Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jeff Buys A Gadget!!!

In E.M. Roger's now famous diffusion of innovation theory, adoption of a new product or practice takes the form of a bell shaped curve. This diffusion, as Roger's explains, is "the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system...".

Rogers’ Innovation Diffusion Bell Curve
Note. From Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations, New York: The Free Press.

Reading left to right, the curve consists of a sliver of innovators that make up just 2.5% of the population. Those are the people on the "bleeding edge" of innovation. They're followed by early adopters (13.5%), the early majority (34%), the late majority (34%), and laggards (16%).

While many people have quibbled over how accurate or meaningful Roger's curve is, it remains at least a recognized model for how we might begin to think about innovation and adoption. I bring it up today as a frame of reference regarding my place on the curve. While it's probably impossible to determine exactly where one lands in regards to each new innovation, the figure below represents about where I feel like I am.

Truth be told - and thinking now about my lack of smartphones, HDTVs, side air bags, tablets, Groupon accounts, QR code experiences, and Skype chats - I could probably push myself down the curve even further. I might very well be the last person in the late majority line! (I made the above illustration in MS Paint for crying out loud; poorly executed too, I might add.)

So, why does any of this matter? Well, because I bought a Barnes & Noble Nook. For those of you who might be further down the far side of the curve than me, the Nook is an ereader; that's an electronic device that let's users read electronic books (ebooks) . I originally purchased it out of a sense of professional obligation. I work in a library and we offer ebooks through our website. As the popularity of ereaders has increased, we've been fielding more and more questions about them. While I know it's not possible to become well-versed in every single ereader, I felt responsible for knowing how to use at least one of them. I chose the Nook because it's popular, it's compatible with our library's ebook collection, and the new touch screen version has been getting rave reviews (I know everything from the iPad to the Kobo reader has been dubbed "the Kindle Killer" at one time or another, but this might be the real thing).

Imagine my surprise then when the device I bought out of a sense of professional duty turned out to be the device I fell in love with. It really is a terrific little gadget. The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. It syncs up easily with every wireless network I've asked it to. It's compact, easy to read, and works perfectly with my library's ebook service. Within half an hour of starting up my Nook I'd downloaded two books from my library and was off and reading. In addition to that, I can purchase books through Barnes & Noble anywhere there's a wireless connection.

My position on the Roger's curve should make it clear that I'm not the guy who's going to give a particularly tech savvy review of the Nook. I don't know resolutions, download rates, file types or any of the other nuts and bolts that make this thing tick. That said, I think my position on the curve speaks volumes in other ways. I'm the guy who doesn't have a smart phone, has never DVR'd a television program, hasn't participated in a video chat, and doesn't own a tablet. In spite of this pronounced lack of savvy, I think the Nook is a pretty handy gadget. It's got it's drawbacks sure (Why can't I delete books or files? Why can't I use the social share feature on free content? Why can't it support landscape view?) but overall I expect to get a lot of mileage out of my Nook.

Coming up next: Jeff buys a smartphone?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So, Maybe I was wrong...

You may recall a recent blog post in which I assigned grand metaphorical meaning to the derelict vessel in the alley behind our house. Perhaps counter-intuitively, I made the case that this abandon hull was not the irresponsibly disposed of eyesore it might appear to be, but rather an artifact worthy of our contemplation. Oh, it was a magical boat; the embodiment of our journey and the physical manifestation of fate's inscrutable plans. Thurber would have recognized its importance, and probably Shelley too. This woefully out of place boat was a metaphor, signal, and sign all at once; a 12ft long reminder that our small and oft-battered selves have no idea where life's currents might land us. We are all of us adrift on life's great ocean and the future is unwritten!

Well, it pains me to report that not everyone has seen the poetic significance of this sadly landlocked vessel. While I was busy ascribing grand themes to the Mystery Ship of Old North Columbus the neighbors were busy covering it with trash and yard waste. At this point I'm a little unsure how to proceed. Should I interpret this arguably philistine insult as simply a new layer of meaning, or should I cut my losses and abandon the idea that this boat was ever anything other than garbage? I'm just not sure.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Boat in Alley and Other Perplexities

The things that show up in our alley aren't typically blog worthy. It's mostly garbage, discarded furniture, and the occasional pile of construction waste. We live in a transitional neighborhood, with lots of tenants and lots of turnover. It's not uncommon to see what's likely the entire contents of someone's apartment stacked in the alley and around the dumpsters. This is understandable. People without a lot of financial resources or a strong support network often have to make tough choices, and make them quickly. If circumstances compel one to abandon the contents of an apartment and travel light for life's next act, that's what you do. The landlord and the collection agency will sort out the rest.

That said, there's a boat in our alley.

It's not a boat-on-a-trailer-boat, and it's not a canoe-leaned-up-against-someone's-garage-boat. It's an honest-to-God-derelict-vessel of the the 12ft power boat variety, a good two miles from any sort of navigable water.

While I'm sure someone knows this boat's story, it's a mystery ship to me. It showed up one day in the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex and has since drifted to the alley proper. It sits there now, collecting its own strain of urban flotsam, jetsam and lagan.

At first I was indignant about the boat ("What is wrong with people?"), but now I kind of like it. It's grown on me and come to represent both a communal curio and a shared experience among neighbors. It's the sort of oddity that makes our little corner of the world what it is.

I don't think I'm alone in this sympathetic stance either. The boat in the alley strikes me as exactly the kind of thing our own James Thurber would have written about had he stumbled across it. In its sad state it becomes the perfect metaphor for every difficult journey. It came from somewhere, it's here now, and it's going to wind up somewhere else. That it's broken and woefully out of place only serves to make the story even more compelling.