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Re: Structural Engineering Online Encyclopedia

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These are valid concerns and I appreciate all points of view on the topic.

Validation of information
All information should be verified or cross referenced before using. This is true whether you are getting information online at sites such as engineering tips forum or seaint.blogspot.com. Technically it should be verified before using information from a textbook also. The beauty of sites like wikipedia is that they provide citations for people to cross reference. Books and web sites like those I previously mentioned do not provide as thorough of citations as wikipedia does. But realistically no one is going to validate all the references. If that were true not much would get done. That's where a trusted authority needs to step in and put their stamp of approval on a product. This is one of the big challenges facing StructuralPedia, but I have a couple ideas to resolve this issue.

Acting as your own engineer
There have always been and will always be people who will provide unqualified engineering services. Access to good information does not create these people, but if it can help them not screw up then it would all be worth it. And I would hope that more non-engineers would visit the site. I applaud the client that seeks to educate themselves on engineering. These people will come to these types of web sites and realize that it takes a lot of experience to understand the subject. Then they will have a greater appreciation for our profession.

Post information and materials with discretion
As long as a clients name is not associated with a specific calc, I do not see any problem with sharing it. But maybe unvetted access to these are not appropriate? Maybe I should create a password protected area where only certain people can view them? I am open to suggestions.

As far as posting standard details, my intention is to create a comprehensive library for structural engineering details. I would like to emulate what Whole Building Design Guide is already doing ( http://www.wbdg.org/design/env_bg_wall.php#details ).

- Jeremy


Quoting SGE Structural <sgordin(--nospam--at)sgeconsulting.com>:

Chris,

These are my concerns, too. The idea is interesting (Dennis Wish supports it), but the implications and value of its implementation are not so clear.

As far as the free SE software is concerned - one who uses it really gets what he paid for. IMHO, the best "free" software is your own Excel spreadsheet (smart people like Bill Allen write their own FEA programs). Some good and reasonably priced FEA software comes second (I never allow the program to design, only to analyze).

V. Steve Gordin, SE
Irvine CA

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Christopher Wright
  To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
  Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 14:20
  Subject: Re: Structural Engineering Online Encyclopedia



  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)skypoint.com   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
  .......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania
  1864)
  http://www.skypoint.com/members/chrisw/




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