How to Tell if IT Hype is Good or Evil

Plenty has been written about the “Gartner Hype Cycle.”  It’s a solid concept you should already be familiar with if you’re in IT, but that’s not what I’m interested in here.  I’m fascinated by how people take advantage of IT hype and opportunistically use it for good or evil in their institution.  My definitions of “good” and “evil” are subjective:

  • Good hype = puts the hyped thing to work to solve a real-world problem
  • Evil hype = uses the hyped thing to further an agenda

At one end of this see-saw is 100% practical application, on the other is 100% pure self-interest.  How can you tell if the hype you’re listening to is good or evil?  Where the fulcrum lies depends on the motivation of the “hyper.”  In my experience, motivation is usually obvious.  As practiced by individuals, evil hype artificially inflates the perceived expertise of the speaker, and is used to influence (typically) uninformed decision-makers.  Another way to assess whether hype is good or evil is in how much it helps adoption of the hyped thing in the service of a real world problem; money may or may not be a factor, depending on the situation.

IT professionals are exposed to an enormous amount of hype.  The reality is that many technologies actually do live up to their hype.  It can provide visibility a new technology needs to grow by capturing the imagination of a broad swath of people.  It can drive forward a solution to a need that’s real, but hard to realize.  Hype can also make something seem more important than it ought to be, and needlessly waste everyone’s time and energy.  It’s important for IT professionals to maintain perspective, especially when we’re in a position to make decisions or advise those who do.

What do you think?  Do you have any examples of GOOD hype?

Dilbert Comic Strip from January 7, 2011

Getting Started

As the tagline suggests, this blog is going to be dedicated (at least initially) to my pursuit of a doctorate, along with some thoughts about my experience with technology in Student Affairs.  My first post – well, the post AFTER this one – will be about my decision to “go all the way” with a doctorate.

After 15 years of professional involvement with the web, you’d think I’d have started blogging sooner.  Should be a little fun (and cathartic) for me personally.  I hope that what I have to say may be useful to others who are considering going down this path.  I welcome your input.

Continuing Adventures in Higher Ed & Technology