Almost six months on…
A personal account on how I use this new thing!
As a relative neophyte to this new thing called social media (who isn’t?) perhaps you will allow me to make a few observations.
In July published here was our comment on this as seen then which we called “What are you doing?“. This title was of course based on the question asked when you open Facebook or twitter.
Have things changed in the interim? Well, yes and no! As a publisher of material in the automation discipline. There are a few applications or platforms that I tend to use, some more than others, some for one purpose and some for others.
I check twitter every day. I use it almost exclusively for business. I find out through the postings here what is happening in the automation world. It is very interesting to see the companies which are harnessing this medium. Foremost of the automation companies is Emerson Process Management. For those interested there was almost a blow by blow account of happenings at their User Group meeting in Orlando at the end of September. This was primarily because they fostered and encouraged attendees to engage in social media and the result was that many people not attending (like this correspondent) could experience this event. Indeed some people felt that their experience was more comprehensive than had they attended in person. We published a report on this called “#EMRex tweets rule!” which was the hash tag that developed for it. Earlier there were user group meetings like NI Week ( Whose listening? Aug 2009) and the Honeywell User Group (HUG) which showed how the use of twitter was growing. The ISAExpo’09, which turned out to be the final exhibition from ISA in this format, and which we therfore reported as “The last picture show!” had some twittering but nothing as comprehensive as the EPM event, possible because it wasn’t embraced with the same enthusiasm by the principles or by those exhibiting.
We will, I assume have the usual reports from the various publications that serve world automation but these are “batch” reports while the “real-time” tweets are far more exciting and immediate.
One of the problems that this user has with twitter is the background noise where some of our automation professionals have interests outside of automation so one gets esoteric references to American Football (or is it Baseball) and to other interests including gardening, language activists, etc , etc. But they are but mild irritants in comparison to the information one can gain by daily perusal of twitter. The introduction recently of a “list” application to twitter may help to lessen this.
I check this from time to time. Mostly I use this for hobbies and other interests. There are some businesses that do use it but I usually avoid using facebook for business. I might use it to announce a new blog or something that I think is interesting in the area of social networking. Check “The chat room/forum problem” from Robert Scoble on facebook.
This is an almost exclusively business oriented platform. I am linked up to various groups and there are interesting discussions on some of these. One of the most interesting is the discussion with the provocative title of “Is ISA dying?” I don’t feel however that this is being used to its full capability or potential in the area of automation with a superfluity of announcements rather than much deep discussion.
This is the final platform that I use. This is an interesting one is that it permits secure networks for discussions, fora, chat even video conferencing (using a nice simple application called Tokbox). As a free platform it will I feel be a superb utility for the small business in whatever industry.
More and more I have noticed that these platforms point to blogs or blog-type web pages which allow for comments. This is of course the very nature of what is happening. The web presence that “wins” is the web presence that is easy to access, does not have a series of hoops to go through before you can actually get to the meat and finally does not charge for services that are available more easily and better presented than they are.
I often go to a site and start looking for information say on a product and the price and am confronted with a request to “register.” I don’t want to register I just want to know if you have a product that will do what I want and how much it is. Why do you need my email address? In just go away!
(Our own website read-out.net is completely free, you can see prices etc and it is only if you want to advertise or subscribe to our printed journal — €50 for two years — that we request your details. It is however an old site — like so many on the web and needs to “catch-up” with the latest that WEB advances have to offer. As they say “Watch this space!”)
One final point is the slowness of many manufacturers to use these platforms. The Emerson use of social networking is streets ahead of any of the others. The have staff, interested in social media and whom they appear to have given their head. This policy has advanced the company ahead of the others. One very interesting blogger is their Mike Boudreaux who tweets major plant disasters as they occur and updates as results of enquiry results are published. National Instruments too are not bad. They have an unique blogger in Todd, an Engineering Mind, who gets the message across with a smile. Companies like Invensys, Rockwell, Siemens and Endress + Hauser seem to post links rather than anything more stimulating.
Undoubtedly this is a difficult transition for many companies. It is difficult to assess how best to use this incredible resource. Many are afraid of it. All change is frightening and this is a momentous one. However it is exciting. It is an adventure.