December 2003. We had the first few issues of Automation World published after a hectic startup period. I had been researching this new thing called blogging. During a couple of weeks of downtime around the holidays, I acted on the research.

Dave Winer developed one of the earliest blogging tools. I went to Radio Userland and constructed a simple blogging website—Gary’s Radio Weblog. Then I played with developing content. During my five years post-manufacturing career at Control Engineering magazine, I had developed a discipline of rising early, reading some industry news, and posting to the CE news site. I took that discipline to my new site.

Soon, I was “live blogging” from news conferences. It attracted an industrial geek following. Of course sales people are always looking for something new to sell. The AW sales team wanted to sell something around my blog. I, however, wanted to keep it personal. We compromised. I renamed the blog to Gary Mintchell’s Feed Forward (a process control term and the title of my Editorial Page in the magazine). We used it to front an email newsletter.

Soon my colleague/competitor Walt Boyes was blogging and then Jim Cahill at Emerson began calling himself “Chief Blogger” and we had a little industrial technology blog community. Unfortunately, Walt’s bosses (with a scarcity mindset) made him take his blog into the magazine and it was buried. It was a loss for the community and not much of a gain for the company. Happily, Emerson stuck with Jim Cahill who has proven the value of blogging to marketing effort. Almost all companies have added blogging to their marketing effort (while ceasing advertising). Almost no magazines truly blog.

I had a vision of developing a stable of blogs within Automation World but circumstances intervened (new owners, new bosses) and it was time for me to leave. It’s a shame that they never developed a true stable of blogs. My forte was that I was never and never wanted to be a journalist. I had technical and classical liberal arts training and just wanted to write. I have seen few trained journalists at any level in the past 20 years who have been able to transition to blogging. On the other hand celebrities such as Tim Ferriss, Paul Graham, Tyler Cowan have made the most of blogging.

 The Manufacturing Connection became a front for business along with some sponsorships. Given the maturity and stagnation of the market, a lot of the side businesses withered and sponsorships have dwindled. It’s time for one last chapter before I get too old. 

In the meantime I have covered, in succession:

  • Control and Instrumentation
  • Automation
  • Networking—Fieldbus to Ethernet
  • Connected Enterprise—mostly meaning software
  • Internet of Things
  • IT to OT connection (including IT interest in manufacturing)
  • Standards
  • Software
  • Industry 4.0—cyberphysical systems and digital twin
  • Digtalization
  • Digital Transformation
  • AI / ML
  • And coming, workforce transformation
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