The Other FO You Need to Know: FOBO — Fear of a Better Option

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New York Times Smarter Living columnist Tim Herrera has spent his career writing about the intersection of tech and culture. Tim speaks about the evolution of FOMO, FOBO, and our collective search for a cure.

The views expressed on this podcast are those of its hosts, guests, and callers, and not those of Harvard Business Review.

Money Out of Nowhere: How Internet Marketplaces Unlock Economic Wealth

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(*) Benchmark is/was an investor in companies labeled with the asterisk.

In 1776, Adam Smith released his magnum opus, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, in which he outlined his fundamental economic theories. Front and center in the book — in fact in Book 1, Chapter 1 — is his realization of the productivity improvements made possible through the “Division of Labour”:

It is the great multiplication of the production of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people. Every workman has a great quantity of his own work to dispose of beyond what he himself has occasion for; and every other workman being exactly in the same situation, he is enabled to exchange a great quantity of his own goods for a great quantity, or, what comes to the same thing, for the price of a great quantity of theirs. He supplies them abundantly with what they have occasion for, and they accommodate him as amply with what he has occasion for, and a general plenty diffuses itself through all the different ranks of society.

Smith identified that when men and women specialize their skills, and also importantly “trade” with one another, the end result is a rise in productivity and standard of living for everyone. In 1817, David Ricardo published On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation where he expanded upon Smith’s work in developing the theory of Comparative Advantage. What Ricardo proved mathematically, is that if one country has simply a comparative advantage (not even an absolute one), it still is in everyone’s best interest to embrace specialization and free trade. In the end, everyone ends up in a better place.

There are two key requirements for these mechanisms to take force. First and foremost, you need free and open trade. It is quite bizarre to see modern day politicians throw caution to the wind and ignore these fundamental tenants of economic science. Time and time again, the fact patterns show that when countries open borders and freely trade, the end result is increased economic prosperity. The second, and less discussed, requirement is for the two parties that should trade to be aware of one another’s goods or services. Unfortunately, either information asymmetry or physical distances and the resulting distribution costs can both cut against the economic advantages that would otherwise arise for all.

Fortunately, the rise of the Internet, and specifically Internet marketplace models, act as accelerants to the productivity benefits of the division of labour AND comparative advantage by reducing information asymmetry and increasing the

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Nostalgia Internet doesn’t really matter

This post is by Om Malik from On my Om

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Nostalgia has come to the Internet, and it is too little, too late. Nostalgia is not what defines the future. Sub-10 year-olds won’t give a damn about the nostalgia-Internet. Unfortunately, that is why we see incumbents always miss the generational drift. Sure, I might use analog film, write with fountain pens and listen to long play records, but it doesn’t matter to the young ones in my family. They know what they are doing, even though still in early teens. And when my goddaughters grow up in a few years, they will be fully equipped to deal with information overload, influencer dichotomy and would be able to discern fake news. For them, it will be something new, something different. Just like it was for us. Another way to read this story — a certain cohort of Internet people including myself are getting old  (Photo by RawPixel via Unsplash)

China’s Great Cannon

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It is an astonishing story about how China is playing a villainous role in the non-Chinese Internet.  The writers point to a new tool called the Great Cannon and how it helped “channeling the flow of data out of China” and “selectively insert malicious JavaScript code into search queries and advertisements served by Baidu, a popular Chinese search engine.”  It is an excerpt from James Griffiths’s new book The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet

Competing in the Huge Digital Economies of China and India

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The global digital economy crossed an important milestone recently: the number of internet users in two countries — China, with just over 800 million users, and India, with 500 million users  – surpassed the aggregate number of internet users across 37 OECD countries combined. In both countries, users spend more time on the internet than the worldwide average of 5.9 hours per day. They also have room to grow; China has just under 60% of its population online, while India, with one of the lowest rates of internet penetration in the world, has under 25% of its population online.

While it’s tempting to group China and India together as a block of emerging digital markets, they offer several important distinctions, especially for international entities and countries looking to invest. In our Digital Evolution Index (DEI), we place them in the “digital south” which means the full

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The Tightrope Google Has to Walk in China

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HBR Staff

With over 1.3 billion people, the Chinese consumer market is a tempting target for Western technology companies. Of course, it’s also a risky place to do business. The recent news that Google is considering a re-entry into China further highlights a troubling balancing act faced by technology companies looking to do business there. The company last entered China in 2006 with a censored search engine, but pulled the plug on the operation four years later after it discovered that human-rights activists’ Gmail accounts had been hacked. While the economic opportunity in re-entering China could be massive for the firm, there are very real dangers for Google or any internet firm in underestimating the threat posed by Chinese meddling.

Any internet platform company doing business in China has to negotiate a major business and ethical dilemma: The Chinese government enforces overbearing regulations that censor speech in the name

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The Virtual Work Skills You Need — Even If You Never Work Remotely

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Maintaining strong, productive relationships with clients and co-workers can be challenging when you never see the person you’re working with. Yet, it is common to have ongoing work relationships – sometimes lasting years — with people you’ve never met in person.

We often think of “virtual work” as working with someone located outside an office, or in another city or country. This type of work is on the rise: a 2017 Gallup report found 43% of American employees work remotely; in another survey, 48% of respondents reported that a majority of their virtual teamwork involved members from other cultures.

However, virtual work also encompasses how we are turning to technology to conduct business with nearby colleagues, sometimes within the same building or campus. At a large consumer-products firm where we’ve been conducting research, an HR director recounted the changes she witnessed in employees located in two

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How to Use Facebook’s Settings to Have More-Productive Conversations

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HBR Staff

The past year has served as a wake-up call for many Facebook users. Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony and the advent of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we have fresh insight into how much Facebook knows about us—knowledge that has inspired many people to re-think what they share on Facebook, how they manage their Facebook settings, or even whether they want to use social media at all.

While Facebook’s algorithm uses our data to show us content and ads that it thinks is more likely to be of interest to us, it can also distort our view of the world by limiting our view to the people and perspectives we find most appealing or otherwise engaging. That algorithm is also the reason that some Facebook threads unfold as civil, respectful (but perhaps insufficiently representative) conversations among like-minded souls, while others turn into all-out

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A Study Shows the Best Times of Day to Post to Social Media

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U.S. companies are expected to spend more than $37 billion dollars on social media promotion annually each year by 2020, representing 24% of the economy’s total digital advertising spend. It’s an astounding number, given that the vast majority of social media managers charged with getting customers to click on posts and through to their websites operate with little strategy beyond what we call “spray and pray,” an approach that litters social media with firm generated content in the hopes that one or more of those posts draw in customers.

There is a better way. Our research on circadian rhythms suggests that content platforms like CNN, ESPN, National Geographic, and others can enhance their profit payoffs by at least 8% simply by posting content following the biological responses of their audience’s sleep-wake cycles and targeting content types to when the audience is most naturally receptive to it.


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Why Google Fiber Is High-Speed Internet’s Most Successful Failure

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In 2010, Google rocked the $60 billion broadband industry by announcing plans to deploy fiber-based home internet service, offering connections up to a gigabit per second — 100 times faster than average speeds at the time. Google Fiber, as the effort was named, entered the access market intending to prove the business case for ultra-high-speed internet. After deploying to six metro areas in six years, however, company management announced in late 2016 that it was “pausing” future deployments.

In the Big Bang Disruption model, where innovations take off suddenly when markets are ready for them, Google Fiber could be seen as a failed early market experiment in gigabit internet access. But what if the company’s goal was never to unleash the disrupter itself so much as to encourage incumbent broadband providers to do so, helping Google’s expansion in adjacent markets such as video and emerging markets including

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