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TOPIC: How can I encourage users to upload calculations?
InfoJunkie65 (User)
Industrial, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Structural
Frog Prince (Platinum Boarder)
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Re:How can I encourage users to upload calculations? 10 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 7  
DaveC we appear to be progressing. We appear to have a who and possible why, in terms of those looking for calculations.

Personally I prefer a blank slate, and consider trying to figure out what someone else has done in a workbook a pain. I work with my father, he has lots of structural spreadsheets I have lots of spreadsheets. He was trained civil/structural I was trained industrial/manufacturing/mechanical but structural is what we do. We have a generation gap, a discipline gap, and an experience gap, and simply different preferences. Most of the time we use the same workbooks in common. Occasionally however we get a different problem and one of us solves it. Whilst we share the workbooks we generally produce our own workbooks, and often from scratch.

The reason for this is that the workbooks are not simply presentation of calculations they are design tools, and the requirements also change from project to project. One project a single version of a calculation may be warranted and presenting it in detail may be preferable, on another several hundred repetitions of that one calculation maybe preferable. This is not simply a change in presentation, it is a change in cell referencing, absolute versus relative, use of named ranges versus cell addresses. Using VBA functions to have greater confidence repeated formula is consistent.

And a whole multitude of things can change with the presentation and application of the workbook. Adding dialogue boxes, removing same, or adding drop down lists and look up tables. Centralising look up data from drop down lists to linked workbooks.(Excel keeps telling me this not possible. But it is!)

Presentation wise I have a conflict. On the one hand I want to be able to follow what I am doing. But I am completing more and more work with a computer. Documentation was simply a natural side effect of solving problems with pencil and paper. Solving problems with computer requires separate attention to documentation and presentation.

I am starting to increasingly question why we produce calculations for presentation. I know why I conduct the calculations. But I do not know of any law that requires me to submit such calculations. Just because administrators of regulations request the calculations doesn't mean such are required. I do know the law requires an independent technical check that a proposal is compliant with codes of practice.

So to my mind the certifier is supposed to do their own calculations from scratch. Full independence probably also means they have to use different software than I use. Standards for data interchange thus become important, and the presentation of calculations becomes less important. (Well documented computer source code may well constitute the only documentation of the design-solution process)

This asks the: why of the calculations?

Often hand written calculations are unreadable. So the simplist thing a for a certifier to do is throw the submitted calcs aside and use their own design tools. Why spend 2 hours deciphering scribble which doesn't present a full assessment, when can check proposal on drawings in a few minutes in far greater detail using own design tools. The submitted calc's are not certified ever, it is the proposal that gets certified. Requests for further calculation are actually requests to present design-solutions to issues not addressed. The calculations only really required if want to argue the issue, and educate the certifier. If not do the calc's and revise the proposal.

Not tested the theory yet. But my calculations keep providing a more and more detailed assessment, with less process presented and more results provided, and approval without query.

My point here is: are computers and integration of calculation with virtual product modelling and diminished need for drawings as CNC tooling increases, also reducing the need for presentation quality calculations?
Or are these sophisticated modelling packages increasing the demand for simpler calculations and models to use as checks by the designers? Do they want to create these checks themselves of look for an existing model?

Put another way what is the lifecycle of ExelCalc's? Can it accumulate more calculations than other similar websites on the net? Or are such calc's becoming obsolete? Not excel applications, they will likely grow in number and sophistication as more software provides COM automation interface. But the familar calc's on paper, I believe they are heading for a highly limited audience.

Noting that part of the objective is to make money from users accessing Amazon through ExcelCalcs. Can it really grow and attract users? To do that ExelCalcs has to recommend the book, I have to be at ExcelCalcs first to use Amazon through ExelCalcs. If I want a book I go direct to Amazon. So there has to be a reason to be at ExelCalcs in the first place.

The only reason I came to ExelCalcs was because of an email promoting XLC, it seemed interesting so I came have a look. Its a good utility, 10 years ago I may have had a use for it. But I finally adapted back then and I have been doing things differently since. So I am not going to modify my existing workbooks to be dependent on XLC, nor create new workbooks which have such dependency. I am not really part of the audience looking for calculations.

By the way there was a link on this site a few days ago to an Excel version of Roarks's Formulas. Of course you have to pay for that.
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yogia (User)
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Re:How can I encourage users to upload calculations? 10 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 9  
Hi DaveC and InfoJunkie65:

You guys are doing a great job in reference to the use of XLC in terms of the typically considered 6 W's ...

