Does a bad (or badly worded) question automatically deserve a bad, vague, or sarcastic answer? Would no answer be a better alternative?
Does a quality question guarantee a quality response?
Is Google an adequate substitute for a person with hands-on experience?
CR4 is a community. People come here for various reasons - to chat with like-minded people, to bounce ideas around, or to ask questions. Some visitors may be "lurkers" that only read posts. Those who create and reply to discussions share their own knowledge and opinions.
It's a learning experience for everyone. I think that participating in discussions can be more thought-provoking than simply reading articles because of an increased level of involvement.
I'm interested to read your thoughts about this topic.
There's always been at least one canine member of my family.
Communication with the family pet ranges from the simple command of "sit"
to trying to figure out what might be ailing the pup. There are some
lessons in communication with pets that area easily translated to improving
your communication with people.
Speak the Same Language
A friend adopted a Labrador retriever. The dog was super-friendly
and seemed eager to please. It was a few years old, but no matter what
the family did, the dog would not listen. It didn't respond to sit, stay,
lay down, or any of the other usual commands. Finally, a friend of the friend
told the dog, "SIENTATE!" The dog promptly sat down. Turns
out, it had previously lived with a Spanish-speaking family and did not
It seems like it should go without saying, but it's
important to make sure that you're speaking the same language with someone when
you're trying to communicate. Even English has its differences (English
English vs. American English). Each industry has its own jargon and each
company has its own terminology. I was recently working on a flow chart
to introduce a new group to a business process. We have internal flow
charts that explain the process in our own terms referring to proprietary tools
and processes. To an outsider, the language may as well be gibberish,
because the undefined jargon is meaningless.
Some commands, like sit, are fairly universal in the dog
world. Other times there may be multiple ways to tell a dog something.
If you want the dog to get off the couch, one person might say
"Off", another "Down" and a third "NO!!!!" If
the dog lives in a household where everyone uses a different command and
expects the same result, some are going to be disappointed.
Have you ever started a job at a new workplace? You
may have been trained or received instruction from multiple people. Did
they all use the same words to describe the same things? "The
database", "Access", "db", or a specific tool name?
They may all mean the same thing, but when you're trying to figure it
out, it can be very confusing.
Check Your Tone
When you tell a dog "good girl" or
"NO!", the two things not only mean something very different, but are
also usually said in a different tone of voice. When giving a command,
like calling a dog to come to you for its bath, what type of tone is likely to
have the best results? You don't use your "NO!" voice because
you don't want the dog to have a negative association with the bath.
Tone is a big part of communication. Even writing can
take on a certain tone, although it is easily misinterpreted. Tone may
vary by topic (announcing a company celebration vs. an unfortunate accident) or
by audience (sending a personal email to a friend vs. correcting a direct
What have you learned from a furry friend that helps you
What means of communication do you use in your career? Engineering involves applying scientific
knowledge to solve problems. One key to doing this successfully is communication. A good engineer makes
effective use of as many methods and tools of communication as possible. Over
the years there have been many innovations and achievements by engineers that
have changed our lives. A great portion of this success can be traced back to
good communication among team members.
Good communication is not always easy. Engineers
will often find themselves as part of a team, but not always physically with
the team. The members could consist of engineers from all over the world. So
the question is, how do we effectively communicate and collaborate? What have
you found to be helpful to you or your co-workers? Tools, websites, communities
and forums, email, Skype, texting, the list goes on. What do you find most
effective in getting your ideas across accurately and easily? How do you think
communication among engineers could be improved?
I find email, as clogged as it is with junk, a nice way to
get into the work mode and find out what is going on. As I sip my coffee, I browse through the inbox and get a sense of satisfaction as I delete the junk mail.
Is this the way you start your day, deleting the mounting
number of junk emails? Filtering through the nonsense emails to find something you really need to know. Are instant-messaging
tools and Facebook-style pages really the best way to replace the office email
black hole? What ever happened to face
to face? Of course many of us work
remotely now, so face to face is not always possible, but do you really want to
be interrupted by instant-messaging while you are hard at work on a project?
If IM and Facebook are the new trend, I guess
I will have to adapt. What is the trend
in your workplace?
