Where's the gang of 2,000 who controls tech hype hanging out today?

So, the other day when I signed onto FourSquare for the first time in a while I found 442 people waiting for me. As I looked through the names I saw the same names that had first added me onto Twitter. And Dopplr. And Google Reader. And Facebook. And FriendFeed. And others.

You see, there’s a gang of about 2,000 people who really control tech industry hype and play a major role in deciding which services get mainstream hype (this gang was all on Twitter by early 2007 — long before Oprah and Ashton and all the other mainstream celebrities, brands, and journalists showed up). I have not seen any startup succeed without getting most of these folks involved. Yes, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch is the parade leader, but he hardly controls this list. Dave Winer proved that by launching Bit.ly by showing it first to Marshall Kirkpatrick and Bit.ly raced through this list.

By the way, having this list use your service does NOT guarantee market success. This list has all added me on Dopplr, for instance, but Dopplr has NOT broken out of this small, geeky crowd. Studying why not is something we should do.

Who is on this list? I’ve added as many as I can find onto my Twitter following list (don’t just look at the ones on the first page — the real important people are deeper in the database).

I study this list and share the most important Tweets from this list on my favorites.

One place you can study what these folks are using is on Wakoopa. Lots of them have added Wakoopa to their computers and let this service track what’s going on.

Want to see what this list is adding to their iPhones? Appsfire is a great place to look at that. I just added that to my iPhone. There are a variety of others, that are similar to this too.

Anyway, why do you think that Dopplr got a lot of the 2,000 gatekeepers to sign up, but hasn’t escaped from them into mainstream acceptance? Will Foursquare be the next Twitter and escape the list?


  1. Nah, I don't think it'll escape the list. It's fun, and I use it, but I think it's destined to remain niche.

  2. I can tell you why Dopplr hasn't caught on…

    Dopplr requires you to have a set trip. You have to provide beginning and end dates. You have to provide an itinerary…in advance.

    Something like Brightkite only requires you to check in. “I am here now” is all you need to do. If Dopplr had a simple check in feature, I'd consider using it. As it is, the way I travel doesn't fit into Dopplr's system, so I don't use Dopplr.

    Also, a service like FourSquare or BrightKite allows people to check in within a city, where as Dopplr seems to focused on intra-city travel. There is way more inter-city travel than intra-city travel.

  3. So help me out here…

    Before the “wisdom of crowds”, what we wanted/talked about/cared about was controlled by a small number of advertising/marketing gurus and corporations. If you couldn't fight your way into this small group, your chances of success approached nil.

    Now that with the wonders of Web 2.0 and the democratization of influence, and the near-demise of old media, what we want/talk about/care about is… controlled by a small number of “thought leaders”.

    In either case, we fail to use our minds to form our own opinions. We are guided by cliques that can be bought, twisted, and influence, and which have their own (not necessarily benevolent) interests.

    Remind me, please, how exactly this equates to progress? From my perspective, if the only way we can accept someone's words as truth is for them to be some sort of “anointed few” (whose abilities or knowledge may or may not have any actual relevance to a given issue), then there is no real difference between where we were and where we seem to be now.

    In either case, we are anointing a special few as “wise” instead of seeking out true wisdom in the uncelebrated masses. I guess this is the human condition: 1% of us have actual intelligence and real thoughts, and 99% of us just follow whatever the current “in crowd” believes. For the 99%, the only creativity and intelligent selection is deciding which “thought leader” we will brainlessly parrot.

  4. As I see it there are really three groups involved. The tech geeks. The people who are into Tech AND “something else.” And the people who are into “something else.” You really go mainstream a tool/product has to meet the needs of the people who are just into “something else.” If not then it will stay with the tech geeks and maybe some of the people who are into tech and “something else.”

    I see myself in the Tech and “something else” group. I love tech and I’ve made my living in tech. But these days I am more about connecting with people in education. If a product offers something for those education people I’ll share it with them (and so with the real tech/education leaders) and maybe it will spread. If it doesn’t offer something for them I may just use it to follow some of the tech geek crowd.

    I don’t follow 2,000 tech geeks. I follow a small number of them. I figure if something is important I will hear it from those key people and I don’t need to follow a large number of them. Now in education I do need to follow many people because conversation with them is much more to my key role in life.

    I think that a case may be made that the connecters between tech geeks and people with other interests are a lot more important than generally recognized. Lots of the educators I talk to about “web 2.0” and general tech tools have no idea who Robert Scoble or Mike Arrington are. Hard to believe but true. They do know people who have a foot in both tech and education though and that is the path they learn from.

  5. Robert, i think the verb “control” is a little inappropriate in many cases. I would say maybe influence. Lots of services take off without those 2k people. Take for example DailyBooth where i bet none of those 2k are present or french born “Fxx my life” …The danger is when you stick to those 2k and don't manage to expand.

    Thanks for mentioning http://AppsFire.com [we broke the 2k long time ago althgouh we opened a few days only] . I am not sure who you are referring to but no other service to date allow you to see and share your iPhone apps. There are tons of iPhone apps catalogs but none that do what we do.

  6. Kelly: well, you can influence this group a LOT easier than you can influence the old-style journalists. I've seen this first hand. Also, anyone can join this group, just start being the most passionate about new technology out there. I've seen that first hand too.

  7. Oh please. Your list of 2000 wishes they had that kind of control. I was on twitter in early 2006. I was on twitter before you, and I'm a no one.

    Here's a ladder. Get over yourself.

