Jeri Ellsworth’s wildly entertaining and informative videos.
And every corporate attempt in between. It’s happenin’, kids, hey what’s that sound? Every look what’s going down….
If you need another example of social media traction among engineers, let's look at design contests. We’ve done them forever, but social media takes this to a new level.
Just ask Gammell and Ellsworth, who teamed up to build—almost on a whim—a design contest around the (age-old, even "venerable"--yep that's what Bill Schweber called it) 555 timer IC. (It's ironic that this ancient device is the focus of a social media-driven design contest, isn't it?)
“Aside from the history and the instructional information available, the 555 is accessible to a broad range of people,” Gammell said in an interview. “With some care, it's possible to use in more complicated systems, as a lot of our early entries have shown. However, students and hobbyists can just as easily pick one up and use it in a new application.”
Next Tuesday, March 1, is the deadline, so get cracking if you're interested.
Why does social matter?
Flexibility: This project started out as Twitter chatter and once the decision was made, was rolling in two days
Reach: The chip’s creator, Hans Camenzind, is one of the judges
Openness: “Once we started working on the project, other tools like Skype, Wordpress, Email and Google Docs (to help keep track of our sponsors) was all we needed to get the project off the ground. And this all across a 3 hour time difference and 2,500 miles away,” Gammell said.
More traditional design contests, like the ones EE Times is involved in, also are leveraging social media in a big way, building microsites to house information and entries, using video to show design examples, and leveraging comments to get audience votes.
Cypress' challenge and the contest from STMicroelectronics are the most recent examples.
Engineering arguably is one of the most collaborative professions around, so it all makes sense, even if it took a few years for traction.
And if you wanna develop a new generation of engineers, what better way to engage and inspire than through social media and stuff like design contests.
P.S. Here’s Ellsworth’s video explanation of the origins of the 555 contest.
It's a well known bug here. The first time you see your post it looks like crap. Just do a refresh and all will be well. As you've probably already found out. Successive editors have failed to sort it out (there's a challenge for you Brian!!) But once you know about it, no panic.
All social media is important to be involved with. Twitter give great access to other engineers and companies. Access that you just can’t get any other way.
Having LinkedIn account allows others to see exactly who you are and what you have done - it’s not just about posting your CV. It’s an important port of your online profile.
And writing blogs allows you to voice your own views, talk about what interests you and will encourage others to connect and talk to you.
It may all means like hard work - but the benefits is having a network of engineers and resources at your finger tips.
As an engineer I worried about putting my reputation on the line with social media.
What if a potential employer reads my posts and it hurts my chances of getting a job?
Will my colleagues look down at me if I make a mistake when discussing an engineering topic?
I had a wake up call about my online image after an interview around 2007. The interviewer on the other side of the table said "I Googled you."
What was he seeing? I was surprised to find top Google hits were blogs by fans of my work with incorrect or incomplete information and a vandalized Wikipedia article.
From that point on I decided that I would be more active online and present the story I wanted to be told and not let random people who chatted with me for 15 minutes at a trade shows fabricate my online persona.
By the way, if you haven't seen Michael Barr's useful guide to social media for engineers (Duane's already weighed in!), here's a link:
Duane, couldn't agree more. Sometimes I call that the engineering paradox (that hardware guys lag the software guys in adoption). The software guys are in many ways responsible for the user experience, so they have to be involved.
And to your point, hardware guys are early adopters in other areas (I'm thinking back to the EV-1 electric car and the all the engineers who had early versions and hacked into their computers for fun.
My hypothesis is that it's not that Engineers are not compatible with social media, but that hardware engineers are about half a decade behind the rest of the world in this respect. It's important to differentiate between hardware and software. Many software folks have been living on the Internet for a very long time.
Most electrical engineering types that I've known over the years are fine being early adopters, provided the technology being adopted has a high usefulness to time-wasting ratio. Certainly there are aspects of the Internet that meet that criteria and are embedded into the lives of just about every EE. Digikey has been on the leading edge of the Internet and has always been far more function than form. Amazon and many of the other online retailers make many life tasks quick and easy.
The biggest problem that I've seen with much of social media is in its roots. So much of it started with the non-technical youth set or was over-hyped by high-ego'd promoters.
That is changing now though. The 555 contest is a good example. Last year, electronics folks really didn't spend much time with social media. Next year, we won't remember that social media ever didn't exist.