  1. What

  2. Why

  3. When

  4. Where

  5. How

  6. Who

  7. if we explore and implore the ramifications of the 6 W's, it not only helps clear our thinking but it also helps us reiterate in reexamining our goals, and our agenda, which can help provide for the needed course correction on way to our destination.

    In my own doings I go beyond the 6 W's and add the following more 4 W's to my imploring and exploring the implications ...

  8. Which

  9. Weatherability

  10. Workability

  11. Win-Win

Of course I have topped off my Ten-W list with Win-Win and that is the essence of what intent.

You see in the end what counts is have we succeeeded in creating a Win-Win situation for all concerned ...

  • the entire use community

  • the supplier community

  • the affiliated community

  • ....

  • ....

Considering all the W's from my Ten-W List can help implement methods, procedures, web-sites, solutions, or what have you that produce implementations that create a Win-Win situation for all concerned with the use of the implementation.

DaveC and InfoJunkie65 are doing a great job in bringing up all of the potential issues and their discussion will help bring others to participate in clearing all of our cob-webs and help create a useful meaningful and valuable product.
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Yogi Anand, D.Eng, P.E.
Energy Efficient Building Network LLC
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InfoJunkie65 (User)
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Gender: Male Location: Adelaide, South Australia Birthdate: 1965-07-29
Re:How can I encourage users to upload calculations? 10 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 7  
Those are good additional points Yogia.

I guess reliability comes under weatherabilty. One thing I learned early is that text books and handbooks are not reliable they have many typo's. (Or at least several of the ones I have do) Also standards are usually published with a collection of addendums and corrigdenums.

I have a preference for at least two independent sources. Independent sources are important, not very helpful when text has an error, so look in a handbook and then find same formula, but then also note handbook references same author as textbook.

I prefer books which show derivation of formula, unfortunately many formula are also empirical and tests to clarify not exactly readily available to most users. The next best thing to two references are tried and tested design handbooks. Books which have been in use for 20 to 50 years or more have a good chance of being correct, though the newest edition may not be.

What I am leading to is that simply down loading a workbook and commenting on it is not of much value. Really need to know that many people have downloaded and actually used the workbook for a real design problem. And more importantly that they have confirmed that it is correct. Not simply that the workbook is correct but that the source of the formula was correct.

When pushed for time, I simply use formula from a handbook, and if possible derive afterwards or look for additional references and theory.

When it becomes increasingly easy to simply plug numbers into a program or workbook, for many people the checks and measures disappear. Or even looking in handbooks and relying on data presented such as section properties and design capacities.

Computers don't increase the risk. Its just that if programs have errors in them you get in trouble a lot faster, and a lot more people are enabled to get in trouble.

But it depends exactly on who the audience is and what expectations there are for the workbooks submitted.

At present the workbooks contain simple formula, or simple sequences of formula, no named ranges, no lookup tables, and no drop down lists or data validation. (With some minor exceptions.)

Does the repository keep things simple, simply providing a library of simple functions for users to incorporate into their own more advanced workbooks? Or does it also collect the advanced more complete design solutions? Or split into two sections, one section with the simple formula, another with more complete solutions? Also being international there are matters of differing design standards and units of measurement. Further divisions for filtering and sorting the workbooks.

In 1989 I first used Lotus 123, somewhere between 1985 and then I was introduced to Multiplan. For me it was easier to solve problems in a spreadsheet than mess around writing Fortan 77 programs, especially sequances of simple calculations. But because I was limited by DOS and simple text capabilities I simply adopted programming techniques for setting out spreadsheets. Though I tended to present formula and then the numbers substituted in the formula, then the result. A time consuming activity. By 1996 I gave the idea away, I had windows and improved text capabilities, but the formula were more complex and longer, stretched across the page, too many subscripts and Greek characters (written out). The formula were in codes of practice, so no real need to present. After all what do the input variables mean, look in the code of practice. The calculated variables are not any different. A variable may or may not be dependent. What becomes important is that I need to know the value of some variable to make a decision. The fancy formatting disappears, most design software simply shows inputs and outputs, and excludes the process of calculating those results. My use of Excel and spreadsheets have moved in that direction. More over I am now more likely to write VBA functions rather than create long cell formala, creating a further level of hiding process.

