Darcy ClarkeDevelopment / Design / UX

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Aug 30, 2016

Why I'm not an early adopter

Posted in "thoughts"


tldr; waiting to adopt new technology allows me to avoid fads, learn from others mistakes, spot meaningful trends and maintain sanity

Trends in technology are an interesting beast. It’s often hard to know whether you’re riding a wave in the middle of an ocean or about to crash into the metaphorical beach. As such, I tend to side with an averse approach to early-adoption.

There are obvious pros and cons to this approach but I thought it might be worth sharing my thoughts and experiences as a middle-of-the-pack adopter.

Terminology

Firstly, I should note that I’m not a huge fan of the terminiology associated with the “Diffusion of Innovations“, which are:

  • Innovators
  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority
  • Late Majority
  • Laggards

The last of these, “laggards”, seems particularly dismissive. For my part, I’d consider myself to fall into either the early or late majority on average. In a few cases I might also consider myself an innovator but, to reemphasize the sentiment of this article, very rarely an early adopter.

The Scientific Method

One of the most practical reasons why I tend to be averse to early adoption is a lack of data. Considering Everett Roger’s “Five stages of adoption” you might categorize this as the “Decision” stage. For me, I recognize this to be an homage to the Scientific Method‘s “Testing” and “Analysis” stages; I look to gather more data, test assumptions and reflect or refine my initial, objective understanding before coming to a conclusion.

What this means is that I do sometimes test out new technologies but am not, what I consider, adopting them.

Cons

The cons to being a habitual middle-of-the-pack adopter are fairly obvious. “Missing the boat” is probably the most likely scenario if a technological trend never hits critical mass. On the other hand, if it does hit critical mass than it’s more or less like “being late to the party”; Especially considering that the trend must have enough market penetration to sustain itself by that point.

For example, take my initial hesitation towards Git & Github, Twitter and Bitcoin.

Git & Github (2008)

Coming from a background of heavy SVN usage I couldn’t see any benefit in switching to, what seemed to be, an identical versioning system. I had a toolchain that was working and that made sense already. To throw that out or replace it seemed like a waste of time.

At first glance, I also thought the idea of a social platform for sharing code (ie. GitHub) was ridiculous. I wanted to control the means of distribution for my open source projects and this seemed like I an irreversible move in the wrong direction.

Of course the benefits exposed in the underlying architecture of Git and the distribution and nature of sharing/forking with Github eventually won me over.

Twitter (2009)

When Twitter first became popular I was amongst a number of individuals that thought it was a passing fad. A redunant platform that had little to offer in terms of meaningful content and communication (for some, the verdict may still be out). At one point I went so far as to write it off completely in a blog post before making a conserted effort to properly test the waters.

Of course, after my initial hesitation I did eventually find use in both creating and consuming content through my Twitter “feed”.

Bitcoin (2010)

Pros

The pros to

Things I have, and continue to, avoid

… most notably, Medium, Angular and Webpack

Medium

Angular

Webpack

Sitting at the

  • twitter (brian)
    • I wrote an article about this
    • thought it was fleeting
    • garbage (check out my sandwhich)
  • sketch (darrin)
  • git & github (brian)
    • SVN
    • ownership of distribution
  • bitcoin (zach)

What I’m still sitting on the fence:

  • medium
    • ownership of distribution
      • doesn’t make as much sense as github
  • webpack
    • current build tools solve a lot of problems
    • benefits don’t out weigh
  • angular/ember
    • went straight from backbone to react + -

Summation

Over time I think my approach to adopting new platforms, frameworks and technologies has matured. Having more experience and a larger wealth of information to fall back on has helped me make better decisions now and for the future.

Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place for regirous innovation through mindful research and critical thinking; I just prefer to leave the compulsion toward a relentless, and sometimes needless and naive, adoption of technology to others.