Thursday, December 18, 2008

Engineering Tips

If you are an engineering professional and haven't heard of eng-tips.com - WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? And of course, for you computer techies there is tek-tips.com as well.

Continuing my discussion of online resources for designers and engineers, I have to recommend a visit to eng-tips. This is a website catered to engineering professionals because it has forums for every facet of engineer and design - from hard topics in specific disciplines down to the softer topics of ethics and computer programs. And the best part, the posts are peer-reviewed. There are no moderators on this site. Well, no specific moderators per se because every member is also a moderator by using the red-flag link. The red-flag notifies site management about a possible abuse to the codes of conduct every member agrees to prior to becoming a member. Also, members are also reminded of the main points each time they post.
Promoting, selling, recruiting and student posting
are not allowed in the forums.

This is what makes eng-tips one of the best online locations for engineering knowledge. You don't have to worry about flame wars, students posting homework questions, or getting spammed by recruiters or salespeople. The threads tend to stay on topic; answers are quick and to the point, saving you valuable time; and there is no finger pointing either. Posters can't blame a moderator or administrator for censoring posts because the entire community reviews posts and determines their worth. This allows for very easy, open discussion on a variety of topics without worry of recourse because of a difference of opinion (so long as the post is tactful and professional). How many times have you criticized Autodesk or SolidWorks on their forums only to find your post removed? It's OK to air dirty laundry on eng-tips so long as the post follows the site codes of conduct.

So if you have that tough engineering problem that you can't find text-based resources to resolve, try a post on eng-tips.com. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to see everything that site has to offer. Add some forums to your threadminder, even if you just have a passing interest in the topic. You never know what you may be able to learn.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SpaceClaiming - The Online Community about CAD Tech

In my last post I talked about engineers using social media. I'd like to continue the discussion and highlight a few of the regular places I visit to get my CAD Tech news fix.

Back in May, I made a plug for Novedge Pulse. This is my main RSS stop because it collects all the blogs I normally read. The one-stop shop for blog entries saves me plenty of time each morning as I browse for the day's latest highlights. Well, it so happens that Franco Folini has continued to expand his online offerings to the CAD world. Although not brand new, SpaceClaiming is social networking site that is still building its membership.

Originally developed to be an online community for SpaceClaim users, it has since grown into a collection of members across the entire CAD industry. And, it continues to grow and expand every day. Based on the NING platform, the organization of the site confuses me, but I'm growing accustomed to it the more I visit. I'm even finding it useful since it allows for the vast exchange of information through any medium: text, images, video, blogs, forums, comments, private messaging, calender, and of course group memberships. Who knows, as I grow more comfortable with SpaceClaiming, I may even branch out into other locations like Facebook or Twitter.

So if you are looking for a single place to find a collection of information, take a peak at SpaceClaiming. A word of warning though, give yourself some time to digest all it has to offer.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Solid Edge Wiki

Design News has an interesting article out about how engineers and designers can, and should, utilize social media to improve communication and break down barriers.

http://www.designnews.com/article/159915-Engineers_Meet_Social_Media.php

Personally, I believe things like micro-blogging are more in line with text messaging. Sure, it's a method of communication, but it's really only a passing fad until the next best thing comes along. That does not mean it is totally useless. It just means that us conservative engineers tend to wait things out a bit before jumping on the band wagon. And what will most likely happen is that micro-blogging and other social media websites with grow their philosophy into a more evolved, and secure, method of sharing thoughts, ideas, and other constructive communications.

But one thing that is obviously useful today, and is not a passing fad, is the wiki. I'm sure we are all familiar with the Wikipedia. The power of the Wiki is undeniable. The ability of a community of users to add and edit the information makes wikis incredibly informational. Heck, even the World of Warcraft has a wiki - wowwiki.com.

But, for those of us deeply routed within the CAD industry, this powerhouse of information is typically relegated to the "Knowledge Base." Knowledge bases are great. They have information and the information is searchable. But, they are developed by a limited group of individuals under a specific corporate directive. If we've learned anything from open source, it is that information should be free and easily available to the public. Enter, the Solid Edge Wiki.

This is not a new resource, per se. It has been around for a while thanks to its host, Jason Newell. The Solid Edge newsgroup community has entered quite a bit of relavent information, but it could always use more. For Solid Edge users out there, check it out and feel free to post those little Solid Edge tid-bits. For other CAD users, where are you wikis?