Early adopter angst

Dang, there has been a spate of early adopter angst lately.

Just read Alex Vanelsas to see a good example.

Today Frederick over at the Last Podcast gets into the act, writing “I kept wondering if the gap between early adopters and mainstream users isn’t expanding more and more and what that means for services that cater mostly to early adopters.”

Over the last few days I’ve seen another misconception: that Twitter is only Silicon Valley people talking to themselves. Do a search for “Silicon Valley” on Tweetscan and you’ll see a few of those. That misconception is easy to disprove: just watch Twitter Vision for a few minutes and you’ll see that very few Twitterers are in Silicon Valley.

There ARE huge differences between early adopters and others. I was in Alana Taylor’s Ustream channel the other night and many people there told me they like hanging out there “because people understand what I’m talking about here.”

In other words, when someone says to “Tweet that” you don’t get blank stares, or, worse, derision.

If I get arrogant about the role of early adopters (some people call them influencers, or “passionates”) it’s because I’ve seen they are the ones who drive society. You really think that guy who I saw the other day on the plane using Windows 2000 and an old version of Lotus Notes is driving society? Riiiigggghhhhtttt.

I’ve seen this discussion happen EVERY TIME there’s a new technology. I remember back in 1977 that only nerds could use personal computers. Very few people (not even Steve Jobs or Bill Gates) understood just how big that would become.

I remember the days when email was only used by the nerds who had access to Unix terminals at universities or research labs.

I remember the days when people said “IM would never be used in enterprises.” Today it’s built into Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange. Seriously. They did say that.

I remember the days when the World Wide Web was only for nerds who did physics at places like CERN and weird kids who went to Stanford. I remember people actively betting against the Web. Luckily the guy I worked for, Jim Fawcette, saw its promise early in 1994 and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build one of the first publisher’s Web sites. That investment is why I’m here today.

Today the angst is onto things like Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. Even older Web 2.0 properties like Flickr haven’t really gone mainstream. Last week we spent some time with Ansel Adams’ son. He had never heard of Flickr. Ansel Adams son!!! That dude should be the first that photo sharing sites pitch, since he’s always talking to press about photography and his company does tons of classes for photographers in Yosemite and other places. Heck, Flickr should figure out how to sponsor the Ansel Adams’ Gallery. But they don’t.

Why not? Because convincing late adopters to change their behavior is VERY hard and VERY expensive. It’s why Amazon doesn’t do TV advertising. Rather they build a product that early adopters, passionate computer geeks, and influencers like.

How does that affect their business performance? Well, compare Best Buy’s price/earnings ratio to that of Amazon’s. According to Google Finance Best Buy’s is 13.91 and Amazon’s is 67.03. I know which one I’d rather have.

Early adopters DO matter. Anyone who says that they don’t needs to go back to business school.

This is why I follow 20,000 Twitterers. I want to study what early adopters are doing and thinking. Twitter is the best place — by far — to do that.

That’s not to say that business people should forget about the late adopters. They are going to be the ones you need to see huge profitability and growth. I guarantee you that most of Ansel Adams’ business is among late adopters now. But then his business has been in Yosemite for 102 years and has one of America’s best-known brands. If you’re building a business today you don’t have those advantages. Your best option is to follow eBay, Amazon, Google, Flickr, Facebook, etc by talking and understanding early adopters first. Why? They are passionate and want to see something new. That guy with the Windows 2000 old Dell laptop? He isn’t looking for anything new. He isn’t going to adopt your newfangled service.

But the people on Twitter and FriendFeed and Facebook and MySpace and LinkedIn and Plaxo? They have already told you they are willing to try new things. Therefore they are probably going to be willing to try your new thing too.

We’ll be talking about this in 20 more years when some newfangled thing comes out, though. Most people have no clue about the role of early adopters, and/or totally misunderstand early adopters and/or even lie about them, hence the “only Silicon Valley people are on Twitter” meme.

While we’re talking about Twitter, Yuvi, the wonderkid in India, did an analysis of my usage of Twitter that’s pretty interesting.

186 thoughts on “Early adopter angst

  1. Off course Twitter isn’t used by Silicon Valley people only. But I doubt there are many Twitter users that do not have an Internet or technology background. Which is fine BTW. Twitter will definitely become mainstream because it serves a need. But many web 2.0 services will never make it mainstream, no matter how may early adopters like it.

  2. Off course Twitter isn’t used by Silicon Valley people only. But I doubt there are many Twitter users that do not have an Internet or technology background. Which is fine BTW. Twitter will definitely become mainstream because it serves a need. But many web 2.0 services will never make it mainstream, no matter how may early adopters like it.

