Failing to make a hash of it!

Many of our readers and followers know how we like to keep an eye on tweets from User Group meetings especially those which are held far away from our base here in Ireland. Most of these, though not all of these are held in the US and because of the time difference we are able to get a good morning’s work in before concentrating on the tweets which start to perculate through around our lunch time.

If you wish to see how we handle these reports take a look at the reports linked to from our Conference Release blog, where we list these reports on the Right Hand Column. The most important and indeed vital aid to spotting these tweets in the invaluable # (Hash Tag) facility allowed by twitter.  Twitter literate companies decide themselves what these are in most cases while others are invented by participants and sometimes become nearly universally used by others.

Strangely the Yokokawa User Group, held last week in New Orleans (LA USA) was extremely unusual in that no hash tag materilaised. One or two of my followers did tweet from there however when I asked one if there was a hastag I got the response, ” Asked a couple of folks but none that we’re aware of!” and “Yeah, I looked for a hashtag, but couldn’t find one. I’m surprised Yokogawa (apparently) didn’t set one up!”

Because of this, this impression from afar blog is certainly short  on any real impression of atmosphere, excitement or anything like that. Which means that this report will be fairly anodyne which is sad! I couldn’t even find a picture from the even with the exception of one of the goodies which attendees were presented  – which we don’t show here in order not to encourage sentiments of envy!

Our impressions are thus mostly from the professionally prepared daily reports from the Control Global Team. There are also some reports on individual talks published on-line by ISS Source.

Day 1
Day one included a keynote (Growing Globally, Yokogawa Takes Aim at U.S. Gas Industry) from Satoru Kurosu, a Senior VP of the company which outlined the current and future plans. He alos included a sincere note of appreciaition US aid following the terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami which part of Japan in the previous year. He likened the response to the bottom half of the company “kite” symbol. “The squared off edges on the top half of the kite refer to Yokogawa’s cutting edge technology,” he said, “while the curves of the bottom half of the kite refer to the warm-hearted nature of Yokogawa’s people.”

This address was covered also by Automation World  in their report on the first day. This report,Yokogawa Welcomes Many to New Orleans, Introduces Productswhich also includes, as the title indicates, details of products launched or highlighted at the conference.

“I have heard upper management and control engineers say we have to air gap the plant floor,” said Eric Byres, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering at Tofino Security during his session Tuesday on “Unicorns and Air Gaps – Do they Really Exist” and reported in ISS Source (Disavowing Air Gaps“That is very attractive, but who really thinks that exists? Air gaps are a dangerous illusion.”

Day 2
In this week of all weeks, following the cataclysmic events in the North Eastern States of the US (and indeed the events in Japan alluded to by Satoru Kurusu above), the images summoned by ARC Advisory’s Peter Reynolds (Winds of Change Complicate Automation Lifecycle) were arresting. “Change wouldn’t be so bad-if it wasn’t happening so fast. But just like the winds in tornados and hurricanes can turn common objects into missiles, the sheer velocity of technical and organisational change can make it difficult and even dangerous to handle.” One of the points he made, which echoed Eric Byres the previous day, was the lakadaisacal attitude of many system operators and integrators to the question of security.

This day also produced the following intriguing tweet: “Great #PAuto analogy from Ian Nimmo at Yokogawa conf. What would happen if pilots flew airplanes by alarms?” Scary eh? Ian Nimmo is President and a founder of User Centered Design Services an ASM Consortium affiliate member and an ASM service provider.  “Control systems have improved plant operations, but what happens when they fail to keep the process under control?”  he asked.

Day 3
We always try to attend Jon DiPietro’s talks and (despite the fact that Yokogawa had not thought of designating a hash tag) he was invited to address this group on the third day on “Social Media: ‘SCADA for Your Career’” Jon, author of the essential read “Social Media for Engineers and Scientists“, emphasised his message in terms all automation professionas would understand. “You might be able to run a refinery without PLCs, but you would not do it. And you could manage your career without social media, but you should not do that either!”  Modern life is moving and in many cases is arriving at a new level, a paradigm shift to use an over used and parhaps little understood word. “These days, you can’t just do your job well. You also have to tell people about it,” DiPietro states. “This means being authentic, participating in groups, answering questions and building trust. People don’t care about your products and services. They only care about how you can help them solve their problems.” 

As can be seen from the above there were very relavent talks and discussions for the automation professional during this event. We get yet another view of our industry at each of these events but it is important that what happens is visible to those of us who cannot make the journey to the venue and experience it ourselves. In the words of Jon DiPietro, “These days, you can’t just do your job well. You also have to tell people about it.”  And perhaps this User Group should think more of those people who are not there in person too, who might be aided by a common hash tag.

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