11 responses to “Weekend Journal — A New Engineering Communication Medium”

  1. gasstationwithoutpumps

    As a curmudgeon (not quite old enough to be codger, but certainly opinionated), I can say quite definitively that I don’t listen to podcasts. I do occasionally listen to radio shows, because my wife has turned on the radio, but I don’t seek them out.

    Audio-only communication is slow, and highly unsuited for conveying technical material. Videos are almost as bad—you can convey more info in the pictures, but then your eyes as well as your eyes are trapped. Live lectures are different if you get to ask questions, but in receive-only mode, they are not.

    Quite frankly, for technical transfer, written material is still orders of magnitude better than audio or video. There are some advantages to on-line material (better indexing, for example) and some disadvantages (needing a computer and lower image quality, for example). Podcasts have none of the advantages of on-line text, though.

    I’ve heard that some people like podcasts for distraction while driving, but I’m of the opinion that drivers should not be distracted while driving. (I commute by bicycle, and keep my ears unobstructed while biking.)

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  3. David Bley

    I grew up with radio and am accustomed to getting news, information and entertainment via the audio medium. Podcasts have become my “new” radio. I listen to some science podcasts from BBC, I like career oriented podcasts from “Career Tools” and I like to listen to music on mp3’s. I have tried listening to “The Amp Hour” and it has not kept my attention. My guess is that it is unscripted as it does not seem to “flow” well. Listen to “Career Tools” http://www.manager-tools.com if you get a chance.

    I have designed medical electronic products for >30 years. I do not have a EE degree. I have trained quite a few degreed engineers in the process of design or given them suggestions on how to approach their task. My designs have been successful and long-lived.

    I am glad that you have spoken about the messiness of the design process. Manufacturing is messy too. Everyone has the expectation that these two aspects of a corporation will be predictable, scientific. Management does not want to hear this. A certain amount of money has been budgeted to design and launch a new product that has more features and costs less than the existing product. If this design takes longer, the scheduled sales introduction will be missed. I have been in situations where people were not considered competent if they exhibited any uncertainty whatsoever in the development of a new product.. Incompetent people were let go.

  4. Dave Vandenbout

    I’m a codger (got the kidney stones to prove it), and I listen to about half of the Amp Hour podcasts and some of the Toymakers as well. I’ve gotten some pretty useful info from AH, such as the Itead low-cost PCB service. I like the unscripted, free-form format; I don’t want a slick presentation with a beginning, middle and an end that ties it all together as if that’s the way things actually are in real life. And I enjoy listening to the conflict between your ideas and Dave’s (no group ever gathered around a couple of kids squared-off in a school yard and yelled “Agree! Agree! Agree!”) But a podcast isn’t a good place to get into deep technical content (text/illustrations are better for that), so I’m glad you guys haven’t gone too far in that direction. I look on AH as a substitute for the water-cooler talk I don’t experience in a single-person company.

  5. Tobias F

    I used to listen to a lot of podcasts. Mainly informational ones about my Hobbies. I don’t think I have ever listened to one about my field of work.

    And in any case I stopped listening to podcasts when my recent move shortened my commute drastically.
    I still try to find some audiobooks to listen to when I plan a longer trip, but even became less important now that I have an e-book reader.

  6. Rafael

    I liked the podcast, especially as it covers good manufacturing and relationship topics rarely seen by an engineer student.

    A nice high point was the discussion about how important it is to have relationship skills in the career. I lost count how many times I saw frustrated engineers that have their ideas dismissed due to the lack of proper argumentation and skills to realize the other people don’t see the problem the same way. The arguments based on hard data alone may lack a greater picture of the problem (great design does not necessarily make for a great product once it gets released to the market!).

    Also, another great point was regarding expectations; nothing more true than avoid providing inexact or overoptimistic expectations. I’ve seen in my career that companies/people that abuse this, quickly get overlooked or dismissed by their customers – or even not taken seriously anymore.

    At last, I loved the “postponing bad news” topic… If you can act quick to prevent a bad problem to become critical, that will definitely help in the long run. Obviously that people may not like what they see at that point, but it surely helps in reducing the “35%” manufacturing or even “50%” recall costs… 🙂

    I guess that it is just a matter of thinking about yourself in the other side’s shoes. As a customer for consumer products, the manufacturers need to convince me to look at their product; then they need to show me precise information about their product, so I don’t feel tricked. Then I expect that any issues need to be informed as soon as possible (the so-called recalls or product change notifications).

    Nice podcast. Keep going!

  7. Poul

    Hi. Great podcast.

    Got just one sugestion:
    Can You do “link dump”? Just like on The Amp Hour! I like to digg deeper into some topics you guys disscus but sometimes it is hard to search juts from audio.

    Keep it going.

    1. Chris Gammell

      Yup, plan to once we have a home. Should be by the next time an episode is posted.

  8. John S

    I got into podcasts in the earlier days. As I added podcasts of interest to my list I found they became a real bandwidth and disk hog. It doesn’t take long to reach the point where you have thousands of MP3 files to listen to and they’re growing (and dating!) so fast you’ll never catch up, even if you ruthlessly trash anything that doesn’t arrest your attention in the first 30 seconds.

    These days I don’t have any automated podcast downloads. I just grab those that interest me when they interest me. I don’t store any for later. I guess I’m in the old codger class these days as I’ve realised life is finite!


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