Weekend Journal — A New Engineering Communication Medium

Weekend Journal — A New Engineering Communication Medium

UPDATE: The podcast showcased here (sorry to discourage the surprise) is now available at The Engineering Commons Podcast site.

Normally, we discourage cross-posting here at Engineer Blogs. We find that it’s best if our writers can write here and at their own sites on different topics (or at least have different articles in both places); hopefully our readers here notice the difference and visit the sites of writers they like. But since I helped start the site, I thought I’d adhere to the Golden Rule:

He (or she) who has the gold makes the rules. And since there’s no gold anywhere to be found at Engineer Blogs, there obviously must not be any rules!

So anyway, as alluded to above, I have mentioned this news on my own site in the past few days. Normally this means I wouldn’t write about it on EB, but I thought that our engineering audience here would enjoy it, I figured I should mention it here as well: I’ve started a second podcast.

Yay! (right?). You listen to podcasts, don’t you?


I’m not sure a statistically significant portion of the engineering population listens to podcasts. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is less than 1%. I’ve done lots of research on my first engineering-esque podcast about electronics and circuits, The Amp Hour. On that show, it’s a much narrower audience, because we mostly cater to people interested in working on electronics or trying to learn a little bit more about them. I’m not saying I’ve called homes and ask if they listen to podcasts, but I try and survey our existing listeners and I hear from listeners who no longer want to listen. One thing we’ve run up against time and again has been that most people are not primed to listen to their information over reading it. A lot of people simply don’t like it.

I’ve started to accept my fate as a podcaster. According to the American Journalism Review, podcasting was a lot more hype than anything else, especially when it started gaining popularity back in 2005 (thanks to the iPod); back then, they estimated 6 million people were downloading podcasts (2.1%), but only 1 million listened to them regularly (.36%). Beyond that, they really don’t know how many listen because many likely download them and they sit there, never to be listened to. Anecdotally, people I have talked to agree with this take on podcasting. Not many people can be bothered with listening to very specified media, let alone taking the time to seek out whether podcasts in their niche genre even exist. So if we use the very generous number of 5% of the US population (borrowing from some of the estimates in this NSPE report) being engineers and only .36% of them listening to podcasts, that means that our audience tops out at roughly 50,000 engineers. If you add in the “codger” factor (as in, most engineers are getting on in years) and older people are even less likely to listen to podcasts, the numbers can get pretty low. So yeah, I know we’re not going to reach millions of people with our message. However, we think there might be a few of you out there that would enjoy listening to general engineering topics, as well as reading about them here on Engineer Blogs. And we are enjoying doing it so far.

On a more general basis though, I’m curious: Do you enjoy consuming information other than written word? I know I often find myself wanting to be able to read something and digest the information contained within rather than listening or watching a video. This is something I struggle with as someone that makes content but also as I try and find new ways to learn. I see the providers of traditional engineering based content moving away from written word, so less of it is available in certain niche areas. If you have an opinion about content, please let us know in the comments!

And if you are indeed interested in my fledgling project, check out the audio below. My first show with Jeff Shelton of Engineering Revision is now available. We are looking for feedback on the format and the content. If you like something, we’ll keep doing it. If you don’t, we’ll try something else. And if you have an idea for a name, we’re all ears.

Thanks for reading…and now listening!

If you want the mp3 file all to yourself, you can download the .mp3 here directly.

Thanks to Ganatronic for the picture of a microphone.


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.)

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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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