CSE helps you optimize E-media

CSE and its sister publication, Plant Engineering, recently hosted a roundtable discussion among consulting engineers, plant engineers, manufacturers, and Internet experts to discuss the future of e-media. I learned a few things worth passing on. For one thing, engineers clearly are looking to the Internet for answers to project questions, not only about products and engineering techniques, but...
By Michael Ivanovich, Editor-in-Chief October 1, 2007

CSE and its sister publication, Plant Engineering , recently hosted a roundtable discussion among consulting engineers, plant engineers, manufacturers, and Internet experts to discuss the future of e-media.

I learned a few things worth passing on. For one thing, engineers clearly are looking to the Internet for answers to project questions, not only about products and engineering techniques, but also the latest in codes and standards. This isn’t news to 99.99% of you, but what was interesting was the participants’ agreement that engineering firms could benefit by sharing Internet shortcuts and preferred sites—such as bookmarks—among their staffs. This would provide common starting points for repetitive navigations, such as Web sites providing news on codes and standards developments.

Additionally, they said that their younger engineers visit sites that veteran engineers may never have heard of, and that veteran engineers can be intimidated by the younger engineers’ nimbleness with Internet technology. The schism between the veterans and up-and-comers always has existed, and perhaps always will, but the gap can be bridged. For example, the youngsters can host lunch-and-learns for older colleagues. Have the Grasshoppers teach the Masters a few things.

Another point learned in the session was that engineers are traveling less, and attendance at professional and trade events is getting cut from the budget. One reason cited is the issue of sustainability: Less travel is more green as a consequence of fewer flights and thus a smaller carbon footprint.

As a solution, engineers are opting for more training over the Internet—especially if continuing-education credits are offered—and online equipment and systems demonstrations. Also, engineers are looking to the larger bandwidth now available over the Internet for online equipment and systems demonstrations. Net meetings and other types of conferencing also are becoming more common.

These engineers also expressed frustration with the Internet, especially continuing difficulties finding the information they are looking for quickly. With billable hours being a critical factor in project accounting, they don’t want to spend tens of minutes browsing a Web site to find a product specification, case study, or technical article. After two or three clicks, if they don’t hit pay dirt, they’re gone.

I entered the publishing field in 1996, when Web sites began to proliferate and seriously impact the world of engineering. As far as I can tell, little has changed in terms of what engineers want from a Web site. And although Web technologies have certainly evolved, and the amount of content online has certainly increased, more work remains to be done to connect engineers to the information they are seeking.

CSE and its parent company have made significant investments toward meeting the engineering community’s e-media needs, and will continue to do so. Your input is always welcome.

Send your questions and comments to: Michael.Ivanovich@reedbusiness.com