Wednesday 3 October 2012

Dynamic word mapping

Word maps or word clouds are a great way of mapping out the important words in a paragraph of text. Words that appear more often (excluding very common words) appear larger, concisely summarising the paragraph.

This dynamic word map:
Is the word map from this paragraph of text (from Wikipedia):
A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Especially in British English, the terms spidergram and spidergraph are more common, but they can cause confusion with the term spider diagram used in mathematics and logic. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.The elements of a given mind map are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts, and are classified into groupings, branches, or areas, with the goal of representing semantic or other connections between portions of information. Mind maps may also aid recall of existing memories.By presenting ideas in a radial, graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps encourage a brainstorming approach to planning and organizational tasks. Though the branches of a mindmap represent hierarchical tree structures, their radial arrangement disrupts the prioritizing of concepts typically associated with hierarchies presented with more linear visual cues. This orientation towards brainstorming encourages users to enumerate and connect concepts without a tendency to begin within a particular conceptual framework.The mind map can be contrasted with the similar idea of concept mapping. The former is based on radial hierarchies and tree structures denoting relationships with a central governing concept, whereas concept maps are based on connections between concepts in more diverse patterns. However, either can be part of a larger personal knowledge base system.

There are some very cool online tools, like Wordle, for making word maps like these, but they are not "dynamic". I wanted one where it constantly updates as you type the words in... so I made one! Try it out here.

The logic for making the word map is quite simple. Imagine making a word map based on each word that appears in this sentence, what would that word map look like?

  1. Take the input: "Imagine making a word map based on each word that appears in this sentence, what would that word map look like?"
  2. Filter out the 100 most common words and all capital letters and punctuation. This leaves: imagine, making, map, based, appears, sentence, map
  3. Count the number of times each of these words occurs: imagine (1), making (1), map (2), based (1), appears (1), sentence (1)
  4. Starting with the most common word add them to the mind map. For each word start in the middle and spiral outwards, placing each word at the first place where there is a big enough space for it (based on its bounding box):
This is a really simple way to summarise text in a surprisingly accurate way, this is the word map of the abstract from my PhD thesis:
I think it summarises what I worked on very well!

Dynamic word mapper at


  1. Pretty awesome. Thanks for making the internet a little bit cooler.


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