Ann, this is a great idea. I, too, am impressed by the level of expertise, knowledge and creativity of our readers. To be able to leverage this in a forum would be helpful to everyone. Perhaps the forum could have topics similar to ones on the Design News site (ie, Automation and Control, Design Hardware and Software etc.) and people could submit ideas and comments, or discuss projects they're working on and seek input on design issues.
Well it's really a good forum; everyone involved has the knowledge and experience which make it interesting to be a part of. A good opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and best practices. Design Ideas forum would be great way to share innovative ideas.
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?
Nancy, thanks for all those specific suggestions and excellent questions. Just what we're lookiing for at this stage. And thanks to Warren for a good example of why crowd-sourcing one's experiential database in a forum like this one can be a good idea.
I don't think you will find businesses and companies eager to trade comments and suggestions and ideas.
To an engineer, sharing ideas is altruism. To a business it is (potentially) giving away intellectual property.
I think that fundamentally Design News is already about sharing ideas for solving design problems. Most of the articles are promoting new ideas and products. They get commented on, etc. Walah! You already have what you are proposing to make!
Companies desire to sell good ideas, not give them away. Once an idea is developed and protected, this is an excellent forum for introducing products. Many of the articles here are product introduction type articles.
ttemple, thanks for your feedback. The whole point of this idea is that although we do gets lots of comments of this kind, they're hard to find within all these threads and some not even germane to the topic of the article they're attached to. I also think it should be primarily engineer-focused, and if companies want to participate, great, but they're not likely to be the main users, although their individual engineers might.
I think engineers should be careful about what they post on this type of outlet, especially if it could be considered intellectual property of their employer. 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, or might be construed as intellectual property. I also try not to divulge information that I would not have been allowed to share from old employers.
Many engineers are forced to sign confidentiality agreements, etc., which are designed to prevent a company from bleeding intellectual property.
ttemple, thank you, those are very good points. I think posting experiences from past lives is mostly what I had in mind, similar to what we do now, but in a more focused setting that's easier to find and contribute to.
@Ann: I think it's a good idea, if done right. Engineers share design ideas and experiences at technical conferences all the time. Obviously it's important to be careful about intellectual property, but on the whole, being open is an advantage.
I've noticed at conferences that U.S. companies are often much more cagey about what they will and won't present, compared to Japanese companies. I've seen some presentations from U.S. companies that were a complete waste of time, since all of the useful data was withheld. In contrast, when Japanese companies decide to share something, they don't hold back any of the details. This seems like a much more reasonable approach.
Dave, in that case, we can go for a 2 fold scrutiny for presenting a fair idea/technology by protecting the IP rights too. there is no doubt that the reader or listener has to get a fair idea about technology/project without revealing the entire thing.
Yes, I agree with this, too, Dave. I think there is still a lot of good information to share that protects IP as long as people walk the fine line between being both careful and open about ideas. And I think people in the U.S. are always so much more careful because of the whole fear of lawsuits and all of that, whereas there isn't such a litigation culture in other countries so they can be more open as a whole.
Ann, I agree with Dave Palmer whe he says it's a good idea if done right. Right now, many of our articles (as you pointed out) turn into mini-design forums. This might be a chance to create a little repository -- all the design ideas in one place.
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?
Ann, I think you're onto something but 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.
Yes, Ann, I agree and wanted to say that, too. The forum would definitely need some type of moderation to keep things on point. We do tend to go way off topic here in our free-for-all topic forum. (Myself included! But I think it's OK sometimes to do this, as it fosters discussion.)
One idea is more of 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. I regularly visit some college basketball websites that use this type of interface. It's great to have good moderators who help keep everything organized and help spur discussions.
"So I'd like to propose a forum on Design News that focuses on innovative, problem-solving design ideas where individual engineers and companies like robot manufacturers can trade comments and suggestions like these."
Ann, I think we need similar forums for express our ideas and innovations. Where you are planning for it; I would like to suggest for another tab in our home page.
Thanks for your feedback, Dave. Interesting observation about Japanese vs US companies. I've found the opposite to be broadly true when interviewing companies about their technology: Japanese companies have been far less likely to want to be interviewed in the first place and if they do agree, are much less forthcoming. Over time (since the late 80s) the gap has shrunk but I think it's still there. Considering that reluctance, I've been surprised at how forthcoming they can be at technical conferences.
Saw a slideshow on how plastics are fighting disease. Immediately, I thought of developing living plastics. A plastic with it's own DNA controlled ability to reproduce and eventually obtain conscious awareness. Now how cool is that?
Ceylon0, that may not be as far off as one might think, based on what I've seen in nanodevices, self-assembling devices and programmable materials (and BTW that was my slideshow). But--please hold that thought!
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!
OLD_CURMUDGEON, thanks for raising that issue. But I don't see why that would be any more a problem here than on the comment boards we already have. The whole point is a free expression of ideas and the purpose is to aid in better designs and solve new and challenging design problems. So it would be expected that some of the ideas would be adopted by readers in their work. I think it's highly unlikely any ideas discussed here would be specific enough to be patentable.
Ann: I don't know that it WOULD be a problem, but with children suing their parents over trivial matters, and with out super-litigious society in general now, it MAY be something for one to keep in the back of their mind..... that's ALL I was suggesting. Of course it's a good thing when scientific minds can collaborate & share technical ideas amongst their peers, but it would be a real shame IF someone were to become liable for a contribution due to an overzealous "ambulance chaser" type.
In my earlier decades' design role, we always worked on large-scale projects as a team. Even technicians were brought into the collaboration, not only to learn, but also to be an active part in the design process. These groups worked well, and the products' that became "alive" served their purpose well for many years.
OLD_CURMUDGEON, thanks for the additional thoughts on this topic, and for bringing it up in the first place. I tend to agree with Tom-R's thoughts on the matter. I think a lot depends on picking the right model to fit the target goal. I agree about teamwork--when applied to appropriate goals and executed correctly, it can be extremely productive.
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.
Tom-R, thanks for your feedback. The network of known subject experts is an interesting version of crowdsourcing. The open forum we're discussing is meant to be a lot looser, but has similar goals. Thanks also for the clear discussion of trade secrets issues, and the suggestion about offline contacts: excellent suggestions.
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.
There is an old adage, "There is no such thing as a stupid question." I beg to differ, but I do think "There is no such thing as a bad idea."
Years ago I was developing a scanning laser ophthalmoscope for Coopervision and the subject of using the 633nm HeNe for doing graphics came up. I thought it was a bad idea and a waste of time. Little did I know it became the most useful function of the instrument.
There may be stupid questions, but I don't see any bad ideas. It just may not be their time, yet (flying cars, personal helicopters, transporters, warp drive...)
ttemple, you're right that some DN articles are product-oriented or contain product information, and they should be, since that's one of the reasons why engineers have historically read technical magazines: to bring useful and interesting new products to light. But in a typical technical publication, articles can display a range of focus on products or product details, depending on whether they are news or analysis, and whether they are contributed by a manufacturer, or staff-written.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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