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The Great Face Book Experiment

April - 2009
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You may have thought the same things I did when first confronted with the whole Face Book Phenomenon. You're thinking you don't have the time, or that it's just plain stupid, or maybe that it's just for kids. We'll I've got news for you.... you are right! Face book can absolutely be an enormous time-sucking black hole, much like the internet in general. But I've recently proved that if its power is directed and focused toward a specific purpose, you can direct the time and energy into a rewarding experience.

Let me explain. When I first decided to go forward and succumb to the peer pressure to sign up, I felt that I had to "justify" it in some way. I settled on the justification being in this article. I decided to use this new form of social networking to see how many metal finishing connections I could make using Face Book as the medium.

To take it a step further (like I tend to do) I announced to my office shortly after this experiment began, that I wanted them to participate, too. After all, Finishing Talk's forum is based on the very same concept of online social networking that Face Book is-they both foster and encourage sharing in many ways including community, collaboration and business networking. So I announced to the office that they could tool around on Face Book at the office, as long as they always tied it into something to do with Finishing Talk and the Metal Finishing Industry.

We'll, as some of you may have guessed (and others may have heard), this little experiment didn't go down without unintended consequences. Within a few weeks of the new "open Face Book" policy going into effect, I quickly realized that others around the office weren't as dedicated to my little experiment as I was. They were spending more time surfing and chatting with old high school chums on FB, than they were on our own company Web sites. It didn't take long before I asked my I.T. guy to block the FB address from all computers in the office except for mine.

OK - so now for the good results. It took me a while to learn how to use the built-in tools, but eventually I figured out how to conduct targeted searches for people with similar interests. The first time I tried this I typed "Metal Finishing" into the search field not expecting much, but low and behold it retrieved hundreds of hits!

When this happened I quickly knew I was ready to finish this experiment, and finalize this article (and possibly move on with my life). So I changed my status (you'll have to figure this one out on your own, but it deals with the "broadcasting your life" part of Face Book) to "Writing an article on Face Book and Metal Finishing," and started sending out friend requests to everyone on the search results. I sent so many friend requests that day that I received a note from FB asking if I was breaking their "Terms of Service" agreement.

As this article is written, I now have 400 new friends who have an active interest in Metal Finishing and Industrial Manufacturing from all over the world. That number is growing everyday now, and I do mean from all over the world. I actually had a conversation with an engineering student in Sri Lanka about metal finishing a couple of Saturdays ago. He turned around and signed up for a membership on Finishing Talk right after our discussion. I found people at shops that I already knew about, like Pioneer Plating, Meminger Metal Finishing, Complete Metal Finishing, and Danaher. And then I found others that were completely new to me like Dragon Powder Coating, Moore Metal Finishing, Acme Metal Processing, and the Holzapfel Group in Germany. I even found a couple of shops right in my backyard that I'd never heard of before like Precision Metal Finishing, LLC in Abbeville, SC and Hot Box Powder Coating in Charlotte, NC.

You can also meet tons of people with the common interest of metal finishing and industrial manufacturing by joining the various groups formed on Face Book. Ted Mooney (The God Father of Metal Finishing) from Finishing.com has one called Metal Finishing that I belong to; there is one on Electroless Plating, Powder Coating, and there is even one for... you guessed it! Finishing Talk! When you get a chance, sign up for the group and I'll introduce you to the hundreds of other metal finishing and engineering professionals who I've made friends with over the past few months.

Of course I went ahead and set up a new "Finishing Talk Live" fan club through FB too. With a couple of clicks I was able create an event and let all of my new friends and fans know about the next filming date for our next show - Episode 8. This episode should have a pretty interesting audience. So far we have fans from places like Afghanistan, Paris, Germany, Australia and Mexico who have indicated on our Face Book event page that they will be attending this live taping! I don't know what you're thinking, but I'm thinking those are some dedicated fans!

The collaboration is already starting to work too. Just yesterday there was a great question about standardizing metal finishing processes posted on my page that went like this. "Question: Any insight into standardizing a plating process and training to the standard without losing the creative knowledge? Example, if we asked the experts in our company on how to Electroless Ni plate. We would most likely receive very different ideas on the sequence of operation and chemistry used...each method may end up with a good plated part." I'll be moving this question over the Finishing Talk boards after this article is published so our Finishing Talk members have a chance to weigh in on this one.

Lastly, something else extremely interesting that I discovered was a number of younger generation metal finishing experts in training that we've all been looking so hard for. To date I've made friends with nearly a dozen kids with ages ranging from 18-21 who are currently working in the trenches and on the lines in various finishing shops around the world..... who knew!?

I hope this experiment helped in some way. Lord knows I've invested more time into this article than anything I've ever written before-including when I was in college. If you're not careful, Face Book can become just another time sucker like YouTube, but if you do some of the things that I've shared here, you can get some tremendous benefits from this new social media.