Community: Who Needs It?

I’ve been involved in on-line communities for engineers since 1997. The old usenet news groups put the Wild Wild West in the www//:. It was raw, it was unruly, but more than any of that, it was engineers coming together to share knowledge, trade stories, ask questions, and just see who else is out there. Back then, just like now, there was a small percentage of people who participated, and a large group of people who just sat back and watched the fireworks, gleaning tidbits here and there.

Here at the Solid Edge Community, we’re trying to get more people to participate, especially with the new influx of folks from the GTAC BBS forums. We want to make sure you’re comfortable and feel welcome. We want to tempt some of you lurkers into maybe asking or answering a question here and there. Beginners aren’t the only ones allowed to ask questions. Advanced questions are certainly welcome. Even questions about opinion, where there might not be a single straight-forward answer. If you have a question, I’ll bet someone else has an idea they’d like to share.

When you are isolated, without a lot of other people around you who are interested in the same topic, it might sometimes feel like you have to figure every thing out by yourself. Even if you have a small group of users, and you are trying to do a certain type of work that you haven’t done before, it’s not always possible to call in an expert. With so many areas of mechanical design, your local reseller doesn’t always have an expert on staff for a process like pressed glass, powder metal, or gas-assist injection mold. Finding an expert in one of those fields can be daunting if you’re just looking in the phone book.

This is part of the reason why an real international community of Solid Edge users is such a compelling thing. You have experts on tap not just for the software, but also for design and manufacturing related specialties. These are people you may never meet in the flesh, but they are still willing to help you through a problem that just baffles you, without expecting anything in return. Of course a thank you is always cool, but you trade information that you might have paid a consultant thousands of dollars for.

Who needs that kind of help? Wow! We all need it, but I’d be willing to bet that most of us are too shy to ask for it. Maybe we don’t expect it to be there, or that we’ll ask a question but get no response. Whatever, give it a shot. I’m sure you’ve got some questions that have always nagged you about something, or there’s been that one thing that you could never quite figure out about something simple, like sketching, or complex, like adding motion to a large assembly.

So what I’m doing here is asking you to bump up your participation a little. We know from the site statistics that there are a lot of people reading the blog and the forum. But imagine if just a few of those people who typically “lurk” were to answer a question where they hold some special knowledge, or ask a question that is really on everybody elses’ mind, or maybe a question that no one ever thought to ask.

Besides the “civilian” stars around here like Sean and Ken, you also see Dan Staples show up and answer questions from time to time. The quality and quantity of knowledge from people like Tushar and Jason Newell is astounding. The community forum isn’t really a replacement for tech support or training, but if you’ve got a quick question for which an answer would save you a couple of hours, go over to the forum and ask it. If you just learned something that you’re busting at the gills to tell someone about, you can write about that there too. If you read a blog and have a question, a comment, in agreement or a disagreement, jump in. The community only works to the extent that we all participate. There’s plenty of room for you, whoever you are.

Unlike the “bad old days” of usenet, we’ve got civilized rules here, but basically if you just use your head before you start typing, everything should be fine. Maybe you’ve noticed, and maybe you haven’t, but we keep the community clear of spam and internet trolls;o)

So stop by the forum and introduce yourself, or browse through some of the top community level forums and give some suggestions.

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