This post is entirely self-referential, but I don’t care! In fact, I’ve added a new category to allow me to talk about my blog and categorize it appropriately. It’s called self-referential. Deal with it.

I’ve added a couple of new ‘features’ to my blog. The first thing I added was a cool little site icon that should show up in your browser’s address window next to my URL. It should also show up in your RSS reader if you re-subscribe to my blog.

I decided to do this, first because I was bored on Saturday afternoon after waking up late and missing a birthday party in the park, secondly because I wanted to figure out how to do it, and finally to meet the overwhelming demands of my reader base (jeannie), that I post a picture of myself to my website. I killed two birds with one stone by making my site icon a picture of me.

I found some helpful resources on how to create a site icon on Wikepedia’s Favicon entry. This was actually really easy to do for browsers, but more difficult for RSS readers. The reason is that RSS readers (or at least my rss reader) wants the standard “ICON” image type, with the standard name “favicon.ico,” in the root location of the website. I think this is a legacy issue, but it’s so not forward thinking to require a Windows machine and Windows software to create a Windows filetype for something to be published over the web on different platforms.

Now for the Tag Cloud. The folks over at TechCrunch profile Zoom Clouds, a service that builds a ‘tag cloud’ of the words in your site, and gives the user a code snippet to post the cloud to their site. I’m not totally clear how ZoomClouds is any different from Tag Cloud, but I think there is a little bit more in the way of customization.

The idea of a tag cloud is simple: build a frequency distribution of words used in a particular context (here the context is my blog); then display those words to visualize the frequency of their occurence. Generally, tags (or words) that appear more frequently are displayed in a bigger font, although I’ve seen other ways that frequencies are visualized, such as color.

Tag clouds are a useful way to display folksonomies — where users have tagged different documents (blog pages, pictures, music files, etc) with common descriptive words, for example on del.icio.us, Flickr, and MusicStrands. In those contexts, the clouds are very useful because there are many people contributing to the tag set — and at any aggregate level from a single picture to the site as a whole, one gets a sense of what the popular tags are, and what the content might be about. It’s a nice way to summarize folksonomy data.

But in the context of a single site, like mine, where the ‘cloud’ isn’t aggregating and weighting any tags, but rather just the words in the posts themselves, the cloud shouldn’t be called a Tag Cloud, but rather a Word Cloud. The WordCloud really just provides a quick summary of what the hell I’m talking about in my blog. Still a useful tool for people who might encounter a site and want to know whether the content is relevant to them or not.