Telling you what you’re telling us… in tags

Midnight last night represents quite a landmark for myself and Tristan in the BBC Radio & Music interactive R&D team. The launch of Radio 1‘s new web site also saw the first piece of content written by our good selves.

Radio 1 incoming text tag cloud

The content in question is the tag cloud representing incoming SMS text messages to Radio 1. We process each message and collate a database of all non-offensive and non-common words. The top 15 words are displayed every minute and represent the last ten minutes of incoming texts. Tristan first built a prototype a few months back using Processing, running as a Java applet. The live client is written in Flash and was adapted from the livetext client which is part of most BBC radio homepages.

The layout of the tag cloud is meant to be random and non-overlapping as some words link to other Radio 1 pages. This was not something I was able to achieve using a fancy algorithm. In the end I created three ‘battleships’ layout patterns in which the words can sit anywhere within their allocated box. The four words with the highest frequency are given the largest spaces on the screen and are allowed to fill them, while the remainder are randomly positioned in their boxes and scaled proportional to their relative frequency. In the end the most important thing I learned is that throughout the layout procedure, words must be placed at random if there is the opportunity to do so.

It will be interesting to see how people react to it, because the tag cloud could display the (probable) answer to a competition or it could display some contentious opinions or simply an unfortunate group of words.

1 Comment for Telling you what you’re telling us… in tags

  • 2:26 am, 12th October 2006
Rob Dunfey

I think this would be good if you did this with something that generated a wider range of opion and text message, I’m thinking it would be good on question time. The cloud could be the back drop to the panelists…

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