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Archives: April 2008

Word clouds an effective tool for speech visualization

Word clouds have been popping up around the net for some time, but have yet to make a splash as a tool for journalism (see the category section in the right rail or this Entertainment Weekly graphic for examples).

Using a word cloud tool is a quick and easy way to examine the frequency of any long block of text, written or spoken. With a quick glance one can tell what the major themes of said text are. For example, here are the 50 most frequently spoken words in Hillary Clinton’s speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. The larger font size corresponds to a higher frequency:

<!– #htmltagcloud2{ font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:bold; line-height:2.4em; word-spacing:normal; letter-spacing:normal; text-decoration:none; text-transform:none; text-align:justify; text-indent:0ex; border:2px dotted #ddd; padding:2em}#htmltagcloud2 a:link{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:visited{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#05f}#htmltagcloud2 a:active{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#03d}span.tagcloud0{font-size:1.0em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:10;position:relative}span.tagcloud0 a{text-decoration:none; color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud1{font-size:1.4em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:9;position:relative}span.tagcloud1 a{text-decoration:none;color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud2{font-size:1em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:8;position:relative}span.tagcloud2 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud3{font-size:1.3em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:7;position:relative}span.tagcloud3 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud4{font-size:1.6em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:6;position:relative}span.tagcloud4 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud5{font-size:1.9em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:5;position:relative}span.tagcloud5 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud6{font-size:2.2em;padding:0em;color:#4C6DB9;z-index:4;position:relative}span.tagcloud6 a{text-decoration:none;color:#4C6DB9}span.tagcloud7{font-size:2.5em;padding:0em;color:#395CAE;z-index:3;position:relative}span.tagcloud7 a{text-decoration:none;color:#395CAE}span.tagcloud8{font-size:2.8em;padding:0em;color:#264CA2;z-index:2;position:relative}span.tagcloud8 a{text-decoration:none;color:#264CA2}span.tagcloud9{font-size:3.1em;padding:0em;color:#133B97;z-index:1;position:relative}span.tagcloud9 a{text-decoration:none;color:#133B97}span.tagcloud10{font-size:3.3em;padding:0em;color:#002A8B;z-index:0;position:relative}span.tagcloud10

adopt americans babies believes bill boys care chelsea child children daughter doctor family fathers friend girls health hospital husband important insurance jobs kids law leave making million mothers nation night parents pay president progress raise responsible school sick signed support sure takes talk teachers thank think today values volunteers work

One could easily gather that Sen. Clinton was concerned about children and families. Here is a similar analysis of Barack Obama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention:

<!– #htmltagcloud2{ font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:bold; line-height:2.4em; word-spacing:normal; letter-spacing:normal; text-decoration:none; text-transform:none; text-align:justify; text-indent:0ex; border:2px dotted #ddd; padding:2em}#htmltagcloud2 a:link{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:visited{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#05f}#htmltagcloud2 a:active{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#03d}span.tagcloud0{font-size:1.0em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:10;position:relative}span.tagcloud0 a{text-decoration:none; color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud1{font-size:1.4em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:9;position:relative}span.tagcloud1 a{text-decoration:none;color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud2{font-size:1em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:8;position:relative}span.tagcloud2 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud3{font-size:1.3em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:7;position:relative}span.tagcloud3 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud4{font-size:1.6em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:6;position:relative}span.tagcloud4 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud5{font-size:1.9em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:5;position:relative}span.tagcloud5 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud6{font-size:2.2em;padding:0em;color:#4C6DB9;z-index:4;position:relative}span.tagcloud6 a{text-decoration:none;color:#4C6DB9}span.tagcloud7{font-size:2.5em;padding:0em;color:#395CAE;z-index:3;position:relative}span.tagcloud7 a{text-decoration:none;color:#395CAE}span.tagcloud8{font-size:2.8em;padding:0em;color:#264CA2;z-index:2;position:relative}span.tagcloud8 a{text-decoration:none;color:#264CA2}span.tagcloud9{font-size:3.1em;padding:0em;color:#133B97;z-index:1;position:relative}span.tagcloud9 a{text-decoration:none;color:#133B97}span.tagcloud10{font-size:3.3em;padding:0em;color:#002A8B;z-index:0;position:relative}span.tagcloud10

america american belief believes best blue child choice country don dreams election expect face faith families father feel government grandfather hard health hope jobs john kerry lieutenant life man met nation opportunity people re red return son stand states story study talking think tonight united ve war work world young

Sen. Obama’s pervasive message of hope for America is evident in his speech. And finally an analysis of John McCain’s address to the 2004 Republican National Convention:

<!– #htmltagcloud2{ font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:bold; line-height:2.4em; word-spacing:normal; letter-spacing:normal; text-decoration:none; text-transform:none; text-align:justify; text-indent:0ex; border:2px dotted #ddd; padding:2em}#htmltagcloud2 a:link{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:visited{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#05f}#htmltagcloud2 a:active{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#03d}span.tagcloud0{font-size:1.0em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:10;position:relative}span.tagcloud0 a{text-decoration:none; color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud1{font-size:1.4em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:9;position:relative}span.tagcloud1 a{text-decoration:none;color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud2{font-size:1em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:8;position:relative}span.tagcloud2 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud3{font-size:1.3em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:7;position:relative}span.tagcloud3 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud4{font-size:1.6em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:6;position:relative}span.tagcloud4 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud5{font-size:1.9em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:5;position:relative}span.tagcloud5 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud6{font-size:2.2em;padding:0em;color:#4C6DB9;z-index:4;position:relative}span.tagcloud6 a{text-decoration:none;color:#4C6DB9}span.tagcloud7{font-size:2.5em;padding:0em;color:#395CAE;z-index:3;position:relative}span.tagcloud7 a{text-decoration:none;color:#395CAE}span.tagcloud8{font-size:2.8em;padding:0em;color:#264CA2;z-index:2;position:relative}span.tagcloud8 a{text-decoration:none;color:#264CA2}span.tagcloud9{font-size:3.1em;padding:0em;color:#133B97;z-index:1;position:relative}span.tagcloud9 a{text-decoration:none;color:#133B97}span.tagcloud10{font-size:3.3em;padding:0em;color:#002A8B;z-index:0;position:relative}span.tagcloud10

11th against alone america americans arm believe better blessed bush country courage destroyed differences diplomacy doubt enemies fight freedom friends generation human love military moment nation party people president promised quo re resolve responsibility sacrifices saddam safe security share stand status stronger terrible threat times war weapons world wrong years

It’s obvious that the Senator had war on the brain. Thanks to American Rhetoric for the text from their bank of speeches. The visual analysis was created using TagCrowd, a free and simple tool for analyzing text or even whole webpages. More tagging tools can be found at Mashable.

The New York Times takes speech visualization a step further by organizing the discussion between Senators Obama and Clinton and moderator Brian Williams at the Feb. 26 Democratic debate. Each contributor’s words are grouped into blocks that, when rolled over, show that portion of the talk. The visualization is useful for seeing who spoke more and how the candidates went back and forth.

The visualization tool at Many Eyes can also be used to compare the two speeches or any two blocks of text. Although the future Democratic candidates were not campaigning just yet, using the tool one would discover both Obama and Clinton favored the words America, belief/believe, child, family, health, jobs, nation and work in their speeches.

Many Eyes’ Word Tree visualization is also useful for seeing how words and phrases are repeated in any given text. The site uses Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as an example, but it could also be useful for analyzing songs, poetry, or other monologues with repetition. Speech visualization is not just for politics, but for any great talk or monologue that could benefit from a quick analysis.

The multimedia guide to the Olympics

Nothing brings the world together like the Olympic Games. The same goes for multimedia journalism, so the two are a match made in heaven. Media outlets around the world are gearing up for the 2008 Games in Beijing. In addition to airing 1,200 hours of Olympics coverage on five different channels, NBC plans to broadcast 1,000 more hours of video on the web. That means all the badminton, taekwondo and Greco-Roman wrestling you can handle.

The Beijing Guide, a website run by the China International Travel Service, has photos and 360° views of popular Beijing attractions including the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and The Gate of Heavenly Peace.

The upcoming Olympic Games aren’t without their share of controversy as evidenced by the efforts of Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch (which has a well-designed and resourceful site), and the many protesters around the world.

BBC News has an eye-opening take on the history of the Olympic torch, which has incited protests almost everywhere it goes. Track the progress of the Olympic torch, or perhaps the site of the next protest, using Google’s Torch Relay map. The map has detailed information on past and future locations of the torch, whenever available, and includes photos of each location.

The International Olympic Committee recently approved blogging as a means of coverage because blogging is “a legitimate form of personal expression and not a form of journalism.” Right. And don’t expect any multimedia elements: bloggers are banned from posting any video or audio. Olympics bloggers must adhere to strict standards and must write about their experiences rather than news stories.

There are a number of blogs already covering the progress of the Olympics including Beijing Olympics Fan, Reuters’ Countdown to Beijing blog, Beijing Olympics Blog on FanNation and this now defunct blog on the architecture of Olympic arenas in Beijing (with includes stunning photos).

Top 10 Reasons Not to Learn Multimedia Skills

After reading a post from fave blog The Editorialiste commenting on the troubles of budding multimedia journalists, I understand. Multimedia is hard. It’s different. That’s why I’ve written a list of reasons why you shouldn’t bother with multimedia.