One reason for never adopting MathCAD is that all its demo examples show too much for my liking, and consequently consume a lot of paper. Paper has to be managed and stored. From my view many structural calculations are a waste of time and paper. We know the answer already, it is just ritual and routine, produce calculations to submit to the regulator to get approval. So I aim for maximum calculations in minimum space, and try to keep readable.

What it means is that I and most probably others would have to do a great deal of work to create a workbook formatted with XLC suitable for the repository. Since we have had so long without the facility of XLC, and got by with out ever getting MathCAD.

But maybe a new age is dawning and formatting expressions is back on the books.
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InfoJunkie65 (User)
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Re:How can I encourage users to upload calculations? 10 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 7  
And Still more thoughts!

In a high level programming language like Delphi, Java, C++ or VBA typographical mathematical notation, subscripts, superscripts, the Greek alphabet and other character symbols are not available. Thus when solving problems with such tools, such notation tends to be dispensed with not just with in the programming environment but elsewhere aswell.

Consider the Greek letter 'sigma' is often used to represent stress. Therefore if writing a program to calculate principle stresses, I could introduce variables: sigma1,sigma2 and sigma3. Alternatively I could use array variables sigma[i], with i=1 to 3 or i=0 to 2 depending on language constraints. However if not going to use a single character variable name it makes more sense to give the variables more meaningful names such as: stress1,stress2,stress3.

Sigma is also a common symbol used to represent standard deviation, so if doing statistics with stresses, it could get confusing, whether writing a program or doing the calculations by hand. Further there are also functions and variables to consider, if 'StdDev' is used for a function name, then what is to be used for the variable, a longer or shorter name? Introduce another issue Australian permissible/allowable stress standards use lower case 'f' for calculated stress and upper case 'F' for permissible stress. This messes up using 'F' to represent the force causing the stress. Introduce limit state codes and 'N' is used to represent the axial force causing the normal stress. Yet more variety: I believe in the USA the letter Z is used for plastic section modulus where as here in Australia it is used for elastic section modulus with 'S' being used for plastic section modulus.

Mathematical notation therefore has a context, it could be discipline, nationality, problem specific or simply personal. Some times it helps cross national barriers, with many people understanding the mathematics but not the written word surrounding it. Other times the notation is an obstacle that causes confusion and the written word becomes more useful.

Another concept. Polish notation or reverse Polish notation (RPN), or more generally pre-fix, post-fix and infix notation. Our normal algebra typically uses an inconsistent combination of infix and prefix notation. Is the objective to present formula or calculate results? Which method of notation is the most efficient for which purpose? I'm near certain RPN is the best method for an electronic calculator, but programming calculations in LISP or FORTH is cumbersome. But if these languages are required to solve bigger problems then such obstacles have to be over come. Calculation and documentation: seperable or inseperable?

With pencil and paper there is little decision to make as to what one is doing. What ever it is, it is going to be done with the pencil and paper. There may be change over to some side paper whilst do some algebra or arithmetic over to the side, away from the flow of the main body of calculations. A table of numbers may be acompanied by a single fully worked out example placed in an appendix, but no presentation of full working for each number in the table. If the arithmetic is simple the person may do all working in their head, if the arithmetic is more complex they may work it all out on paper; paper set aside from the report and not presented to anyone. With slide rules, and electronic calculators such arithmetic working out on paper disappears.

With a small system of equations all the working out may be written out on paper, or may have a situation in which a solution is published and can simply plug numbers into formula. Some people will have the publication, others won't. In other situations one person has found an algebraic solution whilst others always solve the problems numerically. What is presented and the speed of solution is thus dependent on the "calculators" resources and preferences.

Throw computers into the mix, and things start getting more complicated, and reports a little more cumbersome in presentation. Computer programs were limited in their printout capability; still are without a great deal of programming for presentation. So computer programs, tended to print out input parameters and the results of calculation. When solving large systems of equations don't really want all the intermediate working in anycase, either the results are a valid solution or they are not. But computer programs add another dimension to the presentation of calculations: Graphics. Do I want a formatted mathematical formula for bending moment, or a bending moment diagram? Do I care about bending moment or is it stress more concerned about? Do I care about the shape of bending moment curve, or just want to know broad classification grading of moment along beam? May be I don't care about stresses or moments at all, may be I just want to know what size beam to use here: for a floor beam in this virtual building model in a CAD package.

