A judicial whodunnit: Shedding light on unsigned opinions — Andrew Lo

MIT Sloan Professor Andrew Lo

From WBUR Cognoscenti

Within legal circles, the mystery of “Whodunnit?” has increasingly become “Who wrote it?” as courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, keep issuing opinions without divulging who actually authored them. Since 2005, for example, the Roberts Court has disposed of at least 65 cases through unsigned per curiam opinions. Many cases also came with unsigned concurring or dissenting opinions.

We place a high value on transparency in our democracy, and that should certainly apply to Supreme Court justices, who, after all, are already protected by lifetime tenure. Obscuring authorship removes the sense of judicial accountability, making it harder for experts and the public alike to understand how important issues were resolved and the reasoning that led to these decisions, especially in controversial cases. We’ve all heard the charge that judges are legislating from the bench — but assessing that claim requires, at the least, the ability to link opinions to individual decision makers.

Read More »

Facebook IPO and beyond: Catherine Tucker sees rich new revenue source in social advertising

MIT Sloan Assoc. Prof. Catherine Tucker

Much of the attention on Facebook’s initial public offering this week has been on whether the social networking giant is valued too highly. But whatever its current worth, Facebook has a potentially huge new source of revenue coming its way from “social advertising.” According to a new research paper I’ve just published, Facebook itself is only just beginning to realize the untapped potential of social advertising, in which marketers use online social relationships to improve ad targeting using data on Facebook users’ friend networks.

Read More »

How to improve products? Survey consumers with "active machine learning"

MIT Sloan Prof. John Hauser

When you buy a house, it would be irrational to search every possible house on the market. Instead, you narrow down your choices based on things like price, location, and number of bedrooms. The same thing happens when you buy a car. You might only look at sporty coupes or hybrid vehicles. Everyone has their own individual methods – or heuristic decision rules — for screening products, usually based on the item’s key features.

This presents a significant question for companies:  How do you determine what these decision rules are? Managers are increasingly interested in this topic as companies focus product development and marketing efforts to get consumers to consider their products or prevent them from rejecting the products without evaluation. If they better understood consumers’ heuristic decision rules, they could use this information in the design and marketing of new products.

Read More »