Who are the automation thought leaders?

05/08/2013
Which automation thought leaders are in your INBOX?
Nick Denbow
Nick Denbow muses over thought leaders and publications in the Automation Sector on both sides of the Atlantic.
(This article appeared in the July 2013 Issue of his publication Industrial Automation & Process Control Insider.)
Current Issue

Today was a brilliant day, a sunny day, but one at the month-end when I should be writing. So in an unusual day off, a few things became clearer. That ‘Automation Thought Leader’ – why should we only look at suppliers? There are plenty of others who make a call for attention in the automation community. But the ones with a major part to play are the editors and commentators, both on paper and on-line.

The thing about such editors is, mostly, they just don’t want to shut up. In comparison to the company ceo or technical guru, who retires, or steps down, one way or another, at – well maybe 60, possibly as late as 65, but often at aged 55 – these editors just keep on going. Maybe because the writing and opinionating is in their blood, but maybe because they need to keep earning some publication fees: one way or another they keep going.

But while we have seen a major change in the respected ceo list recently, fully reported, maybe another change in the editors and commentators, the major industry pundits, has also been happening, and we have changed some of our normal sources? So look at what you now read, and think whether the major media sources you follow, and people who you listen to, have changed in the last few years?

Plus, break your normal reader silence and tell me who you listen to, maybe we can learn something from one another!

INSIDER leads the pack
Looking close to home, it was around three years ago that Andrew Bond retired as the Editor of the INSIDER, after 14 years, in September 2010. In May 2012, Jim Pinto stopped his weblogs and automation newsletter (INSIDER, May 2012 page 5). As a part of the media hiatus following the crash in 2008 and the turmoil following the rise of the internet, the very successful UK-based Talk websites, where I was an editor from 2002 to 2010, all crashed out, after being acquired by a panicking publisher. Maybe the media publishers are still trying to find their new position in the world, after riding through that downturn of 2008, but not having the right approach for the internet based age that followed.

Patrick Raleigh

So in the UK we have the Process Engineering paper magazine that was about to be chopped, bought out of the publishers by a management group, who retained the services of the editor, Patrick Raleigh (right). Always a champion of reports written from the customer point of view, Raleigh has now decided to leave them and start a freelance venture of a newsletter in this format. (Though he remains in an advisory capacity – More on this story!)

USA-based magazines
Maybe the automation and control printing industry in the USA has embraced online content and websites better than in Europe and the UK. Or maybe they have more reserves, deeper pockets, and less freelance competition. To an ‘outsider’, it does seem that the main freelance web-based competition from the USA is more specific, topic led, like the blogs from Eric Byres at Tofino Security, or Black Hat and others.

However, there are two people that stand out, in editorial circles in the USA, and these are Walt Boyes from Control Global, and Gary Mintchell from Automation World. It was in the March 2013 issue of the INSIDER where we reported that Mintchell was stepping down from his role as editor-in chief at the magazine, the one he founded 10 years ago. While his photo still appears on their website, Gary has started a personal blog, Manufacturing Connection, as a freelance vehicle.

What was more of a concern earlier this year was that Walt Boyes’ regular contributions to his ‘SoundOff’ blog on  seemed to tail off! Lucky guy, he seems to have been able to take some time out. Now, despite some really off-putting major bugs in the ControlGlobal website over the last month, he seems to have come back in full voice, which is reassuring for us all. (Note: He had other things on his mind – including his wedding!) One of his interesting blog comments was that he was disappointed to not have Darius Adamczyk of Honeywell answer any of the Control magazine pre-submitted questions in the press briefing held at the end of May. Needless to say Adamczyk did not answer the question posed by the INSIDER either, but a written answer did follow, as reported last month, from Jason Urso. Where did the questions come from, that Adamczyk did choose to answer, one wonders?

The aging issue
These two guys in the USA, and at the moment, the INSIDER from the UK, and Read-out from Eoin Ó Riain, firmly grounded in a beautiful part of the west of Ireland, are the main editorial based sources from, with respect, relatively aging editors who don’t have to toe the company line any more, so are more than likely to say what they actually believe.

What seems to happen in UK magazines is that the ‘Publishers’ use relatively young (low cost?) editors, typically from another industry, to edit their automation/control magazines. Plus their actual column inch space for editorial is very restricted, the suppliers write most of the articles and pay for the pages. Plus after cutting their teeth in automation/control for a year or so, they are moved on to a different industry.

Where we can find exceptions in the UK and English language magazines are in the UK with Suzanne Gill, editor on Control Engineering Europe, and from Germany with Frank Jablonski on Process Worldwide. But whose articles do you read and appreciate? Let me know, I can’t read them all. In the USA, I have been impressed with some of the past reports from Renee Robbins Bassett, on Automation World, but I have not found many of her on-line articles traceable here recently.