Computers permit more and more of the analysis and evaluation to be hidden in the background, out off sight of the user. Does an architect really want to wait for an engineer, when a sophisticated computer program can provide the same level of service as an average engineer(namely crunch numbers, and no imagination or ingenuity). The software being faster and better enables the architect to play with the dependent parameters?

The point of science and design science however is to have simple models which can be understood and comprehended by the human mind. The real world behaves exactly as the real world behaves, an objective for humans is to understand what that is. A new computer model of the universe adds nothing to such understanding. A building structure analysed by computer adds little to a project, if the computer is the only one that knows. If every little change results in a need to re-analyse the whole building structure because the designer has no understanding of the behaviour of the structure and the relative importance and criticality of each load and component. That is to say a situation where the computer as done the analysis, sized all members and everyone has accepted, and fed the data straight to CNC beamlines. Highly productive maybe, but is society happy about the process aswell as the results?

Back to another point I mentioned. The ritual process of calculations for regulators, or "calcs-for-council". There is not much point having building codes emphasising sustainable development, when forests are being consumed to present pages and pages of wasteful calculations, and further waste of land consumed by buildings storing such calculations.

Regulation of buildings to ensure compliance with minimum standards is beneficial, and performance based building codes are preferable to prescriptive requirements. But it is ridiculous to keep producing similar calculations, and sending multiple copies off all over the place to get approval. The loads are defined by codes of practice, the available structural sections are limited, and the structural forms most used are few in variety. Thus it should not be necessary to design a floor beam this week, and then next week produce similar calculations which happens to be 100mm longer and select the same structural section. Rather just find the maximum suitable span for the section for the application concerned. The applications are also limited in number.

This is what our residential timber framing codes do. There is plenty of software available to the timber framing code (AS1684), unfortunately however, none of it works to the loading code (AS1170) or to the timber structures code (AS1720). The point of the software is to assist timber estimators employ the timber framing code, and therefore is mostly simple database lookup tools, for the span tables and other capacity selection tables in the framing code. The software gets to the point, the timber sizes required for bearers, joists, rafters etc. The problem is that the process, or calculations to AS1170 and AS1720 are missing. Thus whilst a builder can select a rafter size in seconds, it can take significantly longer to assess a rafter subject to loading conditions outside the timber framing code. The structural model employed by AS1684 is documented in AS1684.1, but all presented in terms of the formula required to produce span tables, rather than make an assessment of adequacy. The authors of AS1684 have also thought it acceptable to introduce variations to AS1170 and AS1720 and so deviate from strict compliance with these codes. This makes it some what difficult to validate the span tables in AS1684.2 and then introduce a load variation.

Consider another situation AS3623, now replaced by NASH standard for steel framed houses, basically does for steel framing what AS1684.1 does for timber framing. There basically is no real need for two such standards. The standards basically set dimensional limits on a simplified model for a pinned and braced structure. Simplified because axial loads in flexural members are typically ignored, which is contrary to the requirements of the materials codes. Which again are other issue of repetition. There really is no need for a steel structures code(AS4100) and a cold-formed steel structures code (AS4600), or aluminium(AS1664) or stainless-steel, they are all based on the same basic theory with a few different empirical variations. A single unified methodolgy could be adapted. When write programs this tends to be a natural consequence. Why have code dependent functions and variables, when the formula (process) is the same for each one?

One reason I prefer VBA to simply creating cell formula, is the increased flexibility. Cell formula tend to be fine for one-off sample calculations. Spreadsheets are actually inefficient and unreliable for tabulated calculations. Data base management systems (DBMS) are better for large volumes of data. Even with windows virtual memory system, Excel is still limited in the number of records or rows it can process. Try reading a DXF file into excel cells and processing it! Will run out of rows, even if split into tag/value pair columns, and half the rows needed in Excel. But Excel/VBA can be used to read a DXF file without problem and process it. A VBA function can readily solve a single problem, or be easily put in a loop and solve multiple problems. That is design a single beam, or produce span tables. Functions can be called in a cell, and copied to generate a table, or VBA code can be written to iterate and write a table. VBA can write results in one or more worksheets or workbooks, or put results into a more useful form such as a CAD drawing or FEM model.

From my view the one thing missing from Lotus 123, and QPro was an integrated highlevel programming language, the mathematical notation I could live without. Now if I could combine mathematical notation with VBA code in the VBA editor?!

Clearly no shortage of things to do with Excel. But are such things wanted at ExcelCalcs?

