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 mechanismslooks 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 onlyhype, 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?