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Earlier this year I was conducting a training class on programming and found I needed to provide trainees with some models for evaluating the maturity of a  technological concept, device, or platform. One such model that stuck with me over the years is Gartner Research's Hype Curve Model. If you are not familiar with them, Gartner is a technology research firm composed of independent analysts based around the world. Their Hype Curve Model or "Hype Cycle" illustrates the ebb and flow of "hype" or excitement behind a particular technology as a function of time. This pattern is described in 5 stages:

  1. Technology Trigger - This is when the technology or concept is initially conceived during its nascent phases. Fueled by the press, vendors, marketers and a few success stories, excitement around the idea, what it can achieve, and how it will impact the world grows, builds momentum, and accelerates to a crescendo.
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations - What goes up must come down. The idea becomes oversold and expectations outstrip the inherent value of the technology. Interest is at an all-time high, but sentiment is about to turn south.
  3. Trough of Disillusionment - As people attempt to apply the technology in real-life applications they run into unforeseen challenges, road-blocks, unintended side effects, and hidden costs. Hype comes crashing down, some providers are shaken out, and excitement turns into disappointment.
  4. Slope of Enlightenment - All is not lost however. The technology might not have lived up to its oversold hype, but there is still inherent value and the industry as a whole begins to set the right expectations. Combined with lessons learned in prior stages, we become more adept at applying the technology and extracting value from it.
  5. Plateau of Productivity - The technology achieves mainstream adoption. There is clear return on investment. The technology becomes viable in the marketplace.

Now depending on your stance, you may wish to get in at different points in the curve. Most people probably want to avoid the crash from the peak of inflated expectations. However, early adopters or those on the cutting edge, may want to get in from ground zero and ride the roller coaster. The most risk-averse may want to dodge the volatility all together and wait for mainstream adoption during the plateau of productivity. Keep in mind also that the whole cycle applies only to technology that actually survives and grows to maturity. Some ideas may fade into oblivion at any point on the curve. Whatever your stance is, I have found that having this model helps to frame the question and serves as a good guide on whether you want to risk your time, money, and energy on a particular technology at a particular point in time.

If you are wondering where on the curve Gartner places certain technologies, here is their 2012 assessment:

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