Three years ago, every website was covering consumer 3-D printing. The trend was at “the peak of inflated expectations” a term coined by IT consulting firm Gartner in its famous Hype Cycle graph. It's basically the point where everyone agrees it's the Biggest Thing Ever. This is inevitably followed by the Trough of Disillusionment, when people discover the technology isn't as fabulous or world-changing (or as ready for use) as they thought. But what follows — and doesn’t get the attention — is the Slope of Enlightenment, when people are quietly getting down to business, fixing the bugs and figuring out what it can do. (To continue the example, 3-D printing is in the slope right now.) Finally, there's the Plateau of Productivity, when the technology starts having a real effect on our lives.

The 2015 Hype Cycle graph has been released, and sitting up there at the top are two subjects that every website, including MNN and TreeHugger (and me personally) have been covering like a blanket: The Internet of Things and the self-driving car, also known as autonomous vehicles. Consumer 3-D printing is indeed sliding into the trough, and the connected home is on its way up the innovation trigger. Another subject I like to cover, wearables, is on the slippery slope down to the trough (and it got there before I even noticed it at the peak.) Perhaps that's due to a general underwhelmed reception to the biggest thing in wearables, the Apple Watch.

The Gartner Hype Cycle is a surprisingly useful tool. As a writer, I like to think that I'm covering something new and different; in fact, the cycle demonstrates that no, I'm right there in the middle of the Peak of Inflated Expectations pack. I do think that MNN is ahead of the game on the connected home. And Jim Motavalli is doing great coverage of the autonomous car.

But it’s humbling to find your favorite subjects right there at the top of the Hype Cycle. Perhaps tomorrow I'll write about people-literate technology — whatever that is. It appears to be the Next Big Thing.

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.