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Early adopters: so right at first and then so wrong later on ?

It’s likely this post is going to upset a few folks. That is not my intention. If you follow this blog at all its fairly obvious I’m not the best writer and I enjoy making photographs more than making essays.

But sometimes I like to air out my thoughts so here goes nothing.

I love early adopters. They are my kind of people. We try stuff early even though its faulty or breaks. Just look at Fred Wilson’s post from the other day on avc.com with his Firefox OS phone. Perfect example.

And with all of that early experimentation we use our most valuable resource. Our time. We invest it trying this stuff out because we are curious about how stuff works. It’s how I spend much of my days.

Along the way we sometimes find stuff that takes our breath away. That was how I felt about Tumblr, for example.

Early adopters also got it right with Facebook, twitter, Instagram and others that have gone on to touch millions of us every day. Most mainstream users never thought these things could get this big.

Yesterday I was talking to an early adopter friend of mine. He was extremely frustrated with a new feature that a popular service launched recently. He thought it ruined the product and they messed with a sacred cow – their previous user experience.

I know a bunch of other early adopters who feel the same way about this new feature.

We have seen this movie before. Early adopters were beyond upset at Facebooks introduction of the newsfeed back in the day. We saw lots of negative emotion from early users when twitter changed how @replies and retweets work. There are other examples too.

But it’s clear now that those changes were vitally important and contributed to significant user growth and adoption.

So what is it about early adopters. We get it so right up front and then get it so wrong later.

Is it innovators dilemma amongst users ? Is it just muscle memory. Is it that we feel like we just want things to remain unchanged , just as we first found it before everyone else ?

This can be an enormous challenge for a startups.

Somehow startups need to evolve and try new things while respecting the community which got them there *and* at the same time not held hostage by the same community. Not easy if you step back and think about it.

Clearly the title of this post is a bit hyperbolic and paints with a broad brush. But I am curious about this behavior.

Why doesn’t our early adopter attitude of curiosity, tolerance and flexibility continue on as a company grows ?