Generating Blog Keyword Tags and Tagxedo Clouds with Yahoo Pipes


As I’ve been adding blog posts here I’ve noticed that the keyword tags are getting into a mess. So I’ve been thinking about what I could do to sort them out, either by getting the computer to do the tagging for me, or provide another way of presenting relevant keywords about specific blog posts to anyone who visits my blog.

As a first attempt (1), I decided to use Yahoo pipes and simply feed in the RSS feed of my blog, pull out keywords from each blog post and then create another RSS feed to be used anywhere. Visitors can view keywords for the last 10 blog posts, as I couldn’t get Yahoo pipes to go beyond 10. They can also click on a link to the blog post. The words/phrases pulled out aren’t perfect (as with any automated word extraction), but I think you get a good feel for the blog posts from them.

(NB: Click on ‘List’ to see the keywords and use the link back to the blog.)

At the same time, I was thinking about whether I could use something like a tag cloud generator to do what I wanted a bit more creatively. Having a look at Tagxedo, I realised that if you use the URL function on the home page to create a cloud you could actually build the url yourself. So, I created a second pipe (2) that presented the same keywords, but also provides a clickable link that feeds through to Tagxedo and creates individual tag clouds for each entry.

(NB: Click on ‘List’ to see the keywords and use the link to generate the cloud.)

Ultimately, I did want to combine the two pipes, but I couldn’t get Yahoo pipes to create valid links to 2 places in the same RSS item.

I would have also liked the Tagxedo cloud to display in the RSS feed, but at the moment the link just creates a cloud from the RSS.

Hopefully there is a way to achieve both of these things, but as a first attempt I think they both work quite well, even if the RSS feeds/presentation do need a bit of tidying up.

The results of the embedded pipes can be found on my test site here. Links to the source code of the pipe can be found in (1) and (2) above. I’ve also added the RSS to the blog on the right hand side to see how people get on with it. The feed is labelled ‘Term Tags’.

Emphasising Library Resources in Search


I’ve just been looking at a presentation Stephen Abram put together for Edmonton Public Libraries in Canada. In it he states that 72% of library users trust library content more than Google content, but 81% still use Google.

I wonder if this 81% still use Google because they open up their internet browser and Google is there, ready and waiting for them?

Maybe if they thought about it they’d go elsewhere to do their searching? Maybe they’d go to a specialist search engine for their particular subject need eg. Healia (health), Scitopia (science and technology) if their browser directed them there.

If they are going to Google by default, or because their browser directs them there, and the majority of library users have more faith in the information libraries can provide them, shouldn’t we be trying to make this easier for them?

Most libraries are in a good position to do this if they provide their users with computers on site that allow access to the internet.

Some ideas

How about putting a start page on your computers that contains an obvious internet search function. Not a tiddly little widget, stuck in the corner somewhere, but a big box that clearly shows it’s for searching the internet.

Why not make this search box emphasise library resources your library service provides, as well as information held elsewhere on the internet?

Why not provide some weighting to sites outside your resources? eg. sites you’ve bookmarked on that are a really useful resources in a specific subject area. Indicate that your library service recommends these resources and tell them why. Don’t make your users trawl through millions of webpages looking for a resource you already know exists. You can give users the opportunity to trawl through those millions of web pages, if they really want to, if they really think they’re missing out on something by not searching Google, but try to emphasise your library service recommendations.

If they’re looking for a book via this search method, offer them the book in your library catalogue as the first result, rather than pointing them straight to the Amazon catalogue. Or, if you do offer them the book to buy from Amazon, create it as an affiliate link from your library authority – that way you can generate some income for yourself.

Surrey Fiction Book Map


At the end of June, Surrey is running a festival called ‘Celebrating Surrey‘, which highlights creative talent in Surrey. My team in the Library Service decided it would be a good idea to support this with something web based and creative. Part of the thinking behind this was to show colleagues in the Library Service how we could use resources on the web to help promote our stock in a different way. It also gave us an opportunity to experiment, by doing something we’d not tried before.

We decided to create the ‘Surrey Fiction Book Map‘ – this was a Google map highlighting works of fiction set in Surrey. The map itself uses book covers for the markers, which are pinpointed around the county. If you click on a marker it opens up to reveal more details of the book and gives the opportunity to borrow it from Surrey Libraries, or any other library that appears on Worldcat.

It was created manually using ‘Google My Maps‘ – pinpointing each book individually and adding book covers and links. With the power of hindsight, if I was starting from scratch, I’d put it together using a Google docs spreadsheet fed into Yahoo pipes. I recently set up another biographical map using this method and it was much easier. The only drawback of that method though would be that I couldn’t use the book covers as markers. I also added videos to some of the markers, but the links weren’t stable and kept disappearing. Future developments could include linking to biography pages for the author on somewhere like Wikipedia.

The map is now finished and we now need to decide on where it will go. Options include linking from the website to the map, or adding to our page when it’s set up.

It’s been an interesting project and I’m sure we can build on it.

This Made Me 2


In a previous blog post I talked about a biographical project I wanted to attempt – I called it “This Made Me”. I wanted to put together a visual representation of things I consider influenced me throughout my life and made me the person I am today, just as an experiment to see what I could come up with.

I’ve actually managed to turn that idea into something concrete using Yahoo Pipes to pull through information I added to a Google spreadsheet. Yahoo Pipes then automatically created the map with markers and details of influences in those markers. Here it is. The markers contain images pulled through from various websites and also link to relevant web sites too. The map only contains about 13 influences so far, but I’ll add others as I go along.

This Mage Me Yahoo Pipes map

I’m pleased with the fact that I’ve managed to create this without having to manually add the information to the map, as I have done with other maps I’ve created previously. It’s also helped me understand how aspects of Google docs and Yahoo pipes work and is definitely something I can build on. Both @psychemedia and @ostephens gave me plenty of tips on how to achieve this. So, big thanks to them.

Putting this information on a map is only one way of doing things and I’d like it to be more visual (without a map), so I’ll see where I can go with it next. The data is there, it just needs to be fiddled with.

Edit: Part of the challenge of doing this, is seeing if I could provide something that could be used by others too- if they wanted to. That’s why I didn’t create the map manually (for one reason anyway). Maybe a biography of a famous person could be created in the same way, detailing their life based around locations around the world. How about a great explorer like Christopher Columbus or James Cook? All you’d need to do is copy the Yahoo pipe and pull in the data from a different spreadsheet.