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Re: Structural Engineering Online Encyclopedia

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On Oct 5, 2009, at 11:01 AM, Jeremy White wrote:

As far as simplified methods, I totally agree. If you take a look at the web site you'll see a category called "Rules of Thumb". I created this category because, for the practicing engineer, simplified methods and rules of thumb are very useful. The category is empty and just waiting for decades of experience to pour onto the pages.
I'm going to rain on the parade a little bit and suggest that when you find stuff pouring onto the pages, you make some serious efforts to verify everything before you imply that you're creating some sort of expert system. Lots of things pour, some nice to have around your office, some not so nice. First, you may find yourself responding to questions and comments, primarily from newbies who tend to believe a good deal more of what they're told than is good for them. Rules of thumb always have limits, which may not be easy to grasp. You'll also be visited by people looking to act as their own engineer and do things they have no business doing. There is also the likelihood that you'll be getting rules of thumb with a more or less limited scope, that should also be vetted. We've all run into situations where we've been presented with the not-very-good approach supported only by the assurance that 'we've never had a problem before,' meaning never had a problem before the thing was loaded to its design maximums. Or never had a problem before it was applied to a different situation than originally used. I'm not implying anything about competence or malice, only that engineering is a business of specialties--what works fine in one office isn't necessarily fine in another office.

As far as your library of calculations, I have tossed around that idea along with a library of structural details. One of the most useful things to an engineer is a binder of old calcs they've done in the past. If you or anybody has some you'd like to share feel free to scan them into an image or pdf and upload them to the site. A category called "Sample Calculation" can be created for this purpose. Also, I will create a category called "Standard Details" where structural details can be uploaded (pdf or images).
Another thing that's not such a great idea. First thing is that someone's likely to pick this sort of thing up and use it to substitute for judgment and experience. We've all run into this. Second is that calculations, like drawings, are either your firm's property or that of a client, who may not react positively to having its numbers posted for all to see. They might even be considered a smoking gun. And putting either on the Internet encourages irresponsible use.

Again, although I hate raining on the parade, the Internet is really not the place to go posting this kind of advice. My own experience is that it's not unlike getting medical or spiritual guidance in a neighborhood bar. There's probably a lot of valuable information floating around but the problem is knowing what's applicable and how much poetic license was taken in communication, regardless of how cheerful the company or how great the conversation. When you want information, go to a library; afterwards when you feel like a drink, then go to a bar.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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