Hype is the Enemy of Innovation

The Forrest Four-Cast: September 13, 2016

At Monday’s TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco, Facebook Messenger David Marcus talked about the huge growth in chatbots over the last few months. As reported by the Verge: “There are now more than 30,000 bots on the platform, Marcus said, up from 11,000 in July.”

This dramatic spike in Facebook Messenger development parallels what we have seen at SXSW (albeit on a much much smaller scale) with speaking proposals in the 2017 PanelPicker. In this year’s interface, the word “chatbot’ was used a total of 27 times. By contrast, there were no such references in the PanelPicker interface just one year ago.

A steep increase like this one makes for a good thing, right? Not necessarily, said Marcus at TechCrunch: “It got really overhyped really, really quickly.” Moreover, according to the report in the Verge, Marcus noted that many of the first bots to hit the platform weren’t nearly as good as the native apps they were designed to replace.

His words remind us that hype itself is one of the most persistent challenges when developing the next big thing. In the age of social media, uncovering, predicting and forecasting tomorrow’s hottest trend before someone else does makes for an incredibly popular sport. Yet this rush to judgment almost inevitably undermines the organic process that makes for healthy, strong and sustained development. Said another way, the first generation of any new technology almost never lives up to our over-hyped expectations — and the higher these expectations, the harder it is for the given technology to recover from the less-than-optimal experiences of first generation users.

Yes, the next big thing is out there — it is out there somewhere. And the longer it remains relatively under the radar, the more chances it has for sustained and long-term success.

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