Posted by Laurence Marchini
A few months ago, I took a little trip in my trusty Honda to visit a Director of one of the many fine Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) here in the UK to discover more about some of the interesting systems that he was building.
After spending an hour or so discussing a rather novel machine that his company had created, we went out for a rather pleasant lunch, during which time the conversation turned to the field of technical information, and the role of print magazines and the internet.
Despite the fact that he was a highly knowledgeable chap, the company Director admitted that he spent very little time reading technical magazines or surfing the internet for information to help him in his job. Nor did he feel the need to join a bunch of social networking sites to share technical views and opinions on the industry. He was, he said, simply too busy actually designing systems to pay much attention to such stuff.
He did, however, admit that there was one particular editor whose witty columns he always looked forward to when his favourite trade magazine came through the letterbox each month. Despite the fact that, more often than not, the editorials in question were only marginally related to engineering, they provided some comedic respite from the day to day business of real-life engineering which occupied most of his time.
At first, I found the disclosure somewhat unusual. After all, being in the information business myself, I had hoped that he might have found at least one or two of the more reputable trade publications of some practical use in his day to day work, even if they weren’t published by my own publishing company. But clearly, that was not the case. It was the entertaining views of his favourite editor that he looked forward to the most. And that was about it.
After I drove away from the establishment later that day, I began to question what sort of package of technical information, if any, that any publisher might be able to create that would be compelling enough to retain the interest of the company Director. Certainly, he was in a very niche business, but even the trade magazine that had targeted his industry had failed to provide him with anymore than fifteen minutes of amusement when it landed on his doorstep.
It wasn’t long before I realised that, quite possibly, no source of technical information might actually help the man do his job better. For the systems he designed were bespoke systems, and each challenge he faced was a unique one. Because of that, he relied on his past experience and his own ingenuity and talent to solve each engineering challenge as it was presented to him.
So perhaps the publishers of his favourite trade magazine had hit upon the right formula after all. At least they had managed to get the engineer in question to open the pages of their magazine, even if he read no more than one column.
But somewhere in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think that there might be something more that the publisher should be delivering to the chap each month - other than just a way to make him laugh.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter