Social Product Development

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Engineers Rock!

I have been thinking long and hard about combining social computing with product development tools, and I am extremely excited about the possibilities. There is great applicability. However, when I tell people what I am working on I often get the response “Are you crazy? Engineers are not social… They’re nerds who don’t want to interact with people”. If you are an engineer reading this, you are probably thinking this is pretty insulting, right? I know I was insulted when I heard it. I am an engineer, and I certainly don’t think of myself as a social misfit. In discussion with friends, colleagues, and peers, I have learned some interesting things that fly in the face of this misguided remark – like the software engineer I know who played in a Guitar Hero competition in front of 800 people, or the seasoned software development manager I work with who has over 600 friends on Facebook and is a preacher, or the young engineer graduating from university I met who regularly post videos on YouTube with views in the hundreds of thousands. My point here is that stereotypes don’t work, especially, in the socially connected Web 2.0 world we live in today. You may think the quiet engineer sitting across the conference room table from you is shy and clumsy, but in the virtual world he is a chest pumping, hear-me-roar extrovert.

It is clear to me engineers are already active on the social web
, and it is with this insight that I can confidently say engineering departments around the globe have a strong need for product development tools that are social in nature – tools that will let them ask others questions, share information, network with colleagues, collaborate on problems, and be active in communities – all of which will help them build the products of tomorrow. I am excited about dreaming up and building these new technologies to satisfy this desire. If you are an engineer who has ideas of your own for using Web 2.0 to do your job better, let me know about it! I am serious, send me an email or comment on this blog. We are listening.

…in the meantime, here’s a
funny video of an engineer who literally rocks (or should I say raps?)

(Images courtesy of Ricardo Dematos)


  1. Definitely, engineers use social media. I'm an analyst at Forrester who works a lot with our data on social media behavior, by demographic, including job category. Even though you don't see engineers yakking on Twitter, they are active in other parts of the social media landscape.

    --Tom Grant

  2. The challenge with Engineers being social are usually organizational and cultural. Most clients I've worked with think they need innovation and need to implement web 2.0 technology to solve that problem....and it really doesn't. Can it help? Sure but more needs to happen. Are there incentives to share across groups? Are senior managers and executives talking to each other and allowing their resources to discuss with groups outside of their own? Are high profile execs accepting the technology and blogging regular or promoting the use? are project managers using the technology the right way or are they simply making it a place to dump files (no different than using the technology as a file share)? Are engineers rewarded or recognized for being a thought leader and sharing what they know? All of these types of questions need to be addressed at higher levels to ensure the technology is used and adopted the right way and the people have the right incentives aligned to promote collaboration and innovation to occur among Engineers.

  3. Thanks for the feedback on my blog post. I agree that building the technology is not enough. The technology needs strong adoption support from managers with the value clearly demonstrated in order for it to be successful. It is not just a technology shift, but also a cultural shift - which will take as much effort (if not more) as building winning technology itself.