October 7, 2008

Word Cloud analysis of bailout bill

One of the things I enjoy most about technology is its use to better explain complicated issues and events.

Long ago someone came up with the pie chart and bar graph. I remember back in the old days of computing -- 1982-85 -- I used a dot-matrix printer to force out several line graphs for budget and program expenditures. (I still recall the 'dot-dot-dot" sound of that printer.)

Of course the whole purpose of any chart or graph is to quickly convey information to the reader. (Pie charts are always good. People like pies and the information is kept to the simplest form.)

New graphing software can allows news organizations to help readers better under not only numbers and raw data but to see what is important -- or at least what the sources think are important.

One of my favorite displays has been the Word Cloud. This is a program that adjusts the size of the words used in a document in relationship to the number of times those words are used. (Just think how big "maverick" would be in the Word Cloud of the VP debate.)

Here is a word cloud from the 120-page bailout bill:

Notice how big "shall" is? Leaves little room to argue about the meaning. And "oversight" has a pretty big presence as well.

This chart is courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation.

Now here is a group that understands how to communicate.

How about our news organizations?

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