Analog Electronics Engineering Learning

Follow Up Post: Electronics People Online

I really don’t have much to say in response to my last post about where all the electrical engineer sites are online other than: message boards. I alluded to the idea of message boards when I mentioned EEVBlog, though unknowningly at the time; I thought EEVblog was only videos. Working with Dave on The Amp Hour has shown me that a message board can really help hash out ideas (if you’re one of the content generators), get suggestions, or get questions answered (if you’re watching or reading and don’t understand something).  So I started hunting and found some other quite active electronics-only forums:

  • All About Circuits Forum — The main site is a great online open-source textbook that explains lots of electronics concepts.
  • Electro-Tech-Online — This is an intense amount of posts, namely about electronics.
  • Eng-Tips — This is actually a site for all types of engineering but the link is for the electronics part of the site.
  • EEVBlog Forum — Like I mentioned above, this is Dave’s forum and it has some great chatter going on it.

Then there are the hacker/maker/DIYer type forums. These often span multiple disciplines and include questions from people who may have never seen a resistor before but you can usually find some good answers (or answer some questions yourself if you are so inclined).

  • Instructables Community – Not limited to electronics but there are enough electronics projects that there are forums about it.
  • MAKE forums — Hard to find a bigger group of DIYers than MAKE and you know they’re bound to have questions for one another (or you!).
  • Hacked Gadget Forum — Alan’s site is usually a great aggregation of new, fun hacks that are popping up on the web; but the forums are a good place to ask about them!

Vendors often get in on the action as well. Why not? You buy the parts or kits there, you should be able to ask questions to others you KNOW are using the same things, right?

  • Adafruit Forum — Great way to ask about their popular kits. I’m disappointed they don’t sell the RF jammers that LadyAda designed though.
  • Sparkfun — The biggest hobbyist kit manufacturer out there, with over $12 million in revenue per year. With those kinds of numbers, you know people are hanging out at their site (even when they’re NOT giving away $100 of free stuff in a day). More people = more questions = more answers for you.
  • Parallax Forums — A kit maker that utilizes the BASIC Stamp chipset. When you can’t ask the Arduino heads about your issues, you’re going to need a forum to talk to.
  • Element 14 — They are a sub-company of Farnell, one of the largest distributors of components in the world. There’s extra useful content now that they own EAGLE (the CAD program)…but you can find some good general answers there as well.

There are also more specific types of forums out there, which makes a lot of sense. You wouldn’t care about working on precision op amps if you have a question about how to get an Arduino to control a relay.

  • DIY Drones — Want to know how to make a quadcopter? I bet this is a good place to ask about it.
  • AVR Freaks — Talking about AVR (the chipset in the Arduino) can get very specific. These members will help you with your specific questions.
  • Society of Robots — All things robotics, including the electronics needed for them.
  • DIY Audio Forums — High end audio electronics, built by you. Talk to others on the board to figure out if the sound is “warm” enough.

The thing is, even though I like the tailored nature of a message board (ask a question, get an answer), I’ve never really thought of them as a place for electronics people to congregate online. I was quite wrong though. The message board system is democratic in nature because those with the most involvement and the best answers will rise to the top as experts (though I like the StackOverflow/Chiphacker style for this better). Aside from the democratic nature, there can be contrasting voices in case there is a wrong equation or a better way to execute a design; this is important for checking engineering ego and ensuring a design will work properly. I think most of all though, it’s easy: easy for the website creator to set up and easy for people to understand how they work. All of these factors point to a pooling of collective electronic resources online.

So if you’ve never tried it out, give a message board a shot! You can find some great information, connect with some really smart people and maybe help one or two others as well. And if you find any not mentioned here, let us know in the comments.