Hackernoon logoThis Week on Planet Internet: Big Dictator Energy by@natasha

This Week on Planet Internet: Big Dictator Energy

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Natasha Nel Hacker Noon profile picture

@natashaNatasha Nel

👋 I'm the VP of Editorial Strategy here at Hacker Noon. I also make podcasts and write stories.

What happens when big corp shuts down conversation? What is Russia's deal with Sputnik exports? Crypto in Africa — equalizing force, or daydream? Join Linh, Amy, Limarc and myself, Natasha, for your handy recap of 

This Week on Planet Internet:

  • Is there such a thing as a no politics culture? (1:40)
  • Amy Tom goes real deep, real early #sorrynotsorry (3:22)
  • "Pleasant" for whom, Basecamp? PLEASANT 👏 FOR 👏 WHOM 👏 (07:54)
  • Naturally Limarc Ambalina's gon' be playing devil's advocate (09:40)
  • Key Takeaway: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, get a mediator (12:24)
  • Why is Russia exporting so much Sputnik? (14:55)
  • Limarc kind of maybe sympathizes with a Russian Dictator's decision to let his people die (16:40)
  • Africa: the continent of milk and honey for startups and cryptos? (21:10)
  • Necessity is the mother of all invention... (29:32)
  • No gods no masters — down with regulation! (32:56)

You can listen to this episode of This Week on Planet Internet (a production of The Hacker Noon Podcast) on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you get your pods.

You can also watch the recording on Hacker Noon's Youtube channel:

Read the stories mentioned in this podcast:

  1. Is there such a thing as a “no politics” culture? Letters from Basecamp Founder and Coinbase Founder (medium link ugh)
  2. Russia, vaccine, science, space war, and more: from The daily aka Linh's main source of podcast lol
  3. Africa startups news on Hacker Noon! Question: out of the 69 billion raised for startups reported by Pitchbook in Q1 of 2021, how many are based or partially based in Africa? Prob not much.
  4. Crypto in Africa News on Hacker Noon. Equalizing force or a daydream? 

This podcast was hosted by Linh Dao Smooke and panelled by Natasha NelAmy Tom, and Limarc Ambalina. This week we're also joined by our brand new podcast editor, Damian McIlhenny!

Episode Transcript*

*This transcript was generated by the robot that lives inside Descript and has not yet been fully edited for human-level correctness.

All right and realize, Oh right. Hey, welcome to another episode of the hackathon podcast. This week on planet, internet, right edition. This is pretty new and this is my first time joining. I'm willing. I'm the. COO at hacker noon. I don't usually do editorial work, but I'm extremely interested in podcasts.

And just as a consumer of news in general, I feel like anyone who reads things or consumes any type of media would be a good fit to talk with their colleagues about what the news of the week. But yeah. So on today edition, we have. Myself and Amy podcast manager, Lee Mark, our VP of growth, Damien, a brand new shiny podcast editor, which, because we are producing more podcasts.

Now we actually welcome a podcast editor and of course, Natasha VP of editorial. Yeah. And we gonna go through today. I'm the picker of these headlines. And as a summary, which is gonna go through each of these quickly and then open floor for the rest of the team. The first article, I want to point people attention to is this thing by the CEO and founder of this company called base camp.

For those of you who don't know base camp is a project management tool company that is based in Chicago and actually has been around for 20, 20 plus years. They stirred up. Pretty heated Twitter controversy. When the CEO put out this manifesto as you, if you will, about how they will no longer allow any conversations surrounding politics or society or advocacy, basically anything that's not work.

As they define it related within base camp. When I read you the sentence that I highlighted sensitivities at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant, hence no more societal and political discussions on our company based camp account.

So that's the first one. And yeah, like this actually is pretty similar to a prior decision from a much larger company Coinbase who went public and the CEO, Brian Armstrong pretty much says the same thing. This was like six months ago, back in September. And the policy is. Broader societal issues. We don't engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we'll believe impact only comes with focus.

And the title of the article is called Coinbase is a mission focused company. So those are the first two, two, I think, instead of going through all the article, I'm just going to, you know, give the floor for the rest of the team to just kind of dive in these two. Pretty similar news one earlier than others and yeah.

