There's an interesting social phenomenon, first described by author Geoffrey Moore in his book, "Crossing the Chasm". Moore proposes that in general, people react differently to technology change. In fact, there are several categories of change reactions:
- Innovators. These are the folks who "invent" the change. The ones with the screwdrivers. The like the change; they make it happen.
- Early Adopters. These people like change just to be different. They will endure any pain or trouble simply to be able to say "we did it!"
- Pragmatists. This group is interested in embracing the change, but will do so only if they gain from it. It is not sufficient for them to "just do it". They have to get a return for their trouble. And that return might be money, could be fun, but it is substantial.
- Conservatives. Like the Pragmatists, the Conservatives want the return on their investment of time and effort, but they will not tolerate any trouble. It must be a smooth experience, without difficulty. Any slight issues are enough to put them off and they will disappear. It's got to be easy for them.
- Skeptics. The final group simply does not want to change under any circumstances. No logic or benefits will convince them to take the effort to make a change.
As you can see on the chart, there are typical percentages associated with each category that are found within populations subjected to change. You may scoff at this analysis, but I've personally found these percentages were almost *exactly* as predicted in several real life situations.
Is that all there is? No! There are several key implications derived from this model:
- Don't bother trying to convince the Skeptics. You can't.
- New technology services must be easy to use, or you won't get the large group of Conservatives to participate.
- Usage growth at the beginning is different than Pragmatist and Conservative growth.
The "chasm" Moore speaks of refers to the problem of startup companies who invent a useful, but tricky product. They find Innovators and Early Adopters rush to use it, and foolishly extrapolate their growth curve right through the other categories. Of course, the Pragmatists and especially the Conservatives don't react well to tricky products, and the company's growth stalls. Companies have to find a way to "cross the chasm" between tricky and mainstream products or they die.
Where is SL? I believe it's right on the precipice of the chasm. It's attracted all the Innovators and Early Adopters that likely exist and are interested. Growth suddenly stabilized a while ago, and that's when we hit the edge of the chasm. In fact, have you ever noticed that most of the people on your friends list are creators of something? Other than newbies, who tend to disappear, most of us are creative types. The newbies who disappear are not.
What is SL to do? Clearly, if it is to grow it must find a way to cross the chasm. They will do that by simplifying things significantly, and M's plan of making the initial experience better goes along those lines. But there is much more to do, especially in the viewer. But more about that another day.