Social experiment update

Last February I announced in this column the launch of Control Engineering’s first social media foray—the “Automation & Control” group on Facebook (http://budurl.com/2nfe). As we began this experiment, there were already several other such automation-related groups on Facebook hosting anywhere from several dozen to a few hundred members.
By David Greenfield, Editorial Director July 1, 2009

Last February I announced in this column the launch of Control Engineering ’s first social media foray—the “Automation & Control” group on Facebook ( http://budurl.com/2nfe ). As we began this experiment, there were already several other such automation-related groups on Facebook hosting anywhere from several dozen to a few hundred members. At the time I thought that if we could reach 500 members, that would be an excellent result. We passed that benchmark in less than month. Membership in the group had surpassed 2,100 by June 1 (less than six months since the launch).

The big questions we had when launching this venture was: How many engineers are out there on Facebook, and how much time are they spending there? The answers have been quite clear. Not only are there a lot of engineers using social media, they’re out there looking for answers. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions posted recently on the group site—from the more common to the more specific:

  • Can I use an incremental encoder direct connect to relay as a sensor? If so, how should I connect it?

  • When it comes to electromagnetic interference, which is best, Profibus or 4-20mA?

  • I’m looking for a cement flow meter. I need it to measure cement powder flow across a 16-in diameter steel pipe.

  • I need to find a machine/system that counts sausage chubs, possibly holding them until a predetermined amount have gathered, then dumped into a box. I have seen systems that do this with cartons, but does anyone know of a system that can do what I need with scattered chubs?

There are literally dozens and dozens of user posts and replies on the site. So if you haven’t joined yet, I encourage you to do so. There’s a vast engineering community out there that could be even better with your presence.

The success of this whole social media venture has also led us to also launch a Twitter feed on sustainable engineering ( twitter.com/djgreenfield ) and a companion site to the Facebook group on LinkedIn ( http://budurl.com/8w6g ). The LinkedIn group site—“Automation & Control Engineering”—also features a direct news feed from www.controleng.com , so you can keep up to date with industry news while also dialing into the engineering community at large. More social media news is coming soon to coincide with an update of the www.controleng.com Website.

Now that these ventures are up and running, I am interested to hear your comments and suggestions on how we can make them better and more useful for you. My email address is below.

david.greenfield@reedbusiness.com

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