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A few thoughts on some of the issues raised here:

Milkman and TCG on “real-time challenges”: you are right that keeping up with real-time updates would be challenging for a provider. My understanding is that updates tend to be batched during nap times and other downtimes — real-time updating is rarely achieved.

Gng and Ryan on if teachers are willing to put in the extra effort and what it will cost: my understanding is that daily updates are fairly standard in the industry, if not digitally then in paper form, so transitioning from paper to digital does not add extra burden as long as the application is easy to use. However, if a center is not providing daily updates jumping straight to digital might create additional costs as you suggest.

TCG on who is watching the kids: daycare centers must abide by minimum staff-to-child ratios as mandated by the state. For instance, in NY, a class of 12 1.5-3 yr olds would need to be supervised by 3 staff[1]. While I am not sure if this completely eliminates the risk of a staff member improperly supervising children, it certainly sounds better than a 12 on 1 scenario!


As someone who has close personal relationships (e.g. my spouse) with mental health clinicians, I found this post to be fascinating and informative. I want to add some context about what it looks like to seek/receive mental health counselling in the traditional in-person model to point out a few areas that Talk Space has not figured out.

In the US, clinicians are licensed state-by-state to practice. This creates a grey area for treating patients across state lines since it is unclear if a clinician sitting in their home in their licenced state is allowed to give virtual treatment across state lines. Furthermore, how does Talk Space deal with the aspect of liability? Clinicians need liability insurance to practice in case a high risk patient hurts or kills themselves and they get sued. To this point, clinicians usually use initial meetings to diagnose high risk patients and an on-going relationship to monitor for increasing risk factors that might signal a higher level of care (e.g. inpatient) is needed. Has Talk Space created channels for clinicians to recommend higher levels of care? Clinician guilt can run deep in the cases of patient suicide.[1] By anonymizing clients on Talk Space, I worry it could limit a clinicians ability to diagnose risky behaviors. Would it also limit clinician guilt if a patient injured or killed themselves, and if so, is that a good thing? Basically, I worry that Talk Space might provide a sub-standard level of care compared to traditional face-to-face therapy.

When looking at the chart of increase in mental health episodes in youth, do you think perhaps de-stigmatization and a greater willingness to openly acknowledge one’s struggles might play a role in the trend? I personally feel that as a society we should focus on removing the stigma associated with admitting our mental health issues and the fact that we are seeking mental health counselling. For instance, I find it encouraging that the Mayor of Boston openly admits to his previous need for treatment for alcoholism.[2] While I love the idea of cutting costs for those who need therapy and enabling remote patients to get the treatment they need, I question the embrace of anonymous therapy. To me it seems like it will deliver substandard care while validating the patients stigmatization, both of which are not beneficial.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/16/science/patient-suicide-brings-therapists-lasting-pain.html
[2] https://www.thefix.com/content/boston-mayor-spills-beans

This was a very thoughtful post. I am impressed by how many types of technology you touched upon in such a concise manner — kudos!

I am curious about your thoughts on ranking the technologies you mentioned in terms of ease of implementation and ROI? I ask because given the myriad options available to Excelon and constraints on capital and IT personnel, I would imagine Excelon will need to prioritize its digitization efforts. I like the idea of drone inspections for transmission, but I worry that the regulatory approval and subsequent rate setting process for investing in this technology will slow its adaptation. To me, it seems that technologies that have clear value propositions for merchant generation assets will be the easiest to adopt. Of the technologies you mention, the eWPs and their boost to employee productivity seem like some of the lowest hanging fruit. What do you think?

“Humans like competing.” Yes. And people love watching it.

Many of us, who like you, have been uprooted from their hometeam’s geographic market feel that sports have not figured out to perfectly satisfy the on-demand economy. As you mention the commercials on internet broadcasts are not well targeted, and sometimes there are no advertisements at all, just a blue screen that says “we will be right back” between plays/innings. My question for you is who is feeling the pain of this inefficiency? It is certainly not Major League Baseball, whose revenues have increased every year for 13 straight years[1]. Is digitization creating value for the league in such a linear fashion? Or, perhaps, some unwitting actor is actually suffering somewhere else in the value chain.

[1] http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/mlb-s-gross-revenue-increases-for-13th-straight-year–nears–9-5-billion-051036114.html

On November 20, 2016, JFW commented on Rent the Runway Digitizes High-Fashion :

This post is spot on. Speaking of spots, I just learned a ton about stain removal! Thanks. I would never have imagined it was the bottleneck in the fulfillment process.

I thought it might be worth touching upon RTR’s just-in-time logistics. When renting for a specific event, let’s say a Saturday wedding, the standard 4-day rental arrives on Thursday afternoon so it can be tried on to make sure it fits. If it doesn’t, send it back and RTR rush-delivers a new dress to you either Friday evening or Saturday morning in extreme cases. Wear the dress to the event on Saturday before putting it in a dropbox on Sunday. $50 late fee if you keep it an extra day. From my perspective, RTR has minimized the time a dress is in the hands of the costumer and by that same token, they have maximized dress utilization (excluding the aforementioned cleaning and processing times).

In terms of what they can do going forward, I agree that more brick-and-mortar stores could be beneficial. Specifically, trying on the dresses beforehand would guarantee that the it fits as expected, eliminating the need for costly rush replacements. However, if they went in this direction, what would that imply about the digital aspect of the business model? Can the app-based, on-demand business model work without physical stores?

