, I initially thought it was Wordie. Wordles have been described as word clouds, from shapes that words would form.
A wordle takes all the words in a text and writes them in the form of a word cloud, using colours or different size letters to show how frequently words are used in that text

My thought is that it’s a blended word, Word + Doodle combined into Wordle. (Take a side trip for more word-blend explanation and view blended words lists.)

The prominent name associated with Wordle creation is Jonathan Feinberg, who created the algorithms and the web application. You can dive right in to the Wordle site, click Create, and follow the instructions. For my own featured Wordle images, I used text from my Texas towns article. (The pixstrip at the top of my article shows an image with the text all vertical, rotated clockwise 90 degrees, and redisplayed as horizontal and rescattered.) The initial Wordle window opened and showed buttons for changing the looks: Edit, Language, Font, Layout, Color. The graphic had the following settings:
  • Language
    Remove numbers
    Leave words as spelled
    Remove common English words
  • Font
    Teen
  • Layout
    Rounder edges
    Vertical
  • Color
    Milk paints
    A little variation

Clicking the Randomize button at the bottom of the screen resulted in a combination of changes.

  • The Language settings were the same.
  • The Font changed from Teen to Goudy Bookletter 1911.
  • The Layout settings changed to Rounder Edges and Mostly Horizontal.
  • The Color settings changed to the Indian Earthy palette, but still a little variation.

For one more look, I decided to change the Layout orientation to horizontal and Color palette to B/W. Note that the largest words are "Community" and "Lake". Frequency affects the size of the words in a Wordle; the Texas towns article has 16 instances each of "Community" and "Lake".

I've summarized the row of commands that are at the top of the interface as follows:

Edit: Edit has the choices of Undo (Ctrl+Z) and Redo (Ctrl+Y), and they function similarly to browser Previous and Next. The Edit command is a lot more fun after you generate several looks to revisit.

Language: Most of the forced-choice options pertain to removal of common foreign-language words. A few choices are significant for filtering, such as number removal y/n, character case, and removal or not of common words. The common words options are available for 29 languages.

Font: You can play with 32 fonts. It's nice that simple clicking generates the image immediately rather open a window where you require another one or more commands. I found the Owned font to be interesting for the script look with all the characters sized the same. And the Language (case) options have no effect, as though the characters have one case definition.

Layout: Clicking the first choice, Re-layout with current settings, is like randomizing the looks. Continue clicking Layout > Re-layout with current settings until you see a really eye-catching image that you want to capture and save. An extension of using the feature might be setting a graphics program to capture screens in intervals as you continuously click Layout > Re-layout with current settings. Then combine all the screens to create a slide show.

Color: You can pick palette offerings, or make up your own. The default ones primarily have either black or white backgrounds. The results generate immediately, similar to the Language output.

Get moving on your own Wordles! For additional resources, besides the Wordle home site, visit the following sites:

Jonathan Feinberg
Wordle Blog
Weaving Words with Wordle: A Talk with IBM’s Jonathan Feinberg, by Wade Roush 3/16/09

Youtube videos:

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