  3. Fredric – I think what you said it true in absolute terms but historically disproved on a technical level.

    Several innovations over the last several decades actually created a need where one did not previously exist.

    The American people didn’t NEED personal computers until early adopters worked through the kinks and began developing applications that could benefit their lives (in truth they didn’t technically NEED those apps either at first – spreadsheet programs and the like created their own value by providing people and businesses with new ways to do things they had never considered doing).

    At first we didn’t NEED mobile phones – our lives revolved around using phones when we were at home or work and letting our answering machines handle the rest.

    As I said before I think the role of early adopters (of which I am not one) is to prove new technologies in the field so to speak. Through that proving process the idea moves from theory to practice and new ways to utilize the technology are developed.

    I think of my interactions with one of our largest corporations – they suffer from the silo syndrome that being so large creates and as a result different departments have no idea what the other is doing – even under the same director. I could definitely see a Twitter tweak where separate stream could be created for different company division that subscribes employees to whatever streams intersect with their particular job. Then again – maybe 6 months from now the Twitter community will shrug its collective shoulders and walk away because they found more novelty than value. I don’t think that will happen but that is the process we are discussing in action inho.

  4. Fredric – I think what you said it true in absolute terms but historically disproved on a technical level.

    Several innovations over the last several decades actually created a need where one did not previously exist.

    The American people didn’t NEED personal computers until early adopters worked through the kinks and began developing applications that could benefit their lives (in truth they didn’t technically NEED those apps either at first – spreadsheet programs and the like created their own value by providing people and businesses with new ways to do things they had never considered doing).

    At first we didn’t NEED mobile phones – our lives revolved around using phones when we were at home or work and letting our answering machines handle the rest.

    As I said before I think the role of early adopters (of which I am not one) is to prove new technologies in the field so to speak. Through that proving process the idea moves from theory to practice and new ways to utilize the technology are developed.

    I think of my interactions with one of our largest corporations – they suffer from the silo syndrome that being so large creates and as a result different departments have no idea what the other is doing – even under the same director. I could definitely see a Twitter tweak where separate stream could be created for different company division that subscribes employees to whatever streams intersect with their particular job. Then again – maybe 6 months from now the Twitter community will shrug its collective shoulders and walk away because they found more novelty than value. I don’t think that will happen but that is the process we are discussing in action inho.

  5. Although I am not really old enough to remember a time when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not dominating the tech industry, I DO feel like I am participating in the birth of something really big. This contributes to the reason why I am so excited to talk about these topics (and I am sure it is the same reason you choose to follow 20,000 Twitterers!)

    When you know something big is happening, when you know times are changing, you have to get in on it.

    I am new to this scene compared to you but I can already understand exactly where you’re coming from. And I am too excited to be a part of the “early adopters.”

    Thanks for joining my Ustream and mentioning me in your blog :) Ah, the power of the internet.

  6. Although I am not really old enough to remember a time when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not dominating the tech industry, I DO feel like I am participating in the birth of something really big. This contributes to the reason why I am so excited to talk about these topics (and I am sure it is the same reason you choose to follow 20,000 Twitterers!)

    When you know something big is happening, when you know times are changing, you have to get in on it.

    I am new to this scene compared to you but I can already understand exactly where you’re coming from. And I am too excited to be a part of the “early adopters.”

    Thanks for joining my Ustream and mentioning me in your blog :) Ah, the power of the internet.

  7. Frederic: that guy didn’t know he needed a PC, either. Same argument could have been had in 1977.

    Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse, among other things we use on our computer screens, told me that one of the reasons that it took so long for all of his visions to happen is because most people could only see very limited uses. He had researcher after researcher tell him that computers would only be used by geeks and secretaries. His ideas were so weird, in fact, that he was kicked out of the research world in the 1970s.

    Twitter has lots of uses for normal people. Just stick around for 10 years and see.

  8. Frederic: that guy didn’t know he needed a PC, either. Same argument could have been had in 1977.

    Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse, among other things we use on our computer screens, told me that one of the reasons that it took so long for all of his visions to happen is because most people could only see very limited uses. He had researcher after researcher tell him that computers would only be used by geeks and secretaries. His ideas were so weird, in fact, that he was kicked out of the research world in the 1970s.

    Twitter has lots of uses for normal people. Just stick around for 10 years and see.