So let’s look at some of the more interesting comments in the last month: Walt Boyes on the ISA topic – again To be honest Boyes was preaching to the converted when I read his comments on the appointment of the new ISA ‘presidentelect/ secretary’. On 23 June his report, said that he had stopped writing about the ISA some years ago, but this new event needed a comment. Back in the March 2013 issue of the INSIDER I also took up a similar issue with the ISA when suggesting in a review of their approach to wireless standardization that their commercial interests in the WCI organization had been the main factor behind their rejection of any WirelessHART compromise.

But the new guy, selected to be the future president of the ISA, is reported by Boyes to be an investment banker, someone in whose hands hopefully the investments of the large reserves of cash propping up the ISA will be made safely: he has already attained the leadership of the ISA investment committee. So maybe the ISA is to become a financial vehicle pure and simple, and ignore the membership: Walt knows about these things, as unlike me, he is still a member. Maybe the new president will also consider another name change – I suggest to the Investment Society of America – but probably that will not be on behalf of the membership.

• Readers might also like this blog item from ControlGlobal: Next-Gen Process Control Leaders (16/7/2013) and Process Automation Generations Talk to Each Other (5/8/2013)


Stats and figures! How the Signpost fared in 2012!

03/01/2013
Comments, figures and observations at the start of 2013!

The end of the year is the time we look back and forward and we have had a brief look at some of the figures shown at our various sites.

Happy New Year!

Vale atque ave!

Our blogsites showed the most spectacular growth. We started in March 2009 when we had 67 visitors and by the end of the year almost 3,000 had visited them By the end of the current year  the figure will top 146000.

Our main page showed steady interest but little growth and has remained stable over the past three years. Nonetheless more people use this as a jump-off point to the blogs and other links we feature and the site is updated regularly. The complete archive of the site is also maintained with monthly updates.

Popular Pages
We have had some surprises in which pages proved popular. Alway high on the list after the home page is our acronym page. But this year this was exceeded by our Blogs/Discussion Groups’ Page. This probably reflects the growing trend of interactivity on the internet. In fact the most full list of Automation Blogs is on the left-hand column of our InstSignpost blog.

Stories
The, to us, most surprising stat this year is the popularity of our story on preserving wine, published last May. It topped the most popular stories list on three separate months and accounts for just over 4% of our visitors. We had come across this method in one of our favourite restaurants in Clifden, Conamara. A second popular story which surprised us was a Frost & Sullivan story on Test Equipment in the CIS, which was actually published in December of 2011. This story has consistently been in the top most popular stories throughout the year. We were a little disappointed that our page on ICS & SCADA Security, which is primarily a compilation of links to various articles since Stuxnet was discovered in 2009 – the page was set up in May so may not have had a chance to “catch up” on the more popular pages.

Treatment of comments, trash or spam?
We receive quite a lot of comments which are simply attempts at advertising or simply honest-to-God spam. These are always trashed and sometimes reported as spam if appropriate. If anybody wishes to advertise, or publicise automation products we welcome relevant product, company people and technology news – news on Automation or Test & Measurement and allied topics. Below is an example of the type of message. Maybe the sender “savored every little bit of it,” but we feel that this enthusiasm might perhaps be a little over the top when we are talking about Stuxnet and her children!

Genuine comment?

Genuine comment?

Social Media

During the year twitter stopped automatically linking our posts to Linked in so we started a LinkedIn Read-out Group where we post some of our stories which can be automatically linked to our twitter page. This is in addition to our Facebook Page where each and every story is listed. The facebook page is now followed by 200 people. We have 620 connections on LinkedIn .  Twitter is an important resource for us. We have learned several important events and trends from twitter like the discovery of the Stuxnet, the first malware directed at the automation sector. We have something like 600 followers on that platform. We also share other material on twitter to do with our other interests mostly with Irish topics, language and “dúchas”.(sometimes translated as “culture” but perhaps more accuratly understood as the “innate quality of national identity!”)

How reliable are these figures?
We have always treated these figure with some scepticism as we pointed out in an article in 2011 – Lies, damn lies and statistics! They have a limited use as guide, perhaps a comfort, that the work put into maintaining our internet presence is at least looked at and is presumably and hopefully useful  to some of those who visit.

We look forward to welcoming you to our pages during 2013.

Most popular pages


Home page 53%
Blogs/Discussion Groups 8%
Acronyms Page 6%
News Page 5%
What’s best for preserving wine: Vacuum or Pressure? 4%
Events Page 3%
Welcome/Fáilte 3%
Test equipment in CIS region 3%
Fieldbus Page 3%
Education & Training Page 2%
Delivering operational excellence forum 1%
Static earthing protection for road tankers 1%
Radar level measurement best practice 1%
New Test + Measurement catalogue 1%
Developing a 3D Optical surface profilometer 1%
Wireless strain gauge sensors 1%

Our visitors came from:

Vistor locations!

Visitor locations!


United States 53.0%
Great Britain 8.4%
Germany 7.5%
India 6.6%
France 4.7%
Norway 4.6%
Russia 4.4%
Ireland 2.8%
Netherlands 1.4%
Republic of Korea (South) 1.1%
Canada 0.6%
Australia 0.5%
Brazil 0.5%

• Note that the figure for the US is probably exagerated as a lot of .com IDs are included here and not all are located in the USA.


