Spanning the Chasm

chasm by soylentgreen23
Is There Still A Chasm?:
[Via SmoothSpan Blog]

An interesting post by Leigh has popped up on Techmeme. She wonders, as I have, whether the fundamental notion of Moore’s Chasm has changed. Leigh’s question is whether the generation that grew up on Technology still even thinks of it as early adoption, or if the behaviour has become so widespread that there really is no Chasm any longer.

It’s an interesting question, but I believe there will always be a Chasm of some sort. My question is whether the Early Adopter crowd is now so large, and the Internet so effective at reaching them, that perhaps it is possible to build a business without the painful dislocation that is Crossing the Chasm. Perhaps there are enough on the Early Adopter side to make a tidy business after all.

[I’m working on a more extended form of this comment I left at SmoothSpan. I hope to have it posted soon.]

If I remember correctly, the original adoption curve came from observations of the acceptance rates of new varieties of hybrid corn. So the curve itself describes a social phenomenon, not a technical one. I’m not convinced that there are really more early adopters than before. But, the rapid rate of change presented by new technologies may alter things. The rate of diffusion of technological change through the different groups may not be able to keep up with the furious rate of the change itself.

My feeling is that the problem is not what percentage are in the early adopter segment or not. There are really four chasms between each of the five groups. Up to now, the most noticeable was between the early adopter set and the early majority. Crossing this chasm would result in a narrow majority that had adopted the new technology.

But new technologies move so rapidly that each of the four chasms may now be much wider, not just the early adopter-early majority. The early adopters can move so far ahead of those a little slower that the gap looks huge. (I’m going through this with Twitter. I almost do not want to start because those who have been using it for even a short time seem so much more advanced and are doing so many ‘magical’ things that I fear I will never catch up. And I am an early adopter of technology).

So, my feeling is that there is a greater need for those who can span the chasm and help increase the rate of diffusion. It is just more like holding a tiger’s tail, since the rate of change seems to be accelerating also.

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