Word clouds considered harmful

This article by Jacob Harris for NiemanLab provides a careful consideration of the argument against word clouds. Namely, these concerns are: they go against the principles of data journalism; they support only the crudest sorts of textual analysis; they are often applied to situations where textual analysis is not appropriate; readers are left to figure out the context of the data; and there is no narrative. 


"So what’s so wrong with word clouds, anyway? To understand that, it helps to understand the principles we strive for in data journalism. At The New York Times, we strongly believe that visualization is reporting, with many of the same elements that would make a traditional story effective: a narrative that pares away extraneous information to find a story in the data; context to help the reader understand the basics of the subject; interviewing the data to find its flaws and be sure of our conclusions. Prettiness is a bonus; if it obliterates the ability to read the story of the visualization, it’s not worth adding some wild new visualization style or strange interface."


Harris, J., (2011), Word clouds considered harmful, NiemanLab. Retrieved from: http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/10/word-clouds-considered-harmful/

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