Okay. Here is why this makes me so angry to hear about is because both of these CEOs, quite frankly, are white men. And when you have the power to say, we will not discuss politics in the workplace. It's because you have the privilege of not. Having to discuss it. It's because these things, these issues don't affect you.

And so you have the Liberty to say, I think we're going to opt out of this one, but these issues that they're talking about, like core human issues, that there are avoiding. Or not politics of like are yeah. Are not politics that you should avoid discussing. They are human rights related issues. And that shouldn't be a political statement.

If you have humans in your organization. You have these issues. If you think about things like the black lives matter campaign and movement or the stop AAPI hate movement. And let's talk about how the Derrick Chovan murder trial has affected the black community. If you think that your block community and members of your organization are not in absolute.

Yeah. Destruct and like turmoil about this trial and all of the emotions that come with it, and that would be affect their workplace. Then you are in denial. Like you need to be able to foster a workplace where you can have these kinds of conversations and say like, Look, Hey, this is a really bad week for me because I'm going through a lot of emotions surrounding members of my community.

And my work might not be as great this week or whatever it might be. But being able to have that open discussion is so important. And for companies to put the hammer down from the top, from the white level at the top and say, no thanks. We're not going to discuss, this is like such bullshit.

Over this deep that's early, but I mean, this, this is exactly what we've been as a company dealing with. For over a year now of how to balance the personal and the work. Right. And to pretend that those are two separate things that has nothing to do with other and could be completely siloed. It's just either ignorant or naive.

And I'll give you an example, like right now, we don't have a lot about employees that regularly would show up in meetings and would work. Because they're based in India and India is going through a COVID crisis. And the last thing they can do right now is just to put on a brave face and I dunno, smile for the work.

So the idea that they can just leave, whatever that made them and surround them with behind and focused on the work, it's just kinda mind blowing to me. Like I'm not even touching the politics or whatever you call it. And just talking about. What it makes you a human, you know, existing in this world and working in the workplace.

Like you cannot be a robot version of yourself, even if you try to. Absolutely Lang I think what I, what disappoints me most is the missed opportunity in terms of teaching employees, right? Because as a company, you do take a leadership role and you do have this opportunity to create a culture in which you teach people to have constructive conversations around this.

And you give people who might not have. Had those tools be provided to them at school or at home. So communication tools required and the empathetic tools required to have constructive conversations. And within this year saying, we're not even going to try, we're not going to face this. We're not going to dip our toes.

We're going to just completely ignore it. De-humanize our employees, as you say, and not use it as a teaching opportunity, whereby people could learn to have conversations. Thriving communities happen because people with conflicting ideas are able to hold space for each other and negotiates living together.

And that's a necessary part of society. And if companies are going to take a cover your eyes, I can't see it. So therefore it's not happening policy. And when do we learn to play nicely with our friends? When do we learn to communicate nicely with people who disagree with us? Absolutely. And I just want to like, like focus the attention on the sentence where he like spins away from pleasant, like pleasant.

Yes, exactly. So you live in this world to have to go to war you isolated from your friends and your family and whatever, like little Mark, for example, right here is in quarantine. And it's because of COVID or myself, I'm an Asian woman. And, you know, I have been pretty much traumatized by what was happening earlier this year, helping with like Asian companies.

I wouldn't say exactly that without talking about any of these things that pleasant. Yeah. So, so, so to shy away exactly, like you say, at me, Just because you can afford to shy away, right? Like it's actually not pleasant for you, but that doesn't mean that it's like a comfortable and pleasant for the rest of your teams and for the rest of your employees.

And another point I want to make is what does this attract? Like once you have a policy in place like this, Okay. Then most of the people who are pleasant and who are okay with policy like this other people, just like you, who don't need and don't want, and don't have to engage in any of the policies or discussions or suicide or movements or anything like that.

So it's like the further, the silo that you exactly when at voice, you know, when they talk about you, that should not be any division that should, you know, we should work to unite instead of divide. Well, This, this is the most political statement. I feel like these guys will be making in their future being so a political, my, uh, clarify some clinical statement.

Can I clarify something, make an insult and then ask, uh, play devil's advocate. So this sentence here, it says, um, no more societal or political discussions on our company based count by count. Then it goes on to say these conversations should happen on signal WhatsApp or even a personal base camp account, but it can happen where the work happens anymore.

