Tag Clouds Run Amuk and Debate on Use of Weighted Lists

UnilateraltagcloudWe recently started testing Weighted Lists in Tendenci.  My goodness you would think this was a large update based on the disproportionate feedback on the one (1) page we implemented the cloud on.  Sometimes folks lack a sense of humor, but we are here to serve and interpret.

It didn’t help that we had a bug in the calculation creating an off-by-one error for sites with just one category.  Hence the image on the left.  Computers are funny things.

So on the topic of weighted lists I found myself reading this Zeldman post on usability called "Remove Forebrain and Serve: Tag Clouds II"  The premise is that weighted lists are the new mullets, but he goes on to point out that his major issue with tag clouds is the ontology eliminates from view categories that don’t make the cut.  So Detroit might not be an item, but 8 Mile qualifies.  Specifically here are two excerpts: http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0505a.shtml

We who make websites must strike a fine balance between guiding our users and allowing them to lead us. We listen but we also synthesize and invent. We conduct user research but we interpret the results. We ask what users want but we decide what they are really telling us “” and we, not they, determine how best to fulfill the needs they didn’t necessarily realize they were articulating.


Instead of relying on humans to mine the data every three months and have long tedious arguments about how to update the navigation, let’s allow software to do it in real time, based on actual user behavior. Let the process create the music. There is merit to this view, especially on the community sites from which it sprang. (There is no merit to it on single-author sites, where one person creates all the content and all the tags. If you don’t have a clear purpose for your site, who does?)

It is for this reason that I think weighted lists ARE a good idea for social software.  Because the most active sites are ones with distributed authors.  Many people contributing towards the same goal, and making sense of that cacophony.