Thanks for all the feedback you have given us on the idea of starting a Design Ideas Forum. Our readership includes so many engineers with experience in multiple disciplines, as well as innovative ideas and creative problem-solving skills, that we suggested creating a forum that would pose design problems and ask for the commmunity's input to help solve them.
The comments we received indicated that this is a good idea, but it must be done right to work. Here's a summary of your suggestions on how to do things right, as well as a few remaining questions where you can help us fine-tune things.
As one commenter put it, the general purpose and function of the forum is for readers to "submit ideas and comments, or discuss projects they're working on and seek input on design issues." Readers may include both individual engineers and various members of companies.
To help focus discussions and locate discussions of interest, posts could be clustered under topical categories. One reader suggested using our four Design News channels: Automation & Control, Design Hardware & Software, Electronics & Test, and Materials & Assembly. Another suggested adding a tab to the Design News home page, so readers can find the forum quickly. Does anyone have any other ideas on how to cluster topics or discussions?
We should remind users not to divulge trade secrets or intellectual property. One commenter said, "I believe there should be a disclaimer that warns users not to infringe [upon] NDAs or confidentiality agreements, but... as any engineer knows -- it is a very long road from idea to actual conception." Another said, "I frequently post opinions and thoughts on experiences from my past lives, but I wouldn't divulge anything that might compromise the competitive position of my employer... I also try not to divulge information that I would not have been allowed to share from old employers." A third pointed out that this is a public forum. "Engineers share design ideas and experiences at technical conferences all the time."
It would be helpful to have a way for forum users to contact one another offline to discuss ideas they don't want to make public. Does anyone have any ideas from other message boards/forums on how to do this simply and effectively?
Staying on point
The forum would probably require some kind of moderating to avoid off-topic posts. "The question is how to introduce topics for specific comment that would be more effective than the current model without getting so general that it degrades and loses focus," one commenter said.
That commenter suggested "a message board or forum type of interface that allows 'threads' to be created on specific design topics where users can pose a question, or solicit information." Does this seem like the best possible interface, or do you think some other type should be used?
Possible models for the Design Ideas Forum include Microchip's development and programming forums and college basketball websites such as the one on Syracuse.com. Are there any specific forums you like that would work here? Please tell us which ones in the comment section below (and include links).