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Of Microblogging, Twitter and Hype Cycles

by Jeffrey Mann  |  August 19, 2009  |  14 Comments

This is Hype Cycle season, which always leads to lots of comments on blogs and other social media sites. I wrote the Microblogging technology profile, and have been alternately bemused and amused about the reactions to its position this year. Talking about Twitter always generates reactions, especially on Twitter.

This year, Microblogging (which imageincludes the Twitter service) has crested the Peak of Inflated Expectations and is beginning to move into the Trough of Disillusionment. Some people disagreed with the placement of the dot, but that’s to be expected. From an unscientific survey, about as many people felt microblogging still had plenty of hype left in it as thought it was well onto the Slope of Enlightenment. So that’s OK. If the critics are all over the map, then the position is probably just about right.

It was also apparent that many people don’t really get how the cycle works. The most prevalent Tweet said some variation on “Web 2.0 Trending Up, Twitter Down.” Many commentators seemed to think that moving towards the trough meant that Twitter was over, never to be heard from again.

Actually, microblogging is moving along the cycle rather smartly. The structure of the hype cycle means that everything goes through the trough, before it reaches the plateau of productivity and wide adoption. Moving into the trough is therefore, a good thing for someone’s favorite technology, but not without risks. It is far worse for a technology to languish on the up side of the peak, never to approach wide adoption. Other technologies whiz quickly through the trough to reach the slope and onto the plateau.

The Twitter backlash has certainly begun, and many are piling on enthusiastically. I am not one of them, but there are definite indications that microblogging will have a difficult time getting through the trough. Moving into the enterprise will be especially tricky, one of the necessary steps to really achieve productivity. While there are several enterprise microblogging platforms out there, one of Twitter’s attractions is the massive volume of Twitterers and the amount of content they generate. Recreating that internally will be hard. Some companies have achieved successes, and I would love to talk to any others I haven’t spoken with. But it will be more difficult for microblogging to jump from the consumer to the enterprise market than many other collaboration technologies, such as instant messaging.

Category: being-an-analyst  blogging  consumerization  hype-cycle  microblogging  twitter-vendors  

Tags: hype-cycle  microblogging  twitter  

Jeffrey Mann
Research VP
20 years with Gartner and META Group
30 years IT industry

Jeffrey Mann is a Research VP at Gartner, covering cloud office, collaboration and social software.

Thoughts on Of Microblogging, Twitter and Hype Cycles

  1. Probably have to disagree here. Many of our 2.0 Adoption Council members have found micro-sharing tools to be a catalyst for exposing the potential for openness and sharing. In effect, it creates the foundation for cultural change required for more robust social platforms.

    Of course, 100% of our members are pro-2.0, but they are driving change by example.

    Heck, I wouldn’t have even seen this post, if not for Twitter. :-)

  2. Jeffrey Mann says:

    I don’t think we disagree all that much. I think that microblogging is a very cool thing, which is why it is advancing along the cycle. However, I think there will be a gap between adoption and enthusiasm between consumer microblogging (like Twitter) and enterprise, where the lack of scale will make it harder to be as cool as it is outside.
    Actually, I think that microblogging will push the adoption of activity streams in the enterprise, which have a lot more potential. That is where microsharing is going, ultimately. You want microblogs, recommendations, likes/dislikes, etc. In the enterprise, microblogs will be the bait, but activity streams are the hook.

  3. Jeffrey,

    You know I share your view, But I think there is something we are forgetting to add in this debate. When we say that Microblogging has not yet reach mass adoption and that Twitter is just one example of it, people hear Twitter has not reached mass adoption. They compare that with the end-user adoption of Twitter and conclude you are wrong.

    As opposed to saying the technology behind Twitter has not yet reached mainstream, but in the example of Twitter we see how powerful it is for end-users. If we could capture that power and channel it to the enterprise, either with Twitter or similar tool, can you imagine the power it can generate for the end-users and for the organizations?

