Micro-blogging for CAD Designers and Engineers – Part II

By MarkBurhop

Micro-blogging is useful for some business situations but Twitter is not always the best tool. Many of us need more secrecy, less noise or simply don’t have a need or desire to follow what people are doing outside of the company.

One tool that is getting a lot of press is Yammer. If your company has more than 100 people, I would bet at least a few people at your company are using it. There are also some open source tools that are coming on line that allow you to set up your own micro blogging services. These tools provide micro-blogging functionality that can be more controlled, more focused and more secure while giving you the advantages of micro-blogging communication within your company.

Business use of micro-blogging is probably a bit behind public use of micro-blogging (for most companies, at least) so I’m not saying “your company needs to use it or will fall behind!” However, I do think it’s a good time for most companies to start discussing it. Here is why:

1. Security and communication are often at odds with each other. Does your company have a policy on tools like Yammer or Twitter? Should it? On the positive side, if micro-blogging seems valuable, a business based micro-blogging service could give you better security AND more communication.

2. Breaking down barriers. I’ve made some great technical connections with folks inside of Siemens with just some simple experimentation with Yammer. How valuable would new connections inside your company be for you?

3. Focus. With Twitter, my topics range from CAD to American football to coffee to virtual worlds. For many of my followers, one or more of those topics are just noise. With a business tool, I can talk business all the time. In theory, you can tighten the focus even more – say all Solid Edge designers.

4. Back channel chatter – This makes large (>10 people) multi-site meetings more effective.

5. More timely information – This is the same advantage as twitter, just combined with the focus of business based micro-blogging.

Now I’ve drifted off a bit from the CAD and engineering focus I had in my last blog but it is not too hard to speculate how micro-blogging might eventually be used here. Maybe it is a stream of incoming tips and tricks for your favorite CAD tool. Maybe its a way to make use of crowdsourcing with the other engineers at your company. Maybe its a way to meet up with the company CAD expert at another site or to get a quick response to a question from any designer that might be listening. What is interesting is that these aren’t my ideas, these are ideas I’m hearing from real CAD users connecting with twitter or other social media technologies.

Going Forward

One tool that I find interesting is an open source application called ESME. Dick Hirsch is one of the contributors to this project and you can often find him blogging on the ESME site. The cool part… he works for Siemens. So not only does Siemens PLM have access to some bright people within global Siemens, it demonstrates some of the value of these tools in helping people within a company make the right connections.

I may blog more about ESME in the future. For now, here are a few videos to learn more about it:


ESME Demo Jam Bangalore 2008

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at