"My Printer Is Extorting Me: The Perils of Tech Companies' Control Over Consumers"

Alessio Frateily

Alessio Frateily

Jul 27, 20234 min read


"My Printer Is Extorting Me: The Perils of Tech Companies' Control Over Consumers"

When it comes to at-home printers, you never realize you need one until you desperately do. And once you plug it in, you either have a smooth experience for years or you encounter endless issues that make you question your decision to purchase it. This is the unfortunate reality of owning a printer.

One of the ways that printer manufacturers are exerting control over consumers is through subscription-based ink programs like Instant Ink. This program claims to monitor your printer usage and ink levels, automatically sending new cartridges when they run low. However, the monthly fee is not for the ink itself, but for the number of pages printed. This means that even if you don't print anything, you still have to pay the monthly fee. It's a way for printer companies to blur the lines of ownership and make you feel like you don't have control over something you've already paid for.

This loss of control is not limited to printers. Tech companies, like Tesla, have also demonstrated their power over consumers. In 2017, when Hurricane Irma was approaching Florida, Tesla pushed an update that temporarily increased battery life for owners of vehicles in the storm's path. While this may seem like a helpful gesture, it also showed how tech companies can manipulate the functionality of physical objects through software updates. It raises concerns about what happens if these companies decide to turn the screws on consumers or increase prices.

The aggressive and user-hostile business models employed by printer manufacturers and tech companies are reminiscent of tactics used by casinos and razor manufacturers. These companies hook consumers with attractive deals or products, only to later exploit them for more lucrative financial transactions. It's a cycle that leaves consumers feeling extorted and powerless.

On the other hand, when it comes to organizing and managing digital notes, a technique called Progressive Summarization can be a practical solution. This technique focuses on maintaining notes based on their actionability rather than their meaning. By categorizing notes into Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives (P.A.R.A), you can schedule them for review at different intervals, ensuring that valuable information is not forgotten.

There are two primary schools of thought on how to organize notes: tagging-first and notebook-first. Tagging-first approaches advocate for an ever-changing matrix of interconnected ideas, relying heavily on tagging for discoverability. However, this approach can be overwhelming and requires constant maintenance. On the other hand, notebook-first approaches mimic physical organization by using discrete containers. While this approach is less chaotic, it can hinder serendipity and creativity.

A note-first approach can be a way to break the impasse. By prioritizing the design of individual notes, regardless of tagging or notebook structure, you can create more valuable and easily discoverable content. This approach also allows for better compatibility with other organizational systems and promotes collaboration and sharing.

When designing discoverable notes, the balance between compression and context is crucial. Notes need to be condensed and easy to digest, while still providing enough context to make them understandable. It's a delicate tradeoff, as compressing a note too much can render it meaningless, while providing too much context can hinder discoverability. Finding the right balance is essential for future use and decision-making.

In conclusion, the control that tech companies exert over consumers is a growing concern. From subscription-based ink programs to software updates that manipulate physical objects, consumers are losing control over the things they've paid for. However, techniques like Progressive Summarization and a note-first approach can empower individuals to take back control over their digital notes and ensure that valuable information is easily discoverable. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to consider:

1. Research and choose printers that prioritize user control and ownership. Look for models that offer refillable ink tanks or compatible third-party cartridges.

2. Experiment with different organizational systems for your digital notes. Find one that suits your needs and allows for easy discoverability and collaboration.

3. Regularly review and update your notes to maintain their actionability. Remove unnecessary information and condense summaries, while ensuring that enough context is provided.

By taking these steps, you can regain control over your technology and information, ensuring that you are not extorted or manipulated by tech companies.

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