New tag cloud: powered by Zoomclouds

You may have noticed the snazzy new tag cloud adorning the right-hand side of this page.

(I’m trying to be trendy and web 2-ish, and possibly get acquired by Google or Yahoo for mad money.)

I noticed the Zoomclouds link at Guy Kawasaki’s blog – he just got a new tag cloud as well. I thought I’d give it a shot.

The good
First off, it’s dead simple. Give Zoomclouds your RSS feed, configure a few settings (or not), and paste some code into your source. Done. It’d be hard to make it simpler.

It’s also nicely configurable – and so I was able to get the colors to match up to my site colors very easily. (And if you know a little HTML and Javascript, you can customize it a little beyond the defaults.)

The not-so-good
It’s not a huge deal, but I don’t like the big Zoomclouds logo on my site. I’ll live with it to get the tag cloud, but I think that since you go to Zoomclouds’ site when you click a cloud item, and that Zoomclouds is putting Google Adwords on the results that you see there, that’s enough branding for them.

More importantly, the posts that feed the tag cloud only go back a few weeks in time. I’d like Zoomclouds to spider my site and present a tag cloud that reflects all the things I’ve written – not just the stuff since I added the cloud.

The kind of ugly
This is a mixed blessing/curse: tag selection. Zoomclouds is easy, so you don’t have to manually tag all your content. Excellent – I’m too lazy to go and tag all my previous 700 or so posts, even though I’d do it for stuff going forward.

However, this means that Zoomclouds makes a somewhat-arbitrary determination, based on parsing through your RSS feed, on what is a tag or not. This works, sometimes. Maybe even most of the time.

But it does mean that I have a tag on my site labeled poor bird. Umm … it’s unlikely I’d ever create a tag like that if I were doing it myself.

Hopefully, however, Zoomclouds incorporates some social intelligence into what should be a tag or not, based on all the sites using its service, and will get better over time.

(Looks like they’re working on this issue already.)

Suggestions

  1. Zoomclouds should understand categories, and automatically accept them as tags (at least for the major blogging platforms).
  2. Zoomclouds should allow for some form of manual tagging, if only as an option for geeks.
  3. A ping service would be wonderful, so that you could just add Zoomclouds to the list of pings your blogging software sends out automatically for each post. Knowing that you’ve added content recently, Zoomclouds could then refresh your tag cloud based on the update.
  4. A force update feature would be nice – something that you could click and force Zoomcloud to refresh its cache of your content and the tag cloud that it has created for you. (I’ve mentioned this one in a comment on Zoomcloud’s site.)
  5. And, as mentioned, it’d be great if Zoomclouds spidered my blog and made the cloud relevant for all my posts, not just the past few.

Overall
The results are good enough right now that I’ll stick with the service for a bit, and see how it goes. I like the look of the tag cloud, and I like that way of organizing and navigating information, and I’m hoping the service will improve over time in the areas where it might be a little wanting.

 


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