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On November 20, 2016, Elise commented on “Google Preferred”: from Cat Videos to Premium Content :

This is really interesting, Jose– I did not know about Google Preferred either but the business model makes complete sense.

I like the Preferred model because it is harnesses the power of the free market. Consumers act as a pull for producers to create more premium content of a certain genre (let’s use fashion blogs as an example). Through Google’s analytics, fashion bloggers can respond to exactly what the market wants in the quantity that it wants it– 100k views on lipstick color or 1M views on shoe choice? For the digitization it enabled, Google is rewarded through higher or lower ad revenues. Ultimately, this system is beneficial for all as consumers get exactly what they want (demand fulfillment), real-time, transparent feedback through views and comments lets the fashion bloggers know how much and what to produce (no wasted inventory, little bullwhip effect), and Google charges advertisers fair value for a given customer base (value capture).

I think you bring up a good point here, Catherine– we have a long way to go for drones to be socially acceptable or under regulatory control– but I think this also presents an opportunity for the American Red Cross.

As drone prices have dropped, the question now is “what can we use them for?” The answers are almost unlimited, but there has yet to be drone integration into everyday business operations that is truly groundbreaking. If the American Red Cross takes the results of the Measure study and uses the existing FAA 333 Exemption and Part 107 Rule to build out initial uses for drones in its operations, it is poised to throttle these operations into full gear when more complete FAA regulations are released. Commercial drone use in disaster aid could become a crowded space quickly but the American Red Cross can claim first mover advantage if they take the right investment steps now.

More broadly, I think this post highlights the challenge of regulation on digitization– could the American Red Cross already be saving more lives and providing more aid with drones if the FAA wasn’t standing in the way? Yes, the FAA’s regulations will likely provide some protections to Americans from unscrupulous drone use, but the FAA’s current inability to pass these regulations is stifling the market drone technology creates. Digitization is a huge positive for society, but it can only create positive outcomes if it is not unduly hampered by government intervention.

On November 20, 2016, Elise commented on Turn In Your Phone, and Tune In to Life :

HCL, love this! I am increasingly disappointed by how “tuned out” so many of us are in everyday life or how we watch some of life’s greatest moments through a camera lens rather than through our own eyes.

In some respects, Yondr is a reaction to what digitization has done to our human experience. As I walked to Harvard Square past the Kennedy School bus stop last week, I couldn’t help but note that all 8 riders were in exactly the same position: head down, left hand in jacket pocket, right hand cradling a phone, thumb scrolling in the familiar up-and-down pattern. 5 were wearing headphones. Now granted, a bus stop is not necessarily where you are going to strike up a deep conversation and meet your best friend, but to those 8 riders, it was as if no one else existed in the world. I thought to myself “what the iPhone really did for society.”

Consumer digitization gives us access to innumerable useful features (how did we go anywhere before there was a blue dot and a blue path that told us where to turn?), but it has also limited human interaction. Although I think your assessment is likely correct that Yondr will not be around for long, I avidly support their efforts to force us to enjoy the moment, with additional benefits for the comedians, artists, teachers, and restauranteurs who need a focused audience. However ultimately, reducing digitization’s negative impacts on our community lives will not come from the next tech gadget, but instead from ourselves and a personal commitment to enjoy the people we are with when we are with them. Life is ultimately a human experience, let’s let digitization empower that, not get in the way of it.

I enjoyed reading your post, Captain Koloth, and it is an interesting extension of the climate change conversations in our last TOM challenge. I would like to open up two questions around operating and capital funding that I think are important as we think about putting digitization upgrades into practice.

1) BYODevice is an increasingly popular method of operation among many businesses (e.g. consulting firms, oilfield services, Fortune 500), but questions often arise around the cost. Employees do not want to use personal funds to pay for the device or monthly data plans from personal expenditure if it is required for their job. Employers, on the other hand, sometimes want to use BYOD as a way to offset their operating costs. How is Exelon addressing this challenge and are there learnings that can be applied to other power companies or industries?

2) The capital investment required to go digital can be very significant. How does Exelon think about the long-term vs short-term tradeoffs of investing in digitization for 40+ year old facilities? While I applaud Exelon’s efforts to stay ahead of the technology curve, I wonder if it is a good use of investor funds to invest (for example) $100 on old technology that will have to be replaced in 10 years vs investing $200 in new technology with a 30 year useful life. This is a question I’m sure we can also find in other industries so perhaps key learnings could be applied to Exelon as well.

On November 20, 2016, Elise commented on I Like Baseball: How The Internet Is Changing a Thing I Like :

Interesting post, Ben, I hadn’t before thought about how media distribution methods impacts our interaction with pro sports.

A question that comes to mind when reading your post is audience. When games were followed locally, on the radio, or broadcast on TV, it was easy for a non-baseball fan to become a fan by stumbling across free coverage of the game. But, if broadcast goes more online behind a pay-wall, many potential viewers will not access the content because they don’t know if it will be worth their $17.50. I’m sure there will still be some free broadcast of games on radio and TV going forward, but do you have a proposal for how to attract a larger audience for baseball in the digital realm? As “America’s pastime,” it feels important that the next generation is equally exposed to baseball as past generations.

