Crowdsourcing Whole Food's Delivery Dictionary

Cryptonym: (noun) code word or name used, sometimes clandestinely, to refer to another name, word, project, or person.

Machine logic often has a vocabulary and process which as humans we find inscrutable (I’m sure our pets think the same as us): the Roomba bounces around the room (now it has cameras), the robot colony we put on Mars needs a fiducial to focus and calibrate, and your Whole Foods delivery has a random word attached to it. 

I’ve been doing a lot of grocery delivery in this pandemic year, and my slightly obscure hobby is seeing what name Whole Foods prints on the label for us. It’s a lame hobby, but this person-machine-person collaboration is fascinating. I have so many questions.

At what point did Amazon/Whole Foods realize that a random number or personal name was slower than some simple one word signifier? Then it gets me thinking about what the dictionary looks like. And how many times are the words reused? Does every store use the same dictionary, or are there customized dictionaries based on local needs: language, velocity of sales, etc?


We are a design consultency, so to keep the lights on and people fed, we are in the client services business. But we believe that focused exploration ends up serviceing our clients. We try to take a 80/20 approach to our resaerch projects so we can invest in our capabilities when clients come knocking. Please knock.


Quick Synthesis

A day's worth of data has arrived and we have enough for a first snapshot, knowing that more data will tell the story. And the story so far is, the dictionary has a lot of nouns based on our submitted observations.

With a N=40 we are seeing a breakdown of:

  • 67.5% are nouns
  • 17.5% are verbs
  • 7.5% are adjectives
  • 2.5% are adverbs
  • 2.5% are determiners
  • 2.5% are prepositions

We will update this as we have signifigant changes to our dataset. Please help us below.

Where's the data coming from?

Currenlty we are seeing a majority of data coming from five zipcodes, primarily NYC, Minessota, and Los Angeles.


Help us

We are crowdsourcing a corpus of bag names (cryptonym) in order to see emergent patterns.

We need your help. Please fill out this google form or enter your info below; we are asking for as much information as you want to share. We will never sell your information. That's not cool. But we will use it to better understand how Amazon/Whole Foods are designing for the person-machine-person collaboration.

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