The Future of Tag Clouds

This is an interesting article about the future of tag clouds (written by Joe Lamantia). Here’s how Joe sees tag clouds developing over the next 18 months:

  1. More people will recognize them and understand what they do (ok, that one’s a no-brainer)
  2. more support for “cloud consumers” to meet context needs (interesting…)
  3. attached controls or features and functionality that allow cloud consumers to directly change the context, content, and presentation of clouds. (wow)

That third point is pretty interesting. Right now, tag clouds are basicallly a visual way to search for a tag – and to see what tags are either popular or heavily used at a site. But the idea of being able to manipulate the content and the presentation of a tag cloud? I can see some pretty useful stuff coming out of that.

Reading on… Joe says “In the future, expect to see specialized tag cloud implementations
emerge for a tremendous variety of semantic fields and focuses:
celebrities, cars, properties or homes for sale, hotels and travel
destinations, products, sports teams, media of all types, political
campaigns, financial markets, brands, etc.”

OK – I look at alot (actually, my wife does more…). It has a normal, “traditional” search interface – you know – click a city, click the number of bedrooms, etc, etc. Integrating a tag coud-like search feature would be so much cooler, and probably more usable, too. For example – allows you to “expand the search” for a house in a particular area by providing surrounding suburbs/towns to include. But if you’re not familiar with that area, you don’t really know what to choose. If you created a tag cloud feature to that search, you’d be able to see what most other people chose (assuming the tag cloud is based on popularity). Most likely, that popular choice is also a better area of town.

Now – think what you could do to our library services using tag clouds. Especially in our library catalogs! And not just on the end-user side, either. I’m thinking of a collection development librarian wondering which subject areas are the most popular. Instead of having to run a report and crunch some numbers, all the librarian would have to do is take a glance at the visually larger tags – then get more info if he/she needed it.

Hmm… I wonder what else would/could be useful in a tag cloud arrangement?