On November 6, 2016, Elise McDonald commented on Are Cows the New SUV? :

This is an interesting topic, Ameg, and Roberto, I appreciate your humanitarian/ethically-focused response.

There is a question here that I’m not sure we have addressed: more and more people are now health-conscious and do not want to eat processed foods, the trend is to go organic. Meat substitutes is a great idea, but they are, by definition, processed foods. How do we solve both the consumer demand for healthy, natural options and the need to reduce carbon emissions from our primary food sources?

I believe the answer probably lies in changing cows’ diets and using methane digesters, as suggested above, because these are harm-free ways to counter environmental contributions while providing the healthy food products consumers demand.

This is an interesting post, CaptainKoloth, for it hints at an underlying issue of climate change: you have to be able to make the economics work.

BNSF expanded its role in crude by rail to the Bakken and other shale/oil deposits in the northwest largely due to the economic value they could realize. The Keystone Pipeline was stuck in federal regulatory debate, but oil producers had crude to move to refineries on the gulf coast. With transportation demand significantly greater than supply, there was a large opportunity for BNSF to profit from transporting crude oil. You suggest that BNSF shift its transported goods away from oil and towards other commodities, but there is significantly more competition in the commodities transportation space, thus putting pressure on BNSF’s bottom line. It is nice to think that BNSF would shift away from crude oil transport, but the economics of it make this strategy unlikely.

A more realistic solution, perhaps, is that BNSF double down on its efforts to transport the crude in an environmentally friendly way, as you suggest. BNSF’s investment in fuel-efficient or LNG locomotives is a start. Additionally, just by increasing its volume shipped, BNSF could positively impact the environment as shipping by rail is 4x more fuel efficient than shipping by truck [1]. A B2B PR campaign and salesforce messaging, paired with capacity increases, would allow BNSF to positively contribute to minimizing shipping’s impact on the climate.

[1] Rocky Mountain Institute, “Fuel Savings Potential Trucks vs Rail Intermodal,” http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-Fuel_savings_potential_trucks_rail_intermodal

Captain Koloth, I agree with many of your thoughts, particularly those about offensively fighting climate change not being in the DOD’s core strengths or stated mission. That said, I do think HCL has an important point around the DOD needing to play a significant role in the climate change discussion.

As the largest employer on earth, the US Military is in a unique position to train millions of people how to lead a lifestyle and that minimizes environmental impact. From choosing products that are sustainably produced to using fuel-efficient vehicles, the DOD is indoctrinating a mindset of sustainability into its people. If these people each apply these sustainability tactics in their own lives, and potentially share their views with others personally, there is a chance the DOD starts a domino effect that meaningfully impacts daily consumer decisions that create climate side effects. Subsequently, these DOD employees will likely go work in other American corporations that they can also positively influence to make sustainable choices. Ideally, a similar domino effect ensues.

From a global perspective, the US Military is involved in training missions across the globe. If sustainable practices become part of the DOD ethos, they will become a natural part of these training missions, allowing the DOD’s sustainability mindset to expand globally.

On November 6, 2016, Elise McDonald commented on Procter’s Environmental Gamble :

Stephen, I really enjoyed reading this post for the implicit question you raise: do corporations “do the right thing” simply because it is the right thing, or do they do it to not become a target of activists?

As consumers, we may make seemingly irrational decisions because the irrationality aligns with our personal views. For example, we might donate to a local charity because we believe that helping those less fortunate is the right thing to do, despite being able to spend the money on ourselves or invest it to grow in a savings account. As consumers, we do not have to justify these seemingly irrational actions.

Corporations, on the other hand, do have to justify “irrational” actions such as spending more on production to limit environmental impact. The tension arises because corporations are meant to generate profit for shareholders and costs for the climate’s sake cut into these profits.

Thus the question: Should corporations be seen more as individuals that “do the right thing” simply because it is the right thing? Or are corporations exempt from such expectations given their profit-based purpose? Corporations are between a rock and a hard place on this issue because they can suffer significant PR headwinds if they do not seek sustainability, but they may also have a harder time attracting capital if returns are insufficient for investors.

On November 6, 2016, Elise McDonald commented on Water Water Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink :

Interesting post, Ali– I had not before considered climate change’s impact on water.

In your post you primarily focus on what industrial corporations will do to decrease their water consumption in order to ensure all have access to potable fluids. But, I cannot help but think of the agricultural responsibility involved as well.

According to the World Water Council, agriculture is the largest consumer of water by a long shot when compared to industry and municipalities (everyday citizens). Thus, agriculture must be part of, if not the leader in, the world’s water solution. Perhaps agriculture contributes through innovation in genetically modified or biome-treated seeds that can flourish on less water or through designing new sprinkler systems that deliver water to plants with less evaporation. Major industry water users do need to remain in the equation, but agriculture’s role in water usage solutions should be significant as well.

(Original World Water Council article can be found here: http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/fileadmin/wwc/Library/WWVision/Chapter2.pdf, page 8)