The Speckled Band wordcloud with Wordle

holmes sparkled banner wordcloud

To make this word cloud I used the generator at wordle.net. Making the word cloud was very easy. Once on the website, you click ‘create,’ then enter the text you want to make a word cloud from. I copied and pasted the Sherlock Holmes’ story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” and the site generated a word cloud. The default colors it gave me were red and green and pretty unpleasing, so I changed it to black and white. The font was also a bit undesirable, so I changed that. It’s pretty nifty how you’re able to customize all of these different aspects with wordle. I know that you have less customization abilities with other word cloud generators, so these are a plus. I was also able to customize how the words were formatted, from ‘all verticle’ to ‘mostly horizontal.’ Really, making the word cloud was very easy. You put in minimal effort, and you get back an aesthetically pleasing visual. The only problem is with word clouds in general, and their overall effectiveness.

In an article on betterevaluating.org (http://betterevaluation.org/evaluation-options/wordcloud,) word clouds are ascribed with the value of assisting ‘evaluators with exploratory textual analysis by identifying words that frequently appear in a set of interviews, documents, or other text.’ This is true, and in many cases word clouds may be of more use, but when used to evaluate this Sherlock Holmes story, it doesn’t do much help. By looking at the word cloud, you could tell that this story is about a death, and you could tell that it is a Sherlock Holmes story, but it doesn’t allow much insight into the story. You could say that the purpose of this word cloud is to assist with someone who has already read the story, but it doesn’t really offer you anything that you don’t get from reading it.

If you were to have already read Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band, then you may recognize this word cloud to be about it. If you hadn’t, it would be a bit tricky to guess, from this word cloud alone, what the story may be about. First, you would notice that the biggest word is Holmes, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that this is a word cloud about Sherlock Holmes. Other big words are ‘sister,’ ‘Dr,’ ‘room,’ ‘night,’ ‘heard,’ and ‘bed.’ All these words give hints into the plot of the story. There are two sisters, and they have a step-father who is a doctor (there is also a Dr. Watson.) The one sister comes to Sherlock to investigate the mysterious death of her sister because she feels the same thing might happen to her. The details of the death are as follows: it happened at night in the room adjacent to the step-fathers. She died in her bed, and the other sister heard an unusual sound the night of the death. It all makes perfect sense, but only to someone who knows the story.

In conclusion, I don’t know what the overall purpose of word clouds are supposed to be. If you use this word cloud as a way to get a glimpse into the story, it is not very effective, and I would suggest just reading it yourself. It is very short after all. If the word cloud is meant to aid someone who has already read the story, I could see some kind of usefulness to it, especially if it has been a while since you read it and you’re using the word cloud as a bit of a reminder to the plot and details of the story. In this case, there are probably much easier and more effective ways to do this.

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