I’ve asked communities I’m a part of where all the electronics sites are. The truth is there are some out there, and the popular ones are there for a reason. They produce a lot of great content and highlight engineers and hobbyists who really contribute a lot to their respective communities. But why aren’t there more? Are electronics just innately uninteresting? I don’t think so–obviously–or else I’d have a bit of a conflict of interests. So what is it that prevents more people from publishing sites about electronics?
- Even on my own site, I don’t write about my work. I go to work for 8+ hours a day and work on some really cool stuff. I enjoy it. But there’s no way I can talk about every problem I run into. That’d be ridiculous! Now contrast that with someone who works in politics. It’s all out in the open (at least it should be), and the rest is just opinion. As long as they don’t say something that will get their boss in trouble (or more likely, as long as they agree with their boss), the site is a boon. Same for PR, marketing and lots of other sectors. Blogs and websites about their work seems complimentary. Sure they don’t share everything about the behind the scenes, but in those cases, the more info that’s out there, the better. In engineering, it’s often the secret sauce of a company that is the most important…and also the most protected.
- Access to Industry Info
- So maybe you decide you’d like to write about a technology company from the outside. Lots of sites already do this kind of thing. There are tons of Apple fan sites, right? Well, yes, but again they’re writing about things that are public–or in recent times about phones that were found that weren’t meant to be public. The engineers behind the scenes at Apple can’t write about their experiences due to NDAs and trade secret protections. Nor for big companies with exciting products like Intel. Sure you can write about what’s out in the marketplace now (such as the i7), but you can’t write about how they tweaked with the design in order to make it better than previous generations. Nor can you write about the impressive geometry shrinking that is occurring to keep pace with Moore’s law and how that affects your EDA tools.
- NOTE: I might consider industry magazines such as EETimes, EDN and Design News to be an example of companies that have access to industry info, EXCEPT I consider them as news sources about the industry and not about engineering.
- The Speed of Science
- Unfortunately, real science is slow. Even pseudo-science is slow, with the new hot products being released only so often. And beyond the discoveries being announced via PhysOrg or IEEE or Engadget, what is there? Whereas there may be political sites that can subsist on just reporting the news of the latest scandal (and all the details and conjecture associated with it), science and electronics has a limited amount of new information to report upon. Without as dynamic an atmosphere, there are bound to be fewer sites reporting on the news of the industry.
Of the sites that are out there about electronics, some really stand out in my mind. The Electronics Engineering Video (EEV) Blog, Chiphacker, Discovercircuits.com and so many more. They provide great services to people, which keeps them coming back. But what about these sites really draws people in? I’ve pondered this question in terms of what might make more people want to read my site. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- No doubt that people utilize the internet as an instructor for their latest projects. In fact, I’ve tailored some of my own more popular posts (about how op amps work) towards teaching people in certain niche areas. Some of the best sites out there (such as Instructables), helps people to learn about their project or the subject they are studying. The mere fact that they are offering free information (that is assumed to be correct) is a very big draw for the masses. Unfortunately, as far as competition goes, there are some major leaders in terms of “how things work” and the smaller players often fall off the map, hence fewer parties trying to explain a topic like when to use analog versus digital circuits.
- Personal Projects
- These sites are my personal favorite and easy to spot as a favorite of many others. Why? Because the site continues to showcase technology applications that likely have never been seen before. No, the technology itself is pretty standard; Arduinos and other simple microcontrollers are often the basis for many of the designs. However, the application is usually different and almost always intriguing. Sites such as Make magazine and Hack-a-day showcase the latest uses of technology in novel situation
While I don’t think the hardware sites have quite reached the critical mass that software development sites have reached, I’m not worried. The hobbyist movement continues to grow and I believe the general population has been re-warming to the idea of working on electronics (at least some part of the population, that is). Given the slow uptake of the hardware community with new media, it’s not all that surprising that we haven’t seen as many sites as we might have expected. However, I think we’ll be seeing more soon. What do you think? Have I missed any big categories of websites? Or are hardware engineers and their respective interests always doomed to remain in the shadows?
