Engineers on Social Media

Meet Salmon. Not the fish swimming upstream to spawn, lay eggs and die, but the protocol that defines how comments can link to resources being discussed across the Web. It's an open standard based on decentralized blogs; social networks like Google Buzz and Facebook; and sites like Twitter. The protocol can link these comments no matter where they post.

The goals of the code project include a reference implementation and library developed to prove protocol specification, demonstration and application to show how Salmon works, and tools to help implementers interoperate, according to Google.

Marketers will use it to monitor the chatter about their companies across the Web similar to the way Twitter allows them to monitor chatter from people (suppliers) or companies those managing supply chains might want to “follow” such as engineers. Yes, engineers and smart geeks like @cdibona, @jbqueru and @JohnMu, or engineering communities like @USCViterbi. (You can follow me at @lauriesullivan.)

Look at Twitter as a research tool. Engineers working on concepts can tweet a line or two on Twitter about a project or idea to gain feedback from followers or the follower's followers. The concept is to share ideas through social media links with a variety of people and platforms. When multiple platforms connect through a single platform such as TweetDeck, engineers can share one idea across Twitter, {complink 2294|Google}, Buzz, Foursquare, MySpace and other social sites. Links in the tweet can direct followers to other Web pages with information and videos.

Engineers also can find a few investors to follow on Twitter (@RonConwayFacts and @kraneland) to determine market trends before developing products or building out supply chains. Or find the entrepreneurs who have made successful companies, not once, but many times over: @mlevchin and @GuyKawasaki.

What set me off? I point to Hawk's comment to {complink 577|Avnet Inc.} vice president Al Maag's blog post. (See: To Tweet or Not To Tweet: That is the Question.) Hawk wrote: Twitter being “one of those services that make no products or engineer anything” and “most engineers avoid it because of the mindless drivel that comes with it. I know it will fade away in the near future but only to be replaced by a new variation of blah, blah, blah.”

Those who don't tap into social media will miss the next evolution of the electronic supply chain. Engineers will begin to use social media as a means to not only share ideas and concepts with OEMs and potential consumers, but suppliers will follow supply chain gurus to determine trends, schedules and even introduce themselves to a new prospective client. It's called team building, partnering and building relationships.

I keep going back to a conversation I had in the early 2000s with Avnet chairman and CEO Roy Vallee. We sat face to face in his office at Avnet headquarters in Phoenix discussing how the electronics industry would pull out of its slump. We talked about mobile products, innovation and new technologies that didn't exist at the time, new technologies like Twitter that would forever change the supply chain.

Twitter's latest funding round led by venture capital firm {complink 6812|Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers}, placed a $3.7 billion valuation on the company. It sharply increased Twitter's value from $1 billion last year. Founded in 2007, the San Francisco-based company in total has now raised about $360 million. A recent research report indicates 8 percent of Americans online use Twitter.

Engineers and supply chain professionals are a creative bunch. Have you rethought social media's role in the supply chain? How would you use Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Buzz and others?

14 comments on “Engineers on Social Media

  1. Ariella
    January 3, 2011

    It sounds like something companies can find very useful.  I went on the site,, to try to learn more and was surprised at how sparse the content there was. The news page, for example, only has 2 very brief entires, both from March 2010. It makes it look like they've lost interest. 

  2. saranyatil
    January 4, 2011

    with the constant increase in number of undergraduate colleges in most of the countries and the younger generation showing lot of interests in the field of engineering and technology soon all engineers are going to be diversified in all the domains so there should be a common forum for all the engneers to share their ideas to build upon their talents and they want to do it in an open forum which would enhance people to understand the growth in the present scenario initially the platform will be the available social network might be in the future they will start their own soon.

  3. elctrnx_lyf
    January 4, 2011

    I do not think the social medial will have any impact on how the complete electronic industry and supply chain operates. There is already lot of stages available for both the suppliers and the OEM's to interact and communicate the different information. Engineering is more about innovation and arriving at a right solution rather than just the availability of information from the suppliers about different parts.

  4. Laurie Sullivan
    January 4, 2011


    I wanted to get an update from Google before I responded. Salmon is alive and progressing, though slowly. The core spec is done and libraries are being implemented, as people have a need for available resources. Deployments for large scale sites are stuck behind other priorities, so at the moment the project may seem stalled, but it's not. Those working on the protocol are l ooking forward to seeing deployments this year.

