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I may meander but I'm 'exploring', not lost

Mar 9, 2018

NBlog March 9 - word cloud creativity

Yesterday I wrote about mind mapping. The tick image above is another creative technique we use to both explore and express the awareness topic.

To generate a word cloud, we start by compiling a list of words relating in some way to the area. Two key sources of inspiration are: 
  1. The background research we've been doing over the past couple of months - lots of Googling, reading and contemplating; and 
  2. Our extensive information risk and security glossary, a working document of 300-odd pages, systematically reviewed and updated every month and included in the NoticeBored awareness modules
Two specific terms in that word cloud amuse me: "Man-sure" and "Lady-sure" hint about the different ways people think about things. When a lay person (man or woman!) says "I'm sure", they may be quite uncertain in fact. They are usually expressing a subjective opinion, an interpretation or belief with little substance, no objective, factual evidence. It can easily be wrong and misleading. When a male or female expert or scientist, on the other hand, says "I'm sure", their opinion typically stems from experience, and carries more weight. It is less likely to be wrong, and hence provides greater assurance. This relates to integrity, a core part of information security. It's not literally about sex.

Aside from integrity and assurance, we have defined more than 2,000 terms-of-art in the glossary, with key words in the definitions hyperlinked to the corresponding glossary entries. I use it like a thesaurus, following a train of thought that meanders through the document, sometimes spinning off at a tangent but always triggering fresh ideas. Updating the glossary is painstaking yet creative at the same time.

Getting back to the word cloud, we squeeze extra value from the list of words by generating puzzles for the modules. Our word-searches are grids of letters that spell out the words in various directions. Finding the words 'hidden' in the grid is an interesting, fun challenge in itself, and also a learning process since the words all relate to the chosen topic.

There are other aspects to the word cloud graphic:
  • All the words are relevant to the topic, to some extent;
  • More significant words are emphasized by size and colour;
  • Insignificant words are tiny and intentionally quite hard to read, fading into the distance and hinting that there are yet more just out of sight;
  • The graphical shape of the cloud (the mask) relates to the topic. It is meant to be a tick in this particular example, although it also resembles an old boot! An accompanying assurance word cloud in the shape of a cross hopefully clarifies the intention;
  • The graphic is visually appealing or intriguing. It catches the eye and stimulates people to think about the topic - an awareness win in its own right. We use word clouds, diagrams and other graphics to illustrate other awareness materials and break up the text.