Cheap shots at the Gartner Hype Curve

The Gartner Hype curve, or Hype cycle, summarizes the visibility and the maturity of currently hot technologies and forecasts the productivity they will have. At both of the workshops in CASCON that I went to, presenters showed us the most current curve, pointing out that web 2.0 is currently at the “peak of inflated expectations”. They claim we should expect it to descend to the “trough of disillusionment”, only to see it triumph in its recovery through the “slope of enlightenment” and, ultimately, the “plateau of productivity” (click on the image for a better view).

Gartner Hype Curve for 2006
Apparently, this curve is the distillation of thousands of hours of work of expert forecasters and technologists. This is expensive work – the Gartner Group charges US$495 for a 16 page document that helps to understand it. However, the underlying idea is pretty simple: things get hot before they mature, and it’s only after a technology goes through a period of disappointment that we truly learn how to apply it.It’s an intuitive concept, but I found the curve fallacious and untrustworthy for two reasons:

Irrational optimism: The curve tells you that, no matter how wacky your technology is, and how unachievable its goals, after it fails to live up to its hype things are gonna get better, always! You’ll see the light at the end of the bad-press tunnel.

I find this happy ending scenario very implausible, partly because some proposed technologies do simply crash without recovering, and partly because forecasters have mistaken their job for that of cheerleaders in the past. The late Otto Eckstein, from Data Resources, once told the Wall Street Journal that “Data Resources is the most influential forecasting firm in the country… If it were in the hands of a doom-and-gloomer, it would be bad for the country.”

Disappearing acts: If you compare the curve from 2005 (below, click for better view) with the most recent one from 2006, you’ll see a number of technologies that have simply fallen out of the radar. SOA is gone. Videoconferencing is gone. Podcasting is gone. Are they past the plateau? Are they not worth a mention? Other technologies appear in 2006 out of nowhere, such as the Smartphone, which is already safe in the “slope of enlightenment” seemingly without any hype.

Gartner Hype Curve for 2005
I wish someone had been keeping score of the effectiveness of Gartner’s predictions so we could tell how skeptic should we be of their most recent curves. Anyway, the hype curve inspired me to create my own, and I’d now like to offer to the public domain something I call the “Aranda Ignominy curve”, which elegantly conveys my deep wisdom and predictive powers. A 2-page document explaining how to read it is available at the discount introductory rate of US$995. Let me know if you’re interested.

The Aranda Ignominy Curve
Aranda Ignominy Curve

About these ads

About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
This entry was posted in Hype, Strategic Forecasting. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Cheap shots at the Gartner Hype Curve

  1. Neil Ernst says:

    H-awesome. I think a few of my ideas are in that graveyard. A slight quibble: I think SOA is actually moving towards that slope of enlightenment — it’s just ubiquitous enough that people don’t feel the need to plaster SOA on everything.

  2. Jorge says:

    That’s possible. I guess after a while it would be silly for Gartner to include technologies that everyone is already using. Still, in 2005 they said SOA would take 2 to 5 more years to achieve maturity, and it’s already gone in this year’s curve.

  3. Yoni says:

    Do you accept shekels?

  4. Jorge says:

    Sorry, but respectable consultants such as myself deal only in US currency.

  5. Years ago IEEE Spectrum magazine had a “What Ever Happened To …?” column for technologies that faded away. It always made for a good read. I don’t get Spectrum anymore, but a few years ago I told them they should re-instate the column. Wonder if they did.

  6. Jorge says:

    I guess reading that column must feel a little like browsing decades-old magazines and wondering what went through the minds of the people wearing that stuff.

    But in all seriousness, it must have been a good read –I bet there are some very interesting stories behind the disappearance of each technology.

  7. Ifrein Rigoladou says:

    I have been using Gartner’s tools for a while now and people seem to either love ‘em or hate ‘em.
    One of the article’s i’ve loved the most was one that argued that the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant’s criteria was modified yearly to include (or exclude) some of the strongest participants in a technology niche.
    However, it can prove to be an amazing sales tool for vendors and consultants: For a mere $495 you can sell licences for up to $250,000 (no, not shekels but the real green banana) worth of software. Not to mention added services provided by highly respected and emergent management consulting firms.
    Giving to God, giving to Caesar… give it to the best bidder out there!

    Jorge… awesome post: lovely model

  8. Jorge says:

    So Gartner does not sell a document, it sells business authority to the readers of that document.

    Thanks for dropping by, Efrain!

  9. Stuart Watt says:

    I wonder where Gartner itself is on the curve. And which curve.

  10. Pingback: Pasta&Vinegar » Blog Archive » Deconstructing Gartner's "hype cycle" myth

  11. Ann Lee Gibson says:

    Four years later … this is still a good read. Thanks, Jorge. Would love to see you do a follow-up on Gartner’s published annual hype curve predictions.

  12. Pingback: Le mythe de la courbe de l’adoption des technologies | Site internet Bordeaux

  13. peat says:

    Well talk to this bird on a wire deforming its catenary curve.
    The cat has caught the canary in Steinbeck’s Cannery row.
    To say 1 in 100 units are faulty I am led to believe is stigma.
    Of a six sigma measure one can be certain that it’s what’s not.

    Measure of a value like pi, phi, e, root 2′s meaning’s irrational.
    Cut wood, metal, glass with respective tool to n decimal places.
    Impossible to do, so the thou will have to make do this second.
    If not measurable yet in existence then why the complication?

    Research or search for the emperical date to prove your point.
    The flat bed printing press calligraphy and planar technology,
    Went the way of the dinosaurs into fragments of bone tissues,
    Buried then resurrected into intel i chips then fed to seagulls.

    The gull able the guileable the deceived into beleiving in maths.
    All one can trust is, is the tis of every number contained in a one.

  14. Pingback: Is It Sunday Already? Seems Like Only Yesterday It Was Saturday – 2010-10-17 Edition » Borasky Research Journal

  15. Pingback: BreakThru Radio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s