First of all who is using a base camp to send messages like that doesn't happen. Like there's, so there's commenting on product cards. So who's having clinical conversations there in the first place. Second of all, like why did they publish a blog post about this? Like shouldn't everybody know this would not be taken well.

Like why would they even publicize this? You know what I mean? Like, is it no one asked in the first place? Like, nobody was like, Hey, why isn't base camp commenting on BLM? So like what a bad decision overall, like, why would you publicize this? But, um, lastly you play devil's advocate. I understand why, um, reason for this, like, imagine you have a company with like a thousand people, and I think we'd be naive to say that all a thousand people in a random sample of Americans, for example, Would all have the same political views.

So what if you had a situation where coworkers started to get into arguments during work over political issues like that, and, um, it, it puts you in a really weird position. Wouldn't it? Like, do you have to take sides? Do you have to mediate? And if you ha, if you take a certain side, does that mean you have to alienate the rest of your like, employees that don't take the side you deal.

So I could understand one reason for doing this about. Like they went about it all in the wrong way. I'd say. Yeah. You know what I think about that is that when you silo people to not discuss these things, it takes away the personalization of it. But imagine if I am a liberal and I have a. Neighbor who was a Republican and, you know, I love my neighbor.

We're very friendly, but she's a Republican. So, you know, like we're not friends or whatever, but the thing, the same thing translates into the workplace. I think like when you have that personal connection with someone that goes beyond like a stranger level. So say you are coworkers in this case. Being able to say, Oh, I strongly believe in black lives matter versus someone who says, Oh, I think that that's not the right track to go down or whatever their opinion is then like, it takes away.

If you have zero discussion about it, it takes away the personalization of it. But if you. Allow discussion to take place in the workplace. You can build connections with people around these subjects that might inform you better. Or by the end of the day, you just have to be an adult and say like, we have different views and that's okay.

And we don't have to be best friends, but we're still going to work together and we're still going to be like coworkers. So yeah. Yeah. This is never about, Oh, like the division, uh, or like people having different opinions and that. Sucks. Uh, it's more about making this overarching policy. Pretty much shuts down every single connection like Amy mentioned, and also opportunity, like Natasha mentioned to learn and to grow, not as robots, right?

Like we are humans and we need these kind of things that provide context to who we are as person. So I'm not even talking about like, we need to all agree on one thing. Like, obviously we're not going to agree on one thing, but making this. Uh, no politics, uh, policy. It shows another super political announcement that I don't think will bring people together.

Like it's intended. And then imagine when issues become more quote, unquote, heavy or serious, then some and something like a sexual assault. Let's say if you work at a workplace that doesn't promote or doesn't allow you to have any kind of political discussion, would it not be terrified? I am. Do you report to when an organization who is not open to any kind of based that is not corporate called foster, especially when we look at stats, like the fact that majority of millennials nowadays are looking are actively looking for workplaces, that foster workplace diverse and inclusion as a main, uh, Feature or benefit of choosing workplace.

So they're really alienating of future employees, I think, with this policy as well. Yup. Um, anyone comment, um, on this topic? Oh, should we move on to the next. Onto the next, what else do we have for this week? Let's move on. So another headline that I picked is actually from my podcast rotation that I listened to every day.

And this week on the daily Michael Bavaro, discuss why Russia is exporting so much vaccine. So the paragraph is pretty limited, but the gist of the podcast is that. Russia a vaccine called Sputnik, uh, is actually pretty effective and in the realm of Pfizer, as well as Moderna and the 90. However, instead of vaccinating his people like America is doing Russia is actually exporting it to like neighboring countries, countries in South America and just countries around the world.

And the thesis of the podcast. Is it actually dated back all the way back to the cold war. like the name of it rings a bell. It's the satellite, you know, that, that Russia, uh, at the time was exerting his power as a powerhouse in the world, in the space kind of race. And now it's a pretty similar thing they doing.

But instead with vaccine. I brought this up because I thought it was pretty interesting how the two countries, you know, with a lot of power and with a lot of science scientists that are extremely, like one of the world's best have completely different policies, um, on the vaccine. And I know it's not that tech related.

