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On November 20, 2016, Zach commented on The New York Times in the digitalization era :

Cool post! I just want to draw your attention to an article about The Washington Post, one of the NYTimes’ greatest competitors:

The article explains how the Washington Post has surpassed the NYTimes in online readership in part because it has more effectively embraced a digital content strategy. By introducing A/B testing, leveraging video, and embracing social media, the Post is understanding the way people consume content online and they are serving that customer. If the NYTimes is going to continue to be relevant, they will need to double-down on the work they’ve already done and think bigger about what it means to be a news organization in the 21st century.

On November 20, 2016, Zach commented on Boeing: Using Digital to Address Complexity :

Carl – thanks for this compelling entry to your ongoing series about Boeing!

I’m particularly curious about the work that they are doing to build out an augmented reality system as a teaching aid for complex processes. This seems like an extremely high level of investment for something that only a few people will ever need to do – I understand that the training of workers is crucial to the success of the operation, but do you have confidence that an AR system is the correct approach to solving this issue? Do you believe that this effort would exist if it weren’t being funded by the taxpayers?

Maybe this is just one use-case of a scalable AR platform and they are using Boeing as a mechanism to prove the concept before they build out trainings for more common manufacturing tasks, but I’m skeptical overall. Do you share my skepticism?

I love this post and I’m really excited about the future of technology to the enhancement of education. I think the point you touch on at the end of the post is the most crucial – how do we use technology to create a personalized learning experience? We know that all students learn differently, we know that the model of public education up until now has been to standardize everything (and it hasn’t worked well for everyone). Technology has the unique ability to identify a student’s weaknesses at a very granular level and provide enrichment targeted to particular skill sets or concepts. Using this approach, fact-based education can be automated (while values or critical-thought based education will still require the intervention of skilled professionals). Looking forward to seeing how everything shapes up in the next 100 years!

On November 20, 2016, Zach commented on Connecting Waste :

Wow! I had no idea these systems were so sophisticated – I was under the assumption that they were simply operating as compactors, I didn’t realize that the data could be used to improve the efficiency of the pick-up effort as well. Is it still the responsibility of the municipality or organization to empty the bins? I wonder if they could introduce another revenue opportunity by assuming that responsibility as a subscription based service – that would be problematic for government employees/unions, but it would likely be more cost-effective for the customer in the longer-term. I also wonder how smart the sensors in the cans are – can they identify any information about the waste itself? That would be super interesting data to have.

Cool post Manuel – I think there is a recognition within Amazon that the physical book is not quite a thing of the past. This is mostly attributable to the differentiated experience (as pointed out by Carl above) and the preferences that some customers have for the feel of paper books. However, as Amazon expands its physical bookstore presence ( it’s hard for me to imagine Barnes and Noble continuing to be a key player in the space long term. They can’t compete on price, they can’t compete on digital offerings, they can’t compete on brand recognition. They might be able to retain customer loyalty through a vastly superior physical retail experience, but I’m doubtful. Their best bet is to continue investing in some kind of heretofore unseen innovation or they seem likely to go the way of Blockbuster.

On November 7, 2016, Zach commented on VIPshop: Combat climate change in China e-commerce :

Derek – cool post. I think you bring up a super interesting point about seasonality and especially volumes during black Friday. In the short run it doesn’t really seem intuitive that a company would prepare such a massive infrastructure investment (and every environmental impact that goes along with it) to succeed on only one day of the year (black Friday). However, I would challenge that since e-commerce is still in its infancy, preparing for the proverbial ‘black Friday’ allows the company to think differently about scale in preparing for a long term future. As an example, Amazon’s Q1 2016 was bigger than every other quarter in its history other than Q4 2015 – this means it was bigger than Q4 2014. Building those massive warehouses wasn’t just about buffers – it was about recognition that in the very near future, due to the exceptional growth of e-commerce, those buffers might not feel so wasteful!

Wow – I had no idea that Allstate stopped writing homeowners policies in California and Florida – have any other insurance companies followed suit? I wonder if this has had an impact on the real-estate markets in those areas. I’m also very impressed by the idea of ‘Milewise’, though I assume that the primary motivator behind the introduction of this product was not its impact on the environment, it makes me wonder what kind of other products can be introduced which incentivize behaviors that are ultimately beneficial for energy consumption or environmental impact.

On November 7, 2016, Zach commented on Sweet Sustainability Efforts :

Did not see this post when I started replying, but awesome that we highlighted a similar takeaway!

On November 7, 2016, Zach commented on Sweet Sustainability Efforts :

Interesting that Barry Callebaut is working with the WCF on strategies to help the industry adapt. Is this a model for other industries that are struggling with similar challenges? What is the nature of this partnership? Are they contributing money towards research? Are they just sharing best practices? It sounds like involvement with this organization is a major part of their strategy so I’m just curious how such an industry-specific venture can be replicated by other companies to drive larger-scale impact as companies work to address climate change.

On November 7, 2016, Zach commented on Can Heinz Catch Up to Climate Change? :

In your post you mention that tomatoes “require a relatively large volume of water for their size to ensure optimal growth” – I know this is the case for other crops like almonds as well. It’s great that Heinz has been able to do so much with genetic modification, drip irrigation, and other techniques, but is there a burden on the modern consumer to think about which crops are more difficult to produce and factor that into purchasing considerations? Tomatoes are not necessary for human life – if our increasingly limited water resources can be used on more water efficient crops, shouldn’t consumers be educated in order to influence demand? Don’t get me wrong, I love ketchup as much as the next guy, but given the difficult trade-offs society will need to make in the coming years, I wonder if there isn’t room in the discussion for prioritization based on natural cost – not just consumer demand.

Also, I loved your subtle use of the word ‘squeeze’ – nice job.

On November 7, 2016, Zach commented on Amazon Web Services: Greenhouse Gases in the Cloud :

Alex – awesome deep dive into one of my favorite companies! I knew that Amazon had invested heavily in wind but I was unaware that the company was buying their own wind farms – I had assumed they were purchasing renewable energy credits. I’m curious about your thoughts on AWS as a segment in contrast to the environmental impact of the company as a whole. Is it enough if Amazon invests in renewable energy for its data centers while still directly or indirectly contributing to massive environmental impact from its other core business (i.e. deliveries, building fulfillment centers, cardboard boxes, etc.). In addition, given the scale of ambition of the company, do you think it’s ok to launch new products and processes (like AWS) and only retroactively think about the environmental implications? What can a company like Amazon do to ensure that environmental output is a core consideration in the initiation or scaling up of new businesses?