A few weeks ago I was out in California, transferring large sums of my personal financial worth to a large rodent. This was the third time in about as many years I engaged in this activity – spending a chunk of my young children’s college fund on churros, overpriced hotel rooms, and tickets for the privilege of walking in large crowds to stand in endless lines.

As a skeptical sort of fellow, I couldn’t help but ask myself why the entire experience makes me So. Darn. Happy. Every. Single. Time.

When you have been working in security for a while you tend to become highly attuned to the onslaught of constant manipulation so endemic to our society. The constant branding, marketing lies, and subtle (and not-so-subtle) abuse of psychological cues to separate you from every penny you can borrow on non-existent assets – at least that’s how it works here in Arizona. When I walk into a Disney park I know they fill the front with overpriced balloons, time the parades and events to distribute the crowd, and conveniently offer a small token of every small experience, all shippable to your home for a minor fee.

Even with that knowledge, I honestly don’t give a crap and surrender myself to the experience.

This begs the question: why don’t I get as angry with Disney as I do with the FUD from security vendors? It certainly isn’t due to the smiles of my children – I have been enjoying these parks since before I even conceived (get it?) of having kids. And it isn’t just Disney – I also tend to disable the skepticnator for Jimmy Buffett, New Zealand, and a few (very few) other aspects of life.

The answer comes down to one word: value.

Those balloons? We bought one once… and the damn thing didn’t lose a mole of helium molecules over the 5 days we had it before giving it away to some incoming kid while departing our hotel. I think her parents hate us now.

As expensive as Disney is, the parks (and much of the rest of the organization) fully deliver value for dollar. You might not agree, but that isn’t my problem. The parks are the best maintained in the business. The attention to detail goes beyond nearly anything you see anywhere else. For example, at Disneyland they update the Haunted Mansion with a whole Nightmare Before Christmas theme. They don’t merely add some external decorations and window dressing – they literally replace the animatronics inside the ride between Halloween and Christmas. It’s an entirely different experience.

Hop on Netflix and compare the animation from nearly any other kids channel to the Disney stuff – there is a very visible quality difference. If you have a kid of the right age, there is no shortage of free games on the website. Download the Watch Disney app for your iDevice and they not only rotate the free shows, but they often fill it with some of the latest episodes and the holiday ones kids go nuts for.

I am not saying they get everything right, but overall you get what you pay for, even if it costs more than some of the competition. And I fully understand that it’s a cash extraction machine. Buffett is the same way: I have never been to a bad concert, and even if his branded beer and tequila are crap, I get a lot of enjoyment value for each dollar I pay. Even after I sober up.

It seems not many companies offer this sort of value. For example, I quite like my Ford but it is crystal clear that dealerships ‘optimize’ by charging more, doing less, and insisting that I am getting my money’s worth despite any contradictory evidence.

How many technology vendors offer this sort of value? I think both Apple and Amazon are good examples on different ends of the cost spectrum, but what percentage of security companies hit that mark? To be honest, it’s something I worry about for Securosis all the time – value is something I believe in, and when you’re inside the machine it’s often hard to know if you are providing what you think.

With another kid on the way the odds are low we’ll be getting back to Disney, or Buffett, any time soon. I suppose that’s good for the budget, but to be honest I look forward to the day the little one is big enough to be scared by a six foot rat in person.

On to the Summary:

Once again our writing volume is a little low due to extensive travel and end-of-year projects…

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

Other Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

(A few extras because we missed last week)

Research Reports and Presentations

Top News and Posts

Blog Comment of the Week

Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to Chris, in response to Implementing and Managing Patch and Configuration Management: Introduction [New Series].

I’m excited to see the rest of this paper. I am currently dealing with implementation issues and maintenance for one of my customers.

Which is not to say that I haven’t been dealing with it for the last 4 years that I have been working with this customer, there is new pressure from outside entities (read: findings)