  8. In his Big Think interview not too long ago Anil Dash made a valid point about “control”. You ought to listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW2TonRvt94 “New media is a crossroads where we are no longer about technology we're about culture, and that means we have to listen to those that create and lead culture, that can be artists, academics, that can be those in gov. and politics and the civic sector, but it's no longer the realm of those that know computer programming and those that know how to use the hardware the best, that moment is over, and technologists are going to be reluctant to let go of that.” – Anil Dash.

    The truth of the matter, the term early adapter is *almost dead. Respectively, as much as you may believe yourself to be, you are not part of an exclusive group and the “2010 web” certainly does not include the type of exclusivity or “influence” you so eloquently describe. That misguided sense of self importance “control” and “influence” is the same path taken by the music industry, news reporting industry, and soon network television.

  9. I'm actually kind of hoping Brightkite becomes mainstream faster than Foursquare, but that's mostly because Brightkite has an Android app and Foursquare doesn't.

    I'm totally not a fanboy at all. Sort of.

  10. Doppplr has issues because people can do travel stuff good enough on other more mainstream sites. I suspect that there is already a new Twitter, and that a few smaller sites are actually a bit hotter proportionally now.

  11. Robert: I hope you and the family are well. As a co-founder and CEO of Dopplr I thought I'd correct and explain some misperceptions in your post.

    Your write: “Dopplr has NOT broken out of this small, geeky crowd.” This is simply false. In its focused audience of international smart travellers Dopplr is growing well, and the social atlas (http://www.dopplr.com/socialatlas) features we launched this spring have been widely adopted. The iPhone app (http://www.dopplr.com/iphone) just had over 65,000 downloads in it's first month and was featured in many EU app stores including the UK. To get a feel for the social atlas you can visit London:
    (when you're logged in you'll see the hotel choices of your network)

    There are three reasons why you (and perhaps some others in your 2000) may not see this growth:

    - Dopplr is growing mainly outside of the United States and focuses on high-value international travellers. It has always had this focus. For more on the profile of current Dopplr users you can see this recent blog post: “How the Dopplr Community Travels” (http://bit.ly/qHouK).

    - Dopplr values privacy and doesn't have any in-built concept of celebrity or “traveller rankings” in the system. Most of our users don't want their travel plans or preferences for places to be shared in public, so there is no way to “follow” people. What we do is present this travel data back to our users in a Personal Annual Report (http://bit.ly/2Hr3). What we now doing in the social atlas is displaying aggregate anonymized rankings of interesting places in cities around the world.

    - Dopplr has always had a bit of a new “golden age of travel” to it. Think “I'll be coming to Florence in two months bearing a letter from my uncle.” It is slower social software. It is an app meant to help iin your travels using the social location data from your network and the entire network of smart international travellers on Dopplr. It was designed to help you get together with people in interesting places, not replace face-to-face experiences with activity streams. This theme is pretty well covered in a recent story on Dopplr in El Pais (http://bit.ly/DMYNc).

    This said, there is still a long way to go before the majority of smart international travellers are on Dopplr, but we are well on the way and excited about the progress.

    As for, what is the next toy of choice for your 2000? Well, that is an interesting question. But not nearly as interesting as the question of what Indian and Chinese first-time mobile phone owners are doing with their phones. More on that when we meet next face-to-face.

    Regards from http://dplr.it/helsinki


  12. Dopplr sucks. Tripit pwns it totally. It's easier to use, more accurate, and handles automatic importing of travel info. Dopplr fails at all those things that would make it useful.

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  14. Narcissistic Personality Disorder Gang of 2,000, freebasing on 25 social networks, playing tiddlywinks with cutesy-named pastel-colored-webcrapola, holding parties disguised as “conferences”, endlessly talking to themselves, Dean For President phenomenology…whatever this group “hypes”, bubbles or fads out, and in some rather notable cases, be a direct curse.

    Tons of real tech news out there, but avoid this crowd if you want anything lasting and directly useful.

  15. I have a tip for you and the rest of the fat nerd geek tech social network crowd: get a real job instead of blogging about one another in order, gain attention and increase the income from ads to pay your fucking bills on tech gear to power the loop even more.

  16. You know what's great about FriendFeed – the ability to “listen as” someone else. I've created a ton of lists where I'll use the “find your Twitter friends” feature, but I'll put in someone else's twitter name and then follow all the people THEY follow on Twitter in a group – I'd call this list “The Scobleizer 2000″. It's a great technique for finding informed clusters of people for a given niche and monitoring them. Thanks for changing your strategy from follow-all to follow-few. This is a great list – adds a ton of value.

  17. I guess most people are still sensitive to the question of where they are right now (if they are not where U know they usually are) or to qhat programs they run how often. ( also had to take some stuff of the wakoopa list ;) )

    Bit in a way U are right. The list is much shorterhere in hermany, maybe 200 or 500, but they also have the power to push stuff like “Poken”s.

  18. Checked out the servicve foursquare. As a European on the 'Mainland' I can only say that I am in Amsterdam. I think I've been there once 15 years ago ;) Why not let ppl choose their cities freely? The larger ones will aggregate more content anyways…

  19. “… you can influence this group a LOT easier than you can influence the old-style journalists”

    I'm hoping you don't mean payola here Robert.

  20. As Marko points out Dopplr is something that has more of a “slow grow” effect as it does not have the button push-instant repsonse statisfaction of things like twitter etc.

    It builds over time, to show it's value (yearly report, recommendations etc), also the serendipity thing is killer when it kicks in i.e. your update email contains information about who else is near your visit city.

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