Blogs and forums may be separate entities - or
both components may appear on a single website like CR4. These two components of social sites were
loosely defined in the introduction
to this blog series. Let's take a
closer look at them now.
Joel Postman's book SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate addresses
online communication strategies that are applicable to maintaining a blogging
and forum website. Postman defines a
blog as a "highly complex and very popular medium, with many bloggers having
widespread influence". This influence
may be used to inform, advertise, or gain popularity. A blog might exist on its own (like TechCrunch) or be on a website with a
collection of blogs (like those found on CR4 or The New York
Although bloggers are the conversation starters
when they submit written work online, discussion forum users often drive the
conversation in this medium. Users can
post questions or comments or respond to what others have posted - these form
"threads" of conversation. (Note that
many blogs also allow comments in response to the original text.) A 2007 Technographics survey published in Groundswell
found that a fifth of online Americans read or respond to discussion
Many users establish online friendships and even
cliques; according to Groundswell "forums and reviews succeed partly
because they let people show off".
Technical support websites rely greatly on a question and answer format
in which users help one another.
A community is more than a collection of blogs and
forums - it is a group of users that interact with one another on a daily,
hourly, or up-to-the-minute basis.
Postman defines a community as being similar to a blog or forum but as
being "designed to accommodate larger numbers of participants in a slightly
CR4, for example, is organized by topic
(Automotive, Mechanical Engineering, General, etc.) and caters to a common
interest (engineering, scientific, and technical professionals). Postman also suggests that "community
management is usually decentralized, with control and responsibility for upkeep
divided among a handful of dedicated, inspired (and often unpaid)
members". CR4's moderators are paid;
however, they are GlobalSpec employees who must also complete their regular
work at the same time.
Note: This is the second in a multi-part
series about social sites. You may want
to go back and read the Introduction if you missed it. The next part
will cover moderation as a function of social sites.
Charlene, and Josh Bernoff. Groundswell. Boston, MA: Harvard Business
Press, 2008. Print.
Joel. SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate. Berkeley, CA: New Riders,
Communication with an
organization's audience can take place through many formats. A forum and blog site, for example, is more
than a collection of opinions, research, and comments. It is also a place where conversations take
place and online relationships evolve.
This information can then be found by others on the Internet.
In the early days of
the Internet, static web pages served as online repositories of information. With Web 2.0 came the possibility for users
to create content. This information is
easily found by search engines. Forums
are web sites where users can participate in online discussions about nearly
Types of Community Sites
Many community sites are
divided into two types:
Forums - Some
forums focus on rating and reviewing products, others are for answering
questions, and others are simply for discussing certain topics. Many individuals participate in these types
of sites because they like the psychic rewards that come from sharing. Psychic rewards, as defined in the book Groundswell,
are "good feelings from altruism, validation, and belonging to a community".
Blogs - Blogs,
on the other hand, are authored typically by one person or a handful of people. Users can comment on the content of blogs. In a public relations context, blogs are
often used to relay corporate information that is too long to be included in a
press release. They can also include
product information or the state of a website.
Users generate content in the form of the comments they leave on
Site moderation is typically
done on both types of community sites, and involves reviewing and acting upon
irrelevant, inappropriate, and negative content. It is necessary to keep users in check when
they cross the line. Site moderation
itself evolves as a community changes.
The goal is to understand and improve moderation as a function between
users (external relations) and moderators (internal relations).
The computer company
Dell has a customer support forum where users can ask and answer questions
about its products. By helping one
another in this way, it's estimated that
this forum has saved Dell over $1 million in customer support phone calls.
Likewise, Lego spreads
information about its products through a forum called LUGNET. It uses brand ambassadors who are paid in
Lego bricks to steer the conversation within the community. It is estimated that this program has
increased adult Lego purchases by $500,000.
As these examples illustrate, forums can be used to supplement a
corporate web site.
Do you prefer to turn to an online community for answers or do you look to a company's technical support staff when you have questions?
Editor's Note: This is the first
in a multi-part series about social sites.
More entries will appear soon.
Charlene, and Josh Bernoff. Groundswell. Boston, MA: Harvard Business
Press, 2008. Print.