Friday, March 11, 2005


novelty fatigue

I can't keep up with all the innovations in blogging. All the time new bookmarking and tagging systems are being introduced that generate more metadata that supposedly helps one find yet more stuff you might be interested in. But my brainspace at the moment can't cope with sorting it out, especially where it involves separating marketing hype from genuine functionality.

I'm suffering from what I'll call "novelty fatigue." I am curious to know if such a syndrome has been studied. There is a rich literature on the diffusion of innovation: Everett's classic book, Gordon Moore's chasm. But most innovation research focuses on how innovations move from the bleeding edge to the laggards. The assumption is, one's receptivity to innovation is in a fixed category, and never varies. The received opinion is, one either always loves new stuff, or has always has some resistance to it, which can be broken down into categories such as "early majority" as so on.

I enjoy novelty, but my enjoyment varies with how much it demands from me. Why am I sometimes very curious about new technologies, and othertimes wary? And is the general population as fickle toward novelty as I am? There are many reasons why my behavior varies, but an important one is how "noisy" the innovation is. It's not worth my effort to learn something new if it seems like it's just another wild scheme among many. I would guess that when there is excessive innovation "churn" (more than the general population can absorb at once), the adoption of innovations is slower than when innovations clear cut as to what everyone will be using in the future.

That's a great point. There's a different vector at work in these innovations that I think feeds the diffusion and the fatigue.

Something like technorati tags or del.ici.ous (not the right way of putting it, I'm sure) comes out and all these bloggers who are very skilled at the technical stuff immediately start using it and talking about it, and as much as I think I'm pretty smart, I actually can't figure out what some of them are or how to make use of it.

It's not quite the world of Unix software, but it's equally opaque, but there is enough dialogue going on blogs between the people-in-the-know that no one bothers to say "oh, this new service does this, and you need to be using this blog software and know how to alter your CSS template to do it" - they just start talking about it as a new way of doing things.

Eventually I dive into it, but I can have real trouble getting over that barrier. I've adopted flickr - a little bit - but can't figure out the del.*.*.* thing.

That's the demand, for me, the barrier to entry, more than the demand of usage.
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