I've Looked at "Cloud" Those Ways

As the discussion of newish web stuff changes, so do the terms used. For example, for a while, delicious didn’t just mean tasty; but now the web service formerly known as del.icio.us has gone off enough radars that the word means tasty again. Even the term for the newish web stuff changes: it used to be Web 2.0, and now it’s social media – unless there is some newer term that those more current than I are already using.

Back in the Web 2.0 days, cloud meant a tag cloud or word cloud. These days, cloud usually refers to cloud computing.

But what does cloud computing mean? According to the USA’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST):

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of…

I downloaded the whole definition (which I got to via ReadWriteWeb). I found it to be two single-spaced pages – of Word, which at first seemed a strange format for a standards body to be using, but there is such a thing as a de facto standard.

Using the wonderful Wordle, I generated a word cloud depicting cloud computing. Here it is.

Presidential Wordle

The image shows words appearing in a certain blog, with word size corresponding to frequency. The blog in question is the official campaign blog of John McCain.

The image, along with its counterpart generated from Barak Obama’s blog, appeared in the Boston Globe. But, alththough I live in Boston, I saw it first on a Guardian blog, along with these words.

One overwhelmingly obvious fact emerges: the Obama campaign can’t stop talking about Barack Obama, and the McCain campaign can’t stop talking about Barack Obama, either. You can, of course, use these facts to convict Obama of self-absorption or McCain of relentless negative-attackery, as is your wont… I quite seriously wonder whether this might not be a more enlightening way of analysing the candidates’ messages than actually, you know, listening to their words in the right order.

The images were generated using Wordle, which most better bloggers drew to your attention a while ago.

IBM and Open Source

Glyn Moody reminds us of IBM’s importance to open source, and suggests that Big Blue become more visible with respect to such software.

If you wanted to pin down the day on which GNU/Linux became a respectable option for business, you’d be hard put to find a better candidate than 10 January, 2000. For it was on that date that IBM announced it intended “to make all of its server platforms Linux-friendly”…

But here’s the curious thing. Despite this deep-seated commitment to open source, IBM is remarkably invisible in that world today. I rarely come across any initiatives from the company, or even much commentary outside a few bloggers, albeit interesting and informed ones.

Why thank you, Glyn. By the way, have you tried Wordle? There’s some IBM-owned code in there that I’d like to see open-sourced. That might well get IBM coverage from more bloggers than just us select few (as well as having the usual advantages of open-sourcing).

The best way to explain Wordle is to show some output. Click on the image to see the full-size version and title; the title tells you what I used as input.

Wordle: Cool Web Toy

Sometimes you see something on the web that makes you remember what cool really means. That just happened to me with Wordle.

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.

Here’s a cloud of the lyrics from my favorite album. All I had to do was cut and paste the lyrics from I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight into Wordle and hit Go. After that, I tweaked a little. For example, I reduced the number of words from 150 to 74. (Why is that an appropriate number?)

I found out about Wordle from Neil Gaiman’s blog. Perhaps that’s why my first creation was is based on the writing of his friend Susanna Clarke.

To be more specific, it was based on the last part of this excerpt from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Wordle is a project by Jonathan Feinberg, who I see works for IBM in Cambridge (the one across the river from Boston, where I live, not the one in the land of my birth). He is really on to something here. My head is buzzing with the uses to which this could be put, and the directions he could take it.