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How to use fun (and free) data visualization tools for online storytelling

How to use fun (and free) data visualization tools for online storytelling

Whitney Mathews, Poynter | March 02, 2011

Some stories can be tough to visualize and make interactive on the Web. Many times, they involve boring data sets that are difficult to read, or aren’t visually stimulating enough for video or photos.

Here are a few fun, free visualization tools that you can use with a variety of data sets:

Wordle.net

Wordle takes chunks of text and transforms them into colorful word maps. Its website describes what it does best:

“Wordle is a toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.”

Wordle also removes words like “the,” “and,” “of” and “a” to showcase the meat of a text document. And it takes documents that may bore your readers and makes them visually stimulating and easier to digest.

Here are some ideas for utilizing Wordle online (and even in print):

-Lengthy reports from government agencies

-Legal documents

-Speech transcripts (see an example using Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address below)

Tip: If you’re trying to copy/paste PDF text into a Wordle, but the text isn’t selectable, try importing it into Document Cloud. Document Cloud will give you a stripped-down chunk of selectable text after processing the PDF.

To read more, click here.