#Autofair Windy city was host to impressive 20th anniversary event!

21/11/2011

An impressive 12000 people attended he 20th anniversary Rockwell Automation Fair® event which this year was held in Chicago in November. It is regarded by manufacturers, media and analysts as one of the the premier automation industry event in the calander.

Wrapt attention during discussion at Rockwell Automation Fair

Rockwell Automation and its partners aimed to share insights on smart, safe, sustainable solutions that can help customers optimize their plants, improve performance of their machines and manufacture products in a more sustainable manner. As with many of the events crowding the automation calender this year, we at Read-out had to content ourselves with a virtual presence with a heavy reliance on tweetaholics  (#autofair #PSUG #ROKsaf) who kept those of us who were afar more closely connected with events as they happened. As is usual with such events we prominently highlighted the event on our home page!

Press releases and other reports on this event are shown in the box on the right!

Releases issued during #AutoFair
• Manufacturing footprint in Brazil to double!
• $6m + Order placed by Korean ship builder
• Direct link to control & business systems for enhanced manufacturing intelligence
• 12,000 attend 20th Automation Fair in Chicago
• Power Range of AC Drives extended
• Integrated architecture delivers new dimension of scalability
• Zinc smelting automation system order for Hobart
• PlantPAx process automation system extended
• Top ten innovations of integrated architecture


• Safety is good business
• Back to Basics with Functional Safety (Greg Hale ISS Source)

Show News!

• Day 1 Live from Chicago
• Day 2 Live from Chicago
• Day 3 Live from Chicago

• Join Automation Fair discussions on LinkedIn
• See also their facebook page!
Photo’s from Safety Forum

Safety
As may be gleaned from the hashtags mentioned above there are in fact a number of conferences intertwined at this event. The first is the Safety Automation Forum, which is actually held on the twop days immediatly poreceeding the Automation Day proper. In effect it sets the stage for Automation Fair, showcasing some of their “most elite customers” who shared best practices and demonstrated how they have deployed successful safety programs that improve business performance. It also included technical training sessions and networking opportunities.  Presentations from this part of the event may be found on Rockwell’s Slideshare site. Greg Hale recorded impressions of some of these presentations in his ISS Source site (see links in box on right!). There are also some short comments on the Safety Forum on Rockwell’s YouTube site!

PSUG
The second co-event was the Process Solution User Group (PSUG). This provided the opportunity for over 800 delegates to discover ways to achieve process automation excellence and gain a competitive advantage by interacting with peers and industry experts who are improving their processes, creating new revenue streams and establishing best practices. This was also held during the two days preceeding the main event. I caught this  from the ubiquitous Walt Boyes who tweeted “Edwards:”I didn’t talk about Stuxnet because there is already so much info in the press about it.” But the most intriguing tweet we saw under #PSUG was  “Check it out on YouTube  #PSUG opens with a stirring Chicago-style rendering of “I Got Them Process Blues.”

AutoFair
Automation Fair proper was well covered by Putman, publishers of ControlGlobal in their reports in the Show Daily. Another tweet stated “There were more customers at Automation Fair in Chicago than I have seen at any of the previous events!”

• Among the co-exhibitors was Cisco and their Peter Granger blogged on his journey to the show We’re not going to crash? Do I really want to know? TMI! before neatly telling us of their exhibit. (His stand might not have been mentioned had he not told us of his adventure – who says social media doesn’t work?). They have some videos of their exhibt too on their Cisco YouTube Channel!
• Pepperl+Fuchs tweeted “Whew! It’s been busy so far! Taking a quick break…stop by and see us at booth 116 today!” (Nice pic guys!).
• Rumsey  Electric got in the fun spirit of things too “Feel like a kid again and stop by booth 833 to see sensors and classic toy cars in action!
• RacOman were offering a free iPad 2 on Booth 225.
• Eric Gory of Molex demonstrated the new Profibus Remote module live on the floor.
• “More than 150 media from around the world are at this year’s #Manufacturing Perspectives @ #autofair. Record attendance for the event,” reported Canadian publication Manufacturing Automation.

The Rockwell Automation Fair was a different experience for us than the other shows we have attended using twitter. There were not that many tweets but as a company Rockwell have utilised a lot of media and in our opinion quite cleverly. They have used many, mercifully short, videos on YouTube to provide information. They have not been shy in using twitter and other social networking platforms to publicise the event and some of this expertese seems to be catching on among some – though by no means all – of their partner companies.

In the accompaning exhibition area many of Rockwell’s partner companys demonstrated their products and technologies.  Also there were many of Rockwell’s own products and applications on display and demonstrated!

As another record-breaking Automation Fair drew to a close, it was time to mark the calendar for Automation Fair 2012, when the “biggest automation experience on the planet” goes to the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia.  The date is 6th November.

