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Word Cloud from Shared Purpose

On Fri, Dec 3, 2010, Bruce Schuman wrote on Coffee Party Shared Purpose Forum:

This has been an amazing day. For me -- the vital creative force has been flowing with powerful and vibrant intensity -- like a swirling river of life energy that refuses to be contained in predictable ways -- but which retains a complex and illuminating integrity which may be a little more than any of us can full grasp -- but which many of us can feel, and somehow recognize as important.

Yesterday, I got an email from Ray H asking me about possible statistical or artificial-intelligence based approaches to understanding our poll/survey on "core values of the Coffee Party". This morning, I got a note from Mike K, asking me about this same theme.

I have been thinking about this concept of a "tag cloud", or "word cloud" -- and wondering whether this idea could somehow step into the mystery of collective intelligence and collaboration, which has been bewildering and tantalizing us -- and somehow serve as a worthwhile representation of our work together.

There is a web site out there, called "Wordle", that offers a kind of magic programming feature, invented by a computer scientist at IBM, that will process a "chunk" of text that is dropped into a box on that site.

Instead of carefully and individually working through the 51 text comments posted in response to our first Core Value -- Civil Discourse -- I simply grabbed the entire series of comments in one big chunk, and pasted them all into the processing box. This graphic, with a little tweaking, is the result.

Is this any substitute for a careful reading of the suggestions and insights brought to us? No. Many questions are raised that this "word art" does not begin to answer.

But this graphic does have the attractive property of being brief, and entirely generated by a neutral mathematical algorithm -- "untouched by human hands".

For me, it is an interesting thing to contemplate. I expect to create similar or related graphics for the other bodies of text comments.

This does not end our explorations in Core Values, not at all. This conversation may be reverberating for some time. We may invent other ways to parse or compile suggestions, or we may simply contemplate these thoughts, as illuminating possibilities brought to us by our participants.

Are we in a confusing place? Is there one master rule book by which we are to measure and appraise what we do here? Have our deliberations coalesced and crystallized into a final and stable form? Has our complex collective/creative process achieved a final form that will allow us to relax, with the task accomplished?

For me, the answer is -- clearly not. We have a long ways to go yet. But -- importantly -- we are on our way. We are doing something here -- something that I believe is powerful and important -- and which, in my reading, took a strong step in the right direction today.

It seems to me that we are coming together in a kind of information-storm, emerging out of a somewhat bewildering array of interdependent and simultaneous factors and forces -- and from which, perhaps somewhat like this word art, I believe a simple and clear and powerful core message will emerge -- a message, that for me, becomes clearer and more persuasive every day.