A good Internet forum with a focused subject can definitely become a good community for sharing information and ideas. I visit the Syracuse basketball forum almost everyday even in the offseason as a way to scan for news, links, etc.
It's an interesting idea. There are a number of companies that find solutions for clients through networks of known subject experts. This sounds like an open web version.
I wouldn't worry about IP or NDA's. It's the commenter's responsibility to not reveal a trade secret, and/or protect any IP before it is revealed. Likewise any questioner has to realize that anything published as a response is now in the public domain. So anything good can be used, but the solutions can't be protected and made proprietary. But for most that's okay if it gets you to market earlier.
If you get questions like "how does Cadbury get the caramel in the Caramilk bar", then you may have someone fishing for trade secret's. But if they tell you their problem and don't care if others know the solution, it would work as we expect. Having said that though, you also need a confidential way for anyone who wants to talk off-line to make contact, so they can protect any potential IP they don't want public. In that way the forum can still find solutions for people, without publishing it.
Thanks, Chuck. I especially wanted to hear what you thought. I'm not wedded to the idea, just thought it might make sense if others would use it in the intended way. I do think it would need moderating, though, to keep out unrelated politics, etc. What do you think about that aspect? And what do you think is needed to do it right?
I think a Design Ideas Forum is a GREAT idea. I have always had a deep appreciation of online forums as a great resource and have utilized them frequently. The Microchip forum for PIC programming is a favorite of mine.
I definitely agree with the comment that it needs to be moderated - that will solve many issues that could undermine the purpose of a forum including inappropriate postings and spam.
I believe there should be a disclaimer that warns users not to infringe open NDAs or confidentiality agreements, but a bit of common sense should go a long way here. We shouldn't be afraid to stifle the creativity that occurs when people coming from different perspectives join together to solve a problem because we are afraid of stepping on someones toes...we just need to be wise about it. And as any engineer knows - it is a very long road from idea to actual conception...I think talking about topics and trading ideas does not neccesarily endanger someone's potential for profit as long as confidential information is not divulged.
I think one of the biggest challenges will be structure - organizing it in a way that allows folks to address topics without being scattered all over the place...and who moderates what...is there one topic at a time? Or like Elizabeth suggested - categories similar to what is in place now? Should it be modeled after other online forums? What categories make sense?
While I haven't taken the time to read the comments posted so far, my initial reaction is that whoever is going to host this forum better make it emanently clear of the limits of liability for anyone adopting a circuit / design idea posted. In this modern era of "LITIGATE FIRST, ask questions later", I'd hate to see someone's noble efforts be trashed by some overzealous type!
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