This message was retweeted a number of times “Thanks to Rockwell Automation for another great #autofair. I learned a lot.”  and “Chicago will be tough to out-do but we are looking forward to planning next years in Philly!”


Triumph on Mobile Bay – ISA plays to strengths

24/10/2011

To mutilate the word’s of Stephen Foster “I went to Alabama with a banjo on my knee…” The words were in my head and though the instrument in which I was interested wasn’t a banjo, I was going to Alabama to the 2nd ISA Automation week which was held in the old town of Mobile on the shore of a shimmering bay. It was my first visit to the state and the city and I was impressed by several things. The city itself was old and manageable, the people were friendly and the conference facilities were worthy of a city three times the size. Indeed better than most.

Having had some misgivings after the 1st Automation Week in Houston (see our blog Debacle or basis for development? Oct 2010) it was with some anxiety that attendees and especially exhibitors braved the sometimes convoluted skyways to the small Mobile Regional Airport.

They needn’t have had any worries. A resurgent ISA rose to meet that challenge and turned a fairly large and influential band of critics to acknowledge the success of the effort.

Lessons learned
The event learned many lessons from the first Automation Week. The Exhibition Area was open all day for a start instead of the “better than my job’s worth” closing during the conference sessions. This facilitated casual visitors and indeed interactivity between the booth personnel. The site was WiFi enabled throughout and this connection was free with no fussy procedures like registering or passwords.

Mardi Gras Party at #ISAutowk (Pic Jon DiPietro)

A master stroke was the decision to provide a free lunch to all the attendees, and to hold that lunch inside the supplier showcase. This ensured an excellent attendance at the showcase and multiple opportunities to network and for interaction between conference attendees and exhibitors. In addition there were daily themes – Students on the Wednesday and Technicians on the Thursday – as well as other events such as the presentation of awards to Authors on the tuesday and the Mardi Gras party held in association with FIRST the organisation set up to encourage young people to engage in technology and engineering. (Every denizen of Mobile proudly informed us  that Mardi Gras was first celebrated in that city in 1703 which was 15 years before runners-in New Orleans was founded!)

E-News
A daily e-newsletter was published each day of the event!

Day One
Day Two
Day Three

Picture Highlights

More pics on ISA Facebook Page


Post Event Message from ISA President Staples (Nov’11)

Another departure was the provision of an electronic Automation Week Daily comprising reports and impressions for each day. This was largely the work of volunteers and InTech & Automation.com staff, who fed articles to the professionals for formating. Sterling work here by Emily Kovac who sat patiently over a hot computer in the press room receiving the work of the writers.

Quality Content
But of course the highlight of the event was the conference sessions, a series of talks and discussions organised under various themes. These followed a keynote address each morning. The Technical Conference Organising Committee headed by veteran Automation guru, Greg McMillan ably abetted by deputy Dean Ford produced an enviable programme which with the associated training sessions were described by Control’s Editor in Chief Walt Boyes, as “a classic ISA symposium– but on steroids!”

One of these was a Tribute to Greg Shinskey which consisted of a panel lead be Nick Sands comprising Greg McMillan and Terry Tolliver, ISA Fellows, who both gave examples of how their lives in automation were influenced by Shinskey. This tribute included the first screening of an exclusive interview by Greg McMillan of Greg Shinskey on his latest thoughts on how to make the most of the PID controller for improving process efficiency and capacity – Shinskey and the Best of Process Control.

Keynotes to die for
The keynotes had Charlie Cutler on the first morning talking on “The Status of Real-Time Optimization and Multivariable Predictive Control” and held a full hall enthralled for the duration of his talk. Though hardly an exciting speaker in terms of delivery the quality of the content  held everybody’s attention.

Charlie Cutler, Greg McMillan, Terry Tolliver, Ross Rhinehart and Béla Lipták has the floor (Pic Jon DiPietro)

On day two there was a formidable “all star” panel of experts representing a probable four or five hundred years of cumulative automation knowledge at the one table (see pic)!  This gave a fascination vision of each experts perceptions of the past and looking forward to the future of automation. They shared their knowledge which they considered essential for advancing the use of process automation and optimisation. We gained insights on the best existing practices and new possibilities for the use of process automation and optimization for improving individual unit operation performance and overall manufacturing efficiency and capacity.

The keynote for day three was the incomparable Béla Lipták. This was to include a description of the latest developments in industrial automation, covering sensors, valves, controllers, optimization of unit operations, safety, and displays. His explained how the control and modeling techniques developed for industry are also applicable to build models for non-industrial processes. A copy of his presentation was given to each attendee and as his talk could have lasted a number of hours he indicated in advance those “slides” he would be using and those which we could study ourselves later. Would that all presenters were as considerate!

