Did you meet us last year?

At the end of the year it is customary to look back and see how things were. Statistics is one of the ways we can look back.

2011 was a difficult years for many. Budgets were trimmed (to put it politely!) and many enterprises, especially in Europe and the United States felt the cold wind of reality sweep through places never thought accessible to such things. The phrase “safe as a bank” continued to have a hollow ring. Politics oscillates from stalemate to inactivity to vicissitude to indecision in those countries, while in others, tumult on the streets lead to sudden changes in government.

One of the great changes in what is happening over the last half-decade is the part played by social-media, facebook and twitter especially. The conventional news media organisations have been struggling to keep up. Exclusivity by any one publication has been usurped by the ability of witnesses to publish their own unexpurgated accounts instantaneously. An example is the assassination of Osama Bin Laden unknowingly reported by a local tweeter in Abbottabad (PK) who reported a rare sighting of a helicopter over head and then “A huge window shaking bang!”

Here in Ireland the national television service RTÉ had a programme called “Now that’s what you called News!” which was an “overview of what news we as a nation searched for online throughout 2011 in the privacy of our own homes, on our own laptops, on our own smartphones.” Some of these items are predictable but others are a surprise! (Hopefully people outside of Ireland will be able to view this – please advise us if not!) Few organisations have really understood this great shift, still less how it impacts on their own enterprises or lives or politics.

If we feel a bit hopeless or plunged in the gloom maybe we could do worse than read Seth Godin’s last contribution in 2011 and view 2012 as the Chance of a lifetime!.

Automation
The automation sector would appear to have been spared the worst excesses of this trauma by maintaing a steady as she goes approach. In past recessions this sector seemed to track by some months what happens in other sectors. This time thus far this has not appear to have happened. But what will happen in 2012. Will the developing parts of the world, China, India, South America take up the slack in other areas?

And us?
Here at Read-out the years has been a bit like the famous curates egg – good in parts! The print edition continued to be published and distributed to around 2000 automation professionals in Ireland. From a circulation of about 500 when it started life in the 1970s as a house magazine for Industrial Instruments Ltd it progressed to being an independent publication in 1989 with a circulation around 800 and quickly grew to over 2000 which we reckon is as close to the size of the market as can be achieved. (We reckoned at the time that if an equivalent magazine had the same penitration in their respective markets it would achieve 240,000 in Britain or 800,000 in the US).

Average blog visits since Aug 2009

On-line
We started on the web in 1995 with a very simple one page information digest but this soon developed into the large site now which is visited by over 17,500 people per month. More recently in mid 2009 we started blogging and there we have been able to track a growth through the months from a small base of 60 visits to today’s figure of over 3000 per month. The bulk of visitors come from North America (of which US comprised over 80%) then by Europe (29% UK and 12% Germany) followed closely by Asia (India 42%) and then South America (Brazil 40%), Africa (Egypt 42%) and then Oceania (Australia 100%). I’m not sure how reliable these figures might be. For instance Australia has 100% of the visits from Ocenaia whereas I know that we did have some visitors from New Zealand.

Stories

And what were the blog stories that people found most interesting?

Here we find things that we don’t understand fully. Why are some pages which we find interesting down the list? Why do some old pages continue to hold sway on these lists? We list the leaders here and perhaps you can make it out. Most readers read 1.5 stories per session!

1. Developing a 3D Optical surface profilometer (Jan 2011) – a account of a project using NI’s LabView in Dublin City University.

2. Number two has been a paper which is consistantly in the top of our stats since it was first published. This is Emerson’s Sarah Parker’s paper Radar level measurement best practice (Sept 2010).

3. A paper from Mike O’Brien of Newson Gale is a close third in the views in 2011. This is on Static earthing protection for road tankers (Nov 2010).

4. The next three in the list are close together too. Wireless strain gauge sensors (July 2010) is about a new wireless telemetry system for strain gauge sensors from Applied Measurements.

5. The great story of the past two years has been the long overdue penetration of automation security by Stuxnet and “Son of Stuxnet.” This blog was inspired by a tweet from Byres Security which decried the security commitment of one of the giants of automation as “abominable!” Abominable security commitment! (Aug 2011) also includes links to the many blogs and articles we have been able to find on this important topic.

6. Stuxnet – not from a bored schoolboy prankster! (Sep 2010) is Nick Denbow’s take on this malware first published in his Industrial Automation Insider.

7.Growth in World SCADA market is the subject of another story on a report from Frost and Sullivan (Dec 2010).

8. Our story on developments in Invensys in July 2009, Taking Invensys seriously! continues to draw readers – though things have moved on since then!

9. Level detection of foaming media is the problem addressed in this August 2010 contribution from Baumer.

10. Tree Safety (Feb 2011) discussed a method of testing the roots of trees alongside highways using a sensor adapted from helicopter technology by Sensor Technology.

Searches
The fact that Security and Stuxnet feature in this list is also reflected in the most popular searches include “USB Stick” and “Security” as the most popular by far of all searches on the site. Most of the referrals to the site come from search engines but also a large number of our facebook page and (perhaps surprisingly) Control Global.

Clicks
Sometimes people are so interested in a product or news story that they click forward to the page of the company or service. Again these may surprise with Frost & Sullivan heading the list with Applied Measurements close behind with Long Watch’s fascinating video of an oil leak and Wikapedia on Stuxnet! All in all however most automation professionals seem to be happy enough to read these items and go on to other stuff.

Interaction
One of the things that is perhaps a little disappointing is the number of comments or interactions from all these visitors. We welcome these but not those which seek to advertise products or seek followers (“I found your blog fascinating and will visit it regularly from now on!”). If a visitor wishes to have their product or service or appointments or other company or technology news mentioned the best way to see it on-line here is by sending an email to readout@iol.ie.

Like most statistics these are interesting and some of them are meaningful and we will use them to try to improve the service we provide for our visitors. As we finished writing this we came across a critque of a book by Katie Paine called “Measure what matters!” Paul Gillum’s critque is called, “Sensible Talk About Social Media Measurement.” Hopefully I can learn from it and maybe you dear reader might too! His final word is “Paine’s practical and time-tested advice is a welcome relief to a Klout-obsessed world that seems more taken with fans and followers than with business results.”

We thank those who have visited us during 2011. We particularly thank those who provided us with material or who generously supported us with advertising and sponsored our journeys to those events we attended.

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