Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stretching the meaning of the term "early adopter"

Writers tend to repeat phrases, and I am no exception. I have a few pet phrases that I like to use, including "a tool is not a way of life" and "this is what he said. this is what ________ said." (The latter was stolen from Aaron Copland.)

Another phrase that I like to use is "I am not trendy." And it's true. I run in online circles with some people who do tend to be on the trendy side, and I do not count myself in their number.

However, some services like to classify me as trendy, probably to make me feel good. In a July 15 post, I mentioned how Foursquare is classifying me as trendy:

You were one of the first hundred thousand members of our community (to be exact, you're member #46,304)! You can tell your grandkids that you were a 21st century trendsetter!

Actually, I HAVE exhibited early adopter behavior with Foursquare - I've already quit using it.

I recently got an email from another service praising me for my early adopter credentials:

Hi John,

Thank you for being one of BranchOut's first users. As an early adopter, you recognized the power of leveraging Facebook for professional networking before others did. When you signed up for BranchOut, we sent you an early adopter badge that only our first million users received. Now that BranchOut has millions of users, we want to acknowledge you for being an early adopter.
You are BranchOut user 87,565. Congrats!

Based on feedback from users like you, we've added new features focused on connecting you to better professional opportunities, job openings, and the people who can accelerate your career.

The odd thing is, I probably am considered an early adopter in some respects. Foursquare now has millions of users, so I'm an early adopter there. I was on Google+ within days of its public availability, and now there are millions of users there also. I don't know how BranchOut will pan out, but if it takes off, I can be classified as one of the early ones.

But while the services classify me as an early adopter (sort of - I once asked Foursquare a question and never received a reply), I don't think of myself as one.

And I realize, as I noted above, that the services may be liberal in their use of the "early adopter" designation so that people will feel good. But I wonder if this ends up devaluing the term.

And how will people who pride themselves on being early adopters feel when everyone is called an early adopter? "Robert Scoble, John Bredehoft - what's the difference?"
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