Tracks and finding ‘em
The sessions which followed were well organised and gave valuable information to attendees. The tracks and their organisers are listed here:

Advanced Process Control Techniques: Russ Rhinehardt
Analyzers: Jim Tatera
Automation & Control System Design: John Munro
Energy: Don Labbe
Human Asset Optimisation: Brian Bridgewater
Installation, Operations & Maintenance: Greg Lehmann
Safety & Security: Ed Marszal & Greg Speake
Wireless Technology and Applications: Brad Carlberg

More than one participant remarked on the professionalism and the quality of content. All in all it was in the strong ISA tradition of utilising the volunteers unique knowledge and experience to provide top-class and useful information and techniques for use in the application of modern automation in process and manufacturing.

As in the previous event there was the possibility of planning a visit to Automation Week before hand and on-line by using the Pathfinder system to act as a guide to selecting a unique combination of sessions—a
conference “path”—suited to individual job function and professional goals. Technical tracks were designed to provide in-depth knowledge of various subject areas through comprehensive presentations and tutorials. Each sesion was catagorised under one or more of the following headings: Engineer, Technician, Management, Marketing and Academia/R&D/ Scientist.

The only real complaint we have heard is the fact that the proceedings were not available and would not be available for some weeks.

Recognition
There were other peripheral events too like the Honours & Awards Gala on the Monday evening where the society honours the great and the good of the Automation world. This year the societies highest honour was bestowed on Andy Chatha, President and CEO of ARC Advisory Group who was made an Honorary Member.

The Industries and Sciences and the Automation and Technology Departments of ISA recognised
the efforts of ISA Technical Division Volunteers and Officers at the Joint A&T and I&S Awards Luncheon. That evening a short ceremony and buffet to honour authors in ISA publications including InTech, ISA Transactions, Papers and Standards. A further lunchon on the Wednesday recognised the ISA’s Analysis Division leaders and paper authors.

A view of the exhibition floor

Networking opportunities
There were two events on the show floor on Tuesday night. The Divisions Spotlight Showcase was one Membership in ISA Divisions connects members to a global network of professionals with their technical and/or industry interest. Vistors met new professional colleagues and reconnected with other industry professionals who share their interests, in a casual, fun environment.

A firm celebration at ISA events through the years has been the YAPFEST, where attendees—young automation professionals (YAPs) and college students interested in careers in automation meet and share positive experiences about being a part of a professional society like ISA.

As we mentioned above the Mardi Gras party was held on the Wednesday and a fun time was had by all. The celebrations ended with a draw for a muliplicity of prizes ranging from iPads, Fluke multimeters to tee-shirts and a free ride with NASCAR driver Jennifer Jo Cobb, and her truck on the race track. (She  had made a pit-stop with her slightly damaged vehicle, on Tuesday & Thursday to edify the small boy in many of the engineers visiting the event!)

Predatary tweeting! #ISAutowk
The ready availability of WiFi meant that people were able to share experiences with the the Automation Community unable for one reason or another. Attendees were encouraged to tweet their comments and experiences. Indeed it was an opportunity for inveterate tweeters, who had become firm friends though they had never met. Thus this correspondent while making his way to the first keynote received the following tweet on his phone, “Am at the back of the hall working on my presentation, where are you?” It was from @jimcahill, Emerson’s éminence grise of the internet and Emerson Process Experts Blogger. I was finally able to meet him and tell him how to pronounce his name properly! A flurry of tweets followed between us and many others in the hall and gradually a steady of tweets eminated from the various sessions and from other outside. These were relayed to all and sundry on a special tweet screen in the Conference Centre. In short to quote @greg_lehmann “Fun and Informative ‘real’ times were had tweeting at #ISAutowk see you next year in Orlando!” The term “Predatary Tweeter” was coined and a suggestion made for the design of a new tee-shirt bearing this epithet!

Look and see!
The intrepid work of Jon DiPietro, who also delivered one of the sessions in Using Social Media to your Advantage on Personal Inbound Marketing, ensured that some of the presentations were livestreamed or recorded on video for those not present or for looking at at a later stage. These may be found on the new ISA Interchange Livestream page.

Conclusion
The most pithy comments on the event may be left to the tweeters “Great job 4 #ISAutoWeek! “
“Yes indeed! #isautowk. Let’s go back in 2013!” and “Fun and Informative ‘real’ times were had tweeting at #ISAutoWK. ” But perhaps the best accolade I’ve seen so far is this from Walt Boyes: “ISA has finally figured out what they do best, and what they can best leverage the strength and capabilites of the volunteers and ISA members to do. ISA does red hot symposia– with allied training and tabletop showcases for vendors.”

We look forward the Automation Week 3 next September in Orlando, Florida (USA, 24-27 September 2012). It has a lot to live up to and under the gifted programme chairmanship of Dr Peter Martin I am sure the Mobile event will be equalled if not exceeded.

Well done ISA!

Other Blogs/Releases
ISA Automation Week 2011 Features Knowledge and Networking (Inderpreet ShokerARC Advisory 27/10/2011)
ISA honors authors at awards ceremony (Susan Colwell ISA Interchange 30/10/2011)
ISA Automation Week Rebounds from Last Year’s Disaster (Walt Boyes Control 20/10/2010)
ISA Automation Week 2011 Wraps Up, Heads to Orlando for 2012 (ISA RElease 20/10/2010)
Other Releases etc on Automation Week (Various Dates)


Would you believe? Figuring numbers!

