As a UI developer, I want to be an “early adopter” of as many new technologies and gizmos as possible. Even if they’re clunky, non-helpful, efficiency drain tools, I feel like it’s my obligation to be well-informed about the latest gadgets and websites. So I’m often downloading trial versions, and occasionally checking out a friend’s new gizmo to see what I think of it.

But simply looking at or playing around with a new high-tech product isn’t enough, though. To be a true “early adopter” you have to adopt — you have to integrate the new technology into your life, not just play around with a trial version for a few minutes to see how it feels.

The problem, though, is that so many new technologies turn out, after you’ve tried them out, to really suck, but it sometimes takes more than just a few minutes to figure that out. Sometimes only after using it for a few weeks do you realize that the gizmo actually makes your life more complicated, not less. Sometimes you may not ever realize it at all, and find yourself stuck with a mobile phone or a productivity app that has made you less efficient than you were with the older technology. You might be using such harmful technology right now!

I remember when I used to fantasize that my PDA would replace my paper sketchbook. Ultimately I realized that simply writing stuff down on paper was far better for me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it.

Of course there is also the option of not having a particular kind of technology at all. Does having a mobile phone increase productivity? Some would argue that it’s not a necessity at all. Do you really need a whole separate desktop program to tell you the weather outside? If you work on a computer 10 hours a day anyway, does having a web browser on your phone really make your life any easier? Does registering for a new social bookmarking app really help you become a better, happier, more informed person?

Another way of thinking of this is by asking: Can a technology, once adopted, be subsequently eliminated from our lives? I can think of one example where it has happened: I do not, for example, use a wristwatch, and of the few people I know who do wear them, they think of them as jewelry.


5 responses to “Early Adopter vs. Efficient Person”

  1. Interesting you should mention the wristwatch thing. I read an article a few months ago (the location of which, of course, I can’t recall for the life of me) about how the ubiquity of cell phones has seriously hurt the wristwatch industry. Everybody just checks the time on their phones these days.

  2. I agree. I think it’s better to pick a few tools and learn them really well, rather than using every new application that comes out. Of course you also need to keep informed as to what else is out there. Often if you look at the tools used by some of the best animators/photographers/whatever you will be surprised at how out-dated they are. Most of the best programmers I know use really crappy old MS-DOS style text editors.

  3. I stopped using a wristwatch when I got a mobile phone. The phone has a browser, but I have not once felt the urge to use it for surfing or email. I spend enough time in front of a computer as it is.
    Most new technologies are fun, but not really necessary. Perhaps the world would be a nicer place without mp3-players. People in trains and planes would actually have to start having conversations again 🙂

  4. if they made product demos that would reveal how much a product sucks in less than 10 minutes, most of the tech products in the world would fail. tech companies rely on the fact that marketing can compensate for poor product design.

  5. no wristwatch here either.

    my latest illustration of the point you’re making here Chris is Twitter.

    When it first came out I signed up, took a look and wondered why on earth everyone was loving it so much.

    A few weeks later I went back and actually adopted it… now I’m seeing the appeal!

    I had a similar experience with Flickr a while back.

    Interesting also to think why you adopt some things and not others…. (I’m still thinking about that!)