Two years ago when this magazine did a story on blogging, we had difficulty finding engineers who were trying out this form of self-publishing on the Web. We wound up profiling a civil engineer who was blogging about his dog and a few other randoms.
How times have changed, especially as companies learn how powerful this form of communication can be—for them and their customers.
Take NIWeek—National Instruments' annual conference for users—where the bloggers are almost multiplying like rabbits. When Michael Aivaliotis blogged from the event floor in 2003, it was a first. He'd already been blogging for the LabVIEW users group LAVA, and since he was attending NIWeek anyway, he figured he could blog about his experiences there—even the after hours stuff. So what happened in Austin, apparently didn't stay in Austin.
So was born the first "unofficial" NIWeek Blog. Check out this year's edition at http://forums.lavausergroup.org/blog/niweek2005.
At this year's NIWeek in August, Aivaliotis had plenty of company, including several software engineers at MTS—a supplier of testing products that specializes in sound and vibration. They jointly post on www.soundanswers.net, a blog launched by Dr. Gabriella Cerrato-Jay, the technical director for MTS Consulting Services. The company was participating in NIWeek, and several engineers blogged about their experiences.
Marketing Manager Dianne Bell says that MTS launched the blog in response to feedback from participants of the company's technical seminars indicating that sound and vibration is starting to become an issue outside of the company's core automotive and aerospace business. "Clearly, design engineers are looking for information, and our strategy was to create a site that would serve as a technical resource and provide a platform for them to ask questions and position ourselves as sound and vibration experts," says Bell.
The company launched the site in May, and Bell says that traffic to the site has been steadily increasing—averaging about 500 unique hits per month. Bloggers post on a variety of technical topics—ranging from background noise issues to sound quality. MTS plans to add more content to the site, including a sound library for engineers.
National Instruments itself launched six technical blogs earlier this year, written by the company's own engineers. J.R. Allen, LabVIEW product manager responsible for helping to build community among users, says that the blogs have been outrageously popular with engineers, with bloggers like Brian Tyler attaining almost celebrity-like status through his postings.
Tyler, a senior software engineer for LabVIEW platform, has earned fame with LabVIEW users through his blog, Lycangeek (http://detritus.blogs.com). He blogs on everything from technical points about LabVIEW to his addiction to a new video game. He also blogged NIWeek.
And there's plenty more new blogs out there—from Analog Device's Jerry McGuire (http://www.blog.analog.com/dsp), who blogs on the future of embedded DSP to Mathworks' application engineers Scott Hirsch and Doug Hull, who post a "Pick of the Week" (http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/pick) culled from reader-submitted files for the company's Matlab software.
So why blog? That's easy—for the engineers who get it right, who are prepared to offer a blend of insight, com-mentary, and expertise for a techies (as opposed to mere marketing hype), the payoff can be huge: "It's turning out to be a great way for our engineers to connect with customers on a whole different level," says Allen.
Do you have a favorite blog? Let me know and I'll share it with our readers.
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