06/09/2011

I don’t know what it is but statistics and percentages  have always fascinated me and most days I look at simple figures related to the number of people who read the Read-out (and my personal) blogs not to mention those who sign-up to follow us on facebook, twitter and linked-in. Every so often I blog about these but the fascination continues. The last time was in February of this year – Of pages, blogs and stats,  and a a year earlier and in more detail we spoke of, Lies damn lies and statistics (Jan 2010).

Algorithms of search defeat us!

I have not got into anything too sophisticated, things like SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and stuff like that which I am inclined to leave to the experts. In fact what little I’ve seen (or understood) of these things seem in some ways fruitless because Google (and presumably other search engines) seems to change the algorithms they use just as soon as anyone seems to be getting the hang of how their calculations are made!

I suppose one could say that statistics are the “old way” of measuring things! It used to be the only way of measuring reaction to what was published on the web, and it does do that!  However they are somewhat impersonal when one considers what the web and the internet has become. Now that everyone is a potential publisher or webmaster numbers possibly become less and less relevant. The market has shrunk as it has grown! Seth Godin asks the question “What does the world look like when we get to the next zero?” in his blog Consumers and Creators. In any case I enjoy statistics, especially if they can be interpreted favourably, and they nearly always can!

Read-out has never shied away from giving these stats and have maintained archive of statistics of visits – sessions – hits since the start of the century. These show rises and falls over the years. Take a look, starting at this years stats to date.

Sometimes there is a big surprise in which items achieve the most visits, sometimes not. For instance the most looked at blog in the last seven days is Abominable security commitment! (11th Aug’11)  And it is also the most looked at during the past month. Not surprising really with all the controversy and worry around Stuxnet and its implications and the work of Eric Byres and others has been invaluable to the automation sector.  The number of people visiting this particular item has no doubt been helped by an item and link in Control Global last week – Stuxnet Overview!

(The more recent news last Thursday of the link-up between Byres’ company and Belden which we reported last Thursday has attracted a fair few viewers over the usually slack weekend period!)

However when we look at the past year – or indeed at the whole period since the inception of our WordPress blog site (March 2009) the most visited blog has been a paper Radar level measurement best practice (10 Sep”10) by Emerson’s Sarah Parker. I certainly could not have predicted that.

As always I suppose the interesting places perhaps are those in secondary positions in the field, creeping up, as it were, on the front runners.

Average monthly visitors to Read-out blogs!

Looking at the All Time figures well number two is again a Stuxnet page, this time Nick Denbow’s Stuxnet – not from a bored schoolboy prankster! (27 Sept’09). So I guess we should continue to keep an eye on anything to do with security. This is followed by a story Taking Invensys seriously!  (2nd July’09) on the belief that that company was “poised for a renaissance.” Jim Pinto’s recent item Invensys for sale, in his newsletter no doubt will lead to more blogs on this company. This is followed by an article from Newson Gales’s Mike O’Brien, Static earthing protection for road tankers  (26 Nov’10). Is there a pattern emerging? I’ll leave that to you dear reader to decypher!

Of course most of these figures are false in one way or another because by far and away the most visits are paid to the story of the day which obviously changes from time to time. Today’s story may be looked at frequently but without too much time consuming work I can’t work out over a period which story has the most “look-at” stats while they were the “home page” or the page looked at if the visitor just goes to the blog willy nilly.

So how are we progressing – blog wise – in the statistics stakes.

As we said we started blogging in March 2009 and since then have been fairly consistent in our blogging stories with what can be said to be an eclectic mix of automation stories or at leaset loosly related to that discipline. From low of 62 in that first month we have progressively climbed to an average of 2500 per month. Whether that is good bad or indifferent I leave others to decide but indubitably 2500 is a better figure than 62!

And what about the other social networking platforms?

Twitter

I’ve been on twitter for nigh on two years and the number of followers has steadily grown, not exponetially but the numbers exceed 400 now and there is a steady increase of a few a week of relevent followers. We do get the odd follower collector but I do take a look at each newbie and block those who are merely selling recreational and other drugs, themselves or just like to add people to their list. We don’t list aor link all our blogs here but those we think will particularly be of interest. We also put some personal links (in several languages!) here but Read-out related material will be in English or American. In fact I notice rater alarmingly that I have tweeted almost 5000 times since I started.

Facebook
The Read-out facebook page is where all our blogs are listed as they are uploaded. In some ways this was the most disappointing of all the social-media sites in that it took a very long time to take off. We got about 30 “likes” in the first few weeks and then it crawled up to the current level of 112. It has a nice feature though in that this can be included in a box on our website which shows the latest two or three stories and has a scroll-up/down feature. (I also have a personal facebook page which is usually purely social, hobby and family stuff and for revealing personal peeves!) See Jon DiPietro’s 7 Reasons to Include Facebook Fan Pages In Your Marketing to understand the marketing importance of having a facebook presence.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is our latest social media presence. I actually haven’t yet worked out how fully to use it properly though the number and type of followers accumulated is by far and away the most and the most relevant to automation. Currently standing at about 420 “connections” it is also the place where I find more Irish automation people than either facebook or twitter. All tweets are automatically posted on my LinkedIn site.

