Overhype is something very noticeable these days. Just last week, everyone on the blogosphere (except me, of course 🙂 was trying to guess what Apple will announce. After the announcement, people were a little bit dissapointed (there is even an article about his on CNet). Why? Apple did nothing wrong. IMHO, it is just the amount of overhype around Apple's secrecy that had the reverse effect after the announcement.
This is not a singular event. Every once in a while, something gets overhyped every few days. Let's just remember the huge rumor around the Google PC just before CES 2006. Did Google announce a PC as predicted at CES? Well, not exactly, but they did announce some products (Google Pack, Video marketplace) but that's not what everyone expected to hear. Again, I don't think that Google did anything wrong here.
Is there a pattern here? Yes, of course.
1) Someone originates a rumor. This is really an incubation stage, where the rumor starts spreading pretty slowly. At this point, with maybe one related blog post every few days, or maybe even weeks. In a few cases, there might be more incubation points, launched by independent sources.
2) After a while, the idea gets a number of readers which is large enough such that a few "champion bloggers" (who are more articulate in their ideas) bring the rumor to the mass. The ideas are now more polished, the language more assertive, and the rumor gets a catchy title. The number of readers increase now significantly from a few thousand, to dozens of thousands.
3) Now the number of reads starts to accumulate in a very fast rate. This generates more posts in other blogs, which will get even more readers. This is also when the overhype starts to grow - people are now being creative, and coming up with all sorts of wild speculations.
4) At some point, the number of blog posts on this subject reaches a critical mass, where the rumor becomes self-sustaining in long-term (or at least until a concrete announcement). This where the number of active readers reaches a certain limit such that we have now a constant buzz around the subject.
5) Authoritative bloggers are picking it up, and now the blogthread now shows up somewhere in memeorandum, digg or slashdot. At this point, the rumor gets massive adoption, with readers in the range of hundreds of thousands or even millions. But now an interesting phenomenon starts to happen - the speculations grow exponentially, being fueled by the overall conversation in the blogosphere. These new derivations are re-feeding the original conversation thread in an interesting way. A few solid speculations (especially those launched by authoritative bloggers/journalists) will soon reach the critical mass by themselves.
6) The announcement is made. Many expectations are invalidated, and in some cases in a quite dramatic way. To paraphrase a comment on the Apple-Intel marriage, this is where you can really feel a large disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices went silent.
7) The last phase? General dissapointment. No problem, everyone is actively working on the next rumor by now.
Did I get it right?