Slow Adoption

April 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

On being an early (albeit slow) adopter

Along the spectrum of the Diffusion of Innovations, one can be an Innovator, Early Adopter, a member of the Early Majority, the Late Majority, or a Laggard. Since my early childhood, I have identified as an early adapter of technology tools. My decision to try new technology starts with learning about the concept of the tool in question, not just jumping in to be one of the first end users. If I’m not persuaded that the tool will be useful to my productivity, or if I don’t think it sounds fun, I won’t even consider trying it because it’s not a good use of my time or resources.

I have been using computers since I was six years old, which is a pretty early age for someone of my generation. My father worked for a Control Data Corporation in Minnesota, who owned the Plato computer system. I grew up using one of the earliest versions of the Internet, which involved chat rooms, instant messaging, and multi-player games. We had a huge monstrosity of a computer in our basement boiler room, and you had to dial into the Plato system with a rotary telephone. I would dial the number, and the system on the other end would make noises like a fax machine, followed by a staticky hiss, and I would then set the phone receiver to rest off the hook for the rest of my online session.

My dad used to take me to conventions where I would demonstrate how simple it was to operate a computer (“So easy, a child can do it!”). It’s surprising to me that I’m not more of a gamer since I spent so much of my early childhood playing role-playing games that involved building Dungeons and Dragons style characters, accumulating weapons and money and fighting scary creatures. However, since the popular advent of the Internet, I immediately took to communication tools, from email to blogging to online chat. When I stop to think about it, I realize that I have been using social networking technology for about thirty-five years, so it’s no wonder I am fascinated with Twitter, and that I’m so delighted to get in touch with old friends from high school on Facebook.

While I did not grow up to be a programmer (or a gamer), my expertise is in how technology tools can help people manage the daily onslaught of information.  In this age of innovation and information, the onslaught of new tools is almost as overwhelming as the avalanche of data that we have coming at us at any moment. As an information professional, I need to know about the most efficient tools that help to filter data in such a way that what is most useful is pushed directly to the end user.

I have not waited in line to purchase the first iPhone or Wii, but I have had a Twitter account since 2007, and my original yahoo address was simply sconner (I can’t use that account any more, with the incredible amount of spam I recieve there). It is my business to know about trends in information management tools, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time beta-testing something unless I’m confident it’s going to be a good investment of my time.

I like to wait for new products to have at least a couple of generations in production before I will spend my money on it. When I first started using Twitter, I didn’t get. I signed up for my account in November of 2007, but I didn’t start using it in earnest until almost a year later. Now it is something that I use daily to build social networks and share information.

Embracing the concept of the Slow Movement, I posit that slow adoption of technology is a prudent and wise investment of our resources.  I will always be eager to learn to new developments as they happen, but I will not actually adopt the tools until they have proven their usefulness to me.

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