    Second one says the same, clarifies that it is not about Twitter only, and drives the point home that it is organizations that have not yet fully embraced it

  4. Jeffrey Mann says:

    Again, we mostly agree. However, adoption is not the issue for the hype cycle; productivity is. Certainly lots of people use Twitter, but that has only begun to translate into enterprise productivity. You are right that we could emphasize more that Gartner generally writes from an enterprise perspective. That is so natural to me, I forget it sometimes.

    As I discuss briefly above, I am not so sure that microblogging alone (as opposed to activity streams) will translate into all that much enterprise productivity. Twitter is fun and fascinating because of its volume. Without it, much of the value diminishes.

  5. Maybe the hype cycle is about productivity, but introducing 2.0 into the enterprise goes far beyond increasing productivity. The group of folks driving the change in this regard are not necessarily in IT, either. A recent poll we took of our members showed an overwhelming majority in lines of business, not IT. Small sample, but these folks are on the front lines of reinventing the +circulation system+ of large organizations. Easy tools like micro-sharing can become the heart of that reinvention.

    There’s really no reason why work can’t be “fun and fascinating” behind the firewall. That includes all forms of socialworking: publishing, commenting, connecting, collaborating, co-creating, recommending, and so on.

  6. Good article and information the disagreement I have is yes if you take microblogging as your only approach to socializing your enterprise that will fail big time. It has to be a strategy and an ecosystem of acceptable ways of communicating interactively on and offline or using both at the same time.

    There is no silver bullet and cultural factor hinder openness more than anything. Great you have twitter, blogging, facebook, profile creation, document sharing to achieve collaboration and open dialouges publicly if your culture is one of heriarchary, controlled messaging, and frankly fear of disagreeing with upper levels of the enterprise none of this stuff goes through any part of the curve.

    I tend to focus more on the aspects of the strategy of engagement all these new tools provide to bring all the aspects of engagement in the B2C, B2B and P2P closer together to really produce innovative solutions.

    Good explanation of the curve and trough! Thank you

  7. Dov Sharon says:

    Jeffrey, we at Contactmind believe in your comment “Actually, I think that microblogging will push the adoption of activity streams in the enterprise, which have a lot more potential. That is where microsharing is going, ultimately”. Clearly enterprise business people may benefit from activity streams in a number of ways:

    a) Getting ‘news breaks’ on important events and experts’ takes on such events.
    b) Generate new focused relationship that match enterprise personnel busines targets
    c) Save selected streams as a data layer of prospects’ throughts, desires and wants.

    Crucial for relationship nurturing on the road to more business closed.

  8. Greg Lowe says:

    I strongly disagree with the last sentence. As one of the members of the 2.0 Adoption Council that Susan refers to, Micro-sharing has really provided a gateway to many other 2.0 endeavors in my company. We spent much time initially using the tool to debate the value of micro-blogging, but as more people came on board, the conversations have also changed. One year later, the solution is now as commonplace in a discussion as e-mail, or the Intranet. I think Micro-blogging will change and morph again as other disruptive technologies make their way into the Enterprise 2.0 space, but due to its simple elegance, I do see it being an easy launching point for any company looking to be more collaborative.

  9. JM – great post. I agree with your observations, particularly the assessment that “activity streams in the enterprise…have a lot more potential.” We’re working along that premise at Microsoft (as others are).

  10. Chris Almond says:

    Greg – I think that in general, Jeffrey’s last sentence statement has the ring of truth to it. Re-read it. He isn’t saying that micro-blogging is not an effective gateway drug to e2.0 addiction. He’s saying that he expects micro-blogging solutions ala twitter will have higher adoption hoops to jump through inside the enterprise relative to other recently introduced collaborative technologies. I agree. I’ll guess that your org has been successful in deploying and main-streaming a micro-blogging solution because you had very high level support, and very skilled/effective cultural-technical evangelists leading the charge. 😉

    I agree with Jeffrey’s and Lewis’s comments about activity streaming too. Activity streaming is micro-blogging with contextual and process oriented focus. This was the most valuable use I found at IBM for using their internal beta “BlueTwit” micro-blogging system. I managed project teams during intensive short term content development sprints. We used BlueTwit with our own project hash tag as a way to keep all team members on the same frequency. As a PM, I saw this as a great new tool for focusing team activity, coordination, and for measuring the activity pulse of the project team.

