Social networking ; the tastiest mix of web and CAD interaction

22 September 2008

Social networking websites are great for catching up with your mates, but they can also give you an edge over your design and engineering colleagues and open up possibilities you never had before, writes Josh Mings

I’d tell you your world is changing, but it already has. The entire field of MCAD has remained in the monstrously large expanse of design and engineering as a mere tool to get the job done. We as users have been a segregated bunch, designing in this system or that system, 2D or 3D, and the whole lot of us drip and drool our way through the working week with no communication with anyone outside. What a solemn and lonely bunch we are. However, it’s changed. So, instead of curling up in a damp corner with your favourite draughting standards manual, take a gander at how the CAD tools, within the realm of your wonderfully routine life are going to take a wallop from the onslaught of Social Media.

It’s not about Social Media

Let’s the destroy the whole concept of Social Media. Social Media is the buzzword that attempts to capture the desire of creating and sharing exciting tidbits of information with others online. A lot of it is lame and but a lot of it is really good. The most familiar example would be a site like YouTube that allows you to upload video and interact with others doing the same. Do a search on YouTube for any popular CAD system and you’ll get pages of video tips, tutorials and examples of how people use the software.

Social Media has allowed people to make that information accessible to others, but the whole idea of Social Media is changing even as you read this. In fact, it has little to do with ‘media’ at all. Suddenly, and without warning, content and video have been leapt over. Suddenly, people are accessible.

Who are these people? The people in the CAD companies, the people that use the software, and the people that develop the software. People in all areas of CAD are engaging each other like never before and it’s social utilities on the web that are making it possible. These websites are changing the interaction of users and people involved in the decisions of CAD programs, ultimately shifting the ability of both to collaborate, argue and tear apart the machine of the social web.

Rise up, your world has changed, CAD is changing and the people and companies involved in these social sites are leading the charge

In the past, most interaction or contact with a CAD company was through a distant reseller, a cold email or a yearly conference. Interaction with other users was either at work, in forums or an occasional user group. It’s been a desolate landscape with very little involvement. The companies want to engage the users, the users don’t care and few realise the mountain of accessibility that is rising beneath them. The power that gives both the ability to connect with each other lies within a handful of popular websites.

The sites making it happen

You’ll want to tear out this page, look up these sites and try in vain to keep it all a secret. These websites not only put you in a position to gain more access to people within the field of CAD, they can give you an edge over your colleagues and open up possibilities you haven’t had in the past. Now who wouldn’t want that? Above that, these sites are literally changing the face of CAD. They allow companies, developers and user to connect and communicate daily, discuss ideas and help each other understand how the other works. It’s added another dimension to what CAD has been, and it starts here.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site. It allows you to connect with people you’ve worked with, and those you’ve met elsewhere. People get to know you and your work experience, what you’re doing and who you’re connected with. As a professional designer or engineer you need to be LinkedIn.

Facebook is much like LinkedIn except more social. You connect with other people you know, communicate and interact while staying up to date on what’s going on with everyone you connect with. It’s most useful for finding people you went to school with and others you’ve worked with.

Twitter allows you tell people what you’re doing. It might seem odd, but more than that it allows you to talk with anyone else on twitter. It could be another user, a friend, or even a company CEO. Follow the right people and you can find out information before anyone else.

Wordpress is where you can start a blog… in seconds. You could literally start filling the web with all the knowledge of design and engineering your brain has amassed over the years. It’s very simple and allows others to interact with you. On top of this, you have nearly instant access to the community of others out there writing on similar topics.

Conclusion

These sites are the tastiest mix of web and CAD interactivity. They enable you to meet new people and build relationships with people that have similar interests. Engineers and designers can learn what others are doing, discuss issues and generally get to know one another better. Even more, they can connect with the companies and developers of the software they use.

Companies can benefit even more from being involved in social sites. It’s one thing for users to have direct access to the company, but when the company has direct access to the user, they can see who’s using their software, what the users are saying and have actual conversations with them. Social involvement by the company puts a face on the ‘Ivory Tower’ and breaks down the antiquated communication systems of the past. The company is accessible.

All of this together is having a huge affect on CAD, how it’s developed and how some companies are integrating aspects of Social Media into their programs. It’s injecting accessibility into the tool, the people and the companies. This impacts design and engineering on a level that can erupt innovation in CAD technology, introduce 3D to new markets and bring more value to everyone involved in making it happen. Rise up, your world has changed, CAD is changing and the people and companies involved in these social sites are leading the charge.
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