Given that Clusty has just had a birthday they're celebrating by introducing the Clusty Labs. If you're familiar with Google Labs you'll know exactly where they're going with this. There's not a great deal there are the moment however; a one stop site about Benjamin Franklin (Clusty Ben) Shakespeare Searched and something new - the Clusty Cloud Creator (I wonder if they could have managed any more alliteration?)
Clouds are of course nothing new, but what this offering allows users to do is to simply put in their own search term(s) and the CCC will produce a cloud on the spot. Clusty is also providing the code as well, so it's easy for web authors or bloggers to add it to their pages or posts. Since the clouds are created real time they're always up to date, and of course searchers can always simply click on a link to run a fresh search directly from the search engine.
The functionality is nice and straightforward, and clouds can be created literally within seconds, with the resultant code being cut and pasted as required. I can see lots of ways in which this could be used, and indeed Clusty has come up with a few examples themselves. Information professionals could create clouds for subjects that their patrons were interested in and put them onto a specifically designed site, teachers could use them with children to assist with projects, or bloggers could include a cloud to help illustrate the subject matter and interest of whatever they were writing about.
The functionality is also increased because users are not limited to creating clouds for simple searches (although of course they can), but can increase them in complexity using more advanced search syntax. For example, I created a successful cloud for a search on 'Tony Blair' from .gov.uk sites that excluded the term 'elections'. I can see that it would be very interesting to create clouds for similar subjects, and just to twist them slightly with the addition or subtraction of specific terms to see the differences.
Certainly worth exploring.
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