Chris, Chris, Chris. I’m so disappointed in you.
How could you forget RF Cafe?! Everyone I know uses it, hardware and software alike!
Chris Gammell says
Cherish, I work DC alllll day long.
That said, I’ll check out the RF Cafe. I’ve never been there (Eep! Don’t hate me!).
Dave Jones says
Thanks for the mention.
Yes, the major players like Wikipedia make electronics instruction and research a saturated field, pushing out similar content from the smaller players. Nothing wrong with that, that’s just the way the world works now.
That’s why I started the EEVblog, to put video and a personality (however quirky) into an otherwise dull and faceless industry/hobby. And it seems to have taken off, big time. It will be interesting to see how far it actually grows…
Chris Gammell says
Wikipedia…how about MIT? How do we fight a resource like that???
You’re right though Dave, you have to add something special to get the education and/or information to people. I like the video take on it, that’s for sure!
Why fight MIT? Take a course!
BTW, I think it’s time you graduated from DC and start designing multivibrators, or single vibrators; whatever strikes your fancy.
Chris Gammell says
You stay classy, Flux 😉
Designing multivibrators is a big part of how I make my income and is quite rewarding. And seeing how you’re an electronic hardware enthusiast and one that likes to fix up old things (like that organ), I thought building an old-style singlevibrator circuit would be a great hobby project for you as well.
I’m not sure if I’d call these endeavours classy. Unless you were thinking of something else. I don’t know, were you?
Chris Gammell says
While I don’t think for a second you were being that innocent, I will cede that I didn’t find the single vibrator link.
Stanley Lee says
I find RFCafe too cluttered, but I do enjoy breezing through EEVblog. Finding out your site is interesting, as I also find a lack of EE (or rather hardware or related hacking opinion) blogs out there. I also like the fact that there is now a Q&A site called chiphacker that is similar to the Stackoverflow.com-family of sites. As a recent grad in EE, while I can’t say I will stay involved in the industry in the near future, who knows what I may do again further down the road. Please do keep the content coming…
Oh Chris, you’re such a cynic. 😉
Duane Benson says
One thing that I ponder a lot on this subject has to do with the distinction between hobbyist and professional electronics engineer. I know the hobby types are starting to use the web in a manner more similar to software folks, but would a professional engineer working on a proprietary satcom system really look for advice online? I just haven’t seen much of that.
Interestingly, though, what I do see at the office and online is a set of non-electronics folks being tasked with adding electronics into their area or expertise. E.g a fluids engineer needing to add an embedded remote control to a pump valve, or a mechanical engineer adding digital controls to conveyor system. I found that these types do seem to be more likely to use web resources and tend to ask questions similar in content and style as hobbyists.
In the software world, it seems pretty common to find top-level programmers mixing it up with students, hobby types, beginners and hackers. I don’t see much at all of that in the hardware world. Some, but not much. Do hardware engineers not see value in the expertise of distant others? Or is there something about the character of an electronics engineer that keeps them from asking?
My recent post How to Fill a Via
Chris Gammell says
That mix of hobbyist and professional has been discussed over at Chiphacker (upon my asking a similar question). It's like how you say that more people are getting pulled into the uC and hardware world (either by need or desire); that critical mass of people, regardless of ability, will help to develop communities (similar to Stack Overflow or similar). Also once hardware folks realize that there is interest in what they do, perhaps they'll come out of the woodwork to offer advice.
paul Miller says
Chris, what about the resources over at EETimes Designlines such as http://www.automotivedesignline.com and TechOnLine – http://www.techonline.com??
Thanks for the EE Times shout out and stay tuned!
Fernando Dufek says
your new Reveal!
Russ Hensel says
Check out the Wiki at http://www.opencircuits.com/
And contribute if you can.
Deepak Raghav says
you wrote very nice post..Thanks