On November 19, 2016, JFW commented on Digitization in Video Games: Taking Advantage of Gamers :

As a gamer I was delighted to read this post. I vividly remember the original bug-riddled Halo 2 gameplay on Xbox that spurred the developer to release a downloadable software patch shortly after the game came out. My view of the software patch was positive since the original gameplay was sufficiently good to keep me from quitting the game.

When used appropriately, I think software updates can add value to both players and developers. As developers test games before release they are limited by the relatively small samples of gameplay generated by alpha and beta tests. What better way to flush out the last remaining bugs than releasing the game to the public? As long as the game is far enough down the product development funnel the amount of existing bugs should be small and releasing a “good enough” product with the promise of an update can get the game into the hands of players sooner.

I think your example illustrates what happens when developers push the limits of what is acceptable to the consumer. I wonder if there are controls to prevent releases like this from becoming the norm. For instance, is it reasonable to expect that consumers will punish Hello Games in the future by buying fewer copies of their new titles? Additionally, gaming platforms (Xbox, Playstation, etc) employ compliance testing checklists that are supposed to prevent flawed products from reaching consumers.[1] Do you think these checklists can be strengthened to prevent underdeveloped games from being released in the future?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_testing#Methodology

On November 7, 2016, JFW commented on Disruption in the Oil & Gas Industry :

Great post and comments!

I think Devi points out some really interesting issues about traditional O&G companies trying to pivot into renewables. At face value it seems like a reasonable thing to do given the likelihood of increasing regulation. One question I have is do you think they are coming to the renewables party late? Given that global oil demand has continued its seemingly unstoppable growth even through today, I would argue they are just in time.[1]

[1] https://www.iea.org/oilmarketreport/omrpublic/

On November 7, 2016, JFW commented on Coal blows an ill wind :

This is a really interesting topic, thank you for posting!

Coal mines in the US have been declining in recent years and coal-fired power plants have similarly declined due to cheap natural gas from shale extraction flooding the market.[1][2] Given that coal is one of the most carbon intensive fuels I am inclined to think this is welcomed news.[3] When we add in your point about divestment, do we think that markets and the private sector will act in combination to kill coal? While I share your concern about stifling the growth of Asian nations by depriving them of cheap power, I think cleaner new technologies can match coal on price and should fuel the future of developing nations.

[1] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161007105548.htm
[2] http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Cheap-Natural-Gas-To-Spark-Another-Wave-Of-Coal-Plant-Retirements.html
[3] https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=73&t=11

This is a subject that is close to my heart since I lived in Boston during the 2014-2015 winter and witnessed the madness that was Boston back then. I snowshoed into the office at the heart of the financial district twice that winter! I lived on the Red Line, where rush hour trains came every 10 minutes at best (compared to the 3 minute frequency that they typically run at). People would just give up and leave the station. Uber surged for over a month straight.

Along the lines of what Reilly said, I was curious how if you thought the MBTA plan was sufficient to meet the challenges it faces? I wrote about the MTA’s (New York’s public transit authority) adaptation to sea level rise and concluded that they their adaptation plan is fundamentally flawed due to a lack of central planning by city, state, and federal authorities. Is investing in pumps and station barriers enough to keep the seas out when the Atlantic Ocean starts (continues) rising and what is the appropriate time frame to address the more fundamental issues facing the MBTA?

Thank you for posting this! go sox

On November 7, 2016, JFW commented on Munich Re – mitigating risk in an uncertain climate :

Thank you for sharing. Like the above posters, I also think this is an interesting topic.

I was curious first and foremost about how Munich Re will take a principal position given the uncertainty that exists in modeling changes in hurricane frequency.[1] Should they trust their own propriety models or try to disentangle the scientific literature that exists on the topic?

Also, I was wondering whether the strategy of refusing to underwrite carbon intense technologies will have an effect beyond better aligning their mission statement with their actions? Would you draw a distinction between a coal extraction operation vs. a natural gas exploration, where natural gas is much less carbon intense than coal?[2] Given that our society will continue to be powered by fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, I am wondering if blanket rejection of carbon-based technology is a feasible path forward.

[1] https://www.wunderground.com/climate/hurricanes-and-climate-change

[2] https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=73&t=11

I find the oil & gas sector’s response to climate change to be fascinating, so thank you for sharing this. Have you thought about where Hess’ response to climate change lies relative to other major players in the industry? For instance, take BP, who has invested major capital into renewable energy generation in the form of wind power.[1] Then compare that the actions of ExxonMobile, who are suspected of funneling millions of dollar into groups that publicly promote climate change denial.[2] Would you recommend that oil & gas companies like Hess diversify their investments into renewables? Low carbon energy supply is one of the levers noted in the McKinsey report you cited…

Also, you mention CEO John Hess making statements that seem to take a progressive view of on climate change by supporitng vehicle fuel efficiecy — do you think the Hess organization as a whole supports a progressive view on climate change? I wonder what sort of cultural shifts are needed to implement climate change mitigation strategies. Can it be done from the bottom up or does it need to be top down? Obviously 800 words is not enough to answer all of these questions, but I wanted to share some of the thoughts I had when reading your post.


[1] http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/sustainability/the-energy-challenge-and-climate-change/energy-outlook.html

[2] https://insideclimatenews.org/news/29102015/senators-press-Exxon-answers-funding-climate-denial-donors-trust-sheldon-whitehouse-elizabeth-warren