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Aurelie C. Thiele
Tenured university professor. Writer. MIT PhD.
Interests: Books, performing arts, mathematical models, operations research, painting, technology policy, innovation...
Recent Activity
Thank you for your comment! If Google thinks I'm interested in Grammarly, it is sadly mistaken. And those ads show up when I'm home (I don't watch videos from work (!)), so the only way it'd figure out I'm affiliated with a university would be because I sometimes have my email or the course management software (both sites ending in .edu) open in the same web browser. All that talk about artificial intelligence, and Google can't even tell it's been showing me the same ad I don't care about dozens and dozens of times. You're right that Grammarly may not be aware that its marketing budget is being used to show the same one ad to the same customers again and again. It must still represent a sizable amount of money and I'm impressed they found the cash given that they operate on a freemium business model. It's hard not to get the impression they are throwing money at advertising to generate a critical mass of users, and it's even worse if their money is being wasted on the same viewers, and viewers like me who don't even want Grammarly.
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And I also think Amazon should have a feature to rate deliveries, especially now that it has its own delivery services in some cities, so that there would be a way for it to know if a delivery man keeps delivering packages to wrong addresses, etc. But of course Amazon doesn't care, because it thinks the last mile is to deliver to the parcel locker. It's time to find for me to buy from Barnes & Noble again.
Toggle Commented Apr 26, 2017 on Parcel lockers and other things at Engineered
Thanks for the comment! It's very true that poverty and underfunding of education are closely connected in the American model of relying on property taxes to fund schools. I also like your point about the lack of role models a lot. When I studied in the French system, we laughed at the American passion for multi-choice quizzes in trying to measure everything. In France we were tested nationally twice: at the end of middle school and at the end of high school. And that was it. Also, our tests involved complex questions, which had to be graded by real people instead of machines. Those graders had to get paid. To have a good measurement system, you have to be willing to pay for it. My case was a bit unusual since I was in a Lycee Francais abroad, so I spent my whole elementary and secondary education there, but all French high schools are measured by their results at the baccalaureat at the end of high school. Students at the end of middle schools give their preference for the high school they want to attend but they are assigned to a specific local high school. The stakes are particularly high in Paris, where high schools can be of very high quality in one place and of poor quality close-by. Back in the days, I think the best students in Paris asked to learn Russian as first foreign language to be put in the good high schools that offered such classes. (I learned Russian because I was interested in it; again, I didn't have the same problem of risking to be put in a bad high school, since there was only one to choose from, but I remember having friends in Paris who had studied Russian for that reason.) I wonder how money for schools is allocated between each arrondissement in Paris. I'll have to research it!
Thanks for the recommendation! I'll definitely check out those movies. I was truly impressed by Kristen Stewart's performance in Cafe Society. She's one of the great.
It further shows that B&N is moving toward being a games, toys and children's bookstore, not a "regular" bookstore! I think it's a strategic mistake on their part. They don't do a good job of running the "regular" bookstore so they wrongly conclude it can't make money. Can't wait for to disrupt the playing field.
Toggle Commented May 20, 2016 on What Barnes & Noble is doing wrong at Engineered
Hi Imre, It's silly of them not to bring more people into the stores by letting them ship online to a local store (and pay the discounted online price.) I agree that B&N is in a downward spiral and not because of but because of its own incompetence. I wouldn't be surprised if it went into bankruptcy in the not too distant future - and then could snap some of the physical bookstores, and would surely find a way to revolutionize one more stage in the book business. There's nothing to be excited about at B&N anymore, although it had some good ideas at some point like the "Discover New Authors" program. Profit of $80m against revenue of $1.4bn, operating cash flow of -$31m (ttm or trailing twelve months) and profit margin of -0.22%. Whoever is running the show has some changes to make.
Toggle Commented May 20, 2016 on What Barnes & Noble is doing wrong at Engineered
Proof! I just got an email about making an appointment later today about the project in my course, from someone who had said she could not meet 11am-noon because she had class. See, when students are on their laptop during class, it could be that they are trying to work out some matter for another class. They're not necessarily on social media.