  9. While early adopters are the precursor to success for many ventures (isn’t that axiomatic?) there is a flaw with this sort of analysis. I responded on my blog here (http://quitecontent.com/Archives/2008/May/EarlyAdoptorsandtheSurvi.html) but there is a “survivor” bias to looking back and comparing successful visionary companies driven by early adopters, and their more risk-averse competitors who are still serving the Win2000 crowd. Being a laggard can be a conscious choice.

  10. Robert: Yes, even personal computers are still fairly early in the adoption lifecycle. Too complicated (for many), too expensive (for most), and still too damn geeky for “normal people” (I hear an average man is kept in a vacuum sealed vault in Switzerland).

    That said, it simply takes time and effort before anything gets real momentum. I can still recall a good 5 years ago when a co-worker said to me, well, I guess I’ll create a blog now – seems like EVERYONE is doing it. Not even close then, or now.

    As someone covering enterprise adoption of tech around content, collaboration, information, knowledge, etc. – it’s very scary to see how far behind some companies are, although there are the lovely rare creatures who are the early adopters that help to bring the rest of their industry behind them (legal being a prime candidate – they just love seeing ‘precedent’ in all shapes).

  11. While early adopters are the precursor to success for many ventures (isn’t that axiomatic?) there is a flaw with this sort of analysis. I responded on my blog here (http://quitecontent.com/Archives/2008/May/EarlyAdoptorsandtheSurvi.html) but there is a “survivor” bias to looking back and comparing successful visionary companies driven by early adopters, and their more risk-averse competitors who are still serving the Win2000 crowd. Being a laggard can be a conscious choice.

  12. Robert: Yes, even personal computers are still fairly early in the adoption lifecycle. Too complicated (for many), too expensive (for most), and still too damn geeky for “normal people” (I hear an average man is kept in a vacuum sealed vault in Switzerland).

    That said, it simply takes time and effort before anything gets real momentum. I can still recall a good 5 years ago when a co-worker said to me, well, I guess I’ll create a blog now – seems like EVERYONE is doing it. Not even close then, or now.

    As someone covering enterprise adoption of tech around content, collaboration, information, knowledge, etc. – it’s very scary to see how far behind some companies are, although there are the lovely rare creatures who are the early adopters that help to bring the rest of their industry behind them (legal being a prime candidate – they just love seeing ‘precedent’ in all shapes).

  13. This concept posits that geeks can keep selling the stone-soup idea that everything should be copied and made free through voluntary gifting and free labour, and then only monetarized by essentially obfuscating it and making it hard to use, so that users need to pay consulting fees and maintenance fees to use it. Not so “open” then, is it?

    Yes and no. First I’m speaking more about B2B2C type products, and not twitter so it’s not right on topic.

    IMO its “never” good practice to build obfuscating/hard-to-use products on purpose, unless maybe you are a monopoly or the DMV. You’ll always lose to the better competitor.

    Rather, suppose I’ve built a software tool that is going to use a social networking concept to reduce the marketing expenses of your not so tech-savvy company. If I come to you and say this product will save you $100k/year and I’m going to charge you $10k/year, I still might not get a sale because a) you don’t trust my claim and b) you don’t have anyone to implement the tool on staff. Instead, I need to say it’ll save you $100k/year and its free. You can either implement it yourself or I’ll send my consultant Sue over to do it for $20k.

    This model is actually worse for me in some ways because it doesn’t “scale”, but its got a better chance of succeeding given the technology gap that exists, and provides my customers with more flexibility in terms of their investment/risk profile. If the tool does indeed work they can stop using Sue and bring it in house in year 2, etc.

  14. This concept posits that geeks can keep selling the stone-soup idea that everything should be copied and made free through voluntary gifting and free labour, and then only monetarized by essentially obfuscating it and making it hard to use, so that users need to pay consulting fees and maintenance fees to use it. Not so “open” then, is it?

    Yes and no. First I’m speaking more about B2B2C type products, and not twitter so it’s not right on topic.

    IMO its “never” good practice to build obfuscating/hard-to-use products on purpose, unless maybe you are a monopoly or the DMV. You’ll always lose to the better competitor.

    Rather, suppose I’ve built a software tool that is going to use a social networking concept to reduce the marketing expenses of your not so tech-savvy company. If I come to you and say this product will save you $100k/year and I’m going to charge you $10k/year, I still might not get a sale because a) you don’t trust my claim and b) you don’t have anyone to implement the tool on staff. Instead, I need to say it’ll save you $100k/year and its free. You can either implement it yourself or I’ll send my consultant Sue over to do it for $20k.

    This model is actually worse for me in some ways because it doesn’t “scale”, but its got a better chance of succeeding given the technology gap that exists, and provides my customers with more flexibility in terms of their investment/risk profile. If the tool does indeed work they can stop using Sue and bring it in house in year 2, etc.

