Monday, January 15, 2007

Holy Mackey: Whole Foods Reader Comments

Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey started blogging in September 2005, and while I counted only 9 posts, they are all thoughtful and well-written. Equally interesting are the comments left by readers of his blog. Are there particular topics that emerge as important to the blog's readers?

Reprising an earlier post, I used recent developments in (unsupervised) machine learning and bayesian computation. These new techniques allows one to analyze text data, uncover latent topics, and measure the relative sizes of the topics. I was able to identify 473 comments, from the 9 blog posts. While the number of comments is relatively small for an algorithm of this type, I decided to forge ahead and see if what type of results I would get. Using this text mining algorithm, I uncovered 25 topics/subjects from the readers' comments.

As usual, to enlarge an image, click on it. If the topics where equally sized, one expects about 4% of the words found in readers comments to be devoted to each of the 25 topics. Interestingly, the Top 10 topics (in blue) were those with size clearly above the benchmark 4%. For completness, I included some other smaller but notable topics (in yellow).

Not suprisingly, the most popular topic was locally grown and organic food. Related topics include, Michael Pollan's recent book and sustainable agriculture: combined these 3 topics accounted for about 1 in 7 words found in the readers comments. Another popular subject centered around alternatives to purely profit-driven models of business ("good corporations", "the business world and company purpose", "social responsibility", "new capitalism"): these three topics accounted for about 1 in 7 words found in the readers comments. Animal Welfare, as represented by the lower ranking topics, "treatment of animals" and "organic dairy and farms", combined to account for about 1 in 14 words found in the readers comments. Topics that address Whole Foods culture ("team members and culture", "people and vision", "stock and investors", "company/leadership") accounted for about 1 in 6 words found in the readers comments.

SUMMARY: CEO John Mackey's blog elicited comments touching on some of the most interesting (green) topics of the day. Such serious exchanges, provide yet another sign that Whole Foods is different from other large corporations. Can you name another major public company with a CEO who blogs and generates responses which address these topics?

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