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Designers searching for solid technical information: How good is the Internet?

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.

8 comments on “Designers searching for solid technical information: How good is the Internet?

  1. kiwianthony
    November 24, 2016

    YOU ROCK! 

    Thanks for this amazing comment!

     

  2. ClaireEllison
    November 25, 2016
    Excellent article plus its information and I positively bookmark to this site because here I always get an amazing knowledge as I expect.
  3. Victor Lorenzo
    November 29, 2016

    Good point Steve!

    The vast majority of articles poluting the internet giving us (the readers) the “truth” about what is “realy” going on in political terms have the only intention of creating and spreading a more than questionable opinion, at least that is the case in Spain.

    From my experience, in the lightning protection arena I also have to read too often, and try to avoid laughting too loudly, about marvelous and wonderful solutions which are capable of, believe it or not, discharge the clouds nfor avoiding lightning to occur. They even use an endless list of unconnected nonsense scientific jargon for consolidating their statements. What is worst is we see how some respectable customers buy those dangerous things.

    I like a phrase which I read many years ago, the laws of phisics exist not matter you try to ignore them.

     

  4. jimford1
    December 4, 2016

    …as 3 out of 4 comments before mine are spam!  Talk about not being able to trust stuff online!  I do believe Wikipedia has similar self-regulation to these blogs.  They even edited out my one and only contribution to Wikipedia; I still don't understand what was wrong with my analogy of a phase locked loop to race cars going around a track.  Too simplistic?

  5. antedeluvian
    December 5, 2016

    @jimford

    …as 3 out of 4 comments before mine are spam! 

    You have to wonder why they are doing this- there is no link to suggest they are pushing something. They just post the same (or vague vartiations of the same) inanities on the same post and seemingly also only a few posters.

     I have come up with several conspiracy theories, but I cannot give credence to any of them so I should not voice them out loud.

    Comments on PA have dropped dramatically over the years, but I fear that these are going to choke the forum altogether.

     

  6. Steve Taranovich
    December 5, 2016

    Sorry guys—Our IT people are in transition right now from UBM's system to Aspencore's new publishing software. However, that is not the cause of this—right now we will do the transition and then we will go after these ridiculous comments that do not belong on this site

  7. jimford1
    December 5, 2016

    Ah, that IT transition may explain the error messages I see when clicking on the link in email notifying me that somebody has responded to one of my posts: I described it under Amplifier RF: Think Before You Choose!, and repost it here:

    <>

  8. antedeluvian
    December 5, 2016

    The identical thing happens to me on my PC and iPad

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