  15. Robert – my main thesis is that for any new service to go truly mainstream, it has to solve a problem (real or perceived) for these more mainstream users. The guy with the old Dell and Windows 2000 on the plane next to you doesn’t need Twitter or FriendFeed to do his job.

    A lot of the newest breed of web services is solving problems for the hyperconnected whose friends are scattered all over the internet. Twitter – for most people – doesn’t solve a problem that email and forums hadn’t already solved for them.

    Now I love all this stuff, but my parents, colleagues and most of my friends simply don’t need it right now (though that can change over time).

  16. Robert – my main thesis is that for any new service to go truly mainstream, it has to solve a problem (real or perceived) for these more mainstream users. The guy with the old Dell and Windows 2000 on the plane next to you doesn’t need Twitter or FriendFeed to do his job.

    A lot of the newest breed of web services is solving problems for the hyperconnected whose friends are scattered all over the internet. Twitter – for most people – doesn’t solve a problem that email and forums hadn’t already solved for them.

    Now I love all this stuff, but my parents, colleagues and most of my friends simply don’t need it right now (though that can change over time).

  17. “Casey: I should have written “the drive change in society.” I guarantee you that the ones driving change in politics are not the people who are happy doing things the way they’ve always been done, but those who are looking for a new way to do it.”

    Scoble – you couldn’t be more right and we go through our own early adopter mass diffusion curves that are influenced by the demands and realities of campaign cycles.

    Perfect example is what was documented in “The War Room.” Carville, Begala and Stephanapolous were essentially pioneering early adopters for the Rapid Response framework that has become a staple of virtually every large-scale campaign on both sides of the aisle.

    It takes a while some times but we get there.

  18. “Casey: I should have written “the drive change in society.” I guarantee you that the ones driving change in politics are not the people who are happy doing things the way they’ve always been done, but those who are looking for a new way to do it.”

    Scoble – you couldn’t be more right and we go through our own early adopter mass diffusion curves that are influenced by the demands and realities of campaign cycles.

    Perfect example is what was documented in “The War Room.” Carville, Begala and Stephanapolous were essentially pioneering early adopters for the Rapid Response framework that has become a staple of virtually every large-scale campaign on both sides of the aisle.

    It takes a while some times but we get there.

  19. Robert, the New York Sun, one of two widely-read dailies in NY, still insists that its journalists and copy-editors write “Web log” to describe anything happening anywhere on say, a political blog, because a) they don’t think readers will understand the word “blog” and b) they think the word “blog” sounds hopelessly jargonistic.

  20. Robert, the New York Sun, one of two widely-read dailies in NY, still insists that its journalists and copy-editors write “Web log” to describe anything happening anywhere on say, a political blog, because a) they don’t think readers will understand the word “blog” and b) they think the word “blog” sounds hopelessly jargonistic.

  21. >I’m starting to think that true “scaling” technologies plays are going to become more rare, and the open source software as service model is going to gain more dominance as a result of the gap.

    This concept posits that geeks can keep selling the stone-soup idea that everything should be copied and made free through voluntary gifting and free labour, and then only monetarized by essentially obfuscating it and making it hard to use, so that users need to pay consulting fees and maintenance fees to use it. Not so “open” then, is it?

    No thanks. I’d rather that the obfuscation occur at the level of the software itself by a proprietary company, and then that I as a consumer buy it as a package, including a geek customer help line. I’m cool with that.

  22. >I’m starting to think that true “scaling” technologies plays are going to become more rare, and the open source software as service model is going to gain more dominance as a result of the gap.

    This concept posits that geeks can keep selling the stone-soup idea that everything should be copied and made free through voluntary gifting and free labour, and then only monetarized by essentially obfuscating it and making it hard to use, so that users need to pay consulting fees and maintenance fees to use it. Not so “open” then, is it?

    No thanks. I’d rather that the obfuscation occur at the level of the software itself by a proprietary company, and then that I as a consumer buy it as a package, including a geek customer help line. I’m cool with that.

  23. Solacetech,

    I hear what you are saying about RSS and productivity, and I have to say I’m perplexed.

    I’d like to be able to prove that RSS and reading all these blogs and whatnot in a reader is somehow boosting productivity.

    But I don’t think it is. It’s making my intellectual life richer. It’s enabling deeper communications with strangers who are “friends” on the Internet. But I really don’t sit around with real-life friends and discuss all the rich content of our RSS feeds. I wonder why that is?

