Back at the end of 2010, after a week where I was repeatedly subjected to mindless, circular conversations with different civil engineers, I sat down and created a video that I ultimately titled Conversation with an Engineer. Into it I poured my frustrations with the back and forth I had been having. The words came easy. I had heard them many times and, in years prior, had actually spoken them myself.
Sometime in the past couple of weeks, this eight minute video crossed the 200,000 view threshold. That's an incredible number of people spending time watching two digital dogs talk past each other. I thought I was creating something a few of my friends would get a laugh out of. I had no idea the impact it would have.
In the subsequent years, I've had reports of the video being used in college courses and in conference sessions. I have to laugh myself because on numerous occasions I've had people email to me saying, "Dude, you should check out this video!" A couple of times people have recommended to me after a Curbside Chat. I just smile and tell them I'll check it out.
What is most interesting to me is the conversation that has followed Conversation with an Engineer. I decided it would be interesting today to look at some of those comments.
There are quite a few people that got it, seeing both the humor and the deeper problem behind it.
There were many, though, who take the other side. I've heard from a few people who watched it and thought -- at least until the end -- that it was a pro-engineer video, one that was making fun of the general public. Others have suggested to me that the engineering profession is changing, that this conversation depicts a passing breed. We can certainly hope that is true.
The blame the politicians reaction is an interesting one. I have to say that I have yet to see an engineer recommend a road diet and the political officials stand up and demand a STROAD. I'm not saying it would never happen, but the engineer/politician dynamic is rarely one of deep contention, at least not over what would ideally be done if the money was available.
There is also this "public good" argument. This is the notion that, while the STROAD may be a really bad deal for you, you need to take one for the team. I must admit that this one circled around in my head all those years ago before my engineer brain was de-programmed.
There were plenty of people who commented who were more than happy to simply bash engineers. While that was not my intention with the video, I can see how it became a side effect. My hope is that it has held a mirror up to some in the profession and made them rethink their beliefs when they find themselves resorting to the "it's the standard" dogma.
Of course, what would internet comments be without debate? There has been a lot of it associated with this video. It's a good thing. We need to have this conversation, not just in the profession, but throughout society.
Finally, some of my favorite comments, beginning with this one that could be the Strong Towns bumper sticker.
Then there is this ray of hope.
And finally, my favorite.
Thank you, everyone, for not just watching this video but sharing it with others. Let's keep pushing for a professional approach that builds an America of strong towns.
I'm going to be in the office this entire week -- such a rarity -- so you'll be sure and find me over at the Strong Towns Network. If you've been trying to email me without success (my apologies), I'm much easier to get a hold of over there, as are a lot of the people you see posting here. Please join us.
And if you'd like more, check out my book, Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume 1). It is a primer on the Strong Towns movement and an essential read for those wanting to get up to speed quickly.