On occasion we have looked at the possibility of measuring email effectiveness. How many people actually read your e-newsletter? This blog from Chris Rand, Open Rate: just an indication that your emails arrived, expresses our feelings exactly.

In passing the figures for our read-out.net main website remain relatively stable now at an average of around 15000 visitors looking at 40000 pages.

Average visits versus number of pages viewed on read-out.net


Significant changes for Automation press in Britain

11/11/2010

The November issue of Industrial Automation is jam-packed with automation news and views. This article on the automation publishing scene in Britain is fascinating and we reproduce by kind permission of editor Nick Denbow.

It seems that 2010 is the year for editorial changes in the UK based automation press, not least of which was of course the retirement of Andrew Bond from the full time editor on the INSIDER. (see Automation publication changes ownership in September 2010)

The most significant news this month is that Michael Babb, Editor of Control Engineering Europe (CEE), intends to retire after the November2010 issue.

Michael Babb

Michael was the original Control Engineering USA “Man on the spot”, reporting from Europe for the US journal, and also providing a European edition of the journal. CEE ceased its bimonthly publication in December 2002, but then Michael continued as editor when the IML publishing group licensed the title from Reed Business Information and started publication again in April 2003. The INSIDER of August 2004 then reported on the incorporation of the IML magazine Plant and Control Engineering into a UK edition of CEE, to add specific UK interest.

Throughout all these changes Michael has been the lynch-pin and main driver for CEE, because of the depth of his industry knowledge and expertise.

Future of CE Europe
The current publisher of CEE, Dan Jago of IML, is naturally sad to see Michael retire, as he acknowledges the part he has played over a long period, from his base in South Wales. It is also fitting that in his final issue he will be reporting on the SPS/ IPC/Drives exhibition in Nuremberg, the European show that he rates highest of all for the automation industry. The CEE title has been re-licensed from the new owners of the Control Engineering magazine in the USA, CFE Media of Chicago, (see also A Good news story May 2010)who will also continue the relationship developed with the CE publications licensed in Poland and Russia to Michael Majchrzak as editor- in-chief. Jago insists CEE will continue in a printed paper format, quoted as approximately bi-monthly – at least having six issues a year.

Moves from Datateam
The new approach for CE Europe at IML has been to recruit Suzanne Gill as editor, who is the ex-editor of Automation, a rival title from the Datateam publisher (in the UK context). Jago advises that IML will then build on having totally office-based staff in Tonbridge, Kent, with a new weekly email newsletter across the EU and the Middle East, a re-vamped website, and other as yet unspecified services. Rival publisher Datateam, having lost Suzanne Gill after maternity leave, also faced the hopefully temporary loss of Michelle Lea in August, on maternity leave – she has now had twins: Lea is another experienced editor, having been in charge of the UK journal Process & Control.

Further changes by IML
However, last month IML also decided that they no longer needed an editor for the HazardEx journal, a slot filled for the past seven years by long experienced control and automation editor, Paul Gay.

Paul Gay

Having started the UK magazine Control Systems in the 1980s, Paul also spent time on Automation, then becoming editor of the UK journal Control and Instrumentation (C+I) for publishers Centaur. In 2002 C+I transformed into Integrated Manufacturing Solutions, which never really got very far. C+I continuation was promised at least in spirit, on the web, as a named section of the (also ill-fated) Centaur e4engineering portal website. This has now transformed into the website for The Engineer magazine, from Centaur, who also publish the UK journal Process Engineering, and acquired the Pro-Talk websites some 5 years ago. Interestingly the Processingtalk website, which your INSIDER editor left in April, now has its newsletter material absorbed into a section of the website for The Engineer, under the header of Process Engineering: needless to say no C+I section is visible. The HazardEx journal had established a European and Middle Eastern readership, based on the well-established HazardEx conferences, but is now being re-aligned and restyled: meanwhile Paul Gay continues with another editing role for a different publisher on the UK journal Fastening and Assembly Solutions.

This item appears in the November issue of Industrial Automation Insider.

We have also learned of some changes at What’s New In Industry (WNII) with the departure of David Keighley.


It was a good two days!

09/11/2010

An eagle's eye view of #AutoFair!

I’m beginning to loose count, yes, it was the fourth automation conference of this Autumn season that we prefaced with our blog, Two hectic weeks, possibly a misnomer since in reality it was in fact nearly six weeks when we take Invensys OpsManage as well as Emerson’s User Group Exchange and the first ISA Automation Week (which we actually attended physically) and now Rockwell’s Automation Fair last week. This was held in Orlando in Florida (US) this year (as was the Invensys event!).

