Diffusion of innovation theory (or why I’m not excited about Google+)

I remember my Motorola Razr phone. It was sleek, stylish and small. It was a step in the right direction from my little cell phone that didn’t flip and, despite the keypad being locked, randomly called people on speed style. It was silver. Small (still the smallest phone I’ve owned).

And it took me forever to get my hands on.

It was on backorder for two weeks. I waited and waited for my carrier to call me and tell me it was ready. The letdown – because, you know, all it did was make phone calls and play some music – was epic.

In this one case, I was an “early adopter.”

In my Comm 50 Communication Technologies course at University of the Pacific, the instructor introduced my class to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory. It’s a bell curve formula that represents how people “adopt” new technologies after introduction.

Innovators are the first, and smallest, group. These are usually the people who run out and buy immediately (think about all those lines around the Apple stores when the iPad 2 came out).

A larger majority are early adopters, those who purchase within a more stable time frame.

Here’s a breakdown of the theory, in terms of adoption with the yellow line indicating market share, thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


I was once an early adopter. I used to run out and buy the newest technology as soon as I could afford it (money was the only thing prevented me from being in the innovator category). I have an old-school, fourth generation iPod that I somehow convinced my parents to pay for part of as my only Christmas gift one year.

I have an iPod Shuffle (yes, an original one) that I figured would be good for running and less bulky than my bigger iPod.

I have one of the first flat screen televisions that came on the market (not flat panel, but flat screen).

I’m not anymore. In fact, despite the fact that I’m 27 and better off financially than I was at 18, 19 and 20 years old, I’ve moved more into the late majority category.

My husband and I just bought our first flat panel television that connects to our wireless router and streams movies. I just signed up for Netflix. (Because we once had more than one video store in Tracy.)

I’m toying with the idea of buying an iPad 2, only because it will be useful tool in the journalism course I teach at San Joaquin Delta College. It’s also easier to lug around when traveling than my 15-inch HP laptop. On my recent vacation to New York City, I saw more iPads per block than I’ve ever seen any other technology. No joke, people were using them for everything from taking photos to navigating the subway system.

But I refuse to commit. The biggest commitment I’ve made recently is to a $500 Dyson vacuum. It took me more than a year to make the decision to buy it from the time I realized we needed a new one. And even at that, I agonized – and continue to do so – over the decision. Will it last for at least five years? Will not having bags save money?

That’s a lot of money to be plopping down on one item. We don’t need to be in a recession to understand that.

My most impulsive buy in the past 12 months is my Motorola Droid X. What sold me? It shoots HD video. I’m a sucker for HD video.

The point is, it’s taking me awhile to become convinced that I absolutely need something new in my life.

That’s part of the reason I’m having some reservations about two recent announcements in social media.

Google announced the launching of Google+ social network that allows video chatting, among other features.

This week Facebook introduced video chatting within its system.

I’m not excited about either. Why? I’m become the wait-and-see type. Remember Google Buzz? That didn’t pick up as well as planned.

With all the “new” being thrown out there, I’d rather sit back and let the innovators, early adopters and early majority figure it out. I’d rather the bugs be worked out before I start using it. I’d rather the recalls be done before my purchase.

I’d rather wait.

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