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The role of digitization in learning foreign languages is so intriguing, and this post does a fantastic job highlighting the challenges (and benefits) of OpenEnglish.

I am curious about whether this model is conducive more to formal language learning as opposed to colloquial language learning. For example, most secondary languages taught in secondary schools (e.g. high school) place an emphasis on grammar and vocabulary. But the usefulness appears diminished when placed in that country: the slang, and immersion in casual conversations often are more useful in being able to communicate with natives. Consider, for example, the “high drop out rates” and “lower” engagement mentioned in the post above, and the emergence and success of companies like Duolingo disrupting the Rosetta Stone model [1].

As such, perhaps the author’s suggestion of using OpenEnglish as a supplement in the classroom is the “right” choice. This, however, will have an impact on pricing. Moreover, it will require an immense operating / strategic model shift if OpenEnglish chooses to break into the market of people who are interested in learning a new language for foreign travel.


On November 19, 2016, anita commented on OverDrive and the Digitization of Public Libraries :

This article was a really cool, and incredibly relevant, articulation of the challenges that publishers face in navigating the tension between libraries’ physical books and publishers’ e-books.

It appears that OverDrive’s largest advantage is the data it stores (namely, their “digital platform [that] aggregate[s] content and set[s] pricing and circulation restrictions.” I am curious about the proposed solution – showing the “true impact” of library e-books on retail sales – and how the data OverDrive holds can be used to that end: measuring the causal relationship between e-books and overall sales could be challenging. Moreover, one of the largest appeals of a library is that it provides a physical space for communities to gather. I wonder how OverDrive can demonstrate that it plays a role in supplementing and encouraging that behavior, or if e-book publishing will inevitably destroy physical books and the need for a physical space will be drastically reduced.

Thank you for such a compelling reminder about the enormous risks migrants are willing to take to escape heart-breaking conditions. I hadn’t considered the role of digitization in the MENA refugee crisis, but it makes a lot of sense – the ability for people to share information easily a la social media / direct messaging platforms *because of* cheap mobile phones means that the asymmetric information gap between smugglers and refugees is dramatically reduced.

One thing I am curious about is mobile money transfers, and how transfer patters patterns relate to refugee movement. In particular, people in developing countries (especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East) with limited physical bank access tend to use their phones to transfer money. As smugglers become pushed out of the migrant movement process, do they perhaps enter the migration cycle through mediating money transfers, or with helping set up and transition migrants into their new country?

Perhaps most tragic, of course, is that the conflict forcing Syrians from their country isn’t abating anytime soon. Does this means that specific technological solutions will need to be built in order to better facilitate safe movement across borders? Or are existing communication platforms sufficient?

Gustavo! I loved this post, and the step TalkSpace (simply by virtue of existing) takes to de-stigmatize conversations about mental health sicknesses.

One area I am most curious about is accessibility. One of the biggest challenges to making moves in the mental health space is that it is an invisible infliction, and one that doesn’t have appropriate insurance reimbursements (a la co-pays for physical check-ups). Part of this relies on government aid. But part of this is dependent on companies surfacing resources to their employees. I wonder how TalkSpace can play a role in this effort.

Second, what is the competition like in the “digitization of mental health” space? Namely, how is TalkSpace different, operationally, from apps like Headspace [1]?

Finally, I am curious about the pricing model (i.e. the $128/month price point mentioned in your post) — how is this determined by TalkSpace? And how does one place a price on mental health aid?

I sincerely appreciated the topic of this post, and am thrilled that entrepreneurs are finally taking steps to address / help with mental health problems.


This post was so cool, Jessie! The role that technology plays in places of “reverence” – some would argue museums are a similar, albeit more secular, place – is fascinating, because it pulls at the direct tension between modernity and the past.

The last two lines in your post are particularly interesting (“Are YouTube sermons the same as in-person services? Has technology de-humanized religion – or is it helping to facilitate stronger religious ties?”): for example, do online “versions” even need to mimic in-person sermons? Perhaps the role of technology in religion isn’t to create something that will replace the old, but rather to supplement OR radically change it. In the case of virtual payments, the role of technology is complementary to current payment methods. But I am thinking that maybe technology could radically change the whole system, say through telecasting.

