Feeds

Newsnight tries banalysis 2.0 for Prime Ministerial debates

Tag clouds: Not in my name

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.