    Already, I’m RSS feed bankrupt, unable to read the feeds, guilty about signing up for more I can’t read, chastened that I can’t read as many as Scoble, and suspecting that there’s a lot of redundancy. I don’t need RSS feeds, really, and I feel less and less need for them because I just go to the bookmarked websites when I feel like it.

    Is there a reason to change?

  24. Solacetech,

    I hear what you are saying about RSS and productivity, and I have to say I’m perplexed.

    I’d like to be able to prove that RSS and reading all these blogs and whatnot in a reader is somehow boosting productivity.

    But I don’t think it is. It’s making my intellectual life richer. It’s enabling deeper communications with strangers who are “friends” on the Internet. But I really don’t sit around with real-life friends and discuss all the rich content of our RSS feeds. I wonder why that is?

    Already, I’m RSS feed bankrupt, unable to read the feeds, guilty about signing up for more I can’t read, chastened that I can’t read as many as Scoble, and suspecting that there’s a lot of redundancy. I don’t need RSS feeds, really, and I feel less and less need for them because I just go to the bookmarked websites when I feel like it.

    Is there a reason to change?

  25. Prokofy: in advertising we learned that people needed to see an ad 13 times before they would even register that they had seen it. That doesn’t surprise me. I’m still getting questions, even in Silly Valley, like “what is a blog?” Even though the mainstream newspapers and radio stations here in Silly Valley have blogs. Blogs are 10 years old. Twitter is, what, two?

    Like you said, there’s plenty of people who have no clue how to use Google, even though that’s a 10-year-old-multi-billion-dollar-business.

  26. Prokofy: in advertising we learned that people needed to see an ad 13 times before they would even register that they had seen it. That doesn’t surprise me. I’m still getting questions, even in Silly Valley, like “what is a blog?” Even though the mainstream newspapers and radio stations here in Silly Valley have blogs. Blogs are 10 years old. Twitter is, what, two?

    Like you said, there’s plenty of people who have no clue how to use Google, even though that’s a 10-year-old-multi-billion-dollar-business.

  27. Robert,
    What you’re saying about angst between early adopters v. later adopters applies beyond tech and really applies across almost any industry. No where is this more prevalent than in public education where many teachers are slow to come to the realization that emerging technologies have educational value and that those who are pushing technology integration are not doing it simply because it’s the flavor of the month. Those teacher who are not able or willing to adapt to or adopt new communication and new learning environments do so at the risk of producing students ill-equipped for the marketplace.

    As for the misconception that Twitter is only used by Silicon Valley, you couldn’t be more right in your statements that it is a misconception. In my list of Twitter followers and followings yourself, Arrington, and Cashmore may be the only ones not involved in public education.

    Richard Byrne
    http://freetech4teachers.blogspot.com

  28. Robert,
    What you’re saying about angst between early adopters v. later adopters applies beyond tech and really applies across almost any industry. No where is this more prevalent than in public education where many teachers are slow to come to the realization that emerging technologies have educational value and that those who are pushing technology integration are not doing it simply because it’s the flavor of the month. Those teacher who are not able or willing to adapt to or adopt new communication and new learning environments do so at the risk of producing students ill-equipped for the marketplace.

    As for the misconception that Twitter is only used by Silicon Valley, you couldn’t be more right in your statements that it is a misconception. In my list of Twitter followers and followings yourself, Arrington, and Cashmore may be the only ones not involved in public education.

    Richard Byrne
    http://freetech4teachers.blogspot.com

  29. Casey: I should have written “the drive change in society.” I guarantee you that the ones driving change in politics are not the people who are happy doing things the way they’ve always been done, but those who are looking for a new way to do it.

  30. Casey: I should have written “the drive change in society.” I guarantee you that the ones driving change in politics are not the people who are happy doing things the way they’ve always been done, but those who are looking for a new way to do it.

  31. Andymurd,

    My kids and their friends (teenagers) look at Twitter with a big yawn. They have AIM on the computers and they tend to use Meebo more than anything because it’s one page with all the popular applications on it to multi-tax. On mobile phones, email or AIM is better. They also use Sony Mylos everywhere and it seems like email/AIM/Yahoo Messenger work better for them, maybe because YMs have all these avatar pictures to dress up, sounds, clips, little games, etc. you can do on them now, and Twitter is pretty stark stuff, no games. They are “done” with Facebook now too.

    You would think the natural flocking tendency of teens, their communications rapidly in group and their peer-seeking behaviour and all the rest of it would mean they’d naturally come right over to Twitter. But I don’t see that happening. And I think the reason is simple: teenagers like to talk privately with close friends and don’t always speak publicly in a big group, or at least have two very different styles of communication between public/private and they may not get the switching capacity they need on Twitter because DMs are clunky.

