words, beautiful words

What are bloggers talking about during these cold January days? Here’s an addictively fun way to find out.

Wordle lets you generate word clouds that are stunningly beautiful to look at. The site calls itself “a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide,” but I’d argue that it’s an interesting way to figure out the gist of what’s being discussed.

Word clouds have been around for a few years now. I wrote about them back in the earlier days of this blog, and this blog displays a tag cloud on the left panel. But Wordle gives you all sorts of control over things like color, font, language and arrangement. Just click on the home page’s “Create” tab to get going. All you need is some canned text, a link to a blog or website with an RSS or Atom feed, or you can enter a del.icio.us username to see a cloud of their tags.

Here’s a quick Wordled look at some of the posts on some California mostly-gardening blogs. I selected black backgrounds for all of them so that there’s a basis for comparing them visually, but I had way too much fun creating color combinations and picking fonts and word arrangements. The blog contents should be current as of last night, January 13.

(There are a huge number of these. I’ve been home with a cold, too messed up to think coherently–but not too compromised to play with shapes and pretty colors. It makes me wonder whether the part of the brain that thinks is even in the same zip code as where artistic activity takes place…)

To start off, the content of this blog, before this post…

California Native Plants…San Diego Style, Wordled.

Sierra Foothill Garden, Wordled.

Weeding Wild Suburbia

Tulips in the Woods

Town Mouse and Country Mouse

The Pitcher Plant Project

Rooted in California… (Did somebody say gelato?)

Queer by Choice

Laguna Dirt

Dry Stone Garden

Chance of Rain

Camissonia’s Corner

Blue Planet Garden Blog

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel

Idora Design

How’s Rob?, Wordled. Bees!

Hey Natives

Grow Natives Blog

Breathing Treatment

Deborah Small’s Ethnobotany Blog

GrokSurf’s San Diego

And how do California obsessions compare to those from other parts of the country?

From New Jersey: View From Federal Twist. During the cold of winter, do people living in what I’d call the frozen tundra retreat indoors?

Cape Cod: The Midnight Garden

From in the rain shadow of the Olympics, Washington State: Verdure

Oregon: Danger Garden

Maine: Jean’s Garden

And how about to some blogs from other parts of the world?

From the UK: An Artist’s Garden

Also from the UK: The Patient Gardener

UK again: Plantaliscious

My Little Garden in Japan

South Africa: Elepant’s Eye

So, after looking at of these, do you think the word clouds begin to fairly represent what the blogs are discussing? Or is Wordle really just a toy?

23 thoughts on “words, beautiful words”

  1. This was so much fun! And as I read along I kept thinking “do me, do me!” (um, ya…sounds bad eh?) then when you did there was not an AGAVE in site! Clearly I have been off topic for too long. I guess I am going to have to have an entire week of agave posts sometime soon! It also would scare my husband to see that LIKE and THINGS are so big. Bad English and commercialism. Yikes! As a nice side note I’ve gotten to discover a few blogs I had never heard of before. Thank you! And i hope you are feeling better soon…

  2. Throwing the bones, reading the runes. Last time I tried this the solemn message came back – Water One Garden! Webmaster tools insists that my main keyword is ago. Oh please! Glad Wordle can see the garden, for the words ;>) Your version is murmuring – Diana just blogs, and the GARDEN is calling.

  3. You Wordled me!! My! That’s the most excitement I’ve had in months! I’m trying to find the meaning in it all. It’s kind of like a horoscope in that it feeds directly to our narcissism–“It’s all about ME!!” Why do some words take shapes and other (mine, for one) do not and are just formless? I’m sure it’s metaphorical for something. Mine had “Jill” twice in huge letters–do you think that could be because my last 89 posts have been about her garden? I get the hint!! Sorry for book-length post, but I LOVE WORDLE!! hope you get better fast!

  4. Like everyone else, I’m just delighted to be included! And pleased to see that “plants” managed to outrank “underwater” and “mud” in my blog . . . it so often seems like it’s the other way around.

  5. Really interesting. I think I might wordle myself a few times as ,y content wanders. I think of my blog as saying stone stone stone this fall, but not in the last few posts apparently. wordle seems like a good way to keep track of what your bog is saying.
    And clearly I have been slack on blog reading. You link to a bunch of blogs I don’t know but obviously have content that would interest me.

  6. Thanks for wordling me. I not only saw gelato but also chocolate, taste and various other food words. I have been posting more about food lately. And apparently I have “tried” and “like(d)” “much” So I guess that’s a good sign.

