|Diffusion of Innovation. Image by Bryan Mathers http://bryanmmathers.com/diffusion-of-innovation/|
This week Stephen Fry left Twitter - he's done it before, he said goodbye in 2009, 2010 and exactly a year ago left Twitter for a three month break but this time it just may be for good. Stephen Fry joined Twitter in 2008 - he tweeted a lot (although nowhere near as much as Robert Scoble at the time) and attracted large numbers of followers 500,000 in May 2009, 1million in November 2009, 4 million in March 2012 and over 12 million when he quit this week. I knew him as a "literature buff" and was I was surprised when he joined Twitter in the early days - especially as he used to tweet a lot about technology stuff - I had no idea he was into tech like this .... this type of direct and dis-intermediated communication is one of the wonderful things about Twitter.
I joined Twitter in 2007 - there was a wind of change blowing through IT - a whole load of new things seemed to emerge at the same time - it was an exciting time for those the innovators and early adopters who liked to experiment on the leading edge of things.
2007 was also the time when I first came across Everett Rogers' theory on the Diffusion Of Innovations and Geoffrey Moore's idea about Crossing the Chasm. Everett Rogers describes a pretty common sense model of how new things come into use - starting with a few risk taking visionaries, experimenters and enthusiastic "innovators" followed by a slightly larger group of "early adopters" - opinion leaders seeking and advantage and to get ahead of the herd by taking an educated chance with a promising new thing. After a period of time the more pragmatic "early majority" start to adopt new things generally to solve practical and usually specific problems. After the majority of society has adopted a new thing and the "new thing" becomes normal the more conservative "late majority" follow everyone else for fear of being left behind. Finally, the most traditional in society may or may not adopt a new thing - often being forced to change because there is no choice. Geoffrey Moore described "The Chasm" as the gap between the smaller number of risk taking experimenters on one side of humanity and the the more conservative, pragmatic, critical, sceptical and traditional majority on the other side.
Experiences withTwitter seem to fit into the Rogers Moore model - I've put the diffusion of Twitter on a timeline below.
Twitter started in 2006 - those who joined in that year would definitely be the Rogers "innovators' group. I joined in 2007 which I think puts me in the "early adopters group" with Stephen Fry in the Chasm between the visionary early adopters and the pragmatic early majority.
Stephen Fry describes the early days of Twitter before the Chasm
"Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping.’ We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane."
Twitter grew and crossed the chasm to the more conservative, pragmatic, critical, sceptical and traditional majority and this is when Stephen Fry's problems began when in 2009 threatened to quit because there is 'too much aggression and unkindness'.
Today Twitter has crossed the chasm and diffused through the whole of society - everyone is there now - people, trolls, saints, sinners and everyone in between. Stephen Fry describes Twitter today as " too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more. The fun is over."
Many people have noticed the same thing - that with the mainstreaming of social media it lost its early charms - the early adopters have to mix it up with the "laggards" - its no longer an exclusive club anymore. I understand Stephen Fry's frustration but I relish the diversity of humanity and celebrate the fact that all human life is here now on social media.