Feeds

Newsnight tries banalysis 2.0 for Prime Ministerial debates

Tag clouds: Not in my name

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
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.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.