I guess it's a trade off and you are right - there are a lot of valuable communities that are supported by distributors. I had a sticky problem about a PIC program I was writing in assembly and jumped onto the Microchip forum. Not only did I find help there - I found an opportunity to collaborate on a project with a guy from another state. I never would have met him if it wasn't for the online forum - he and his wife actually had an occasion to come our way and our families dined together at Red Lobster - which proves that the eating component is still an important factor in engineering LOL
Good point, Rob - the online seminars that are offered are awesome and a great learning tool for venturing into new areas of technology - yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks and the online offerings are a great place to start. Now if they could only figure out a way to serve us lunch during an online seminar LOL
You're certainly right about that, Nancy. However, with travel budgets cut, distributors are offering plenty of new services online. Digi-Key has made quite a name for itself with its education programs. Element 14 has also shifted services to an online format.
In the good old days we had reps courting us all of the time with lots of added value services and samples. Phone calls were returned promptly and visits to the plant buying the engineer's lunch was the norm. In today's economy it's a different world (and not as much fun)...companies are all struggling to remain profitable and are looking for cost effective measures to do business wherever possible.
Good point, Rob. Yes, the Digi-Key Continuing Education classes are a very good example of how both sides benefit: Engineers learn and the distributor gets name recognition that may help down the road.
Not to be a wet blanket, but that help is typically a direct correlation as to how many components the company will be purchasing from the distributor. Of course this is just good business sense - why devote a lot of your resources when the payoff is not going to warrant it...but something to keep in mind if you are hoping for a dedicated application engineer to become involved in your project and you are not looking at large volume sales.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.