The 2010 Post-Automation Fair website showcases resources from this annual event, including presentations, product demos, keynotes and much more. Walk the Showroom Floor to experience the Rockwell Automation booths from the 2010.
3rd – 4th Dec 2010.
15 Technical Streams

Sneak Preview – are you ready?

Pictures (ROK)
ROKAutomation’s Channel (Videos)

The JournalRA’s Channel (more videos)
Some of the presentations (Slideshare)

Press Releases:
Rockwell Automation Opens Doors to 19th Annual Automation Fair Event (3/11/2011)
Latest Generation PlantPAx Process Automation System (1/11/2011)

ControGlobal #AutoFair eNews

Editorial/Blogs etc

PepsiCo’s machine Safety Approach  (Joe Feeley, FoodProcessing.com 12/7/2011)

Process, Safety, “Greenprint,” and Economic Recovery Highlight Automation Fair 2010 (Craig Resnick and John Blanchard – ARC advisory 14/1/2011()

Smart, Safe & Sustainable Manufacturing (Bill Lydon Automation.com December 2010)

Social media marketing truly is elsewhere (Automation News 22/11/2010)

Rockwell’s Automation Fair draws a crowd (Automation World 9/11/2010)

Video Essay wrap-up (Gary Mintchell 9/11/2010)

Invensys IOM strategy explained (Jim Pinto 9/11/2010)

Thousands Descend On Orlando and Rockwell’s Automation Fair (Gary Mintchell 8/11/2010)

Where are our editors? Where is Walt? (Walt Boyes 4/11/2010)

Interview with Rick Sabo of item North America (YouTube Theresa Houck 3/11/2010)

Highlights top 10 enhancements showcased in the IA booth (Podcast)

Rockwell Process Continues To Build Momentum (Gary Mintchell 1/11/2010)

CISCO at #AutoFair (youTube 29/10/2010)

Follow #autofair on twitter; als0
#psug and Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, and YouTube

What we said about last year’s event held in Anaheim: Automation Fair produces many reports!


This article from Telesian talks about Rockwell’s plans for integrating Social Media.

So what was it like to attend vicariously via twitter and the various social networking sites? The title above “It was a good two days!” is a tweet made at the end of the week.

Well as with the other shows our only measure is in fact these tweets telling us how things are progressing and where to find stuff. We tried to keep up with these on our Read-out Instrumentation Signpost Home page. The final tweet we have used as a title to this piece! “It was a good two days!”

Many of us were curious as to just how many tweeters there would be, and we had something to measure against in the previous three events. Gary Mintchel voiced this “We’ll see how many tweeters they have.!” Indeed Rockwell themselves are prolific tweeters and my Twtterrific had quite a number of tweets from the ubiquitous but sadly anonomous @Automation Fair in the weeks leading up to the event giving links and little morsels of what was in store for attendees and how to book a place. I wasn’t conscious of such a build with the other events. (See article linked at bottom of box on right on Rockwell and Social Media!). It is always exciting to szee tweets from people as the pack, board planes or “Just crossed into FL on my way.” Hopefully tweeted from a car and not from a plane!

The event proper started on the 4th November but there were the build-up allied-event Process Solutions User Group (#PSUG) with educational sessions, keynotes (including ARC’s Larry O’Brien who addressed “Top Challenges of End Users in Process Automation”), applications. This attracted around 65o delegates and the meaty tweets started immediately.

“John Nesi VP Market Development talks about the global economy and where Rockwell sees themselves going.”…”Nesi: ‘Sustainabilty is about putting productivity to work in environmentally friendly ways’…”Need to track and report carbon emissions is ‘looming necessity’ for manufacturers”….”Convergence of automation and information systems….” and “‘Rockwell realigning global solutions biz around vertical industries!’ says Som Chakraborti”…”Larger CapEx projects and smaller skids are key avenues for PlantPAx application growth.”… and so on.

On that first day there were no fewer than 57 tweets from the meeting. However as more and more people began to descend on Orlando the number of tweets increased to 195 on the 2nd November and 142 on the third (when Automation Fair “proper” started) and to 111 on the final day. Obviously total exhaustion had set in by the 5th November when for brave souls tweeted – or perhaps croaked might be a better verb to use!

The event was well covered with a daily newsletter brought out by Walt Boyes, Nancy Bartels and Keith Larson of Control Global. Rockwell’s own Theresa Houck had a number of video interviews on the exhibition floor as well.

We purposefully avoid a detailed report in any of these event commentaries and have endevoured to give an impression as somebody not present and trying to glean as much while sitting in front of a laptop. The links are from  people who were there in person and therefore have a better idea of the atmosphere etc. The links are given in the box on the right hand side.

So now’s the time to rest? Yes? No I’m afraid not. Automation ISA2010 is on in Brazil from 7th November, OpsManage EURO in Paris the folowing week, SPS/IPC/Drives the week after in Nuremberg, and as if that weren’t enough Christmas is coming on 25th December….

The Next #Autofair is in Chicago November 16-17, 2011

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