Day one at DAC and the myth of the conversant engineer

Real interesting first day at DAC.  Free Monday seemed to bring people out of the woodwork in the morning  and traffic seemed to die out after lunch, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the DAC committee's part.  The DAC Pavilion was generally filled whenever I wandered by and the organization is trying mightily to deal with the issue of what to call bloggers.  Essentially the philosophy is a work in progress but there are some cutbacks.  John Cooley was "upset" that there was no food in the press room, but other than Paul Dempsey and John Donovan it looked like we could all cut back on the pastries.

I could have had a full access pass if I asked for one, but I only needed to get interview rooms so I saw no need... even though the bag would have matched my orange tie as Georgian Marzsalek pointed out.  Some members of the press were upset that the default access was exhibits only, but as I have said, we all have to be flexible in these times.

But all that is trivial compared to the disjointed conversations I had regarding to conventional wisdom of "engineers talk to each other."

It started out with a comment one engineer blogger made when we bumped into each other in the press room.  He's one of those guys that believes that the conversation between engineers in the EDA industry is vibrant enough that having a healthy press isn't really necessary to get information around.  "Hey, just because the financial paradigm is changing doesn't mean journalism is going away."  OK, I'll be a glass half-full guy.

A couple hours later, Georgia buttonholed me about an idea for a session.  Her idea was to put together a panel of EDA customers, traditional press and bloggers, and PR people to talk about how to engage the user directly to the media.  "We wouldn't have anyone from an EDA company, just those people."  Her idea came out when she was crossing the 4th Street and saw all the DAC badges, most of whom she didn't know.  "I know the high-level people we always get for panels, but not the mid-level managers, and those are the guys that have to buy the tools for EDA companies to survive... and for me to have a business."

So I brought her into the press room and sat her down with a couple of established, traditional journalists with the idea.  "Sounds great, except that engineers don't want to engage."

Wait a minute, I said, I keep hearing that engineers DO talk to each other and we don't REALLY need the press to spread the information about tools and technologies.

"You're right," one replied.  "They do talk to each other, but only within their own companies.  Never outside." He pointed out that on the show floor, there were maybe 200 design engineers and they are not hanging out together.

I chalked that up to sour grapes.  After all, traditional journalists still think they are the keepers of all wisdom, right?  Of course they aren't going to buy into the wisdom that "engineers talk to each other."

Next stop was the Synopsys Conversation Central Tweetup for a roast beef sandwich and some dishing among bloggers.  So I put the question directly to Rick Jamison, the Synopsys online community manager.  He said, essentially, that engineers inside Synopsys rarely talk to each other.  Synopsys maintains a social network behind the firewall with several blogs, but Rick said there is not much discussion even there.  "Most of the conversation is still in email form and that is impossible to coordinate."  

OK, so the engineers don't talk to each other at trade shows.  They don't talk to each other on external blogs.  They don't talk to each other on internal blogs.  They listen to presentations and papers presented at conferences but they don't discuss it among themselves at the conferences.  They talk among themselves in their own "hermetically sealed" work groups. 

Yep, the industry really doesn't need a vibrant media, does it?