I think the free software foundation has projects. May be that is what is required here at ExelCalc's. But rather than a timber framing project or a timber structures project, maybe better to have residential framing project and member design and connection design projects. In that way the codes can be combined as described above, and international differences integrated.

Then maybe also have bigger divisional projects such as mechanical engineering, civil engineering, structural engineering, engineering management and others as desired . That way can build a list of smaller projects within each division, and produce lists of formula or workbooks or utilities looking for.

And of course in terms of Amazon.com, part of the ExelCalcs infrastructure needs to be recommending suitable reference books. Some web sites when click on a link generate a search of amazon.com for books associated with the link, such as building codes. The problem however is that amazon.com is excellent in its own right as a place to search for books, and has its own community of people providing useful feedback. If cannot find the information on the world wide web itself, then amazon tends to be the place to go, but buying a book can be a 4 week delay, though old out off print books can arrive in two days. Also when it comes to technical books, technical societies and other organisations tend to be the place to go. Steel structures books from steel institute, timber design from timber association. So need a reason to aim for ExcelCalcs first and then amazon.com. When I search the net I am not looking for formula, I am looking for prescriptive solutions and design methodology, the qualitative stuff rather than the quantitative.

So really do need to develop and build more of the infra-structure supporting the supply of Excel Workbooks, generate a list of needs (and not just workbooks) and guidelines. Then users have far improved guidance on what to contribute and potentially more faith in contributing. No one wants to contribute to increasing the productivity of a lazy competitor, nor extend capability with out increasing competence, that makes them wary of contributing the workbooks they use daily. But are almost always willing to contribute to those willing and wanting to learn, and in real need of assistance.

A formula may not be what a user is looking for, Excel has plenty of built in tools for solving engineering and business problems. A user may just want some guidance on how to get started, using such tools. So simple examples of linear programming, may be highly useful, but of no real practical value, just a stepping stone to get started. And once again results or calculation process: from my formal studies I have statistics problems worked out long hand in QPro, yet more practical problems solved simply using the built in functions.

Different audiences, different objectives and different tools, and different presentation requirements.
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InfoJunkie65 (User)
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Re:How can I encourage users to upload calculations? 10 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 7  
Apologies for keep thinking out loud.

A) The workbooks currently at ExelCalcs are for the most part simply formula, and that can pose a problem in terms of their value to anyone. The workbooks in essence contain functions defined in a worksheet, consisting of a parameter list and a calculated result.

These functions can be simply copy and pasted into more substantial design-solutions. In a more substantial design-solution however the parameters are the results of previous calculations and the results are the inputs to additional calculations which follow. The simplest way to link these functions together is to point a cell in a parameter list to the cell containing a result. Doing so however results in a lot of cells, simply used to link formula together. To remove these redundant cells, and save memory which may be a problem for many, requires revising the calculated formulas references to other cells. In effect it requires rebuilding the formula, hence may aswell have built the formula from scratch in the first place.

In a comprehensive workbook, one providing a complete solution to a design project, there are many issues to consider, here are just a few.

1) Variables have meaning within the context of a given formula and/or reference manual. When combined within a more complete set of calculations, unique variable names start becoming more important.
2) Named ranges are more efficient than running around pointing at cells or remembering cell addresses, and they make formula more readable.
3) A variable may be used multiple times throughout a workbook. When it is then named ranges start becoming important. If ranges are named then it is helpful to place the name in the cell adjacent to the value, this text label can then be used to create a named range. When doing this placing equals '=' after the name is a hindrance, additionally subscripts, letters of the Greek alphabet and other character symbols cannot be used. In effect back to the limitations of programming in a high level programming language like VB, Pascal, C++ etc.

This means that the text surrounding a formula obtained from elsewhere is redundant, and the cell references in the formula become redundant as the formula is linked into the more substantial workbook. In other words copying and pasting a formula from elsewhere is more or less a pointless exercise. If the user already as a reference book with the appropriate formula then they may as well type the formula up from scratch.

B ) The knowledge tree adopted at ExcelCalcs is potentially a discouragement to contributors, it is relatively simplistic. Calculating structural loads induced by environmental phenomena is not a miscellaneous activity, it is an important and essential starting point for the majority of structural design. Wind actions being deposited in miscellaneous is not encouraging for others to contribute more in this area, such as earthquake loading. Then there are other areas of design such as stormwater drainage and flood mitigation, pavement design, tension membranes, cable nets. But then in many of these areas can search the net and find more useful programs than Excel workbooks, but many of these programs could benefit from integration with Excel.

