Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CAD and a Sense of Community

What I find interesting in the world today is the sense of community a person feels from a group of total stranger merely because they interact with them on a daily basis through some form of online correspondence. I think we all know that emotion doesn't get portrayed well through electronics: sarcasm, dismay, hatred, or humor just to name a few. Emoticons just don't fully encompass the level of emotion one feels when typing. So how is it we bond to certain individuals through online medium? I know what you say, but I don't get the entire meaning of the words without the displayed emotion, either through facial features, vocal inflection, or body language.

Knowing this, we still find ourselves bonding to certain groups or not others. Personally, I find myself bonded to the SolidEdge bbsnotes, the Alibre Design forums, eng-tips.com, and The Hunting Lodge (a World of Warcraft community). Of all the people I converse with daily, I have met maybe a handful face to face. Why is it I haven't bonded with the Solidworks community, or the NX community, or TeamCenter. Why is it as a Seimens product holder I'm not welcome into the NX or Team Center Enterprise Community? (Don't take that too literally, I'm being facetiously factitious to make a point.) Why do some people bond to those groups but not SolidEdge or Alibre?

What I find even more interesting is being branded based on guilt by association. Members of other communities brand me into one just because of my association with one. I'm ousted from their community no matter what I do, or what I have done.

I learned about a sense of community when taking Sign Language classes. Like so many analogies, picture a bullseye. The bullseye defines the rings, or stage, surrounding the deaf community.

The outer most ring is hearing people. They just don't understand. They think deaf people have a handicap, or are less intelligent because they can't communicate in the same manner as hearing people. They are either ignorant or naive. (There is a difference, a very definitive difference between being ignorant and naive. Perhaps that's a topic for another soapbox.) They will never be welcome into the deaf community.

The next ring is people who take a sign language course. They are at least working on communicating with deaf people and welcome to a certain degree. They still don't "get" what it is to be deaf, but at least they have educated themselves past the stereotype.

The next ring is people who are related to a deaf person. This person usually signs. If they don't, they are often cast into the outer ring, but sometimes not. It is situational. They not only communicate with the deaf, but they also have a first hand understanding of what it is like to live in a hearing world. The difficulties that deaf people must overcome that hearing people take for granted: ordering through a drive up window, talking to a bank teller or grocery check-out clerk, using a telephone in an emergency, and the list goes on. Of course, they still don't really "get it" because they don't have to do it. The moment their deaf relative isn't around, life goes back to "normal."

The inner most ring is being deaf yourself. This is the deaf community. Anybody who is not deaf will not reach this bullseye. The few hearing people that do pretty much are surrounded by deaf and live a deaf livestyle. Even hard-of-hearing people who sign 99% of the time may not ever make it into this ring.

I use Solid Edge because my full-time employer has that tool equipped.
I use Alibre Design because it is the affordable CAD package for my side-job that does pretty much everything I need in a CAD package.
I don't use SolidWorks regularly. I have a license of NX available just to use to communicate with suppliers and customers that use NX. I no longer use CATIA in a production environment. Perhaps that is why I don't fit within those communities. Since I'm not deaf, I just don't get it.

Yet I'm guilty-by-association. Just because the means by which I happen to be proficient at a certain CAD package, which is the measure by which I gage myself to be an authority to talk about a certain topic, places me as a zeolot for that package and incapable of being unbiased and objective. I'll stake my license on that not being true, and anyone who knows me personally will be a character reference to vouch for that. Again, even the best chosen words don't necessarily give the entire message.

So you may see me talk about other CAD package here, just to highlight things that I find neat or interesting. But I will not at any time profess to be an expert at anything beyond the tools I use. If that makes me a zealot, or a biased unobjective bigot, so be it.
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