Teaching game, power of reviews, numbers rock

Complied by Barry List

The INFORMS archive of podcasts continues to offer provocative conversation with leading O.R. practitioners and thinkers. It includes recent interviews with journalist Kevin Maney on forecasting and the human brain and Texas A&M’s Gary Gaukler on interdicting smuggled nuclear material. Visit www.scienceofbetter.org and www.informs.org to download the latest selections.

Remember to share your news-making research with the INFORMS Communications Department. Contact INFORMS Communications Director Barry List at barry.list@informs.org or 1-800-4INFORMs.

And now, O.R. in the news:

Using FarmVille to Teach O.R.

“We’ve heard of Zynga’s iconic game teaching valuable lessons in addiction, design and even copyright law, but engineering? That’s what Missouri University of Science and Technology professor Ivan G. Guardiola thinks FarmVille is capable of. Guardiola’s 28 students enrolled in the Introduction to Operations Research course must play the game for one week. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

“The unique attributes of this game make it ideal for presenting the students with a problem that evolves, aims to define the student’s decision-making rationale and allows the student to address conflicting and competing objectives in an environment of continuous change,” Guardiola said in a release.

- Games Blog, Nov. 1

Online Shoppers Rely on Reviewers

“In their paper ‘Deriving the pricing power of product features by mining consumer reviews,’ published in Management Science, Anindya Ghose and Panagiotis Ipeirotis, associate professors in Stern’s department of information, operations and management sciences, and Nikolay Archak a doctoral student, aim to estimate the ‘economic impact of user-generated product reviews by identifying the weight that consumers put on individual evaluations and product features and estimating the overall impact of review text on sales.’ ”

- Financial Times, Oct. 28

How Numbers Rock Our World

“ ‘Online ticket sales for companies like Ryanair are also governed by numbers,’ says Nolan. For non-mathematicians, it’s easier to think Michael O’Leary is watching our flight-browsing habits and waiting for that indecisive moment where we choose to re-examine our decision later, only to find he has doubled the price while our backs are turned.

“In fact there are mathematical programmes choosing flight costs. ‘Operations research is used a lot in online airline sales and draws on several areas of maths – principally probability and statistics, graph theory and linear algebra,’ says Nolan.”

- Irish Times, Oct. 13

Intelligence Mined from Big Data

“In the past, IT worked primarily with finance to run reports, which were often used to justify decisions leaders had already made. That will change with Big Data, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and a renown researcher on IT’s impact on productivity. The McKinsey Quarterly interviewed Brynjolfsson, along with two other Big Data experts, for a second article focused on creating a game plan for Big Data.

“ ‘… historically, that kind of data was used more to confirm and support decisions that had already been made, rather than to learn new things and to discover the right answer,’ Brynjolfsson told McKinsey. ‘The cultural change is for managers to be willing to say, ‘You know, that’s an interesting problem, an interesting question. Let’s set up an experiment to discover the answer.’ ”

- IT Business Edge, Oct. 13

O.R. Professor Fred Murphy Wins Philly Redistricting Contest

“Looking at a map of Philadelphia’s councilmanic districts, it’s easy to differentiate scribbled gerrymander from contiguous boundaries. But the Philadelphia City Council has called for a resolution to confront its heavily gerrymandered districts, asking for an ‘open and transparent process and opportunity for public engagement and input,’ at its June 16 meeting.

“Dr. Fred Murphy, professor of management science and operations research at the Fox School of Business, teamed up with four other collaborators from neighboring universities to enter a contest that called for the public to create their own versions of how the city’s district boundaries should be redrawn.”

- Temple News, Sept. 19

Less Web Tracking Means Less Effective Ads, Says ManSci Study

“No wonder Internet companies are so anxious about stricter privacy rules.

Research by Catherine Tucker, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, has found that European Union regulations that limit the tracking of Internet users were associated with a 65 percent drop in the effectiveness of online marketing. In other words, if Internet companies cannot track what you do online, they find it harder to pitch you stuff that you may be persuaded to buy...

“The impact was not equally felt across all Web sites, according to the research she did with Avi Goldfarb of the University of Toronto, which was published earlier this year in the journal Management Science.”

- New York Times, Sept. 15

Data Analytics: Crunching the Future

“New analytics technology is predicting behavior – and building businesses.”

- BusinessWeek, Sept. 8

Recalling 9/11 with an O.R. Aviation Expert

“The National Science Foundation’s video interview with Sheldon H. Jacobson of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.”

- NSF, Sept. 8

Barry List (barry.list@informs.org) is the director of communications for INFORMS.