I’ve been working in this industry since i left high school back in 1995, and I often think about my journey to date and how I've adopted a technology. I then as a Product Manager on the Silverlight Team constantly try and put myself in you, the adoptee’s shoes. I’m constantly thinking about what it takes for you to adopt and what are the motivational events that have impacted you along your journey.
The below is my own personal experience / observation of the industry in general. It doesn’t stop at Silverlight either as prior to Microsoft I watched folks do the same with Macromedia Flash and then Macromedia Flex.
Not to mention AJAX and so on, even HTML! – yes, I watched the birth of HTML unfold into what is now a commercial entity known as oxygen ;).
Contact. You’ve found the word Silverlight fly past your senses, you’ve not pinned down what it is but its the talk of the town
Awareness. You just finished reading something about it and have a somewhat bit of knowledge in and around what it’s capable of doing.
Understanding. You just finished a tutorial, training session or brown bag, overall you’ve got what we commonly call a “basic” understanding of the product.
Evaluation. You’re now writing a quick prototype of a project you’ve thought about making in Silverlight. You’re still unsure, but the product has captured your interest levels.
Trial Usage. You’ve built a first draft of your Silverlight solution, and you’re essentially shopping it around for feedback and help you up sell / include this into your peer’s technology radar.
Adoption.You’ve built your Silverlight solution and are ready to deploy, you’ve troubleshooted your way through learning the product and are now what we would call an “Adoptee”.
Institutionalization Your solution is in play, you’re now thinking about the next release or next project, you’re well on your way to success and have either a positive or negative feeling towards the brand.
I’ve often thought about the whole competitive story around what it takes to adopt a technology. I know I've personally learnt more technologies than i thought my long-term memory could contain, but none the less they are there, crammed deep within the dark matter of which i call my brain (Java, PHP, C#, ActionScript, Flex, XAML, XSD, Maya, VRML etc).
The reason I do think about the competitive nature of technology is that in many ways when you read a Flash vs. Silverlight style post (insert Apple vs. Microsoft etc) it at times reads as if that technologists are easily conned into adopting a technology they’ve never used before.
In that the x number of years they’ve spent nurturing their chosen technology could easily be diverted to the new shiny toy that they have before them.
I put it to you that, folks aren’t that easily swayed, that often its simply a case of a number of factors. They are:
Boredom.You’ve been using X technology for the past N years. You’re essentially peeked in terms of all that you want – not can – learn from the said technology. It’s time you explored your horizons and shop around for what’s the latest & greatest, that or research an old technology simply because of the nostalgic geeky cool flavor it brings to your technology palette.
Goldrush.You’ve seen how much others are making off the Y-Technology and you’re keen to get some of that action. You are motivated my greed, but that's ok, as in the end getting a leg up in life is fair game. You typically would of probably ignored this technology in the past, but all the other kids are doing it, so you’re essentially force fitting yourself to the adoption.
Duress.You didn’t want to adopt, but you’re forced to due to a project you’re working on or about to. You start off in a negative state, in a duress state. You’re constantly trying to marry your existing skills over to this new technology but are finding it a rough road to follow. Eventually you figure it out and have an overall negative / positive emotion around the technology. It’s at this point you decide to either continue to pursue the adoption or abandon and retreat back to your preferred X-Technology of choice.
Curiosity.You’re neither bored or motivated by gold / project. You’re simply one of those people who love to explore no matter what the technology. To you, technology is about the art of creation and problem solving and you tinker with them like someone explores a music library – all music is good, it just depends on the listener.
There are different motivational reasons as to why someone adopts. There is no one fits all approach, and given in today's IT environment there are so many moving parts to keep track of, it’s not an easy thing anymore.
In the old days, I remember learning Delphi vs Visual Basic. I choose Delphi simply because I couldn’t grok the VB way of code, to me the Delphi seemed more natural. Delphi didn’t get the uptake as much as VB did, so what happened?
Companies like Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Sun etc all have an offering to provide you all. The main mission overall is to highlight the technologies strength, divert from the weakness and encourage you to at least get as far as the Understanding stage in the life cycle. From there its entirely up to you, as that's where the freedom of choice really kicks in (there is only so much a company can market).
It’s from here that you decide based on merit and personal experience (aka Time vs. Commitment) and ultimately this is the true test for these companies. As for us in Silverlight this is where if were to take a pulse at your confidence level, you’d tell us data that I'd rate as pure signal. As this ultimately for us is the tipping point of success vs. failure for the product as its our job to make sure you understand what the product is, ensure it’s easy to learn and lastly reassure you that you’re not alone – as nobody likes to actually bleed when it comes to bleeding edge adoption.
Next Post, how the human mind absorbs the adoption lifecycle, lets dig into cognitive science. The new fad i like to call “Cognitive Load Theory”, as once you fully understand how the human mind works and ways to seed information in both short-term and long-term memory, it gets really interesting… well for me anyway.