    From an application infrastructure point of view there is a fine line between between micro-blogging inside focused activity streams that are part of a wide open broadcast environment like twitter, and the provisioning of dedicated persistent chat rooms. The latter has been an option available or some time now from leading instant messaging platform vendors. These dedicated chat rooms can persist, (they don’t go away once every leaves for the day) and are only visible to those invited to the chat. They can be just as effective for group activity streaming as Twitter, plus access controls and confidentiality are built in. But those last attributes makes them very un-twitter like. And isn’t closed by default instead of open by default the antithesis of E2.0?

    If I were managing product development for one of the big instant messaging vendors, here is the feature addition I would be pushing for in the next major release: broadcast, subscription based IM channels. IOWs, add enterprise “twitter” to the platform. From an end user’s point of view this means:

    > I have one additional member in my chat client contact list: “MyBroadcast”
    > When I send an “IM” to that recipient I’m actually broadcasting it to anyone that subscribes to my channel within the IM enterprise.
    > I have an extra grouping with my chat client UI that expands to show everyone in the IM enterprise to which I subscribe (ie. “follow”).
    > The UI presents a tabbed interface. One tab shows the follow stream for everyone. Other tabs may appear as needed to follow activity in one or more persistent chat rooms that I’m a part of (ie. activity stream rooms). I guess you could expand all the tabs out ala Tweetdeck to show all streams in one window too.
    > When I startup a traditional p2p chat this also appears as a new tab…

    In other words, full twitter like functionality embedded into existing enterprise IM platform. It seems to me that the unique strengths of enterprise IM servers (ie. multi-plexed, switched point-to-point and point-to-many content streaming) makes them prime candidates for addition of micro-blogging functionality ala twitter.

    Bolt this onto your existing investment in hosting enterprise IM and the oh-so-hot-and-trendy new social functionality that Twitter/Yammer/, etc… provides is now available in your enterprise – without the incremental increase in infrastructure complexity that bringing in a new app vendor and a new hosting platform would cause. The user doesn’t have to startup two desktop client apps to micro-blog and IM. It’s automatically integrated with the enterprise directory. It appears within a client app UI that is already familiar to your end users. Etc…

    Jeffrey – so how close is this activity streaming concept to your interpretation of what a “wave” is, ala google?

  11. […] Of Microblogging, Twitter and Hype Cycles | Gartner blog […]

  12. Jeffrey Mann says:

    Thank you for explaining me better than I did. I do indeed think that microblogging, along with a number of other techniques, can be effective in introducing E2.0 to an organization, as well as being a cool thing in itself.
    Your ideas about embedding microblogging in IM are intriguing, but I’m not sure it is the end of the road for activity streams. Activity streams need to hoover up all kinds of activity. IM and microblogging is a good start, but lots of other events are valuable too.
    I think that we will want to embed microblogging in IM, but also in other clients. Look for more research on this idea from Matt Cain and other analysts, under the idea of Collaboration 4.0.

  13. Gaurav says:

    I want to bring to your attention

    Emote is a concept of sharing emotions, built over microblogging with full functionality of a social-networking site and a beautiful scrolling TIMELINE ( )

    emote is a microblogging service; which is a platform to –
    1. broadcast and share your emotions with your family, friends and with the entire world.
    2. Make yourself heard, comment on news, stories and current affair.
    3. Share your experiences, memories and events with your friends and family.
    4. Connect with different people with similar emotional attributes as yours.
    (ex: if atrocities on animals make you sad, connect with others who share the same feeling)
    5. Jot-down your experiences. You usually have so many things to say – a constant stream of thoughts, comments and observations running through your head continuously.

    6. A wonderful TIMELINE that arranges your messages in a chronological order date by date.
    (A prominent micro-blog reviewer thinks so!)

    Sometimes, the important connections we make are the ones we make with ourselves.

  14. […] Twitter, the concept of microblogging has been slower to catch on, but it’s coming. Frequent, small updates can provide value […]

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