Tag Clouds: Providing Clear Skies, or Fogging our Focus?

I went to a website called ‘Bloghop’ to see what I could find out about Tag Clouds. For those of you who haven’t run into them yet, this is what a typical Tag Cloud looks like:

Tag Cloud

  a   adult   advertising   alternative   american   and   anime   art   articles   artist   asian   australia   best   black   blog   blogger   blogging   blogs   book   books   boy   brasil   brazil   bush   business   california   canada   cats   children   christian   city   college   comedy   commentary   computer   computers   conservative   cool   crazy   culture   current   cute   daily   dating   de   democrat   depression   design   development   diary   diet   digital   drugs   education   engine   england   english   entertainment   estate   events   family   fashion   female   fiction   film   florida   food   football   for   free   friends   fun   funny   games   gay   geek   girl   girls   god   health   help   high   history   home   hot   humor   humour   ideas   in   india   information   internet   iraq   jesus   journal   kids   law   lesbian   liberal   life   links   literature   london   loss   love   male   man   management   marketing   me   media   men   money   movie   movies   mp3   music   musica   new   news   nude   of   on   online   opinion   parenting   peace   personal   philippines   philosophy   photo   photography   photos   pics   pictures   poems   poetry   political   politics   pop   porn   punk   random   rant   rants   reading   real   relationships   religion   republican   review   reviews   rock   san   satire   school   science   search   seo   services   sex   sexy   shopping   site   social   software   spirituality   sports   stories   student   stuff   tech   technology   teen   television   texas   the   thoughts   tips   to   travel   tv   uk   university   video   videos   war   web   weblog   website   weight   weird   woman   women   work   world   writer   writing   york 

So, what is this huge clump of different-sized words/links all about? Well, for a scientific-type of definition you can check out Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Tag Clouds’, but I’ll try to explain things more simplistically. Tag Clouds can be used for any type of information, but as I’m only interested in blogs, that’s where I’m going to focus my attention. Look at the words in larger and bolder print, what have you got? ‘Blog, music, girl, politics, art, business, free, humour, life, love, movies, News, online, personal, sex, web, and writing.’ Is this what people at who write blogs are interested in? The answer is relatively simple: Yes.

However, things aren’t that cut and dry in the Blogosphere. is a blog community of sorts (one of many), and the idea of using Tag Clouds has been employed in the hope of bringing bloggers  together who write about similar interests there. Does it work? First of all, the larger words in the tag Cloud are the topics that people are writing about more. After someone finishes a post/entry they put down a list of keyword topics to tell potential visitors what subjects they’re writing about. The Tag Cloud I’ve used above doesn’t represent the whole blogging community (Technorati might be the place for that), but it does give us a rough idea about what people at this one blog community site are interested in today. I’m sure it changes often depending upon what is going on in the external world.

So, as far as we can surmise, ‘Blogs, Music, Girl, and Politics’ are the tags being used the most/being written about the most frequently. Hmmmm…Interesting. Is this site full of female, Ipod-wearing, politically aware bloggers? Probably not, but who can really tell? Does this Tag Cloud system really work for blogs? (Wikipedia mentions that it was first utilised on the Flickr photo-sharing site to describe what content lied within photographs. This of course was a hard task as pictures ‘speak a thousand words’…That’s a lot of tags per photo.) It’s a good attempt at bringing people together but I just don’t think it’s going to achieve what its creators intended without wasting valuable time, and causing some headaches along the way.

Why headaches? I’ll attempt to give you some insight.  If I write a post about, let’s say, how American political candidates are using blogs to try and win votes (Check out my favourite Texan detective-novelist-turned-governor-candidate’s blog at ‘’. I might just put the tag ‘politics’ after the post. Well, lots of people out there are writing about political issues. For some strange reason it’s a really popular area of interest for us humanoids. In this hypothetical situation I search other bloggers’ ‘politically-tagged’ posts and find like-minded individuals whose writing stimulates my interest as well as relating to my topic of choice.

No way, not a chance! First of all, there is such a high rate of so-called ‘political’ posts being written that the possibility of someone writing about something I will connect with is minimal, and the opportunity of finding it, next to negligible. Secondly, human beings are complex individuals; each one as different to the next as a Mac is to a PC, a carrot cake is to a chocolate roulade, a donkey is to a giraffe, as a Ferrari is to a 1970 Datsun…You get my gist. When one person’s mind decides to tag the word ‘Love’ they could be coming from a completely different mindset and topic, not to mention level of communicative ability.

For instance, a 13-year old girl listening to Spice Girls on her Ipod who has just run for her class presidency and written a blog post about how much she loves her poster of a giraffe in a Ferrari, is not going to relate to a post from some over-30-year old man listening to 60’s music on his beloved Mac Ibook, who has just written about Kinky Friedman’s Texan governor’s campaign while eating a piece of carrot cake and thinking about how much he can’t believe he loved his old long-lost material object: a 1970 Datsun. You go figure. I think the girl’s writing may also be filled with just a little bit too much complex, jargon-laced, esoteric, and verbose language for the ‘old guy’ to handle. What do you think?

All this causes people to waste their time and give themselves headaches. I don’t mean to sound judgmental or critical here, I’m just hoping that there’s a faster and more effective way of connecting to other bloggers out there with similar topic interests and styles of writing.

Jesse S. Somer wants to blog the blue skies of the Blogosphere without getting his head stuck in a tag cloud that has little to do with what he’s interested in.