Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2011-05-31

Tag clouds are the opposite of good writing

Far too many blogs include a tag cloud as a kind of site map, taking up lots of space on every page. That sucks.

Good writing relates to its audience and subject matter; tag clouds relate only to the blogger. They list what the blogger cares about, not what the reader cares about. The word omphaloskepsis springs to mind.

The other day, after seeing the 187th tag cloud with the blogger's interests in large boldface and my search terms in three-point type, I rebelled and resolved to find something sane for my own blog. I found two good possibilities.

If the reader comes to the blog from a search engine, some blog software looks at the reader's search terms and suggests other interesting posts. That's neat, although it does make the web page a little too dynamic for my taste. I don't like web pages that change appearance when I bookmark them and then open the bookmark later.

So instead, I put together a plugin for loathsxome (the software I use) to list other posts with similar tags as the one the reader reads. Seems to work well. I looked at the last fifteen searches, and the link lists produced seem good for those searches, except that I ought to use product/vendor names as tags when I write about a product.

Now I feel much better. Tag clouds may still clutter my screen now and then, but at least I personally treat my XIV readers better.