In the aftermath of the very unusual election we just had in the US, we have seen how very powerful the Internet can be in influencing people. Caveat: Not everything on the Internet is true. We all know that. See this NY Times article. The author says that “..we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.”
My concern here is that many engineers may be using the Internet for their primary source of technical information, either for education, design work or other reasons. Unlike tech information found in time-honored online and/or print electronics publications, information available on the Internet is not regulated for quality or accuracy. Engineers and technicians will have to somehow verify that all the information they gather is true and/or has been reviewed by parties they trust. Most engineers do not have the luxury of time to review an article online themselves for technical accuracy, no less for grammar or spelling.
Just about anyone can publish anything they wish on the Internet. It is often difficult to determine the author of an online source, and even if the author is listed, they may not always represent themselves honestly, or they may present opinions as fact. The responsibility is in your hands to evaluate resources effectively.
My advice is go to a trusted source that has been reviewed by your peers, and/or seasoned and credible technical editors in online and print electronics magazines. The IEEE XPlore is another great area to get some excellent viable technical white papers. Attending IEEE-sponsored meetings and presentations in your region is another good place to get viable technical information.
I don’t just say this because I have been an editor on EDN and Planet Analog/EETimes for the last five years, but I say it as an electronics circuit designer and applications engineer in my previous 44 year career. I only got my technical information from a selection of excellent electronics magazines (in hard copy only for most of my career) including my primary source—-EDN. I became an editor to share my field experience and knowledge with EDN and Planet Analog/EETimes readers.
I was also very active in the IEEE and met with seasoned electronics veterans/mentors at local meetings and in local presentations sponsored by the IEEE. I also had very good mentors in at work during my engineering career.
Another great source that I used was local seminars hosted by good electronics companies. See my recent article on this topic here.
I once worked with a wise Burr-Brown engineer and manager in London who told me that if I wanted to know the true news in world or technical areas, I needed to look at multiple sources including sources outside the US in my case and then put together a consensus and somewhere in there lies the truth. This is not as much needed when using sources in print or on the Internet to get technical help—as long as you get it from a trusted source.
In most cases, even the trusted sources can make errors, but good tech magazines like EDN and others have huge audiences who will weigh in on anything that looks like a mistake or an untrue statement or diagram/graph/equation error. This is why I love my EDN and EETimes audience—they read every word and scrutinize our articles and “keep us editors honest”.
Be extremely critical of any information on the Internet. Articles may have erroneous information either accidentally or deliberately. Look for valid resources at the end of the articles. Do those links still function and take you to the site where the reference material resides? Are those authors valid experts and if so, is the information provided up-to-date?
Please share any experiences and ideas you may have with our readers on this subject.