Pillar of the CAD Community11 Apr, 2013 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin
Cadalyst's CAD Tips are made possible through the efforts of many readers — and one very hard-working reviewer, Brian Benton.
Brian Benton is a multifaceted contributor to the CAD community. A senior engineering technician in a civil engineering firm in Florida, Benton shares his expertise with his fellow CAD users through a variety of formats. You may have watched his CAD tutorial videos, read his software guidebooks, or used one of the many Cadalyst CAD Tips that he's vetted. Or perhaps you follow CAD-a-Blog, where he shares updates and commentary about Autodesk software and other CAD-related topics.
At the end of 2012, Benton was selected as an inaugural member of the Autodesk Expert Elite program. Launched at Autodesk University 2012, the program recognizes customers who make extraordinary contributions to Autodesk's online support community. According to Autodesk, the goal is to empower these super-users to "better share their knowledge, assist their peers, and support the Autodesk community."
"The Expert Elite program is making a strong effort to recognize that contributions to the Autodesk Community come in a variety of forms," explained Jillian Bejtlich, community manager, Autodesk discussion groups. "Oftentimes it’s a phenomenal answer to a question in the discussion groups. Other times it’s a high level of interaction and helpfulness through social media. In Brian [Benton]’s case, we chose to recognize his phenomenal contributions through his blog, CAD-a-Blog. It is an undeniably wonderful resource and we’re happy to call him an Expert Elite now."
Cadalyst: Were you surprised to learn that you were selected for the Expert Elite program?
Benton: I was surprised, but also proud to be included. I have worked in the design business for 20 years, and I find it very satisfying to be recognized by the creator of my main design tool in this way. When I look at the people who were selected, and I see their work and other contributions to the Autodesk user community, I am very humbled to be a part of this group. If anyone needs to know anything about an Autodesk product, these Elites have the answer — they have seen and done it all.
Tell us about your blog.
I started CAD-a-Blog in 2007. I had been in the business for about 15 years at the time, and I knew that I had a lot of experience that others might benefit from. Plus, it feels good to help people! The site covers several topics, but it focuses on tips, reviews, and news about AutoCAD and other Autodesk products, because that's what I know best.
One of the goals that I had for my blog from the beginning was to create a platform for myself — a body of content that could open doors to other opportunities. And the more I do with it, the more opportunities I receive. One thing that I have learned from blogging is that the more I put into it, the more I get out of it.
It takes a lot of time. Some years I've written a lot, while others, I was lucky to get a few posts each month — but I don't think I have missed a month yet. I want to write every day, but my "real job" and life get in the way!
In addition to blogging, you also write instructional books and produce training videos. What's your approach to conveying information?
I am very proud of the training videos that I have made with Infinite Skills. My videos teach through real-world examples. It's one thing to show somebody how to draw a line with the Line command; it's another to show them when to use it, the best way to apply it, and why. In addition, the lessons in my videos build on each other. For example, we start by drawing some basic objects, then use those same objects in future lessons.
Writing a book is very different from making a video. There is a lot of back-and-forth between the text I'm writing and AutoCAD, followed by several rounds of editing to make sure everything in the book is accurate. Videos require fewer edits because the student can simply watch what I am doing and see where I am clicking. I think making videos is easier, but keeping the room quiet enough for clear recording poses its own challenges!