Feeds

Newsnight tries banalysis 2.0 for Prime Ministerial debates

Tag clouds: Not in my name

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Comment The obsession of the media and political worlds with pointless info-toys met a new nadir last night, during the webby part of Newsnight's otherwise respectable coverage of the first Prime Ministerial debate.

Reporter Justin Rowlatt was tasked with using the power of "tag clouds" - also known as Wordles - to offer insights into Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg's political philosophies.

Rowlatt: Adrift in alphabet soup

The effort was part of a growing trend in news for "visualisations", which are meant to make complex stories more readily understood, and occasionally do, but more often just waste colour ink or pixels. They're like illustrations, but require less visual talent.

For the uninitiated, a tag cloud is a visual soup of words, usually in a bad font, with the size of each dependent on how many times it is used in the source document or speech. They are employed by many bloggers and, depressingly, some journalists, as a substitute for actual thinking or analysis, which there isn't time for between hearing or reading something and reacting to it on Twitter.

By demolishing what may have been coherent ideas or arguments into a fine rubble, the Newsnight tag clouds were supposed to offer instant comparative political analysis. Instead they made their user look like a spokesman for the Stupid Party. And they always do.

In the interests of political historians, here are the hapless Rowlatt's efforts at web-facilitated insta-terpretation:

Gordon Brown

So look here, we've got words like - interestingly - 'got'... I suspect that's a mistake. But 'schools', 'economy', 'future' - that's a key word, that's what people expect, to hear the word 'future'.

David Cameron

'Country', I suppose you'd expect that. He's saying 'change', 'together', um, 'great' there. Words I suppose you would expect.

Nick Clegg

He says 'old'! It's not a word you often associate with campaigns. 'Believe'... 'things', um, interesting word there. Um, and, 'politics'. Words there, I suppose, many that you'd expect in any speech.

In fairness to the Newsnight man, he grew increasingly aware of the farce as the item went on, suppressing embarrassed laughter and moving on sharpish. We'd be surprised if the feature made a reappearance following the second debate next Thursday.

For sentient viewers that would be good news, but fans of tag clouds - they do exist - will be pleased to know that they can make their own here. And in the spirit of meta-pointlessness, here's one of this article. Incisive. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
UK.gov chucks £28m at F1 tech for buses and diggers plan
Well, not really F1 but who's heard of LMP and VLN*?
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.