Showing our information age

Editor in Chief Joe Feeley constantly wonders how we can better present content to you, without wasting your time, and in a way that heads you in the right direction in your product research on the web.

By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

Joe FeeleyThe new installment of our buying habits study [“More Wired Than Before] takes the cover story slot this month. We spotlight the results of several areas we began to track last year. We also try to nail down the newer trends that have important influences on the way you research, specify, and buy your automation and controls.

Those of you who participated—and my sincere thanks for that—told us, among other things, what you think about supplier websites. I hope the vendors pay some attention because you said there’s more you don’t like about those sites than you like. Nonetheless, you’ll see that it’s most often the starting point on the Internet for your searches.

You weighed in on the “Google” effect of search as well. We’ve been watching that for a while. From where I sit, technical search on Google clearly is getting harder, not easier. Sure, the right keyword search will get you thousands, millions, of hits. Great. Now, how do you cull out the few really good ones from the old and biased or misleading and irrelevant results?

One respondent comment seemed to sum up Google well: “It’s a lot of work to go through the list, but there’s no better web-based research tool for me at this point.”

That says to me that has a terrific opportunity to be a portal that can get you headed in the right direction in your product research and, equally important, not waste your time. It also says we’re not there yet. Point taken, but don’t bet against us.

Along similar lines, there are three other related items about machine automation information to talk about.

We’re trying to figure out how to provide useful information to you in—what used to be considered unconventional—delivery vehicles such as audio MP3/podcasts, webcasts, and web logs—yes, yes, the revered while simultaneously reviled “blog.”

What content would make you listen—on your computer or as a download on the way home in your car—to a conversation among machine builder controls professionals, system integrators, and maybe even a Control Design editor about the current and/or future state of machine automation?

If we build a blog gathering place, what’s the secret that would make you go there and weigh-in on the challenging, sensible, and inane thoughts that get posted? Our research thus far tells us you don’t think much of these tools. Understood, but is it the delivery vehicle or the value of the content? Clearly, we need your counsel more than ever.

Next, we’ve received really positive reaction from you about columnist Jeremy Pollard’s recent reviews of two PLC training books: "Back to the Books: PLC Easy Reader" and "PLC Home Companion."

He did a terrific job on these but, while Jeremy’s our 800-lb. gorilla on everything PLC, he doesn’t have the book-review market cornered here. If any of you would like to review a book about a relevant machine automation subject, I’d like to talk about putting it in the magazine. Just let me know what you propose.

Finally, there’s a continuing big reaction to Dan Hebert’s Mojo column about the proper construct of an engineering curriculum, the fundamental building block of automation information gathering. He advocated a bit more of a “real-life” elective option in a typical semester [Less Math = Better Engineers].

I suspect there’s more to be heard and said about this and all subjects above, so, whatever you do, don’t be reluctant to tell us.

You make us better when you do.