But this is something that we deal with every single day for over a year now. And talking about the distribution of vaccine and talking about your own personal experience with vaccine where you are, because we're such a international company. I thought it would be a good idea. So yeah, open floor for people to comment on this.

Yeah. If you scroll down a little bit, then it has the overview and it was kind of comparing how Russia's, uh, approach to this is the opposite of America's in which, uh, at one point they banned the export of vaccines and I can kind of understand both sides, like wanting to protect your people first, even at the expense of neighboring countries.

I think that makes sense. But if I were to put my self in the mind of a. Military dictator without human emotions. I would understand that that's actually a pretty smart move because, uh, COVID-19 like. For the most part, the risk groups are your senior citizens and your aging population. So if I were a dictator without human emotions and without morals, you're sacrificing an aging part of your population to gain favor with a bunch of countries.

When a lot of countries are at their most vulnerable. So it makes sense in like a game of chess, but obviously it's incredibly inhumane and I'd say a moral, like, I could never make such a decision, but that's just my take. Yeah, it's interesting because Lee, in the international vaccine space, there is now countries such as the Maldives who are offering vaccines as like a tourist destination hub, uh, and like a.

Benefit of coming to visit them now. So if you go to the Maldives now, um, you can get a vaccine as a visitor, the same thing, actually from Canada to America. Apparently if you, as a Canadian citizen, go down to America. You can get a vaccine. So it's interesting to see how the distribution is going worldwide as well, because a lot of countries don't have access for everyone to have the vaccine yet.

And so people are shopping at other countries to find their vaccines. Yeah. I also have been thinking about how this piece of news is related to the very reason, reasonably controversial ban on raw materials for COVID from the U S so India, for example, experiencing a outbreak right now, hundreds of thousands of people.

We, they are. Uh, vaccine and the fact that they can't even give people their own vaccine because there's a ban on raw material from the U S so it's just, I mean, it, I don't know where I'm going exactly with this thought, but human lies versus a political future of a country, uh, basically being at stake right now.

And. Even if you're not a dictator, you know, the person that controls Russia, even if you abide in, even if you are a Trudeau, it's hard to balance it all and make everybody happy. And. Somewhere down, along the lines, like somebody will always be collateral. So in this case is the Russian people. It's not having access to vaccine, but in the other case is, you know, India experiencing.

So any other country with not as rich as America, uh, not getting enough access and just pretty helplessly watch its people. So, yeah, I mean, Vietnam, for example, uh, actually secure, uh, a little bit of. The Sputnik vaccine from Russia early on. Like as you guys, if you guys remember it's August of last year, when they announced that they came up with a vaccine and everywhere, buddy was like, yeah, that can not be, but it turns out after a trial to be pretty effective.

So I think like around 50 plus countries around the world already has access to that vaccine, which adult like otherwise would not be able. To be available in their country. You know, like the U S is not doing anything. Like only recently they have the talks about giving away the AstraZeneca vaccine that, um, it's just sitting there because it's not approved yet for emergency, uh, use in the U S so yeah, it's, I just feel it's, it's hard.

It's even if you, uh, whatever spectrum of the political. Um, democracy or not, you are it's, it's hard to make this kind of decision without hurting at least one group of people or more, I guess let's move on to the two hacker noon stories. So I choose pretty similar articles, uh, on hacker news, top stories last week, both has got to do with the scenario of the economic development in Africa.

One is by Brian Wallace. I'll favorite Brian Wallace. Talking about why Africa is becoming the land of startup opportunity. Disgusting. Basically the rate of growth for startups in Africa. How that, uh, by 2025 will actually be the Wolf best, if not one of the best hops in the world for four startups. And then the other one is more Africans walk towards financial freedom due to cryptocurrencies by, uh, at no name C three PO I think a guy from a friend at free tan.

Who discussing the specifically the importance of crypto and financial freedom for African country. So without further ado, I would like to give the floor to Natasha who's arrested in South African and in the group. Indeed. Yeah. First thing to say is just, it's so exciting to see adoption happening on that continent.

It's a place where, I mean, it's speaking for South Africa, 55% of the population and those in extreme poverty below the bread line. And just the idea of the financial freedom that comes with cryptocurrency adoption down there is huge over a larger percent of the African continent dependent depends on remittances from family members that are working.