    BTW, I haven’t found a single person in my life who has even heard of Twitter, even with it being on CNN the other day.

    For the first time today I heard someone at the UN mention a reference about Second Life and nod knowledgeably, but that’s only because MacArthur Foundation sponsored the International Justice Center there and they grasped that it was a 3-D Internet application, a kind of place.

    I had a call from a newspaper in a small town in upstate NY this morning to interview me and it took me about 45 minutes to get across the idea of Second Life, virtuality, the Internet, servers where you rent server space called sims, etc. I think part of the problem was that the reporter and her editor (who was really just getting started looking at “new media” and “Web 2.0″) hadn’t really been exposed to a lot of information and chatter about what the Internet itself is.

  32. Andymurd,

    My kids and their friends (teenagers) look at Twitter with a big yawn. They have AIM on the computers and they tend to use Meebo more than anything because it’s one page with all the popular applications on it to multi-tax. On mobile phones, email or AIM is better. They also use Sony Mylos everywhere and it seems like email/AIM/Yahoo Messenger work better for them, maybe because YMs have all these avatar pictures to dress up, sounds, clips, little games, etc. you can do on them now, and Twitter is pretty stark stuff, no games. They are “done” with Facebook now too.

    You would think the natural flocking tendency of teens, their communications rapidly in group and their peer-seeking behaviour and all the rest of it would mean they’d naturally come right over to Twitter. But I don’t see that happening. And I think the reason is simple: teenagers like to talk privately with close friends and don’t always speak publicly in a big group, or at least have two very different styles of communication between public/private and they may not get the switching capacity they need on Twitter because DMs are clunky.

    BTW, I haven’t found a single person in my life who has even heard of Twitter, even with it being on CNN the other day.

    For the first time today I heard someone at the UN mention a reference about Second Life and nod knowledgeably, but that’s only because MacArthur Foundation sponsored the International Justice Center there and they grasped that it was a 3-D Internet application, a kind of place.

    I had a call from a newspaper in a small town in upstate NY this morning to interview me and it took me about 45 minutes to get across the idea of Second Life, virtuality, the Internet, servers where you rent server space called sims, etc. I think part of the problem was that the reporter and her editor (who was really just getting started looking at “new media” and “Web 2.0″) hadn’t really been exposed to a lot of information and chatter about what the Internet itself is.

  33. I agree with R. Seidman, most of the products won’t last or be around but some of the technologies will and they’ll morph so the mainstream finds them useful and adjusts. The big limiting factor is that humans and time don’t scale. There’s too much that takes too much time and most don’t have enough.
    The early adopter set lives/breathes these new technologies and their livelihood depends on keeping up with them therefore it’s not necessarily a time-sink. The “normal” of the world don’t have that incentive or the time. It better be damn useful to a wide range or it won’t get adopted and even if it is, it takes almost forever for it to become mainstream. 10-20 years for a lot of it, even in internet time.

  34. I agree with R. Seidman, most of the products won’t last or be around but some of the technologies will and they’ll morph so the mainstream finds them useful and adjusts. The big limiting factor is that humans and time don’t scale. There’s too much that takes too much time and most don’t have enough.
    The early adopter set lives/breathes these new technologies and their livelihood depends on keeping up with them therefore it’s not necessarily a time-sink. The “normal” of the world don’t have that incentive or the time. It better be damn useful to a wide range or it won’t get adopted and even if it is, it takes almost forever for it to become mainstream. 10-20 years for a lot of it, even in internet time.

  35. twitter vision does not show every tweet. Not even close. Its not possible for that site to keep up. Bad reference.

  36. Robert, good reply. I didn’t write the post with angst in mind ;-) What interests me is that so few services ever make it out into the world beyond the early adaptors. The article was more an observation that too many of these services are trapped within the early adopter scene, never to get out of it. Every service needs early adopters to mature and become mainstream. But few actually do. Too many follow the path of hoping someone buys the company once it shows it can hook up early adaptors. And that, in my opinion, isn’t a very good business model. Getting it mainstream is much harder (also more profitable in the end).

  37. twitter vision does not show every tweet. Not even close. Its not possible for that site to keep up. Bad reference.

  38. Robert, good reply. I didn’t write the post with angst in mind ;-) What interests me is that so few services ever make it out into the world beyond the early adaptors. The article was more an observation that too many of these services are trapped within the early adopter scene, never to get out of it. Every service needs early adopters to mature and become mainstream. But few actually do. Too many follow the path of hoping someone buys the company once it shows it can hook up early adaptors. And that, in my opinion, isn’t a very good business model. Getting it mainstream is much harder (also more profitable in the end).

