Friday, January 27, 2012

Hype cycles revisited

This morning Seth Godin blogged about Reconsidering Gartner’s Cycle of Hype. Those hype cycles supposedly describe how a new technology spreads. They propose a complicated curve shape (the red line) rather than a simple one like the blue dotted one, or perhaps an S-curve like a sigmoid function. Seth said hype cycles ignore being ignored so that:

.”..most of the things we now take for granted (cell phones, tweeting, insulated windows, email) didn't follow this curve at all.”

He’s right. If you look in a sample of books via the Google Ngram viewer for the three phrases of cell phones, insulated windows, and email (or electronic mail) you don’t see the hype cycle shape. For cell phones and email there is a smooth rise, and for insulated windows there's more complex behavior. I blogged about this topic last May, and showed seven other examples. 

Six decades ago the famous physicist, Enrico Fermi, commented skeptically about theories including adjustable parameters. He said that:

 “I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”

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