A place for hype?

Ready to ride?

Is there a proper place for hype?

In software, waves of hype crash over us year after year with an accelerating pace like Moore’s Law (which refers to advancement in physical performance/price characteristics of high-tech).

Now, the term “hype” is short for “hyperbole”, which means extravagant exaggeration.

Technical hype shows up as exaggerated meanings (real consequences) of that technology to our practical concerns.

We often refer to hype in a negative, even sarcastic sense, as if the stories told by technologists and marketers are somehow exploiting us… as if we have no capacity to make our own interpretations.

We know we are riding these waves, we expect new ones are coming, and some of us already have our posture toward the next one worked out.

Now, it is also hyperbole to use phrases like “I waited forever,” which is obviously an exaggeration… and while we see it for what it is, we don’t usually get too upset at it or feel like there is some conspiracy against us when phrases like that are used.

A few examples might help in the conversation. So we saw the hype of client-server from the 90’s give way to the hype of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) through the last decade. More recently, the hype of SOA faded into the hype of Web 2.0 and then the hype of the Cloud.

Client-server lasted maybe a decade, and SOA perhaps the same. Web 2.0 has been transitional, with the Cloud taking over where it left off and subsuming the rest.

The thing is, I have seen each of these waves received by early responses like: “We already do that,” or “That is just a new spin on old technology.” People see them as hype, and as a result they write off any new interpretations that might have helped them.

Of course, if you replace “client” with “consumer” and “server” with “provider”, then a description of SOA mechanisms looks a lot like those of client-server. Where the client-server APIs were popular before the interface-oriented design of distributed systems… those, in turn, made possible the flexibility of Web 2.0 and the massively scalable infrastructures of the Cloud.

It was only by stretching our interpretations of the meanings of existing technology that made advancing to the next wave possible. While some prefer to disregard hype, another option could be to listen carefully for real effects or consequences.

Client-server, SOA, Web 2.0 and the Cloud have all had very real implications on the moods, distinctions and practices of business.

Some were fundamental and some were specific… some strategic and some tactical… but these new interpretations have all proven to be more than only hype, and those who came to powerful interpretations early could exploit change more effectively as it took form.

What questions do you have for me about hype and the drift of innovation? What do you think about the hype of the Cloud, social media or other current trends affecting business? Where can you reach beneath the hype and find power to exploit new capabilities?

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About ken
Creative insights, passion and technical adrenaline - strategist, agile coach and marketer, providing a good life for wife of 20 years & 2 awesome teenagers!

10 Responses to A place for hype?

  1. bfmooz says:

    Hype is an interesting concept because it’s a very transitional term. Hype implies something new that we have yet to act up. Once we decide to invest in a new technology, it’s no longer hype, it’s then a new implementation or a new strategy. Really at best, when people tell us “don’t buy the hype”, it should really be “don’t buy the product”.
    Speaking from opinion, the move from hype to exploiting new technologies is simply gauged by the level of fear. Frankly, it the product doesn’t offer anything of benefit, there’s so hype to be had. In order for hype to exist, there has to be some hook that’s compelling at least one person in an organization to investigate the opportunity. Getting past the fear of change and even more getting past the fear of failure is the key to progress.

    • ken says:

      I agree, it is transitional. What we call hype one day we may fight and fight, until it ends up becoming a standard practice anyway. The idea that led to this post was the amount of time spent debating the “business value” of Twitter and Facebook (oh, and blogs)… a debate that still has many companies and individuals choosing not to engage.

  2. Rick Ross says:

    You have triggered me to think about a distinction of hype that may be useful. Hype is a story that is designed and crafted to produce emotional response(s) and a sense of urgency in the listener for the purpose of moving them to “buy in” with their thinking and ultimately with transactions. And for those early adopters who have bought into the hype they either will continue the story or quickly kill it…

    • ken says:

      That sounds like a great distinction, Rick. I accept that hype is a story, and it does trigger (or seek to trigger) a strong response.

      Early adopters may just as often seek to bend or shape the story to their own ends, when they envision a way it will benefit them.

      Through “the wisdom of crowds”, the story may evolve into something that increasingly represents a shared notion. Those that remain on the edges will also seek to benefit from “hanging on the coattails” (or riding the wave… just to throw out some common metaphors). 😉

      • bfmooz says:

        Ken, your response hear triggers me to raise an interesting question based on Rick’s definition. What really is the substantial entity of hype? Do companies really develop “hype” or are they seeding the masses who then in turn are the true hype generators? I tend to think it’s a handshake or sorts. You need both parts working in concert to create a buzz.

    • ken says:

      Let’s have another thread about whether those early adopters would necessarily act quickly to kill it. Can you imagine reasons they might seek to prolong the wave to maximize its potential benefit to them?

      Could you see times when people who invested heavily in a wave may not want it to end, even when they might admit it was inevitable?

      • bfmooz says:

        I think in part it goes back to the fear factor. If I’m an early adopter who has helped convince a company to move in a direction of investment, it’s in my best interest to insure that the vision succeeds. The counter to this is the perception that if the direction fails, it would be looked upon as a failure on my part as well. Most people in the interest of self preservation would try to weather the storm out as long as possible.

        Personally I don’t subscribe to this philosophy, but it also depends on the corporate culture. If I had a business and someone that had moved us in a direction that ultimately failed, I would better respect them if they admitted the failure and in return produced something of value from a learning capacity that the company could take away. Obviously, as a company you wouldn’t want to have someone in place that had this scenario occur on a regular basis, but fear of failure in an organization many times breed fear of risk, fear of “outside the box” thinking, and fear of creativity.

        • ken says:

          Yep, Moose. I could see that. There could be pressures in both directions. In cases where there are questions of ethics, you could be torn between two standards of conduct, neither one necessarily being “wrong” and faced with difficult decisions.

          My family owns a Saturn that we chose to purchase right about the time we knew Saturn was closing down. We anticipated we could have some trouble if we needed service or parts, and the local GM dealers could choose the level of help they wanted to provide to an era that had closed.

      • I can think of a perfect example of a wave that early adopters would want to sustain to maximize its potential benefit to them: Ponzi Scheme?

        • ken says:

          Sure, Daniël. In the case of a Ponzi scheme, the end of the wave means somebody is heading to jail.

          Actually, that is an interesting twist because it involves the kind of wave or hype that must continually be fed by external “investment” to avoid collapsing. In domains where there is a finite supply it is like whoever is left at the end is the ultimate loser… but you have to keep the wave going long enough to get out yourself.

          Another direction to go with this is to speculate about whether (or which) waves can be more generative, feeding on their own energy to produce positive growth for those who join without that side effect. In this, I am thinking about things like 1) the drift of innovation and 2) recurrent & increasingly valuable offers of help made to our networks.

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