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).
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.
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