    Hope this helps.


  5. Ariella
    January 4, 2011

    Thank you, Laurie.  I appreciate that you looked into it to provide an update.

  6. Laurie Sullivan
    January 4, 2011

    Absolutely, elctrnx_lyf. I agree that engineering is more about innovation and arriving at the perfect solution, rather than access to available information from suppliers and part. That's why I think more engineers will tap social sites for ideas. The Twitter handles I provided in the post are from engineers who do just that, tap social for ideas, sharing theirs and gaining new ones. 

  7. eemom
    January 4, 2011

    I can see a benefit to social media if indeed Salmon does what it proclaims.  My biggest issue with social media right now is that it is too fragmented.  There are too many options to post/blog from and that can get time consuming.  If a user picks one over the other, then he may not be linking to the right people.  If the comments are linked no matter where they post from, that could be quite useful.

    So, it begs the question why Google has not moved forward faster with this???

  8. mfbertozzi
    January 4, 2011

    Personally I believe we left social media “era” and right now we are going to a sort of natural evolution, I mean the need to carry out through one single stream informations from multiple social sources. I mentioned within a different post for example “cotweeting phenomenum”.

    Reporting to you my experience, as professor I can say students preferences are really vaste and several ways from them to reach me for asking support or suggestions are in place; it is not easy to manage messages/tweets/and so on coming from different platforms, so my personal opinion is Salmon could potentially help us a lot in your job in the future.

  9. Mydesign
    January 5, 2011

         Laurrie, social medias are one form of networking to the engineering community and it offers lots of flexibility also. Anybody can join and share their ideas and view through this type of forums. Lots of peoples and marketing research companies are taking advantage of such forums for gathering information.  But here the main drawback is about the genuinty of the opinions; one can drive the polls or discussion in a wrong way also because they are not providing the identity (sometimes with a fake identity also).

         So the only fruitful way, it can be used for companies to broadcast their messages to the community regarding the release of any new products or sharing technical details. More over sharing of any critical ideas through such a social media is not advisable.Another important aspect is privacy of the data’s/opinions gathered through such medias. So personally am against of sharing any type of critical details in any type of networking or social medias.

  10. prabhakar_deosthali
    January 5, 2011

    Being able to get ideas and suggestions from all over the world through the social media is fine, But when a company is deciding a particular strategy for its product distribution or marketing or for the sourcing of components, it would not like to make it public as it may be the USP of that company to gain more market share.  So the real original ideas and strategies will never appear on these social media. All that will appear will be in my opinion some harmless discussions which normally lead to nowhere. What will be published onto these media will have already lost its competitive advantage! So what's the use?  except may be the student community can learn a few things out of such content.

  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 5, 2011

    After reading Al Maag's blog and Laurie Sullivan's, I came up with a question I'd like to pose to the industry: is there a filter for social media? In other words, if I use Salmon, can I set it to alert  me when certain users post, or certain topics are discussed? That would go a long way toward cutting through all the drivel.


  12. Laurie Sullivan
    January 8, 2011

    Yes, Barbara.  I'm not certain about Salmon, specifically, but the technology you want is called “buzz monitoring” or “reputation monitoring.” There are many tools available today that allow you to monitor what's being written and posted across the Web. You can sort of do this with Google Alerts, but there are many more. In fact, Marketing Pilgrim has listed about 26 free tools.

  13. jbond
    January 9, 2011

    prabhakar_deosthali – I agree with your statements. My other concern towards this generating any useful information is the engineers that work for companies that not only are trying to get a jump on the market that are involved in projects that have patents involved and proprietary information. Making suggestions through twitter or other social media wouldn't allow meaningful results without potentially violating a company’s privacy policy and put the company’s project at risk.

    So I would have to agree if you are looking for a simple market study you can do that through social media. If you are trying to gain a competitive ground or possibly find a missing link to the project you are working on I don't see where this could be helpful.



  14. Tim Votapka
    January 27, 2011

    Great coverage Laurie. I see some great things ahead in the social networking arena. It's certainly been a standard reference tool among specialists in various medical disciplines. The only caution that comes with it is in the area of propietary information and that must, must, must be handled by policy set by those who are responsible for corporate ethics. Notice I didn't say corporate/legal or HR. I believe we may see an emergence of a new area of expertise in organizational management since ethics involves such a vast range of issues. Social media may very well be the thing that raises the necessity level for that speciality.

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