Better Tag clouds for your site, about your site... or about anything you want!

March 2006

Realtime stats

March 15th, 2006, 15:45

By in News
We said stats would be coming. Well, they've come!

Now, when you're in your ZoomClouds account and click on any of your clouds, along with the usual menu options Design, Edit and Filters, you'll see a new option, Stats.

There you can see how many clicks were made on the tags of your clouds. You can see clicks by the hour, by day, week, month or year, and for each of them, you can get a small report to see what tags were clicked the most, as well as from what countries those clicks were made.

Relevant terms in irrelevant contexts

March 14th, 2006, 7:30

By in General
We've been noticing that as clouds were being built, sometimes there were terms that, despite being valid words that normally would be taken into account, due to the context around them, they should actually be ignored, yet, ZoomClouds was still considering them "important".

One of the most obvious examples is the text "Technorati tags: ...", so we'll use it as an example of what's been going on so far and how we've fixed it.

The text "Technorati tags: ..." often appears at the end of many posts. When ZoomClouds found the word "Technorati", it assumed it was a relevant term, and so it included it in the cloud. What happens is that, since in these cases, it's a term that appears in each and every post for that blog, the cloud ended up with the term Technorati as one of the most relevants in the cloud, if not the very most relevant one. Yet, chances are the blogger didn't even mention the word Technorati in his/her posts.

This forced some people to include "Technorati" as an unwanted tag, and while that somewhat fixed the problem, in fact, should this person ever write something about Technorati, it would never ever appear in the cloud, so it certainly wasn't a perfect solution.

Now, we've added a small behind the scenes context filter to ZoomClouds so when some terms are found within certain irrelevant contexts, these terms will not be considered when building the cloud. That's the case with the "Technorati tags" example, as well as a few others.

Keeping track of clicks on your clouds

March 9th, 2006, 4:37

By in News
Starting right now, ZoomClouds is also keeping track of clicks made on each and every tag in each and every cloud.

Now, we have not prepared yet the pages where you can see how many clicks is your cloud getting, so don't look for them yet,  but we will be implementing them soon and expect to have it "live" early next week.

When that's done - and we'll announce it right here - you'll be able to see things like:

  • How many people are clicking on tags in your clouds, with daily, weekly, monthly and yearly reports.
  • How many clicks any given tag is getting, as well as a list of "most clicked tags".
  • From what countries these clicks are coming.
  • Whether the click comes from a human or a robot or spider (or we might simply exclude robots and spiders from the reports, we're still thinking about this).

And perhaps a few more details.

ZoomClouds does not use cookies or any other method to track personal information when people click on the tags. The only information that's collected is:

  • The cloud and tag (obviously) that gets the click.
  • The IP from where the click is made. This is used only to figure out the country from where the click is made. We will not disclose IP addresses.
  • The country from where the click is made.
  • And the time and date when the click was made.

And that's it! Now, our approach to ZoomClouds is to keep it simple, but we just could not stop from offering this feature, as we believe it makes a lot of sense, and we hope it will help you see how and how often your cloud is being used.

New, faster in-house content analysis tool

March 8th, 2006, 1:07

By in News
Shortly after we posted the "We've been Techcrunched" post, we fixed the slowlyness of our in-house content analysis tool. We didn't announce it right away because well, yesterday was a really busy day in all counts.

In terms of speed, the improvements are amazing. We tested a 20 posts feed (200 words per post average) with our previous engine and it took about 75 seconds to process - along with putting up quite some stress on the server, nothing significant on its own, but it would be if we were to do that for 100 feeds simultaneously.

Then we tested the same feed with our new engine and it took less than 9 seconds!! That's including the time to connect to the feed and fetch it, which on average can take between 1 an 4 seconds, depending on how fast the other server responds. Ok, now that's a lot better. In fact, we believe that time-wise it beats Yahoo's API, but being fair, Yahoo's API also does things that our content analysis tool doesn't.

We had to make one small sacrifice though. And that's to ignore, as we analyze the content and select terms and words, all words of three characters or less, unless they contain at least one capital letter. In other words, if ZoomClouds updates your blog/feed and finds the word "drm" 25 times, it will ignore it anyway (unless you've added that word to your list of "wanted terms" of course). However, if it finds DRM, Drm, dRM, etc (you get the picture), then it will consider it. Two and one letter words are and were ignored before.

Other than that, the quality of our content analysis is exactly the same as before, but now it's over 8 times faster. Why didn't we do this before launch??? Ah...