Uh, overseas and earning and stronger currencies. So you just can't compare with the, it was the cost of moving money around through banks, et cetera. It's interesting. I think, uh, the, also the fact that it's such a mobile continent is worrying from us. Security perspective, but I'm sure that there are multiple startups developing in that niche as well.

Um, so that's something to watch, definitely, and definitely an opportunity for educating, um, people on the continent about things like, you know, uh, while it's that on tots and just really securing their assets. Um, and a personal experience I'd love to share about this is to Z experience that I had working with a blockchain startup in South Africa, which I really thought was a cool idea.

Very early days, we're talking like six years ago, which in South Africa, is there any, um, for adoption, but there, they had come up with this concept where they would embed. Bitcoin bounties into screen and copies of us go winning foams or films, screened copies of films that were sent out for us consideration or, you know, any kind of awards.

So iteration. Um, so they would embed these cryptocurrency bounties into the files. And that was sent out for awards consideration, and then inform a network of bounty hunters as they called them to look out for these files on the dark web and also just on various Taran sites, et cetera. And it was just such a great concept.

But six years ago, when it was. Starting up, you couldn't get investors. Nobody wanted to bet on blockchain as a technology. There was just so much skepticism. So yeah, for me, it's just really exciting to see these kinds of stories coming out now and seeing that adoption is indeed up. And I've read that as mostly among the younger population, which is quite cool.

So yeah, next-generation stuff. Yeah. I mean, both stories mentioned the fact that Africa is actually one of the youngest, if not the youngest kind of working population in the world. And by 2025, it will have the most number of just working age. People like just available for labor. So that's something interesting that I've found.

Super potential. Um, another thing is, um, I'm wondering out of all these startups that, uh, booming, like Brian mentioned in his article, like how many of them, uh, based elsewhere and like, you know, like, like you mentioned with the remittances as well, kind of like. Funnel money from elsewhere, back to Africa as part of this like pride, right?

Like a proud, uh, African or South African, and then I'm bringing back and I'm like, uh, investing back in, like where I'm from, which is, I thought it was like super interesting and beautiful. And also like another piece I was, there was, I didn't mention in the list of the four or five URLs I put here. Is the fact that startups, I think all over the wall, uh, experiencing the most kind of like exponential growth right now in Q1 of 2021.

So according to PitchBook, apparently $69 billion have been raised for like startups in Q1 of 2021 alone, which is like many, many falls that have similar. You know, quarter, uh, prior. And I don't know if this is just like bed pent up demand or the fact that, you know, all of these clever investor, which just kind of have money lying around and now like finally can invest again.

But I'm wondering is like how what's the percentage of, of that big pool of money that actually goes to like, African startups or startups that like serving the population in Africa and like is the potentials of Africa as a continent, like mashing up with like how much attention is being paid to it, or like, you know, how investors are looking at it.

I think you've got to be funny. Uh, Risk tolerance say that it's, it's such a volatile face in most regions, even South Africa now. I mean, it's, it's funny when you talk to an African about it, we've grown up, you know, I'm 31 now I've had 31 years of people telling me that my economy is going to go to junk status and it just somehow keeps clinging on and it's just going to speak to the African resilience.

And, you know, as I say, necessity is the mother of all invention. So that place is just. Resilient. It's so innovative and yeah, I think it's, I would bet on Africa first, any, but I'm biased. So yeah, I mean, this stats look at this stat right here. Um, for those, uh, audio listeners, uh, we're looking at a graph.

27% of African women engage in early stage startup. Uganda has the highest percentage of female owned businesses in the world closely followed by Botswana. Like I have no idea any of these, um, super encouraging and, uh, amazing to learn about. Yeah, that's beautiful. That's really great. Why do you think that is the case?

Uh, refer back to what I earlier said, necessity being the mother of all invention. Yeah. Yeah. Africa is a, is a continent. So of, of, of people who are in need and intrapreneurship is something that is in the soul. I think of the people there. It always has been where they, you know, like from low scale, very informal businesses to, to bigger.

Large-scale factories. And I mean, it's just something that's is in our, is in our blood in terms of meetings since, you know, the postcolonial removal and yeah, I won't, I won't use a strong word to say the kind of myths that they left. So since then, it's just. So it's really been booming. And I think that the only thing stopping it's from growth is the corruption on the political side, because that means a lot of volatility.

