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Category Archives: Book Reviews

Remedial Reading for Brutal Dictators

I’m not sure what books Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is supposed to have read while he was in medical school in Damascus, but I’m itching to blame his professors in London for not giving him some compulsory reading.

Or what if Robert Mugabe had read Robert Frost? Or Joseph Stalin had read Joseph Conrad? Would it have changed the course of history?

Just asking!

Actually my April column in LMD is on this. And I got some recommendations from some literary types here and in Sri Lanka. The Remedial reading list for brutal dictators includes:

If you want to know why, you’ll have to read the article – here.

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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Book, Book Reviews, LMD

 

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Wired, Tired, and killing our creativity

As we get back to school, I can’t help noticing how tired students seem to be. One doesn’t need to look around to know the reason why: We are probably over-wired!

There are new details coming out each month on how over-connectedness, rather than stimulating creativity, is killing it. When anyone asks me what my follow-up to my book about social media, Chat Republic (2013) might be, I flippantly say it will be called Anti-social Media.

There is plenty of research and literature on the topic. Two books I am planning to read are “The Power of Off. By Nancy Colier. And Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle.

It sounds a bit like my favorite works on the subject, which I have commented on before:

 

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What Computers enable in our second ‘Machine Age’

I just ordered “The Second Machine Age” not because authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee seem optimistic about the ‘digital engines’ that were able to diagnose diseases, talk back, drive cars, and write quality prose. But because they seem to acknowledge the thorny challenges we face as these new machines run our lives.

Think about the recent challenges: We are still surprised by catastrophic weather events, despite the satellites and other climate science tools we have. Our marvelous machines may help us locate a lost phone, but often miss the big things. Just consider what GM’s ‘system’ ignored or considered unimportant in their cars. Then there’s the lost 747. A friend recently commented how, despite all our tools, there’s something humbling about how we don’t have smart enough technology to locate something as big as an airplane.

The book is based on the work at MIT’s Center for Digital Business, at which Brynjolfsson is the prof of management at the Sloan School. I like his description (In a Ted Talk) of what he calls  ‘general purpose technology’ that changes the game.

It’s funny, but this seems to be yet another ‘MIT book’ that has crossed my path that delves deeper into the subject of technology compared to the usual blather about how good things are. Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together was a classic discussion in a narrower field of communication tools and robotics.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Book, Book Reviews, Social Media

 

Branding theories under scrutiny in “Absolute Value”

To call advertising as the ‘art of relative persuasion‘ is sure to get the major advertising practitioners to put you on their black list.

I just completed the book Absolute Value, and found it to be a larger thesis than the title implied. In some ways it’s a systematic take-down of several sacred cows of marketing, branding, the role of persuasion and much more. But what’s impressive is how the authors (Ithamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen) do it in a calm, intellectual fashion, trying to assure readers they are not really picking a fight.

Book - absolutevalueThey observe how we customers have a hard time assessing the quality of products, so we typically use ‘quality proxies’ such as a brand name, prior satisfaction, country of origin, image of the store at which the purchase could be made etc. Oddly enough, we change these proxies over time. Think about this: There was a time when ‘made in China’ meant superior quality, but not anymore. There was a time our prior experience with a brand determined its replacement. Today? (I recently ditched another carrier for T-Mobile because prior experience wasn’t exactly great.)

Absolute Value gives you a three-part theoretical framework of how to promote brands –the P-O-M Influence Mix. I find it interesting how the authors steer clear of calling it the Marketing Mix. It stands for Prior Preferences (P), Other People (O), and Marketers (M).

Does this mean the death of branding? No! But it does reveal serious cracks in what is typically considered brand management –tied to Positioning theory, Segmentation etc. Today we are nearer to having perfect (or ‘absolute’) information about a brand we are considering because of the abundance of reviews, and websites dedicated to testing, comparing, or even disparaging brands. Bloggers and journalists prod and pry a brand’s claims to see if it is living up to it or the market hype, exposing the slightest flaw, or lesser-discussed breakthrough feature. Social media is a big part of this, obviously.and marketers should understand that their primary role is shifting from persuasion to (and this should not come as a shock!) communication!

In this scenario –this has to be troubling to ‘positionistas’ and those running loyalty programs—customers can evaluate a brand for what it is, rather than how it compares with other “choice-sets” they are allowed to see.

Sidenote: There’s a great story about Jonney Shih, who created a brand following with hardly any brand advertising. I was in the market for a laptop a few weeks back, so having sworn by a Toshiba for many years, guess what brand I bought?

 

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Chat Republic backgrounder – IABC/Phoenix

In three weeks I will be speaking at a meeting of IABC-Phoenix, and to that end, this interview by Peggy Bieniek has  just been published.

It’s a bit of a long read, so if you’ve gotten used to 140-character summaries (and that’s one of the points I raise in Chat Republic), this is certainly not for you.

It is one of the most thorough backgrounders to the book, and my take on social media.

Interview with IABC-Phoenix

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Book, Book Reviews, Chat Republic

 

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Ambient Awareness – A fancy way of saying TMI is good

I would love to see Clay Thompson and Nicholas Carr in a sparring match.

THOMPSON talks of Ambient awareness as if it were some rare gift that comes with augmenting (saturating?) our brains with feeds and Tweets. He calls it “the experience of knowing what’s going on in the lives of other people — what they’re thinking about, what they’re doing, what they’re looking at — by paying attention to the small stray status messages that people are putting online.”

CARR famously said that he’s “had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory.”

Who’s side would you be on?

I’ve got a vested interest in both sides. I teach students to use technology and computers in a way that does not necessarily outsource their thinking and memory and ideas to some machine. I also try consider extending the boundaries of knowledge, using available (aggregation, collaboration, inquiry) tools.

I’m a big fan of the Shallows. I also use the Kasparov Vs Deep Blue example now and then when discussing robotics and getting people to stop thinking in terms of a “man vs machine” debate. Thompson uses ane example —you could see it here in an excerpt— of how collaborating with the ‘machine’ rather than competing with it changed the game –for Kasparov at least.

He may have a good point.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Book Reviews

 

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Chat Republic Book Review – Newsroom Ink

Here’s a review by someone from a company I interviewed, in the chapter about Socializing the Press Release, to make it more authentic.

New tools such as the social media release and the online newsrooms are rapidly gaining acceptance by companies and traditional media. Storytelling, as done through brand journalism, is replacing the press or news release.

Read more here at Newsroom Ink

What’s your take about something called ‘brand journalism’ and storytelling?

 
 

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