For some reason, that vision of a complete technological overhaul to religious institutions is frightening. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. And I think that it’s because of this feeling – that that which is sacred must be “protected” from technology – that the radical innovation that can occur will be limited.

The forty Russian icebreakers that you describe in this post are awesome! I was completely unaware of this side effect of climate change, i.e. the increase in sea ice, and how it directly (and negatively) affects the U.S. Navy’s productivity.

What advantage / techniques has the Russian government employed to overcome obstacles that prevent the U.S. Navy from having their ships undergo the hardening process? Additionally,
I wonder about this line: “foster[ing] geopolitical stability or enforc[ing] international economic norms… requires a robust and visible surface presence.” In what ways can media be employed to help with increasing visibility? I am specifically curious how media can play a role if the ratification of UNCLOS occurs — and whether there are “visibility” workarounds for the Navy, given the likely delays in signing such an important / difficult treaty.

On November 5, 2016, anita commented on Carbon-Cutting Is Now En Vogue :

It was eye-opening to learn that “the supply chain accounts for 50% of a typical retail corporation’s carbon emissions” – is this number the same for luxury AND commodity fashion items? For example, what additional learnings can LVMH apply to their supply chain practices from companies like H&M?

To @pperonto’s point above – i.e. the tension between consumer expectations and green fashion from LVMH – I am curious if LVMH can change the standard by using its incredible clout as a well-known luxury brand. Specifically, by tapping into a historically wealthier and more sustainably-minded younger population (wealthy, urban millennials, defined as ages 18-34) and eco-minded celebrities, LVMH has the ability to move the conversation on climate change in whichever direction they want it to. As a brand that clearly has a social conscience, In my mind, LVMH has the responsibility, and means, to set the tone and educate their consumers, and in turn influence other luxury houses.

On November 5, 2016, Anita Mehrotra commented on Let’s Go Fly a Kite – SkySails and Climate Change :

Skysails GmbH’s idea of using automated kites to tow large container ships is so cool! Clearly, one of the challenges it faces is public awareness of the issue at hand. Why do you think people are not as aware of the detrimental effects of shipping? I was shocked by the numbers (a 50 – 250% increase in CO2 is MASSIVE compared to the 2% from aviation!).

Based on our Ocean Carriers case, it seems like Skysails ships are not priced at an obscenely high price point. However, are there downsides to how long it takes the company to build these ships?

I am also curious about the timeline of development: clearly, climate change’s impact on the environment is happening at year over year rate – not decade over decade. Does this have an impact on Skysails GmbH’s operating model? Moreover, what challenges exist with having an increase in these kites, and are their environmental costs to creating the kites themselves?

On November 5, 2016, Anita Mehrotra commented on Climate Change and the fight against ISIS :

Man oh man, I’ve never considered the relationship between the empowerment of terrorist organizations and climate change, but after reading your post, it makes a lot of sense: historically, the ascension of extreme terror comes out of deep economic woes (e.g. Hitler and his promise to improve Germany’s devastated economy post-WWI).

Will the “interdisciplinary group [with] devote[d] talent and investment to technological advancement” that you proposed be focused on researching ways to e.g. increase water conservation? Or will they be focused on the “messaging” piece – identifying and communicating the “link between climate change and increased geopolitical risk?” What techniques do you think they will need to employ to incentivize people to conserve water and work towards sustainable agriculture practices?

I really enjoyed reading this article — the possibilities are chilling, and a terribly compelling case for why we must change our be more sustainably conscience.

On November 5, 2016, Anita Mehrotra commented on Putting Lipstick on a Planet :

I had no idea that L’oreal was improving its sustainability practices via a low-carbon sourcing model! I am curious about how much of an impact their work has been thus far: for example, you mention that L’oreal reduces its carbon footprint when the women of Burkina Faso, who harvest nuts for shea butter, improve their cook stoves. Is there a way to measure this? How large of an impact does a change in cookware have, relative to some of the suggestions you included in the end (e.g. getting rid of packaging all together)?

Loved the shout out that L’oreal is benefitting from using sustainable practices, thanks to millennials who care about corporate responsibility.