This post started out as a conscious attempt to start formalizing and clarifying Superhype: the phenomenon were skillful-but-otherwise-perfectly-mediocre individuals and companies go up in fame and popularity with such tantalizing hype as to leave those who are both much more skillful as well as much less mediocre wondering how they did it.
From the time I was exposed to Superhype I have known that it involves subtlety and design that go beyond what those at the heart of the phenomenon can intellectualize while they’re experiencing it. I’m not talking about Bill Gates or Michael Dell or anyone who consciously, deliberately and thoughtfully plans and executes successful strategies. I’m talking about those who get carried on top of a massive wave of hype because they happen to be in the right place at the right time doing something that can only be described as perfectly mediocre.
You can always seek an area of the market that has awesome hype waves and be ready to surf the biggest hype wave that comes your way. It’s a statistical process, which is not the same as leaving it up to luck. You try to maximize the chances of a major wave coming your way by knowing the market and knowing where to stand at any given time for the biggest wave possible. Or you can be a statistical oddity and get “lucky” without understanding why and how all the sudden you seem to be riding the biggest wave in history, without even having the knowledge to surf it but getting carried on top of it anyway as if on a flying carpet. Speaking of riding major waves without knowing a thing about surfing, it actually happened to me once in Puerto Rico. I was trying to do what the cool kids where doing so like them I stood behind a giant rock waiting for the next wave to hit. Well, as the wave approached they all ran off and left me standing there. The wave carried me for at least 100ft on top of sharp-edged volcanic rock but, fortunately, on a bed of water. When I finally landed people rushed to the scene and started yelling “loco! loco!” … That’s how I learned my Spanish. That is a perfect example of how one could surf the really big waves by chance without having any formal knowledge of surfing. Just be at the right place at the right time and have the courage to explore. The rest is up to the odds.
There are many examples of “Web 2.0” celebrities (both companies and individuals) who are currently surfing some big waves (pretty much on their behind as I did in Puerto Rico) without any insight on how to properly surf the hype wave they’re riding, yet they seem to be magically levitating above it on a carpet of thin air (again, like I did in Puerto Rico.)
For those of us who cannot delegate our success to a statistically odd event (as in being at the right place, the right time and being carried miraculously by a massive wave of hype simply due to curiosity and good luck) we must strive to understand how to find the big hype waves across time and space and how to properly surf them.
This is where the discussion must move from simple metaphors to a rigorous analysis of the temporal, social, psychological and power dimensions of “hype.”
And this is where I have to stop, as I’m in the middle of this learning process.