1. The extra hours spent on multimedia will preempt any pressing games of Solitaire.

2. Backpack journalism requires backpacks…which are heavy.

3. Asking a journalist to multitask is like asking Bo Jackson to play more than one sport, I mean come on.

4. The hundreds of voices on a website can’t compare to the two quality experts in a print or broadcast story.

5. Who needs to learn how to record audio when you can write?

6. Interactivity is just a fancy word for communism.

7. There will always be an intern that will do it for cheap.

8. The only code you really need to know is area.

9. Computers cause cancer.

10. Journalism is dead anyway.


Also on 10,000 Words:

25 Things I’ve Learned About Journalism
3 reasons journalists shouldn’t use Flash
Why journalists should learn to code (and why some shouldn’t bother)

5 Ways to create a Google Map in minutes

Breaking news stories are greatly enriched when paired with Google Maps. Car accidents, natural disasters, rallies and speeches, celebrity sightings and more all benefit from a small map that indicates their location. The Google Maps API is a great tool if you’d had experience using it, but there are a number of third-party applications that streamline the map-building process and facilitate and quicker move to the web when time is a factor. Below are some of the best tools for creating worry-free Google Maps.

Map Builder | www.mapbuilder.net
Special Features: Address search, Upload multiple locations (CSV file), Editable HTML code, customized controls

Atlas | www.fmatlas.com
Special Features: Novice-friendly simplicity, Address, business and Wikipedia search, Bulk uploader (CSV),

CommunityWalk | www.communitywalk.com
Special Features: Create paths, Color-coded or custom markers, Bulk upload (Excel), Export points, audio capabilities, social networking

Google My Maps | maps.google.com
Special Features: Create custom markers, lines and polygons, Add HTML, photo and video to pop up balloons, collaborate and share with others, Overlay additional content

YourGMap | www.yourgmap.com
Special Features: Novice-friendly simplicity, Export markers to CSV file, Customized controls and markers, Embed final map

If none of the aforementioned services floats your boat, Mashable has a list of 50+ Tools and Resources for Online Maps.


Also on 10,000 Words

10 Mind-blowing maps (and 3 ways to create them)
How to create a Google Map in about 30 minutes
8 Beautifully Designed Maps

Citizen journalists drive online politics

November 4 is right around the corner, so if you haven’t had a meeting or two about elections coverage, now’s as good a time as any. If you’re already on the ball or if you need to get rolling, here are some online sites that are infusing new media into traditional political journalism and powered by citizen journalists.

For the average citizen, presidential primaries can be a confusing and complicated process. Regular guy/techie Jim Edlin presents an alternative to the existing process of electing a president with the site OnlinePrimary. Visitors are asked to rank the presidential candidates and the results are posted on the front page.

One part of the political process that is a head scratcher for the average person is the Democratic Party’s use of superdelegates. The Superdelegate Transparency Project aims to remove a little bit of the mystery behind these all-important politicos by examining who they are and who they plan to vote for (right now, the count is in favor of Hillary Clinton). The site also provides in-depth, yet easy to read information on how the delegate process works.

In a play for the Naked News crowd (link semi-NSFW), SexyPolitics is encouraging political awareness by adding a little incentive. It’s simple: take a quiz on political candidates, issues or general political knowledge and the more questions you get right, the more articles of clothing the “stripper” removes. The questions can get admittedly difficult so you’re going to have to work hard to get that sexy prisoner to disrobe. If you’re only interested in taking the quizzes, there is an option to skip the strip. On the plus side, the site is making politics and a whole lot more interesting and, ahem, sexier.

YouBama, a portmanteau of video sharing site YouTube and presidential candidate Barack Obama, is exactly what its name suggests: a site for sharing videos of the presidential candidate. Users have uploaded roughly 600 videos of campaign ads, attacks on the competition, news clips and poems(?).

Can you really tell a lot about a candidate based on his or her website? Dustin Brewer thinks so. The freelance web designer judges the candidates’ web presence from a purely technical standpoint, examining the lines of code and overall design. Barack Obama comes out on top for his site’s clean and modern look and cross-browser compatibility, while John McCain and Mike Huckabee fall to the bottom for their lack of effort and faulty coding.

Every political candidate has their own website, faulty or no, but 23-year-old Meghan McCain is getting serious mileage out of the web by blogging her experiences while on the road with her father, newly minted Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The site is like a journal/family photo album and makes the elder McCain seem less staid as he and some other candidates can appear to be when making the rounds on television.

Speaking of blogs, a recent Harris poll showed that “only” 22 percent of Americans of read political blogs regularly, but I’d like to flip that notion on its head. Considering there are roughly 303 million people living in America and blogs really became mainstream in the last few years, I’d say that’s quite a lot of people reading political blogs.

Consider also that the public’s reliance on newspapers and television as a source of political news is slipping (but you knew that already), according to the Pew Research Center. That means its time to beef up online political news and perhaps look to the average Janes and Joes for a little inspiration.

For more politics, check out previous posts on tracking the presidential candidates online and unusual political news coverage.

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