One such guy is Cory Doctorow, the blogger, novelist, and co-editor of the highly influential website Boing Boing, who posted a withering missive in April titled "Why I Won't Buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)." "It was simply about making a discriminating choice," Doctorow says. While his screed didn't exactly put Apple out of business, it did reveal deep fissures in the company's famously loyal fan base: Within days, hundreds of consumers had rallied to Doctorow's side. "The First Dropper," he says, "is like a gourmet who hears everyone talking about this new hot dog: 'Yeah, it's made out of lips and assholes like every other hot dog—but this one's really good!' Then the gourmet tries the hot dog and he realizes, nope, it's just lips and assholes."

As yesterday's Early Adopters (of whom Doctorow was once the ne plus ultra) become today's Droppers, companies are beginning to realize that the people who already use their products and services can determine the fate of their business just as much as, if not more than, those on whom they once spent their entire marketing budgets trying to court. Despite the cyber-riot that greets Facebook every time it alters its privacy settings, the world's largest social network "is probably the best example right now of a company that goes to incredible lengths to make sure none of its users are inclined to go somewhere else," says Caterina Fake, the cofounder of Flickr, whose newest venture, Hunch, is a website that helps people build their own "taste profile." "MySpace basically failed to keep up. But Facebook keeps becoming something new. Twitter gets popular, so Facebook becomes more like Twitter. People get obsessed with checking in on Foursquare, so Facebook adds Places"—a new feature allowing users to share their location in real time—"to essentially keep Foursquare at bay." Just think: If Friendster had paid such close attention to its early deserters, you'd probably still be there writing testimonials about your sad-sack single friend right now.

And yet maybe you, and your sad-sack friend, and all the girls he hopes—with your help—to one day date, have seen others join MySpace, then Facebook, and thought, 'You know what? Friendster's just fine for me.' In which case, you should own it. Because the very thing that separates the First Dropper from the Hater—his indomitable confidence in his own (positive) taste—is something each man must develop for himself. Sure, the First Dropper might have an unerring sense for when a trend is in its 14th minute, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't stick with it through the 16th and beyond. Simply take heed of the First Dropper as you would a weather vane, an unobtrusive guide, for he is, as Doctorow notes, one of those "people with a grasp of something that is not always visible... If the Dropper is the most knowledgeable person in the room, why not listen to him?" If, that is, you haven't already left.


1) THE EARLY ADOPTER Has his ear to the ground and knows what's coming before anyone else.
2) THE TRENDSETTER A sucker for the buzz.
3) THE LATE ADOPTER Doesn't jump on the bandwagon until it's all but finished its run.
4) THE RE-ADOPTER Always first in line to start the comeback.

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