C) The current workbooks on ExelCalcs are indicative of the scientific/engineering knowledge and knowledge of Excel which the membership has. This is also potentially indicative of the technical level of the users and the amount of effort or approach they have to design.

The wind actions workbook for example is a simplistic interpretation of AS1170.2 wind actions. Simple because it only calculates the wind speed from one direction. AS1170.2 actually requires calculating the wind speed in all 8 cardinal directions and finding the maximum and adopting this as the site wind speed if building orientation is ignored. Terrain category, shielding and topgraphy are seldom constant around the building. Many new houses are at the edges of suburbs where they meet rural terrain. Thus one side have TC3 and on the other side something approaching TC2. However if the area is developing quickly it is permitted to adopt a terrain category for the developed terrain. In rural terrain the category changes with the seasons, long grass cerial crops when ready for harvest produce a terrain of around category 2.3, when harvested the flat ground is closer to TC2, but not really similar to the reference TC2 at an airfield/airport. A designer may wish to address such issues explicitly and mathematically, or by unexplained judgement call.

If the orientation of the building is considered, then calculating the design wind speed for the building gets slightly more complicated. For now wind speeds in four orthogonal directions need to be calculated, one for each surface of the enveloping rectangular boundary for the building. These orthogonal wind speeds are calculated from the 8 cardinal wind speeds, dependent upon which directions have an influence on the surfaces of the building. A tabulated approach would be more suitable presentation of the calculations, than a simple vertical solution down the page which considers one cardinal direction only.

None the less the workbook, I assume, gives an appropriate solution compliant with AS1170.2, if 'Md' is is not taken to be equal to '1', then the maximum for the site can be determined selecting Md with the next highest value to one, assuming all other factors are considered constant for the site.

The approach taken would suit the needs of many people. And there is potentially little value to be gained by any one submitting a more substantial coverage of the wind loading assessment.

1) The immediate submittal of a more substantial workbook may seriously discourage original contributors. Unless they adopt the approach: that the way to get a more substantial workbook is to provide some bait to lure the competitive nature of others to out do them.

2) A more substantial workbook may gain more criticism and less usage than a simpler workbook. Discouraging the contributor. And once again being indicative of the technical level of ExelCalcs membership and the type of effort they wish to put into design.

3) There are more substantial workbooks out there already in many areas of practice, though many are only available in exchange for a fee. AS1170.2 once again provides an example. John D. Holmes one of the prime contributors/authors to AS1170.2, and author of Wind loading of Structures, has his own Excel workbook available for sale at his website. But why buy what you can create yourself from the code. And once created why provide to others who are too lazy to create for themselves and who also don't want to buy what is available? Thus if know there are commercial products out there and the cost of such products, then also potentially know what cost others are being saved. But not in the business of developing software or competing against such commercial suppliers therefore not really interested in listening to criticism or preferences. If don't like go buy the commercial product, or otherwise fix it yourself or find someone else willing to fix. This someone else will probably charge a fee, and such fee will probably be greater than cost of buying what is already available. If have paid to have spreadsheets developed for a business, still even further reluctance to submit to a website. Then there are users and creators.

4) Submitting substantial workbooks to a new website which intends to operate as a commercial venture is also a discouragement. The site may not be here in a few months, and websites come and go. It therefore needs to be seen has having some staying power, and real capacity to distribute. (A website that arrives and collects and then disappears over night, but re-appears elsewhere selling what has been collected, is one danger. I very much doubt that is the case). But putting voluntary effort into something which may disappear because it is not achieving its commercial objectives is a disincentive to contribute much effort to development of its non-commercial aspects.

D) As also previously mentioned most users were attracted to ExelCalcs because of an email promoting XLC, they did not arrive here looking for calculations or to buy books. Books are expensive, and for many Amazon.com is a long way from home, so books take a substantial time to arrive. So everyday books I can get a lot faster a lot closer to home from local book stores, and therefore Amazon.com is used only for those books which a local book store has to order in any case. If a local store has to order, then the Amazon website is usually superior to any local website, and more information can be obtained about unknown books from Amazon then elsewhere. So Amazon is the closest website there is to going into a bookstore and browsing through the books on the shelves. However in terms of the need to purchase books from Amazon, that probably doesn't exceed more than a couple of times a year, and probably a lot less often.