Sir, I'll politicians for the most part are letting us down good revolutionaries, make rainy bad Democrats as a general rule. Um, we've seen it time and time again, the people who, uh, you know, sort of a really good revolution are really bad at leading the country off to that. In a democratic fashion that is beneficial to the people and a lot of corruption is happening.

So that's undermining the, if it's disease of the startups, but on the ground, the people are ready and willing, you know, and, and going for it. So, um, yeah. Yeah. I agree with what Tasha said. I talked to, I did a podcast actually with Nataraj syndrome, one of our, um, Uh, Indian contributors. And we were talking about how the startup culture in India was booming.

And I think it just goes back to why the Tasha said, I think in these countries where the like national wage is lower and the poverty line is higher. Like you have to hustle to survive. And as soon as you give Pete, like hustlers, these people who are natural born entrepreneurs tools to succeed, they will succeed.

And, um, well the reason I think is happening now, let's just because of the technology, like 50 years ago, the barrier to work was, you know, you had to have an education, you have to go to college, you need to go to these interviews, but now the barrier to work as an internet connection, all you need is an internet connection.

And a skill or like, not even that much of a skill and you can market yourself on a fiber. You can market yourself on social media, you can do all of these things. And it's just made possible by the internet. So as soon as like these lower income areas, get the internet and they get blockchain, I don't think it's a surprise at all that like the startup economies in these lower income countries are moving.

And crypto, right? Cause like a lot of like, uh, you know, uh, a lot of the crypto boom comes from necessities rather than like, Oh, it's just a luxury to have it's because the banking system just sucks, you know, in many parts of the world. Um, not many people like actually we can just go through. Financial system pretty easily.

So in a lot of these part, it's actually like, what's the alternative they have. Oh, look crypto, like instead of waiting and not being able to rely on any of the big guys, like they will be able to do that control, like take control of their own fate, uh, via. Like a much better, more secure crypto transaction, which I thought is like extremely interesting.

Yeah. Yeah. I was going to say, do you think that as the internet becomes more decentralized away from banking corporations and from big tech organizations and from the big corporations that hold the power in America, especially that. As we decentralized from those companies that, uh, Africa and other third world countries will start becoming more popular with startups, my guess would be yes, but I feel like we are still trying to figure out and navigate these waters and, uh, one kind of.

Potential obstacle I can see is just, you know, these big guys that big for a reason, like they gonna find a way to regulate, to control, to just kind of tell condition the market, what to do. Um, you know, like one example is last. Two weeks ago now, fidelity Coinbase, as well as another company at just kind of partnering together to regulate Bitcoin a lot more and cryptocurrencies in general in the U S and I mean, Congress, people in the U S are looking into, uh, proposals, uh, to basically do the, the opposite of what, like the hardcore decentralize or it's a one them to do it.

Right. Which is regulate centralize. Um, doing more of the regular banking stuff. So I don't know. It's, um, it's interesting to see how this plays out and basically we're living through history right now. Um, and we're going to have, you know, in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, some things to tell our children of like what it's like, you know, during this time when people were still trying to figure out what is crypto and how decentralization will play a part in, um, our children's or grandchildren's future.

Yeah, because there'll be like, you used to use paper bunny, like a video game.

Yeah. Cool. I think that's all I've got for today in terms of headlines picking any wise words of wisdom, any last note on anything you guys want to leave listeners with? I read a great quote today that said, uh, the cost of anything is the amount of life you have to exchange for it. Whoa, that's deep. I'm just saying in an exit poll crisis.

Yep. There's no such thing as free. You always give up something. Yeah. You turn to, to quote unquote free. I can live with that. Yeah. I like that. That's a great stopping point right there, everybody. Okay. So today the rest of the day today's podcast was produced by hacker noon. It was hosted by Natasha. Ling Lee, Mark, Damien and myself, Amy.

And it was edited by our new podcast editor, Damian, Damian, welcome to the team. We're so excited to have you. All right. So don't forget to like share and subscribe to it and give it a five star rating and we will see you guys next week. Bye. All right. See you on the internet. See you on the internet.

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