Brave new world (online)

SolidWorks Corp is doing something well.  They are taking advantage of current and relavent networking technologies, such as Twitter (search #SolidWorks), to promote the software and its users.   In fact, SolidWorks Corp has a substantial online presence.  Some of this is their own doing, some of it by users stepping forward on their own.  There are a multitude of outlets for information and support.  There are forums, blogs, resource sites, networking sites (such as Linkedin and Facebook) .

Even with all this, there are still other interactive online resources.  Who’s checked out the SolidWorks article?  I recently made a minor edit to that article.  It can certainly benefit from many more edits.  Or, who’s checked out or contributed to SolidMentor’s Solidwiki?  This is on Ben’s site.  He also has the SolidJott SolidWorks add-in, which is growing rapidly in popularity.  What are your favorite online interactive sites?

It Has Begun (SW Community)

SolidWorks has started their effort to provide users with access to the SolidWorks online community via the SolidWorks website.  It is under the heading Communities.   This new area is apart of the revamping of the SolidWorks website in to a more organized set up.  When you open the Communities area, you’ll see a slick yet simple 3D rotation menu that allows you to go to six separate SolidWorks related communities. 

The first area is to the Engineers & Designers community.  Here, you will find links to the SolidWorks Discussion Forum, the friendly and familar SWUGN, SolidWorks User Blogs (such as yours truly), and the always useful SolidWorks Express Newsletter.

The second area is a connection to Manufacturers & Suppliers, were you’ll find links to (a valuable resource in its own right), 3D ContentCentral, and the listing of SolidWorks Partners.

The third area takes you to information about the Certified SolidWorks Professional program, including basic information about the CSWP tests and how to get certified.

The fourth area is for Educators and Students, with links to vital websites that support each.  This area has an extensive number of links, so even if you are not currently going to school or teaching, I would encourage a looksee.

The fifth area on the list is to SolidWorks itself, called “Connect with SolidWorks“, which has links to Enhancement Requests, Early-visibility Program, and Beta Testing. 

The final community area is Events, which has information about SolidWorks World, User Group meeting dates, Industry and online events such as SolidWorks regular teleconferences and on-demand webinars.

This new Communities area seems like a good and modest first step in attempting to bring together all of the diverse SolidWorks resources that are available online.  The list of links is comprehensive and fairly well organized (for the most part).  If this area gets enough notice, it may open the door to more people discovering our SolidWorks online community. 

SolidWorks online community efforts are on par

Our SolidWorks online community currently seems to be based largely on individual contributor efforts.  Discussions regarding SolidWorks are scattered all over the internet in a multitude of forums, a growing number of blogs (though that number does seem to be stabilizing this year), and online resource sites.  In the past, these websites were far and few between.  Nowadays, they are fairly well interlinked.  It is this interlinking that really has started creating the sense of community.  A lot of the interlinking of websites comes from the 2006-2007 explosion of SolidWorks related blogs, and through the efforts of SolidWorks (namely Richard Doyle) to provide new resources to its user base.  In a way, Richard has been pulling double duty, by being the man behind the curtain for both the user group community and the online community.  These are intertwined, but they are different.

SolidWorks is now giving more attention to the online community.  One of the earliest attempts was the revamping of 3D ContentCentral, with (in my opinion) marginal success.  A new and recent endeavor (this year) attempted to take advantage of “organic marketing” (or whatever it is currently called).  This was the whole Smart Button affair.  This new push was even alluded to at SolidWorks World 2008.  Of course, like most planned organic marketing campaigns, this project didn’t seem to go very far. 

Now, SolidWorks is researching how best to proceed.  I’ve seen some enthusiastic inquiry by SolidWorks staff.  Some of my suggestions and ideas have been previously mentioned on SolidWorks Legion to aid their effort.  Perhaps I should be working for SolidWorks? :)  Though some of my comments have warnings or cynical, I am grateful to SolidWorks Corp for supporting the natural organic growth that is going on.  Maybe they can tap into it more effectively eventually.

That all said, there is one place where SolidWorks appears to have some level of success in the online community.  This is in their forums.  There aren’t thousands of people logged on at one time (and if there was, I imagine it would be chaos), but there is a large number of active users.  Discussions include the frequent how-to question and answers.  There are the occasional rants and raves.  Requests for software improvement are frequent.  And, included are tips and tricks.  Though the forums are moderated, it is not done so with a heavy hand.

Perhaps the forums can be used as an example for SolidWorks on how they can tap into the online community more effectively.  Simply, provide a useful and engaging resource that will compel individuals to participate (or at least frequently lurk).  This seems fundamental, but it is something that escapes so many corporations.  So far, SolidWorks is running par for the course.  With some luck, maybe they can strike on an idea for the online community that takes off.