Tuesday, September 2, 2008

wordle your speeches

The New York Times introduced me recently to the Many Eyes site, a new site that helps you create unusual visualizations of data--a treasure trove for those speakers who need charts and graphs that don't look like standard-issue bars and cones. One tool on the site that's equally useful for speakers: Wordle, which lets you create innovative word "clouds" that give prominent placement and size to words used more frequently. (The image here is a Wordle of recent posts on this blog--you can tell I've been writing about the political convention speeches.) You can let the program decide for you or tweak fonts, sizes or even which words are included.

Speakers and speechwriters can use this several ways:

  • Analyze your own speeches: Cut and paste text, or enter the URL to a link to your speech, and Wordle will show you just how much you repeat certain terms. How much weight are you giving to particular topics, themes or vocabulary? Are you using repetition strategically--or unintentionally?
  • Check out previous speeches: If you're a speechwriter, the same resource lets you visually and quickly compare which words and terms your speaker uses most...or not at all. If someone's writing speeches for you, point them here to analyze your recent talks. Booking a speaker and want to know what she will emphasize? Wordle a few recent texts of speeches to find out.
  • Learn from great speeches of the past: Want to know what made Eleanor Roosevelt's speeches sing? Got your hands on a compelling transcript? Enter some historic texts into Wordle to gain perspective.
  • Share your themes: Just as I've done here, Wordle lets a speaker have a compelling, short image to summarize a talk or presentation. Now that's some abstract! Under its Creative Commons license, you can share the image (with credit, as I've done below) or post it to the gallery on the Wordle website; link codes are provided so you can share it with attendees and others on your own website, blog, Twitter feed and more.

If you've done a Wordle analysis of a recent speech and want to share the link, post it in the comments, below. I'm looking forward to sharing more of these clever visual looks at speeches with you in the months to come. (Image courtesy of Wordle.net)