A Word Cloud Puzzle

Maybe it is my enthusiasm for puzzles of all kinds – most notably crosswords and Sudoku – that attracts me to the idea of word clouds.  They can not only be pleasing to look at (with all the use of color, fonts, and orientation) but they excite puzzle-lovers such as myself with the possibility that true meaning lurks beneath each cloud just waiting to be discovered.

Research Rockstar has written about word clouds, specifically the CloudMaker tool from Tribe Research; but there are other various providers such as TagCrowd and Wordle. Kathryn Korostoff (the rock star in Research Rockstar) asserts that the “real power” of word clouds may lie in our ability to analysis responses to open-ended questions.  Whether or not word clouds actually provide much useful power to researchers is left for another (more serious) discussion.  Today I just want to have a little end-of-the-summer fun.

I created a Wordle word cloud using a comment provided by a survey respondent to an open-ended question.  The survey was conducted among volunteers of a large U.S. non-profit organization, and this particular comment was from a volunteer who was answering the question, ‘What needs to happen to improve your volunteer experience?’  This volunteer is a woman who works on a particular fund-raising event for the organization and, to preserve anonymity, I have simply substituted the actual name of this event with “Event” (so much for creativity).

So here is the word cloud.  Does anyone want to take a stab at guessing the nature of the actual comment?


  1. That was a lot of fun indeed, but I think you would see further benefit when applying a word, tag or phrase cloud to thousands of respondent comments – it’s a great way to gain quick insight into the important terms (as your example illustrated with term “committee”).

    You might want to play with http://www.bookshrink.com and as well follow our blog which covers the analysis of unstructured survey data which is at http://info.paiwhq.com/.



  2. Did the comment pertain to the fact that volunteerism would be more attractive if when serving on fund-raising committees or engaged in other volunteer activities, volunteers had sufficient input and were recognized as valuable contributors to the success of the organization rather than having little say in what happens and then sees that nothing or very little is accomplished?


    1. A great interpretation, Mary Ann. Indeed, it has something to do with committee membership frustration. The key clues in the cloud are “committee” “member” “nothing” “event”. The actual comment was from a volunteer who was complaining about how one particular committee member had done nothing for a particular event and, therefore, shouldn’t receive the same recognition.


  3. Was the response that there really isn’t very much that needs to change to improve the respondent’s volunteer experience because being a member of the community supersedes the minor frustrations?


    1. Nice interpretation, Jasmin, but not quite right. The biggest clues are with the LARGEST words — “committee,” “nothing,” “member” and “event.” Want to try again?


  4. Are you looking for volunteers for planning an event?

    If you are, this was such an innovative approach, call me about the event and I will volunteer.

    If I am right, it worked!!



    1. Hi Debra. No not looking for volunteers. But what a great idea. I will definitely call you when the need arises. Thanks!


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