  39. >aureliusmaximus this perception very much varies according to the following factors:

    o geographical location
    o social sector
    o income and class
    o age

    Sure, people put a premium on cell phones these days. I see even very poor people with cell phones who don’t have jobs and are paying for their chat before medical care. But the point is, they are not carrying $700 Nokias with video capacity, they have Virgin Mobile.

  40. >aureliusmaximus this perception very much varies according to the following factors:

    o geographical location
    o social sector
    o income and class
    o age

    Sure, people put a premium on cell phones these days. I see even very poor people with cell phones who don’t have jobs and are paying for their chat before medical care. But the point is, they are not carrying $700 Nokias with video capacity, they have Virgin Mobile.

  41. Your points are interesting, but…

    “…because I’ve seen they are the ones who drive society.”

    Early adopters do not drive society, they drive a segment of *consumption* within society. The consumption of technology-related products and services is primarily a sector of the economy which then arguably impacts cultural behavior, and ultimately society. Let’s not be so self-aggrandizing that we believe ourselves more relevant or influential than the public, or even of the agricultural sectors as each relates to “driving society”.

    If your belief held true, wouldn’t we be voting over the Internet in November? Everyone but the early adopters are just plain wrong about how to do things “right”? Hardly. Technology is a way, but not always the defining way. Predictions that Twitter will become mainstream are just that – predictions made by those who seek to perpetuate the economies in which they operate in order to enable a new behavior that might or might not be truly valuable. The proof in the pudding is…

    Also, I think it is important to note that technology, and especially Internet technology, is not necessarily unifying, which is perhaps an important underlying characteristic of any society. As Putnam reveals in great detail in “Bowling Alone”, we’ve “become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures – whether they be the PTA, church, or political parties – have disintegrated.” As we “friend” more and more strangers, flame strangers in forums, watch live events from afar, and shop from home we are hardly doing anything even close to creating and supporting “societies”. Disconnected digital community-speak, perhaps, but there are significant – and perhaps even negative implications to – the distinctions. The adoption of technology, early or not, should not be perpetuated merely for the sake of the notoriety/wealth it brings, or for what it might someday become, for we do so in lieu of other choices and behaviors that could, in the end, truly “drive society” in more positive, human-enabled directions.

  42. Your points are interesting, but…

    “…because I’ve seen they are the ones who drive society.”

    Early adopters do not drive society, they drive a segment of *consumption* within society. The consumption of technology-related products and services is primarily a sector of the economy which then arguably impacts cultural behavior, and ultimately society. Let’s not be so self-aggrandizing that we believe ourselves more relevant or influential than the public, or even of the agricultural sectors as each relates to “driving society”.

    If your belief held true, wouldn’t we be voting over the Internet in November? Everyone but the early adopters are just plain wrong about how to do things “right”? Hardly. Technology is a way, but not always the defining way. Predictions that Twitter will become mainstream are just that – predictions made by those who seek to perpetuate the economies in which they operate in order to enable a new behavior that might or might not be truly valuable. The proof in the pudding is…

    Also, I think it is important to note that technology, and especially Internet technology, is not necessarily unifying, which is perhaps an important underlying characteristic of any society. As Putnam reveals in great detail in “Bowling Alone”, we’ve “become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures – whether they be the PTA, church, or political parties – have disintegrated.” As we “friend” more and more strangers, flame strangers in forums, watch live events from afar, and shop from home we are hardly doing anything even close to creating and supporting “societies”. Disconnected digital community-speak, perhaps, but there are significant – and perhaps even negative implications to – the distinctions. The adoption of technology, early or not, should not be perpetuated merely for the sake of the notoriety/wealth it brings, or for what it might someday become, for we do so in lieu of other choices and behaviors that could, in the end, truly “drive society” in more positive, human-enabled directions.

  43. Robert,

    You may find this impossible to believe, but many people are actually still like your dad. I don’t mean just my 75 year old relatives just turning on the Internet for the first time. I mean my 20-something customers from all over America in Second Life, who have no idea how to use Google. I’m not kidding. They go to bookmarked sites that other people set up, they don’t really know how to do a search coherently; they’ve never heard of closed quotes. Using the search in SL where they are motivated, they have trouble understanding why the results they get don’t have sentences that all begin or show visibly that key word. I’m telling you, nothing is as penetrated to the roots as you imagine.

