My wife glanced at the front page of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Without looking up she said “Hey, this is what you study.”
The headline screamed in black, blue and green “The Early Birds.” Below it a sub-heading asked provocatively, “What is it about the new thing that makes us want it so bad? And why are some people more likely than others to take that first leap?“
This is not the sort of headline or topic one sees in the Chicago Tribune every day, and certainly not on the front page with any regularity. I wondered if the newspaper had been sold to Wired or Techcrunch, and I had just missed the news.
I checked the online edition of the Tribune. It gave the article a headline with more tension, “Me-first Mentality” it screams, followed by “Early Adopters, whether of new smart phones, electric cars or solar panels, help clear a path for mainstream consumers.“
My wife was just looking out for me. She knows that I am always looking for well-written articles for my MBAs. Needless to say, I do not get them from the Tribune often, but I would be perfectly happy to do so. The source does not matter as much as the content. I am happy to show an article to students if the news article illustrates the concepts of the class and illustrate the concepts in real world settings.
So I read the article. Sorry to say, it does not make the cut. It is an entertaining article, but not an informative or enlightening one.
I was going to leave at that, but I could not get the errors out of my head. The errors were so basic, so fundamental, and ultimately so maddening. More concretely, the article does not properly draw sharp differences between an enthusiast, an early adopter, and a pioneer. It also has a side note about technology orphans, but does not label the topic properly.
To be fair to the reporters, it is not as if they could look up the definitions in Websters dictionary. These words are the lingo of technology markets, and that is a specialty, to be sure.
At the same time, I would hate to see the type of mushy definitions found in this news article fall into common use. At the risk of sounding like a pedantic curmudgeon, this post explains where the article went wrong, and why it matters. In brief, getting a few definitions straight helps navigate an otherwise confusing technology landscape.
There is one other reason you might read this post. If you have ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation conducted by technology nerds, you may have noticed these terms. They get thrown around regularly. Perhaps you were too embarrassed to ask for definitions then. Perhaps this post can help you understand what the nerds were talking about.