Why Dominant Companies Are Vulnerable

MIT Sloan Management Review • Winter 2012

Looking out for No. 2. Recent research confirms that the fewer alternatives your customers have, the more they resent you. What's interesting is the discussion of the psychological balancing act that dominant players must navigate—between leveraging product loyalty and squelching the competition. Read on to find out more about "psychological reactance"—it's all about perception.

This rings true to me as a description of my own behavior. It explains why I continue to use My Yahoo! as my feed reader despite its lousy updating and unpredictable but regular inability to load feeds. It's still better than the Google offering, he said partly out of sympathy for that continuously beaten company and partly because their "interface-specific experience . . . creates this type of competitive advantage." ( Michalko)

Those Fabulous Confabs

New York Magazine • February 26, 2012

TED shred. Benjamin Wallace's witty overview of TED and its knockoffs is worth a read. TED is a hugely profitable enterprise that has coaxed hundreds of smart people to wedge their ideas into digestible, 18-minute sound-bites—but the conference's hefty price tag and exclusivity are turning it into a parody of itself. You may never feel the same about TED Talks after reading this, but just in case you do, the article also links to the five most popular presentations.

I'm still a TED fan but this is a fun read as well as withering criticism. It only makes me fonder of Richard Saul Wurman, TED's founder, who has always been a charmingly irascible genius; a genius now amplified by an age-enabled delight in slinging sharp sticks. I saw him speak once at the International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA) and he was a terrific conversationalist. By the way IDCA was TED before TED; the go-to conference from 1951-2004 (how about Jonas Salk, George Nelson and Betty Friedan together in 1975!) but no longer exists. More accurately IDCA joined with the AIGA and is now called the Aspen Design Conference. You can peruse the scatter of IDCA archival materials in ArchiveGrid. ( Michalko)

I'm Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web

The Atlantic • February 29, 2012

No free lunch. It's no secret that our online moves are fodder for data-tracking on Google and Facebook, but now there are literally scores of data collection startups getting rich off selling our digital personas to advertisers. Alexis Madrigal's essay highlights an issue that we'd probably rather ignore: "At the heart of the problem is that we increasingly live two lives: a physical one in which your name, social security number, passport number, and driver's license are your main identity markers, and one digital, in which you have dozens of identity markers, which are known to you and me as cookies . . . There is a (thin) wall between the self that buys health insurance and the self that searches for health-related information online." The bottom line is that as long as we expect information to be free, we'll be paying for it in ways we don't even realize.

I'll bet you'll be completely seduced by the Collusion tool mentioned in this article. I sure was. Watching whose watching me was disturbingly fascinating. If you don't want to install the plug-in at least watch the demo. I am really torn on this topic. I want those personal recommendations but I don't want to be a person to them. ( Michalko)

The Privacy Arc

O'Reilly Radar • February 28, 2012

Let's party. O'Reilly VP Mike Loukides offers his take on "frictionless sharing" and points out that current outrage over online tracking reflects a notion of privacy that began only when people moved into suburban isolation in the 1950s. Before that, everyone knew everyone's business anyway. "In this context, it's surely correct to put a kinder interpretation on automated 'frictionless sharing' of your songs and book purchases on Facebook. Yes, if someone is giving you a service for free, you're not the customer—you're the product . . . But there is an oddly pathetic humanity behind automated sharing: It's a clumsy and intrusive attempt to solve a very real human problem with technology." Loukides' solution? More real-life sharing.

I regard this as a reductive view of how we've experienced privacy over the last sixty years. Nevertheless I think he's got it right about how quickly the value of "frictionless sharing" degrades in the feed flood that it enables. At least it takes some effort to tweet. ( Michalko)

Author Pico Iyer: Seeking Stillness and Silence in the Rush of Business Life

Knowledge@Wharton • February 29, 2012

Zen and the art of unplugging. If turning off your gadgets and retreating from the world sounds appealing some days, read this contemplative interview with Pico Iyer, who's done just that. Iyer is unusual in his ability to have complete control over his environment, but there are many small changes we could make to improve our tranquility quotient.

Read this as the antidote to the previous two items. I am glad that Iyer is sensible enough to acknowledge that his rural lifestyle in Japan 6,000 miles from his family and publisher is only possible because of technology. And that he sees the commonalities in a Buddhist monastery and a Catholic retreat house. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

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