    Rather than nagging and trying to pull people into things, you have to figure what it is that they need to do that this tech in fact will really help them to do. How will it really enhance their life and add to what they already do? There just isn’t enough willingness to listen to that, and hear what it is people say they want.

    The geek early adapter clinging problem is what makes tech so awful, Robert. We wouldn’t have email as stupid, cluttery, and useless as it is now if it weren’t for geekitude and perfectionism on making weird folders and trees and commands and actions that mirror the way the innards of a computer work, instead of enabling the way people think about communications.

    They slow down progress. If the early adapters could have been pushed aside earlier in the process, we could have had email that just worked better and saved better and didn’t become the monster it has, not only cluttering servers and making people feel bankrupt but emotionally disturbing many offices and projects with disembodied angry or tendentious communications. Some day historians will look back on the “email” period as a really, really strange period of odd communications that people got sold on and hooked on because techs thought their machines’ signalling systems were just the perfect thing to graft on to human interactions.

    I will never forget my first email. We had a file sharing line on the old Hayes Smartcom in the 80s. We figured out that the address box to send the file could also contain brief messages to people, jokes, instructions for follow-ups, etc. We got side-tracked on that for awhile in confusion and idiocy and then finally figured out picking up the phone worked lots better, as did faxes. Then we got sidetracked again.

    Here we all are.

  44. Have to disagree with you there Prokofy. Cell phones have become the new Air Jordans. They may not have universal adoption but its hard to argue against the fact that Americans at large have prioritized having a function-rich handset over other financial considerations.

  45. Robert,

    You may find this impossible to believe, but many people are actually still like your dad. I don’t mean just my 75 year old relatives just turning on the Internet for the first time. I mean my 20-something customers from all over America in Second Life, who have no idea how to use Google. I’m not kidding. They go to bookmarked sites that other people set up, they don’t really know how to do a search coherently; they’ve never heard of closed quotes. Using the search in SL where they are motivated, they have trouble understanding why the results they get don’t have sentences that all begin or show visibly that key word. I’m telling you, nothing is as penetrated to the roots as you imagine.

    Rather than nagging and trying to pull people into things, you have to figure what it is that they need to do that this tech in fact will really help them to do. How will it really enhance their life and add to what they already do? There just isn’t enough willingness to listen to that, and hear what it is people say they want.

    The geek early adapter clinging problem is what makes tech so awful, Robert. We wouldn’t have email as stupid, cluttery, and useless as it is now if it weren’t for geekitude and perfectionism on making weird folders and trees and commands and actions that mirror the way the innards of a computer work, instead of enabling the way people think about communications.

    They slow down progress. If the early adapters could have been pushed aside earlier in the process, we could have had email that just worked better and saved better and didn’t become the monster it has, not only cluttering servers and making people feel bankrupt but emotionally disturbing many offices and projects with disembodied angry or tendentious communications. Some day historians will look back on the “email” period as a really, really strange period of odd communications that people got sold on and hooked on because techs thought their machines’ signalling systems were just the perfect thing to graft on to human interactions.

    I will never forget my first email. We had a file sharing line on the old Hayes Smartcom in the 80s. We figured out that the address box to send the file could also contain brief messages to people, jokes, instructions for follow-ups, etc. We got side-tracked on that for awhile in confusion and idiocy and then finally figured out picking up the phone worked lots better, as did faxes. Then we got sidetracked again.

    Here we all are.

  46. Have to disagree with you there Prokofy. Cell phones have become the new Air Jordans. They may not have universal adoption but its hard to argue against the fact that Americans at large have prioritized having a function-rich handset over other financial considerations.

  47. Whenever I need a reality check, I look to the technology that my mum uses. Google took a couple of years to be my mum’s search engine of choice and that only happened because I rebuilt her PC and set it as the homepage. She’s used flickr but its too complicated at the moment. Her new-fangled digital camera might help.

    Twitter is certainly easy enough for her to use but its a difficult sell – you have to use Twitter to understand it. My mum is not an experimenter online.

    College kids today prefer IM to email, they’ll be the ones to bring Twitter into the mainstream but it will take a couple of years.

  48. Whenever I need a reality check, I look to the technology that my mum uses. Google took a couple of years to be my mum’s search engine of choice and that only happened because I rebuilt her PC and set it as the homepage. She’s used flickr but its too complicated at the moment. Her new-fangled digital camera might help.

    Twitter is certainly easy enough for her to use but its a difficult sell – you have to use Twitter to understand it. My mum is not an experimenter online.

    College kids today prefer IM to email, they’ll be the ones to bring Twitter into the mainstream but it will take a couple of years.

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