Look For Good Writers When Hiring

[This is last week’s newsletter. You can sign up for a weekly (almost) newsletter by clicking the envelop icon on the right. I use Hey.com–an email service expressly designed to do away with tracking and other obnoxious Web practices.]

When we go to high school and university, we think we’re supposed to memorize many facts. It’s not a bad thing to learn and remember. The essential characteristics and behaviors of an educated person are these, however:

  • Ability to learn on your own
  • Ability to think clearly
  • Ability to express yourself clearly

Many people learn that one of the best ways to think is to write. I write a couple of thousand words a day. Often there is no clue when I begin a piece where it will end up. In the beginning is an idea—usually from my reading. Then there are thoughts on the initial idea. Then the ideas build upon themselves until there is an essay.

Perhaps you should consider this both when you are hiring new people and when you are counseling young people.

Recently the Rework podcast from the company called 37signals (developers of the HEY email platform where this newsletter resides) featured Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founders) sharing why writing is at the heart of the success of 37signals and why they believe it’s essential for every employee to be a skilled writer, regardless of their title or role.


Speaking of thinking, here is a thought from Nassim Nicholas Taleb from his book Fooled By Randomness, “Trading forces someone to think hard, those who merely work hard generally lose their focus and intellectual energy.”

I am assembling thoughts and notes for a webinar I am giving April 5 most likely on the Myths and Reality of Digital Transformation. One path I am exploring concerns change management and how these initiatives often run low on focus and intellectual energy. I guess maybe I’ve been involved in at least one too many of these.

If you have thoughts about this topic (or any topics), send an email to [email protected]


The more data we have the more likely we are to drown in it.—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness

Trade media and marketing types have touted “data as the new oil” or some such malarky for the past 8-9 years. That includes Internet of Things, sensor networks, MES, Industrie 4.0, and the like. Data is, indeed, useful. It’s impossible to perform 5 Why’s or other Lean initiatives without data.

Adding more sensors, more databases, moving compute to the edge, no, wait, move data to the cloud, connected everything, digital twins, and…whew!

Yes, you can drown if not careful. Be careful what you ask for!


Be sure to check out the latest news and thoughts on The Manufacturing Connection.


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More Thoughts On Emerson and NI plus Last Newsletter

My last newsletter coming from the ARC Forum of February 6-9. Sign up for newsletters by clicking on the envelop icon on the website or clicking here.

The annual ARC Industry Forum was last week. It was great to catch up with many people I have not seen for a while. Attendance was good considering there is now a Forum in Europe as well as Asia. Many do not have to travel so far. Attendees were energetic in the initial receptions and the conference tracks I attended attracted interest and questions.

I always have many meetings during the event. Sometimes more information is gleaned in hallway conversations, though.


There were several conversations regarding the pending Emerson acquisition of NI. My first reaction was somewhat negative thinking from an automation point of view. Emerson, duh, is a conglomerate. In order to grow, it requires acquisitions. Organic growth will not yield the growth Wall Street seeks. This acquisition would add markets and adjacent growth to Emerson’s current businesses. It has recently divested several business units, which must be replaced in its portfolio in order to sustain growth.

NI has restructured a couple of times over the past several years and now has a structure that would allow business units to be separated and perhaps even sold to provide funds for the acquisition. 

I’ve worked for a few conglomerates in my career. Sometimes they leave the business units alone to pursue their businesses without too much interference from the “suits” from corporate. Trust me, that’ll only last as long as profits are rolling in. Been there, done that!


Search has become increasingly frustrating. Some many companies use SEO that results after page 2 often are just repeats of page 1. I’m seldom surprised by search anymore.

Microsoft thinks the “large language models” of AI like GPT that it invested in will totally change search. Google countered with its Bard, which failed miserably in its debut demo. But GPT isn’t all that good either. An article in the MIT Technology Review pointed to many mistakes that it makes.

Something else to think about—Google and followers gave a list of links to a query. It didn’t point to a definitive answer. It gave you more options. GPT spits out a paragraph of text, which may or may not make sense. This sounds like a definitive answer, rather than a list of suggestions. That has implications for future generations using search.

It is not over, yet.


One hallway conversation I had was with Mark Fondl. When I first became an editor, he was a vice president of an automation technology provider. We had many meetings where he extolled the virtues of Ethernet in automation.  I recalled several of my early podcasts explaining Ethernet. They still are downloaded after 15 years. Here they are:

Paul Wacker interview on Ethernet from 2007

Paul Wacker follow up for more on Ethernet from 2007

A third Paul Wacker interview on Ethernet from 2008

Two other podcast interviews I did with Rockwell on safety are still downloaded:

Interview with Rockwell Automation on machine safety

Follow up interview with Rockwell Automation on functional safety

Inductive Automation (who sponsors this newsletter and my website and podcasts) is 20 years old. Here is an interview I did with two early employees from 2011.

Interview with Inductive Automation 2011

And I have a new podcast recently released focusing on Twitter, AI, and Video.


