Launched in 2009, element14 bills itself as “the first online community specifically for engineers.” e14, as it’s commonly known, is a subsidiary of British conglomerate Premier Farnell plc, which also owns Newark Electronics. Since launch, e14 has enjoyed widespread acclaim in the maker community, bolstered in no small part by their ongoing sponsorship of celebrity console modder Benjamin Heckendorn.
The Ben Heck Show, which just released its 48th episode, has been very successful in raising public awareness, not just for e14 itself, but for the maker movement in general. It’s good entertainment for adults and engineering professionals, and good inspiration for kids, teenagers, and aspiring makers of all ages. Maintaining excitement means maintaining interest, and is a critical function of educators at every level.
But dig past the hype, and e14 continues to deliver as a substantive resource for electronics professionals and hobbyists alike. Their platform is very well designed, and the experience of the site delivers on Web 2.0′s promise in ways that many others have tried, and failed, to do. Here, good software design, attentive management, and lots of hard work have actually built an engaged user community. Subject-oriented interest groups, many with on-call resident experts, provide working forums where both newcomers and old hands can usually find friendly, informed answers to their questions in short order. Active blogs on over 100 subjects provide up-to-the-minute news, and a busy webinar schedule provides free training on everything from software, to design workflow, to legislation trends.
As Phil recently wrote, “Selling the bits just isn’t enough. Companies selling electronics to makers, hobbyists, and professionals will also need to teach and inspire. “
So thanks, element14, for doing just that. Thanks, and welcome to the running for the 2012 Makeys!