In the computer industry, these are the folks I affectionately call "the alpha geeks", the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they "roll their own" when existing products don't give them what they need.
Watching the alpha geeks -- people whom more traditional marketing analysts might call "lead users" -- can give insights into the future directions of technology, gaps in existing products, and new market opportunities.
Tim O'Reilly is the founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, which many people consider to be the best computer book publisher in the world, whose conferences have led one commentator to say "Tim throws the best tech parties ever", and whose online sites are among the most highly regarded on the net. His success is a tribute to the subject of this talk. "What we do at O'Reilly is watch the alpha geeks and tell the rest of the world what we learn from them." Tim is also known for championing open standards and open source software, and fighting software patents and legislation to require digital rights management software. O'Reilly produced the first commercial web site, and hosted the "open source summit" where the leaders of the free software world agreed on the new meme.
This free podcast is from our SD Forum series.