  7. Oh that is fun! I had to laugh when I saw “allotment” leap out of the one you did based on mine… Thank you for wordling me! Which sounds like it should be illegal by the way… And how wonderful that “plants” clearly take centre stage in your own blog.

  8. I love my wordle picture especially as it nearly looks like a fish and I’m a Pisceas. I like that greenhouse was a key word.

    Do you choose the shapes or does it self generate? There are some fab ones.

    Could you email me mine so I can put it on my blog (with a link to you of course)


  9. James, I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t been feeling well, but what a delightful bit of creative play! I love what you’ve done with these, and am glad to see that the message came through loud and clear on mine that the garden is way more important than the house 🙂 It also seems that, at this time of year, local Maine food, especially turkey, is just as important to me as flowers, plants and the house. And, oops, it looks as though I should try to use the word “also” a bit less often! Thanks for including me.

  10. What a fun post. I’m not sure that Chance of Rain qualifies as a mostly garden blog — it’s a peculiarly furnished room. How depressing that it was wordied the week of the felling of the Arcadia woodland, but it was an honor to be included in such fine company.

  11. Emily – I’m right with you… Arcadia Woodland, arghhhh. James, your post was so much fun to read. Now it is time to lighten up and have some fun too. Thanks for putting a smile on my face.

  12. Loree, Wordle seems to live mostly in the present, so all your agave posts didn’t register. Looking at my own word cloud it looks like I might be overusing the word “plants,” even though this is heavily a gardening blog.

    EE, “ago?” Not a word I’d associate with your blog! “Garden” seems to be much more appropriate. What do some web analysis tools know?

    Brent, your “official” sure made for an eye-catching wordle. Your cloud is actually one of my favorites.

    Karen, I do think that blogs across the pond did have some different concerns this January, as reflected in the wordles.

    Laguna, thanks for the wishes on getting better. I think Wordle was almost as therapeutic as a warm cup of tea and a whole lot more fun! I’m glad to see that you had some fun with it yourself.

    Gayle, I’d have thunk “underwater” would be huge for you, seeing what you’ve been dealing with lately!

    Ryan, even just two posts later I wordled myself again and found that the word cloud was radically different. I might do a post in a month or so with a map of how my content has floated.

    Brad, there’s no hiding from Wordle–It found out pretty easily that you’ve been thinking about food recently…

    Janet, wordling definitely does sound like something that should be controlled. Maybe we should be required to show a doctor’s prescription before being allowed to wordle?

    Helen, I hope you got the image I sent you. Very funny–and appropriate–that yours took the shape of a fish.

    Jean, thanks for the concern. I’m much better now. Of all the blogs, yours came through most emphatically with GARDEN, even with all the other things going on in your life and on your blog. I should try to think up a special prize!

    Cat, I hope you give it a try. Fun–and really addictive for a few minutes at least…

    Emily, I think that you touch on things we’d all be interested in as gardeners, so including you was totally natural. I’ve been following the Arcadia debacle in the Times on a couple blogs–pretty tragic. I’m not surprised that was forefront among your concerns.

    Barbara, I’m glad to have lightened your mood a bit. Thanks for doing all you did to get the word out on the Arcadia woodland mess. I’m sure we all wish it turned out differently.

    Laguna (again), wordled essays are really interesting. What a great use for Wordle!

  13. Wow! Guess I’ve been posting about ‘Zealand’…never mind the new! hahaha That has been the theme of this months posts, as I spent three weeks there to visit my sister. It’s NZ Week at Sierra Foothill Hill Garden!

    I have no illusions about using NZ plants in my garden in Zone 7, but anyone in So Cal or on the California coast would be able to experiment with them.

    Wordle is unique for sure.

  14. HEY! Only this morning did I look closely enough at my blog dashboard to see you’d linked me and found your winter word party – late, as usual.

    Was it accidental that our word cloud is sort of cod-shaped? I love the way that font throws the dots of the i’s and the j’s so far up in the air!! (It seems I’ve been talking about the weather a lot!)


  15. Words are such fabulous things and I’m thrilled to see my blog Wordled–and to note, too, that the colors of the words are coincidentally my favorites. I was trying to see if there was a common thread in mine, but couldn’t find it. I suppose that’s a good sign that I have variety in my blog. Thank you, James.

  16. Sue, I’m not at all surprised that you were getting excited over your upcoming trip. It looks like you had a great time there!

    Greg, Wordle seems to prefer fish-shaped formations if you select the “rounded” option for word display. Pretty funny that it worked out that way for the Cape!

    Colleen, wow, how did I guess they’d be your favorite colors? They seemed appropriate for Washington State. I think the exercise shows you’ve got a varied blog with lots of interesting topics!

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