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April 2016

"My Year in Startup Hell"

Sad, frightening, or just the future: you decide.

The offices bear a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall. The office-as-playground trend was made famous by Google and has spread like an infection across the tech industry. Work can’t just be work; work has to be fun. HubSpot is divided into “neighborhoods,” each named after a section of Boston: North End, South End, Charlestown. One neighborhood has a set of musical instruments, in case people want to have an impromptu jam session, which Zack says never happens. Every neighborhood has little kitchens, with automatic espresso machines, and lounge areas with couches and chalkboard walls where people have written things like “HubSpot = cool” alongside inspirational messages like “There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. So that we listen twice as much as we speak.”


"Declining Mobility and Restrictions on Land Use"

Alex Tabarrok:

Mobility has been slowly falling in the United States since the 1980s. . . .

In fact,mobility has declinedwithin age, gender, race, home ownership status, whether your spouse works or not, income class, and employment status so whatever the cause of declining mobility it has to be big enough to affect large numbers of people across a range of demographics.

My best guess is that the decline in mobility is due to problems in our housing markets (I draw here on an important paper by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag).

Note, though, this recent paper, "Understanding the Long-Run Decline in Interstate Migration," present a different hypothesis.

We argue that the fall in migration is due to a decline in the geographic specificity of returns to occupations, together with an increase in workers’ ability to learn about other locations before moving there, through information technology and inexpensive travel.


"Why You Should Think Twice Before Building a Rail Transit System"

I'd urge more than just twice but twice is a start.

Forty years after opening, Metro already faces a maintenance crisis.

This should give other regions pause when it comes to building a rail transit system. My colleague Alex Armlovich points out that NYC has more or less been on a 40 year refresh cycle, with two rounds of major system investment since the subways opened. This doesn’t seem out of line as a capital life heuristic to me.

So cities need to keep in mind that if they build a rail system, they not only have to pay to build it, they pretty much have to pay to rebuild it every 40 years. This is a challenge because as we see it’s easier to muster the will to build something new than to maintain something you already have.


"The exact reasons why Europe is accusing Google of acting like a monopoly"

Even more misconceived than the DOJ's case against Microsoft 15 years ago.

Google created strong incentives for device manufacturers to use the company’s search engine and browser, ensuring those programs would be dominant on Android devices, the European Commission said in a statement. "Based on our investigation thus far, we believe that Google's behaviour denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules," the European Union's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said. . . .

According to the commission, Google obliges smartphone makers who want to pre-install Google's popular app store to also pre-install Search and set it as the default search engine on those devices. And the manufacturers who want Google's Play Store or Search also have to pre-install Google's Chrome browser.