Cutting through the Hype

I've just finished reading part 1 of an article, "Considering Ajax", by Chris Laffra from IBM and it made me consider what the role of engineering in business is outside of just development.

The underlying technology of AJAX has been around for a while, but what's interesting is the amount of buzz surrounding it now. The danger with this sort of buzz is both engineers and business people alike can get caught up in it and make decisions based on the hype, instead of what is the right solution to a clients problem.

As Chris puts it

When you make decisions, one strong cognitive bias is the bandwagon effect, a well-known psychological phenomenon.

Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of good business reasons to do something even if it's a "bandwagon" idea, for example to get press interest or attract VC. But the real challenge is to overcome the "bandwagon" impulse of a new technology and identify what technical benefits are to be gained by using it.

As I see it, part of the role of engineering is to cut through the hype surrounding a technology, understand what the pros and cons are of it, identify how it can best be utilised to solve a problem and provide an unbiased recommendation of it's potential use in the business.

Of course, engineers aren't immune to hype either, so part of the role of the engineering manager is to remind everyone that the technology is just a tool and ask the questions "what are the real problems with using it?" and "how and where could we use it?".

2 Responses to Cutting through the Hype

  1. Brett,
    I think its also important that when decisions are made not to go down a technology route, such as Ajax (which I agree is over hyped, and has been around ages anyway), that you keep an eye on where the bandwagon goes though, to ensure that a project ‘keeps in touch’ with that technology. Unfortunately, I think its true to say that although we don’t always want to embrace a technology, we sometimes have to, just to keep in touch with our target market, and to ensure that we don’t isolate ourselves from a portion of that market, who might be swayed by the hype – Sometimes you just gotta ‘give em what they want’ !

    Just my 2 cents on the topic – its something I’ve been thinking about myself.

  2. Richard,

    I think keeping abreast of a technology is especially important when it has been dismissed, as the hype can focus development of the technology to the point that the original reason(s) for not going down that route, may no longer hold true.

    You also make a excellent point that sometimes we have to ‘give them what they want’ despite the hype. This is something that engineers can find difficult and I believe it’s the role of the engineering manager to communicate and educate why it’s important.


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