Early Adopters: Meet your match

Rob Walker

Kai Ryssdal: Even before it officially launched, Google+ was such a hot ticket that people were blogging and tweeting like crazy to get invited in.

Commentator Rob Walker had no such problems.


Rob Walker: I felt a bit smug because I had an early invite -- but just as I was about to accept, I noticed a post by a tech blogger explaining why he had just quit Google+. That's right, while the rest of us were clamoring to be Early Adopters, this guy was so far ahead of the curve that he had already abandoned the new new thing. He was an Alpha Quitter.

The Alpha Quitter is sort of the evil twin of the Early Adopter -- the first to declare that a given technology or product is obsolete, doomed, or has at least jumped the shark. Think of the first wave of people making a big deal about committing Myspace-icide a few years ago. They deleted their accounts when that site still seemed unstoppable. Part of being an Alpha Quitter isn't just the quitting, it's quitting in a public way. Like Early Adopters who flaunt their hot new gadgets, Alpha Quitters are at least partly motivated by tech-age status-signaling.

This is why certain people feel compelled to let you know that they don't own a television set. Yeah, they watch "Glee" -- but on an iPad. Before that, they found reasons to mention that they didn't have a telephone landline. And I assume they're descended from the first people to abandon buggy whips.

But being an Alpha Quitter is riskier than it sounds. Remember Quit Facebook Day last year? Maybe not, since it didn't exactly spell the end of the world's largest social network -- and even many of those who did leave the service later came skulking back. In other words, that Google+ Alpha Quitter may have to swallow his pride if the service takes off. I have no predictions because I never did accept my invite. Clearly I was too late to be on the cutting edge, so now I'll just sit back and let the Early Adopters and the Alpha Quitters duke it out. They'll tell me what the future looks like. Meanwhile, I'll be beta-testing Facebook++, Google Multiplied, and Twitter to the Power of Pi.


Ryssdal: Rob Walker is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and Design Observer.
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