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photo-online_communityI already hear many of you thinking: here they are again with these social media. Terms as facebook, twitter, Linkedin, ecademy … there is no escaping them. Many people – not at least engineers and technicians – are not so sure about this world of social media that is filled with new marketing opportunities, that makes it possible to share information in an efficient and fast way and that allows the swift and user-friendly follow-up of the distant world of your friends, suppliers and competition. It almost seems to good to be true. You have to keep up or otherwise you will be lost. Young people easily pick up the latest updates and share all kind of information. Many products become big thanks to their influence on youngsters through these social media; and also in the more industrial world being present on the social media seems to be a "must" if you want to sell to the upcoming generation and many to follow.

But it never hurts to remain sceptical. You can always share too much. Not only does it endanger the privacy of many youngsters and trendy people in their thirties or forties, not only does big brother lurks now around every corner on the virtual world map, but there is also an increasing risk that you make the wrong conclusions by listening to self-declared specialists or an excess of mostly incomplete information that can be found on the web, including all kinds of so-called specialised "groups" on the social media.

The same applies in the world of failure analysis. On Linkedin there are already many groups that advise on failure analyses in general or failure analyses of specific phenomena or products. My humble excuses to the social media gurus that like to claim that those groups may find the solution to all your problems, I would like to make some remarks, yes, maybe even warn those who think that through those groups they may find an answer to questions such as "What caused this failure?", "How high is the risk of this damage occurring again?" or "What can we do?":

  • You must realise that in those groups there are also people active that are "so-called" specialists, but that don't master the subject in a sufficient way to provide you with an answer. You must find out beforehand who you are dealing with and what their background is before qualifying the answer to your pressing question as "reliable".
  • If all answers look somewhat alike, it is only human to conclude your own answer. However, you must realise that different answers sometimes contain important nuances and since many differences make a big difference, they can also mislead you.
  • Questions that are asked in such groups rarely contain enough information to – for those who would want to answer in a responsible manner – even be considered as the first step to an answer. The only useful answer would then be additional questions like "I also need those and those facts to be able to answer your question". Pictures of your equipment, construction plans, process data and so on. Would you hand out that information? I hope not, because the zero privacy character of the social media would quickly turn your professional secrets into common knowledge for the whole group.
  • And what about your legal responsibility in using just like that amalgam of answers to deduce your own so-called truth? No, I'm not talking about copyrights, but about your responsibility in case you would proceed to conclusions and their implementation on the basis of incomplete, sometimes even incorrect, information?
  • Let along the responsibility of those who answer with an apparent cut-and-dried answer to your pressing question.

You see … you need to be cautious with those advisory groups in the social media. Before you know it, you are going down, even if you think that you are watching your steps. For certain areas these kind of groups can no doubt be a true blessing, but for fixing technical problems, I would think twice. Always consult the specialists who know what they are doing and to whom you can give all the necessary information in all confidence.

And let it be clear … the social media are not only for marketers, but the last few months also for many people a blessing. We just have to handle it with care and in all wisdom so that this blessing would not cause us here or there little or even great damage.


Dr. ir. Frans Vos

General Manager Materials Consult