I’ve been concerned for some time that hype often interferes with the adoption of powerful ideas, especially when the hype prevents us from seeing how these ideas change the way we think or view the world, or otherwise provide valuable nuggets that we can use later on. This problem is no less true for what has been happening with Web 2.0.
Jared Spool at User Interface Engineering apparently shares this same concern. I highly recommend you take some time to read his recent paper called “Web 2.0: The Power Behind the Hype" where he says:
“Problems not withstanding, we still feel that this emerging standard, combined with other new tools, such as AJAX and open source infrastructures, makes for a new and exciting environment. There's been a tremendous amount of hype surrounding all these new developments, but, for once, we are thinking that there really is some power that is beneath the hype that is worth paying attention to.”
Not only does he talk about the shortcomings of so much hype, but he also discusses a number of things that, parallel my own perspectives:
"The speed and ease at which these new applications were built is what is getting us very excited about the potential of the Web 2.0 world."
And speaking to the power of mashups, which I’ve addressed here at Off Course – On Target, he goes on to say:
"Evocative of Dr. Frankenstein building a monster in his attic laboratory using body pieces he found lying around his neighborhood, people with a little skill can create new applications using common elements found lying around the Web in almost no time at all. As the skill requirements for building these applications are decreasing, we think this opens a whole new world of possibilities."
Jared goes on to offer more examples of the emerging and lasting power of Web 2.0 characteristics such as APIs, RSS as an interface, folksonomies, and connections via social network, then finishes with an emphasis on the faster/cheaper nature of application development as well as some of the work remaining to be done.
Fortunately, Web 2.0 seems to be progressing through the hype cycle, a concept developed at Gartner, an information and technology research and advisory firm headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. The Gartner hype cycle model is too restricted to technology for my liking, but I do find it useful as one form of "value filtering".
The first three stages of the Gardner Hype Cycle are a great test or filter for new ideas and technologies. If the technology survives the initial hype, then there is really something there of lasting value. I like to put the most focus on things after these initial stages, after the bubble bursts and look for the "residue" that remains—typically very valuable little nuggets we can gather, put to use, and hopefully lead to mass adoption. Hence my bringing this hype cycle model to your attention as a useful technique and tool for your arsenal to help sort through all the choices and "next big thing".
In my opinion, some parts of Web 2.0 are now moving into these phases the Gardner Hype Cycle:
- Slope of Enlightenment, where the press has lost interest, but some businesses continue to experiment with the technology to determine its benefits and practical application, if any.
- Plateau of Productivity where the technology becomes more stable, and the benefits become widely demonstrated and accepted.
If you find this model valuable, you can check out this list of other industries and topics that Gartner has applied it to. You may also want to check their use of the hype cycle in their "Emerging Technologies" report". The report has three sections, Web 2.0, Real World Web, and Applications Architecture from August 2006. I think many of the major themes mentioned, such as Collective Intelligence, Mashups, and Location Awareness, have lasting value.
Philipp Keller recently used this model plot out the evolution of tagging (creating metadata) since its inception about 2003.
Do you feel that you're caught up in a hype cycle? With all the new tools, technologies and trends coming your way, are you finding it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff ? You might want to try to using Gartner's five phase model to plot these technologies out for yourself to help you decide what's worth keeping.
Hope this helps and as always please send me your comments.