By the way, would you be interested to know what are the three more popular terms in ZoomClouds clouds so far? The winner is blog, followed by Google and then podcast. That's interesting :-)

We've been TechCrunched!

March 6th, 2006, 14:25

By in News
Well, sort of. No, the site hasn't gone down or anything like that, but at some points, updating a cloud might have seemed to take forever. Here's why and what are we going to do about it right away.

If you read my previous post I mentioned the two content analysis tools we use with ZoomClouds to extract relevant terms: Yahoo's and ours. I also mentioned that for user-generated updates (like when you build a cloud for the very first time) we only rely on Yahoo's content analysis API mainly because it's a lot faster, leaving our homemade content analysis tool for the behind-the-scenes updates.

But as I also mentioned, Yahoo currently has a 5,000 calls limit for every 24 hours, and when that limit is reached, we have no choice but to use our - not worst but a lot slower - content analysis tool. And that's exactly what happened today. We reached the 5,000 calls limit rather quickly and ZoomClouds started to use our tool instead, resulting in some clouds taking well over a minute, sometimes even two, to get completely analyzed and built for the very first time.

That is not acceptable. So we went back to the drawing board and tried to come up with a way that, without giving up functionality at all, would do the processing a lot faster. And after some time brainstorming and scratching our heads, I think we've got it. Now we'll be working in developing, testing and implementing this new approach, and I expect to have it live-to-site within 24 hours. If it actually turns out to be really efficient, we might even include it on each and every update, whether it's user generated or not. I'll keep you posted!

Is ZoomClouds a mashup?

March 5th, 2006, 18:38

By in FAQ
Well, it actually depends...

ZoomClouds uses two different content analysis tools. One is the Yahoo! Content Analysis API. The other is our own content analysis tool.

When ZoomClouds uses the Y! API, then ZoomClouds is acting as a mash-up, by making use of the data sent by the Y! API. When ZoomClouds doesn't use the Y! API, then it isn't.

So when does ZoomClouds use one or another tool? Simple. When you just build a cloud, update it, reload it, etc. ZoomClouds tries to use the Yahoo! API first. Why? Because it's much faster than ours (meaning where the Y! API takes 2 seconds, our content analysis tool takes 6) and sometimes it's better at picking new terms.

On the other side, our content analysis tool takes a bit longer, but it's really good at remembering things. More often than not, our content analysis tool does a better job at extracting terms from blogs it already knows. But because it's somewhat slower, we let it do its job behind the scenes when it's time to update the cloud when nobody's looking. Unfortunately that happens at most once a day.

Let's look at some examples. Here's a cloud that used only Yahoo's content analysis tool.

And here's the same feed but using only our content analysis tool:

They're a bit different, but they're both, um, good looking clouds. Notice "our" cloud has a nicer weight distribution though.

Sometimes Yahoo's tool fails miserably, we're not sure why. This is a cloud from a blog after using Yahoo's API:

And this is the cloud we've got when we noticed how terrible job Y!'s API did and we ran our tool instead:

Now we're talking!

There's one more instance when our content analysis tool will take over Yahoo's and that's if we've ran out of our daily Y! API quota. Basically, after 5,000 calls in a 24 hours period, Yahoo won't accept any more API calls. Well, if we get over that quota, we wouldn't be able to create or update any cloud until that 24 period was over, so when that happens - or anytime the Y! API fails for whatever reason - then our content analysis tool will take over.

Ideally what we'll eventually do is, when you build your cloud for the first time, run Yahoo's API first, then immediately our own content analysis tool. But for that, we need to optimize our algorithms a bit more, so that you don't have to wait say 30 seconds to get your cloud updated.

Could we live without Yahoo's API? Yes, certainly we could. But as long as we can use two content analysist tools instead of one, what's the harm?

How many days does my cloud cover the moment I create it?

March 1st, 2006, 3:35

By in FAQ
As you know, when you create your cloud, you are asked how many days worth of content you'd like to be taken into account when building your cloud.

Some people mistakenly think that if they select "Forever" the cloud they immediately get is based on everything they've published on their entire blog since day 1, or if they select "the last 365" the cloud they get right away is based on the last year, and so on.

That's not true.

When you create your cloud, ZoomClouds will go and fetch your feed, and the cloud that you get at that moment is based only on whatever content is in your feed at that time, which usually is the last 10-15 posts.

What the "Days worth" option indicates is, as time goes by, how many days worth of content you want your cloud to reflect from the date you create your cloud.

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