I’m an avid learner and practitioner of fitness and nutrition. I recently came across this newsletter from Arnold Schwarzenegger called Pulse Daily.

Relate With People By How They Are Not What They Look Like

This is post number 3,000 on this blog dating back to my experimentation with the genre in 2003 while I was trying to get Automation World off the ground. I have almost 2,900 posts on my other blog focusing on personal development. I guess these are my Ickigai–the reason for getting up in the morning.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream.

I was a student when Martin Luther King delivered that speech. I don’t know the degree to which this comment inspired me or if I was just always this way. I have tried to treat people individually where they are. If they are poor or rich or powerful and they have more stuffing than a Christmas goose, I deal one way. Most people are hard-working individuals trying to do their jobs. I don’t care if they are CEO or junior assistant account executive. They deserve to be treated with honesty and respect. And I try.

Today in the US is an official holiday observing the birth and work of Martin Luther King. It is good to remember the good he did, what he stood for.

The movement did some good. Laws were passed. Barriers were broken.

Today I believe that there is broader acceptance of people of varying skin colors, races, languages. Yet, still much work remains. Some prejudices are hard to overcome. They require a change of heart in each individual.

Unfortunately, you don’t change hearts with laws or with one magnificent speech. Ann Lamont wrote a wonderful little book Bird by Bird, where she tells the story of her brother. He procrastinated over writing a report on birds for school. Now it’s the night before it’s due. (Sound familiar?) He whines to his father about how he’ll ever get it done. “Just write bird by bird and you’ll get it done.”

Just like a good bread requires time to rise, so a changed heart requires time for the change to root and grow. And it happens one heart at a time.

Dr. King set out a vision. Much good did happen. But the hard work remains for each of us. What is the condition of our own heart? Where can we nurture another’s heart?

Email Tips from Peter Diamandis

Futurist, X-Prize guy, longevity researcher Peter Diamandis appears in my email inbox regularly. This email about emails caught my attention. I receive about a hundred a day. Many are from PR professionals seeking attention for their client.

Evidently they all went to the same school and bought the same template. The subject line seldom tempts me. The opening paragraph attempts to set a context with a trend or recent news item. Then there are a couple of filler paragraphs containing generic marketing words. If I have stuck with it this long, by the fourth paragraph or so, they discuss a little of the product or solution with an invitation for me to publish a guest article (which I don’t do) or an interview that, if I’m lucky, contains five possible topics.

I know several things from this.

  • They have no personal relationship with me
  • They have not looked at my blog
  • They do not know what I write about
  • They do not know if I’ve covered the topic previously
  • They cannot come to the point

Therefore, I offer this summary of Diamandis’s post on emails. Visit his site for deeper analysis.

  • Keep it under five lines
  • Make the subject line unique, meaningful, and searchable
  • Use easy-to-read formatting
  • Put your specific action request in the first line
  • Make the ask really simple—make it hard to say “no”
  • If something is really urgent, don’t email—call or send a text

More Better, or Solving Better Problems

Engineers solve problems. Isn’t that what engineering school is all about in the end? Some classes push knowledge. Most of the classes are about solving problems. Most of those involve math.

In this week’s (January 11, 2023) Akimbo podcast entitled More or Less, Seth Godin discusses the paradox of more or less. If we search more on Ecosia, we cause more trees to be planted that will offset the carbon dioxide we pump into the air when we drive to work. As engineers working in manufacturing and production, we are encouraged to help produce more. But also with less waste. We know that some waste, say methane leaks around the facility, also contribute to climate change.

As Seth “rants” on the subject, his logic points toward “better.” Maybe in my life I don’t need more of something or to make do with less of something else. Maybe I need to pursue better. And better is not always more expensive. I like a good wine. Sometimes I’ve had some excellent wines that were very expensive. We like a wine imported from Spain that I buy on sale from my local beverage store for $9.00. It is great with our dinner or for sipping.

Let us consider that concept of better.

Are we solving the better class of problems? Or, maybe just more of the easier problems that might gain us a little recognition? Or, fewer problems because we are “quiet quitting”?

I suggest that we work on the big problems. The problems that matter. The better problems.

And if you are not listening to Seth Godin each week, you are missing stimulation for your brain.

Neural Networks Explained

I become a little jaded over all the marketing hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI). Yes, it is an important technology. No, it’s not really all that intelligent, yet. I lost a programmer in my department in 1989 who was going to specialize in AI. Engineers addressed some SME meetings I attended in the 1990s explaining neural networks and motion control.

Emily Newton at Revolutionized has posted an informative article on neural nets and deep learning that is worth a look.

The average person doesn’t spend much time thinking about the structure of their brain unless it starts causing problems. They don’t wonder what the various folds and valleys do or what it feels like when their neurons fire. Most are content to understand that they have a functioning brain in their head. What happens when you compare your brain to what you might find on a computer? What are neural networks and deep learning and what is the connection between the two?

Emily Newton, Revolutionized

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