I have just discovered word clouds. They are distilled versions of a block of text that picks out the words that appear most commonly in said text and display them graphically, making the more commonly used words larger. They don’t serve any unique purpose, but they can quickly show you the emphasis of a text and can be kind of fun and distracting. You can make your own at Wordle.net. Here are some examples that I created (click on them for full size):
The site allows you to save your word cloud and make it available for other site visitors to see. I was very surprised to see that my ideas were actually not very original at all. At least three other people in the past three hours entered King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, another guy had already uploaded the U.S. Constitution, and passages from the Bible are very well-represented: I saw portions of three of the four canonical gospels, including the Sermon on the Mount; 1 Corinthians 13; parts of Isaiah; passages from Revelation; and what I think was Genesis, but it was in French so I’m not sure. And I thought I was really clever entering passages from the Bible.
On the other end of the spectrum, recent political speeches are also popular subjects. This use is very interesting; it can quickly point out the main themes of a speech. Many people have entered the recent convention speeches of Obama, McCain, and Palin, but not Biden.
So, make your own cool word clouds and see how neat it can be. Here’s one more I maid, I’ll give a tilde to whoever can identify the original text used (this is very possible if you’re familiar with the work).