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Micro-blogging for CAD Designers and Engineers - Part I


I was watching CNN the other day and saw one of the reporters had a twitter address. If you watch the news, you may have seen a story or two about micro-blogging. It’s a technology somewhere between instant messaging (chat) and blogging. What you write is often limited to about 140 characters like an SMS text message from your phone. The difference is that it is sent to everyone that is following you. You can listen in on other peoples messages too.

The New York Times had a article asking if microblogging will make you more productive. One of my Siemens collegues, Jeroen de Miranda, has a useful blog on microssharing and getting started. If you are interested on the general usefulness those posts may help.

Twitter is the main micro-blogging service. I follow about 250 people. That sounds orverwheaming but they don't all talk at once, plus, if I miss a few posts, its not a big deal. A good number of those people I follow are directly related to my job. Many of the people that write about CAD for the various engineering magazines or CAD blogs are on twitter. There are many CAD analysts (the business type, not the FEA type) twittering. And, of course, many of the marketing, PR and community manager folks of the companies I’m interested in are there.

This not to say it’s for business people. One of the more quickly growing groups is simply the users of CAD, CAM, CAE and manufacturing products. It was interesting watching the other day when one CAD designer got stuck trying to create an unusual draft on a part and three or four CAD experts jumped in real time with a solution.

So how many CAD users are using Twitter? When I started with twitter a year ago, I think there were two! I was mainly there for other interests. Today, there are maybe a couple hundred people. This is still a relatively small group but considering the growth and competency of the people I’ve seen there, twitter is certainly an interesting resource. I recently asked some of the CAD folks why they use user twitter. Jeff Mirisola had a good reply "Early 'heads up'. Direct access with regards to certain issues. Discover the personality behind the name/rep."

One issue with twitter is that it is public. You can create a private profile but the people replying to you may still be public. What if you are more interested in sharing information inside your company or simply have security concerns? What if you want to make connections inside your business, not outside of it? In my next blog I’ll talk more about how micro blogging can work here too.

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I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times before, but do CAD users on Twitter tweet things in ALL CAPS? smile

Also, you might consider checking out Tweetworks, a site where you can create groups around a specific topic and see replies in threaded discussions. It may make answering and tracking some of those specific help-related questions easier to manage.


Yes, I think all the PLM companies are now there.  Siemens PLM twitter is at

It is often the people that you really want to follow.  Here are a few Siemens PLM folks (this is the short list!):

Mark Burhop:

Susan Cinadr:

Shaun Ennis:

Markus Erlmann:

Chris Kelley:

Jerry Sarfati:

dora Smith:

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That tweetworks looks pretty cool. Twitter def needs the ability to add groups.

You all may be interested in ‘the CAD User Twitter List’ - not comprehensive, but most are pretty active.

Thanks Mark!!

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I find Twitter very useful nowadays. It can be a source of news, reports and updates. I think Twitter is not only useful as a micro-blogging service but also a nice tool for journalism, too.

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Nice post. I love that article in the link if microblogging will make you more productive. Thanks for sharing.

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Have you given yammer a try?  I just posted about yammer and PLM and why this will not work.  I agree that design discussions are short messages back and forth, in email today…  The problem with yammer and twitter is the lack of context which makes it become just another over filled inbox.


Thanks for the counter point, Chris.  This has the potential to be an interesting discussion.

Yes, I’m using Yammer (see part II of this blog). What I think is different with micro blogging is that you don’t have any obligation to “listen” like you do with IM and email.  It is more like picking up discussion by the coffee pot.  Even if you get some useful information, you are not going to stay there all day.

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You dont have to listen to your email either.  And email is already running on my machine and i dont have to login…  With these other tools I need to do multiple extra steps, go to the page, login, etc…  Even posting is an extra step for me…  Dont get me wrong, these tools are interesting, but i think for more personal communication, not work.

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Problem with yammer is that there is no 140 char limit Smiley Frustrated No idea why there is none. Short messages will work you just have to get used to it. Reading 30 140 char messages is easy reading 30 full length mails takes up to much time and is inefficient. And the informal communication is good for getting co-workers to know even if there not in your room. I’m the only dutch CAD user on Twitter as far as I know….. Smiley Sad  It is like 1 on 10000 cad users are on twitter.


Al Dean has a good blog along these lines.  I thought I’d add a link to it:


Most micro-bloggers have clients they use that don’t require any work in logging in or visiting a web page. It is actually easier than IM since you just blurt it out, you don’t have direct it to someone.  You can micro blog from any phone. Several apps are adding microblogging-like services right to there applications.

For me the value isn’t for things like design reviews (I like to do this in person or at least over the phone) but rather for:

1.) Finding out about information I didn’t know to ask for.

2.) Crowdsourcing - I’ve seen a lot of CAD users ask questions only to get a reply a minute later from another CAD user or the company itself.

3.) Community and relationship building - A lot of CAD users have my email but very few use it. On twitter, I’m able to communicate with a wide variety of CAD folks.

Of course, as Marjin points out, the community on twitter is small relative to the total number of CAD users. I don’t think micro-blogging will replace email or blogs or IM. It is just another tool. On the other hand, some of the people using twitter are some of the strongest CAD users out there (see Josh’s link above).