Hi Paul, I think it would work using students' responses alone. It would be difficult to coordinate wrong answers among students and students know it is in their interest to be truthful if they want to avoid a "little boy who cried wolf" kind of situation. The survey would also need to be restricted to students who log in using their university credentials and they wouldn't be allowed to take it more than once a week. -Aurelie
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2016 on Student Workload at Engineered
Good point, Paul! I was thinking about US leaders. Also, what shocked me with Richard III is his willingness to have his own kin murdered, including little children. People he knew. But you're totally right that the 20th century has had its share of evil. I'll have to modify my wording. Thanks for point it out!
Toggle Commented Dec 19, 2015 on Shakespeare in the workplace, Part 1 at Engineered
Good point, Paul! Not ending up make higher education (by forcing longer studies) more costly is definitely something to keep in mind. Since students already can take underclassman-level courses in community colleges and transfer them back, I feel those courses are common enough that this risk could be mitigated, but we'd have to make sure that additional schooling doesn't delay students' graduation. Thanks for commenting!
Thanks for your comment, Paul! Yes ideally the purpose of a BA is teaching you to think critically, and that of a BS too. But I'm not sure what students view a degree for these days. Just this afternoon I had a conversation with a student who is interested to go into consulting and has heard that consulting companies teach you everything you need to know "in one day or two" before you start, and so what is the point of classes, really? He didn't phrase it quite like that but it is a good question. I fear students will care less and less about coursework. As for low GPAs, in my experience at Lehigh they are due to students caring about their extracurricular activities more than their courses, but in a few cases it is also due to the student working part-time jobs to pay for college, and any explanation at Lehigh may not be true at another university. Unless there is an obvious way to identify undergrads who challenge themselves (for instance by taking a grad-level or 400-level course for credit), it is very hard to know what a low GPA stands for. But then it is also hard to know what a high GPA stands for, except that I remain convinced that you can't graduate with high or highest honors without putting some serious effort in your coursework. Of course that will only motivate grade inflation even more.
Hi Paul, I hope they're wrong, but I like the idea that the Compaq-HP deal made sense in some way at the time, even if that way was not in the HP shareholders' interest. I think it is too easy to dismiss the deal as completely dumb. Often we view things as dumb because we don't see them from the perspective of the person who has initiated them. As you say, even at the time you wondered how merging the two companies would be a good strategy. Something like securing board allegiance might be the missing element. As luck would have it, I interned at Compaq many years ago when I was in engineering school. That's the blue-collar internship I had (the one I mention in the post), back at their Glasgow plant. The Compaq folks were quite remarkable. I remember the plant as being on 12-hour shifts and the people on the floor had the opportunity to (ultimately) move up to white-collar jobs if they did well. I wonder what happened to those people I briefly worked with, almost 20 years ago.
Thanks so much, Elizabeth! Yes, you're absolutely right, we have to become better at using a mix of mediums. I think what is difficult is that everyone can type a text into a blog service such as Typepad, but taking good photos, recording a good-quality audio, or making a professional-looking video takes more training. It's a pity enhanced e-books, for instance, haven't captured more market share. I don't think it's because of general lack of interest from the public, though. (I think it's because most college students, toward whom many enhanced e-books are geared, really prefer the cheapest version that will allow them to pass the course. But there are so many more opportunities!) I'd love to read/hear the storytelling you come up with!
Hi Paul, thanks for your comment! I think a potential downside to innovation is that some people are so busy trying to create new things they don't try to take advantage of what other people have done and "simply" make it better. (Obviously things get complicated in case of patents, but patents only represent a fraction of innovation.) Transformational or breakthrough innovation has its place but incremental innovation is important too in some cases. I suspect people dislike incremental innovation because they feel like followers. It's tempting to want to be the head of the pack even if it's a pack of one.
Toggle Commented May 28, 2015 on Innovation at MIT at Engineered