Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Visualizing Obama's speech --- but making it harder than it should be

Thanks to NPR for pointing out this word cloud of Obama's Oval Office speech about the oil disaster. It's "fun" to look at.

These kind of views are often as interesting for what words are missing as for what words are there. What didn't the president say? "Kick some ass" isn't there. Nor are names of BP execs. Someone pointed out that "engineers" isn't there. I also noticed that "scientists" was hardly mentioned. But it's hard to find what's NOT in a visualization.

And the other thing that struck me is that this kind of visualization is a bit of a chartoon. Once you see the biggest couple of words, it's hard to really analyze what's next in line because the arrangement on the page is meaningless. It's just how the words fit together. I think this would have been much more usefully presented as one of the most simple of visualizations, a list -- most-mentioned word first, least-mentioned word last.