Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Early Adopter vs. Lagger - Re-evaluating the Rule

If you have been following technology for some time, you will likely know about Moore's Law and a lot of other rules and laws made up over the years. I have taken more than a few laps around the field and I am to the point of rewriting a lot of the stuff that has been flying around for a few dozen years. The problem with these rules is that many people accept them as facts and these rules are old, old, old when age doesn't mean a thing and they are just begging to be revised.

One of the most commonly repeated rule is that you shouldn't be either an early adopter or a lagger (late comer). The idea here is that new technology has a lot of bugs that need to be worked out so being a early adapter is relatively dangerous. At the other end of the spectrum is the lagger. The person that waits until just before (or after) new technology has been established before purchasing. Another theory supporting this idea is that the early adapters pay a premium for their new technology while those who wait usually get a discounted price.

Not that this rule might work if the person making the decision to be an early adapter or whatever was really knowledgeable about the technology. That is seldom the case. Being the first kid on the block to get the new tech has its perks. In the case of the laggers, what is considered a lag? The implication here is that the laggers wait to adopt the new technology, but wait until it is almost obsolete before doing so. What do you call someone who simply ignores the whole process and keeps using the old technology until it falls apart? I might add at this point that the genealogical community is rife with laggers who have long since dropped out of the technological race altogether. For example, the news right now is what will happen to all the Windows XP users when Microsoft abandons the operating system in 2014? The answer is for many of the genealogists, Windows XP would be an upgrade.

The new rewritten rule should be this: buy the fastest, most advanced, latest technology you can afford because it is already out-of-date when you can purchase it. The old rule about early adopters might work in the 1800s with farms, it does not work when buying computers. Waiting to buy new computer technology just means that you are always using old technology, nothing more, nothing less. The question is whether you are using the computer technology as a tool. Computers are highly specialized general purpose tools. Those who recognize this fact and use them as tools realize that there is a trade-off: time vs. money. Well, if you are a blogger, money may not be a factor, but time is always a factor and as I get older, it becomes a bigger and bigger factor. Take today for instance. I have been typing or dictating steadily except for two short breaks for about 11 hours. I have written eight blog posts including this one. Now, if I could find a faster way to work, would you think I would pay something for the extra time I might save? You would be right. I would.

Technology is enabling. Waiting around for things to change or mature is disabling. I realize the terrible price paid to keep changing. Believe me. I have just gone through a steep learning curve with radio control models. But that is another story altogether. The basic issue is adaptability. People naturally resist change and genealogists are well into the resisting group. So what does an early adapter do when they are thrown into a room full of people who don't know what an operating system is or what it does? Slow down and learn some patience. Life is too short to get aggravated either way. I really never expect anyone to buy every genealogy program and try every one of them until they break in some way. I also do not expect any one to keep my hours or follow my interests. That was long ago a lost cause.

But if you are capable of keeping up the pace, why not do it? Some things like Mount Everest are just done because they are there and being there creates a challenge that cannot be ignored if you are a certain type of person. I am glad there is diversity. I am eternally glad that not everyone is like me. Most of the businesses in the world would fail if they were. But I do wish people would stop acting like computers were new technology and that new technology was something to be shunned simply because of some outdated notion that there were inherent defects in new technology.

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