Thus it may take a significant time before members of ExelCalcs start buying books, possibly 12 months or more. Myself, I bought several books from Amazon at the beginning of the year, and it may be some time before I buy any more, others may be in the same situation. On the other hand ExelCalcs may need to be prepared for a surge as people start buying books as presents around christmas time, or businesses unloading budgets around end of tax year (when ever that arrives in different countries).

Members arriving for XLC, also tends to suggest membership comprises of users not creators. That is to say the membership searches the web for what it is looking for and then either downloads for zero fee or pays accordingly. That means a large proportion of the membership doesn't own any workbooks to contribute. Since they came looking for XLC, don't own any workbooks to contribute, and are principally users rather than creators it also means they have limited skills and/or interest or patience for creating and setting up workbooks. They probably wanted XLC, to improve the presentation of those workbooks they are reluctantly using because their employers insist they use. It may take these users time to get up to speed and start creating their own workbooks which they are willing to contribute to a semi-public repository such as ExelCalcs.

E) As with the repository the knowledge structure tree for the forum reflects simplicity. As others have indicated the forum is the key to developing membership, and sustaining presence at the site. As Christopher Locke points out in Gonzo Marketing: winning through worst practices, the web is a market filled with conversations, and these conversations have more importance and value then any advertising. Locke is also coauthor of the cluetrain manifesto which can be found on the web.

If people are present at the website conversing and exchanging ideas, then a book reference may emerge and from that a book may be bought through the ExelCalcs link to amazon. One of the users mentioned above may make a request to a creator to set up a workbook, such a request may be welcome, and willingly satisfied without fee. The ExelCalcs repository being used as a channel to pass the workbooks from creator to user.

At present however, there is little in the repository to attract sustained attention, and there is little to discuss in the forum to attract and sustain attention. Topics in the repository like strength and dynamics are interesting once you get down to them, but first have to get down to such simple elementary topics.

To really get people talking and present at the site, need broader topics and some development projects. For example fields of engineering: industrial, manufacturing, mechanical ,structural, civil, architectural, chemical, electrical etc... Develop this in itself as a topic of discussion, what are the disciplines of engineering and design science? And where do such disciplines overlap?

Within each discipline could break down into other topics of interest. Such as within architectural engineering, could cover building structure, mechanical building services and electrical building services. Straight away, these three topics are within the scope of the larger disciplinary areas of structural, mechanical and electrical engineering.

But people engaging in these conversations shouldn't feel limited to conversation about Excel, XLC or the calculation side of things. The qualitative side of discussions is most likely to lead to purchase of books from Amazon, whilst the quantitive side is most likely to lead to creation of Excel workbooks.

The conversations are important for members to get to know one another and develop a community which they feel comfortable sharing their work with. (Noting that XLC is something akin to a plastic toy given to attract sales of something else, and it isn't actually given freely, it imposes obligations. The author of XLC expects to gain something other contributors are not expected to gain.)

So I guess the priority is to kick start the forum, get some conversations or debates going.
F) And then there is also the pareto principle. Just how many calculations are needed by any one that they are unable or unwilling to setup for themselves, and haven't already done so.
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InfoJunkie65 (User)
Industrial, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Structural
Frog Prince (Platinum Boarder)
Posts: 57
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Gender: Male Location: Adelaide, South Australia Birthdate: 1965-07-29
Re:How can I encourage users to upload calculations? 10 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 7  
Looks like there has been an increase in uploads. But appears that downloads exceeds the number of comments about the workbooks.

What is missing is determining whether the workbooks are downloaded and actually put to use. Comments on the workbooks would tend to require returning to the site or some additional effort. If the workbooks are of little value, then this may be seen as a waste of time.

Most persons are into solving problems, not producing software. So having solved a problem, they may not return and submit their workbook with the solution. Further more it is becoming clear that formatting the workbooks with XLC is also part of the requirement for uploading. Thus tabular calculations are being distorted to use XLC and show equations.

Therefore solving problems is not part of the exercise. Rather the emphasis is on clear presentation of calculation method. So rather than present distorted tabulated calculations the exercise is to present a worked example of one row or column of tabulated calculations, so that it is clear for others to follow how to calculate such tabulated results. (eg. centroids and second moments of area)

In other words the workbooks are not for use, but to educate and inform. Exelcalcs is a knowledgebase, rather than a source of useful automated design tools. Thus asking contributors to have an interest educating. Whilst users are being requested to become contributors and therefore educators.

Perspective on things is all important.
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