This is a guest blog post by Bryan Robinson. Bryan is a computer engineer, with experience in financial services and in wireless telecom. In the evenings, he works on his Electrical Engineering Master’s degree at North Carolina State University and has a blog on digital design, FPGAs and software engineering.

Whenever I work on a software project, I always appreciate the wealth of information web sites and programmer communities on the Internet. Compared with that of software developers, the situation for logic designers and enthusiasts can appear quite fragile. Internet searches turn up tried and true resources such as the HDL newsgroups comp.lang.{vhdl, verilog} as well as the web forum Edaboard.com. While there is a wealth of information in these resources, spammers prey upon the older technology and a lot of noise is mixed in with actual content, diminishing the usability and quality of the resources themselves.

In recent times, however, it looks like we may be at the turning point where logic designers and enthusiasts are turning to web technology to network and share information. Vendors seem to be awakening to power of end-user information sharing, and many companies now offer ways to interact with other end-users as well as company support personnel. Xilinx, for example, has a fairly active User Community Forum where Xilinx Employees frequently answer questions. Xilinx also publishes the XCell Journal, which contains community-submitted articles on FPGAs in industry as well as just for hobby and fun.

The Programmable Logic and FPGA Design community at Stackexchange.com, built on the same technology that powers the popular Stackoverflow.com, is an up-and-coming resource with a lot of potential. The community is in the commitment stage and will soon reach beta with the help of logic design community at large. At this site users can post questions and submit answers, and both are graded up and down based on the quality of the content. This grading system helps to filter out poor questions and incorrect answers, leaving end users with a database of high-quality, community-approved Q&A. Such a user community powered by the latest web technologies will surely become a valuable resource to all logic designers in the years to come.

With regard to networking, LinkedIn, a social network aimed at professionals, has several groups dedicated to programmable logic and hardware. Some groups focus solely on ASICs or FPGAs, while other groups are more broad and encompass SoC or even the semiconductor industry as a whole. While there is relatively less technical discussion in LinkedIn groups, it is a great way to connect with other logic designers. If you don't find exactly what you are looking for, you have the option to create a new group and lead it in the direction of your interest.

The seeds for vibrant logic design communities are being planted, and today the technology and tools to publish web content are easy enough that it now lays in our hands. If you are passionate about logic design, or even just learning an HDL in school, lets get out there and help propel these communities forward. Even just a few minutes answering a question at vendor or Q&A web sites (such as those at stackexchange.com) during a lunch break is one step in the right direction. If you are working on an interesting project at home or even just learning new tricks with HDL tools at work, create a blog over at Wordpress.com and start sharing what you've learned. And if you already write a blog on logic design, FPGAs or any type of programmable hardware, please share the link in the comments section so we can add it to our RSS readers. It is up to us, the logic designers and enthusiasts, to move forward together.