When we think of EDA standards, we usually think of interface formats, languages and databases. These standards allow all engineers to do something the same way, furthering tool interoperability and improving design reuse. I’ve spent a fair amount of my career helping get these standards created and adopted.
In theory, the development of an EDA standard might sound like a simple task, but we all know that such agreements can take years to materialize. And it’s not just our industry that faces challenges in standardization. It’s the same for just about any industry you can think of. Except, that is, in the summer of 2009, when an EDA standard was developed in 10 days...all because of Twitter.
As we all know, the Design Automation Conference (DAC) is the Super Bowl of EDA conferences. In July 2009, the venue for the 46th occurrence of DAC was San Francisco's Moscone Center. While planning for our booths on the show floor and all the surrounding activities, I proposed adding a new form of interactive communication to DAC. A small group of people in the EDA and semiconductor industries had begun using Twitter to talk with each other, share information, and yes, check out the competition. I thought it would be interesting to display Twitter activity that was related to DAC in one of Synopsys’ booths. We decided to create a 14-foot tall "Twitter Tower" in Synopsys’ Standards Booth that supported two large plasma screens to display DAC-related Twitter content.
But I had a problem. Rather than just carrying Synopsys' own content, I wanted the Twitter Tower to be a conversation piece, displaying content from all DAC attendees, including customers, partners and even competitors. But a question remained. How could I convince DAC attendees to tag their tweets so that the Twitter Tower would be filled with content?
As Synopsys' longtime representative to various EDA standards committees, I realized this problem was a bit like creating a standard—a small matter of influencing a lot of people to do something the same way.
Early Twitter users had created the concept of a “hashtag” - a character string preceded by the hash symbol. Including a unique hashtag in a tweet makes searching for related content very easy. I researched the Twittersphere for a unique hashtag for the 2009 DAC conference. Unfortunately, #DAC was being used by many different parties including the Denver Boy Scouts and the Dallas Athletic Club. #DAC09 wasn't even available, having been claimed by attendees to the Digital Arts Conference. That's when I consulted with Lee Wood at MP Associates and we proposed the #46DAC hashtag. I began tagging all of my DAC-related tweets with it.
About a week before DAC was to start, I realized that #46DAC was not in widespread use among Twitter users who had started talking about the upcoming conference. Some messages contained #DAC09 so they were tangled up with the other conference, some contained #DAC but they were mixed up with the boy scouts, and many contained no hashtags at all so they were lumped in with all sorts of unrelated messages about gym-goers, trucking, and topics mysterious to me.
And so I started a campaign. I searched Twitter using search.twitter.com and TweetDeck. For every message I could find that was related to the Design Automation Conference, I sent a suggestion to its originator to use the common #46DAC hashtag. By the time the conference had started, #46DAC had developed a life of its own, and conference attendees generated a stream of content that completely filled "The Twitter Tower."
Ten days after I first encouraged the use of #46DAC, more than 125 people had embraced #46DAC, tagging over 2,500 tweets with it. According to a TweetReach snapshot on August 9, 2009, the #46DAC tweets had reached 13,800 people and made 189,000 impressions. A new EDA Standard had been created—all because of Twitter.
Last year, the Twitter hashtag was, of course, #47DAC, and it was obvious that Twitter had become an accepted communication channel for the show. This time, the TweetReach report on 1,500 tweets tagged with #47DAC (1,500 was the maximum number allowed by Twitter search at the time) stated that the tweets reached 60,952 people and made 551,104 impressions! Amazingly, at least two well-known bloggers who couldn’t attend DAC 2010 wrote extensive and accurate reports about the conference. Much of their information came from Twitter and the #47DAC hashtag.
With DAC 2011 upon us, the tweets tagged with #48DAC have begun. It’s interesting that some of the tweets have little to do with the 48th DAC, and the Twitters posting these might be misusing the hashtag to attract attention to their posts. I think this practice may subside as disappointed Twitter searchers stop reading or block the false positives.
It only took a few short weeks not only to establish the standard Twitter hashtag for DAC, but possibly more importantly, to establish Twitter as a viable communication channel for engineers.
If I don’t see you at the 48th DAC, I’ll see you on Twitter via #48DAC. BTW, you can follow me on Twitter: @karenbartleson