Diary Update, Mental Exercise?

As mentioned in the previous post I’ve not been trading as GlencoIS since I took on a permanent employment contract with Wood/Jacobs. Little did I know how busy I would become.

The original scope was – still is – about long-lifecycle release of information from its IT shackles to enable agile – flexible and efficient – future business models, all the more exciting because the contracts have a 20 year timeline within which real benefits and transformative change may actually accrue. After two decades of my own working-from-anywhere lifestyle, the flexibility of working from home using any available IT kit has suddenly become fashionable thanks to Covid19 measures. Busy, busy, busy as I say.

The irony of the long-lifecycle excitement is that I was already semi-retired consulting and planning retirement to focus on writing, with gardening, home-gym and hill-walking as the physical free-thinking release from the focussed mental effort. Particularly galling for me then, that so many on social media are reporting the lack of work from the Covid19 lockdown as their opportunity for novel intellectual & physical projects – whereas for me these are practically on hold. This is my first post on this blog since Sept 2019. In that same 8 month period I’ve done just 15 posts on my main “Psybertron” blog, the one most associated with my writing project. In that same period in any other year in the last 20, there would have been 100 posts or more, 70 being the lowest ever.

Social media – the socialisation of knowledge, good and bad – has been an integral part of the research and writing project since its inception 20 years ago – on several levels too. Not just the reading and writing process, but very much part of the content. It’s my subject matter. So I’m far from being a stranger to social media, in fact I swear by it. (See details at the foot of this page.)

In the current job, in the time of Covid19, I have of course signed-up to our team WhatsApp channel although for predictable reasons – above – I’ve not participated much. But there is an opportunity to change that:

Naturally there is a focus on exercise, mental health in isolation, and an opportunity to turn that into a social-enterprise to raise charity funds. I wouldn’t normally, religiously, have my smart-phone on my person as I move around the house / office, so the idea of a step-counter isn’t really my thing. I’m more a miles / kilometres covered and feet / metres climbed kinda person. To gauge the steps to distance relation I turned-on the (free) Pacer step-counter on Friday afternoon and went for a 4 mile walk and left it on in my pocket most of Saturday, as I mowed, strimmed and tidied around the length of our drive. 8,558 and 14,839 steps respectively. The fact it keeps trying to sell me stuff means I’ll probably not keep it on.

My tracker of choice when actually walking is Strava. A habit which started 3 years ago when doing the Lyke Wake Walk in June 2017. That’s 40M / 60K in one 14 hour slog over the North York Moors up and down all the biggest of the Cleveland Hills. The parts that follow the modern Cleveland Way / Coast-to-Coast (*) long-distance walks are well marked and maintained, but this ancient route is no longer marked on maps or maintained across mile after mile of moorland bog. The long day and dry weather of June needed to negotiate it. Full story and some pictures here. It took a second attempt to do it all in one go last time. [Incidentally the CtC Walk starts at St Bees Head and passes close to the Jacobs Westlakes offices.]

I was planning with Sylvia we might do the LWW again this June, hence some of the recent training walks in Strava. Who knows?

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Exclusive Employment

As of 3rd September 2019 I have taken on a permanent staff employment contract for Wood Nuclear. To avoid any conflicts of interest Glenco IS Ltd will no longer be trading for the foreseeable future. I remain happy to advise and forward enquiries to other consultants who may be able to help either directly or via the Travivas network of consultants.

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I run several websites for friends and non-profits as a side-line – at least partly to “keep my hand in” with some basic programming in having to modify, extend and configure functionality here and there – but I’m no developer.

99% of my web content is managed using WordPress including this business-facing site. It’s a very simple no-frills site with no user functionality, and the simplest possible visual theme, intended for minimal maintenance other than software updates and news. My main personal site at psybertron.org is also no-frills, single user, minimal interaction, but huge – 10,000’s of posts and page updates over 20 years. I was an original blogger when web-logging was invented, migrating to WordPress and hosting it on a virtual private server (VPS) at Dreamhost pretty much as soon as it was possible to do so ~15 years ago. I’ve also managed separate servers for other commercial and non-profit ventures via Dreamhost VPS and Amazon AWS services.

On other group sites I’ve added much more interactive functionality through WordPress plug ins. Some have their own domains, others with sub-domains in my sandbox. I did major housekeeping this year and last to clear out much now redundant content and installations.

The software functionality – core and plug-in extensions – are mostly free, but when it comes to upgraded functionality, security and performance, you get what you pay for so it’s not always entirely free, but very cost-effective for low-overhead non-profit business. For anyone who’s happy with a proof of concept in a subdomain, there is zero marginal cost to me, just a little time & effort.

Why do I use it?
WordPress has so much support out there, and
DreamHost customer service has proven second to none.
(There is even a DreamPress one-stop-shop bundle if you want to try it yourself and BlueHost offer WordPress bundles. Other starter bundles each with their own CMS exist from GoDaddy, Squarespace, Google and many more, many of which are free for starters.)


  • Powers 26% of all pages on the web
  • Powers 30% of the top 1000 web sites
  • Is by far the most used CMS on the web (60% share vs 6% next best)
  • Is visited more than Twitter
  • Is available in 62 languages
  • Has 500x fewer employees than Amazon
  • Has so far had 36m downloads of its latest version
  • Has 45k software “plug-in” extensions available

Each Month:

  • Users make 40m posts & 60m comments (~6 per second)
  • WordPress / Akismet blocks 99.9% of 132m spam messages
  • 200k new WordPress domains are registered
  • WordPress is searched for 2.7m times and results in 583m Google hits

(Extracted from this 2017 stats summary at digital.com)

If I “fall under a bus” there will be no technical barriers to finding alternative resources.

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Travivas Member

Latest news as we enter 2Q19 is that I have just become a Member of the Travivas consulting network. Wherever additional services are identified that I am unable to deliver, we will be able to introduce you to another expert who maybe can. All members are accredited by the membership introduction and sponsorship process, and Travivas itself is a non-profit that takes no fee on contracts awarded. “Experience you can trust.”

My thanks to Adrian Fenton, co-founder of Travivas, for the introduction to Karen Cherrill of Kingsfield Consulting and the engagement with the Czech refinery boiler upgrade mentioned in the previous post. A great way to do business. See our Travivas network LinkedIn page.


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Update 1Q19

Through 2016/17 I had the good fortune to take on a piece of real engineering – both process and mechanical design – for some specialist equipment on a Chinese aerospace research facility.

Like the above, I also mentioned in passing in the two previous posts, that I was focussed for most of 2017/18 on a possible generic business app opportunity as an unfunded collaborative development, and on keeping my hand in with developments in the reference-data architecture space. That gave me pause to reflect that this was the first-time I’ve been without paid employment in over 40 years, and that in that time I’ve been fortunate only to leave any employment for a new opportunity.

So, it’s been over a year, but just last week I took-on a real hands-on engineering assignment again for a refinery upgrade project in the EU and am again available for consulting opportunities – engineering integrity primarily and/or information management as necessary. [See “About” and “Services.]

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AIMS, PIMS, BIMS and now SIMS, HIMS & even GIMS?

Whatever “Digital Twin” is used to model your particular industry assets and manage the operation they embody, it seems the jargon converges and the generic information modelling aspects really do turn out to be highly generic. When we started with Plant Assets, Transport and Defence assets they became Assets more generally, and the Plant manufacturing and laboratory facilities became Buildings more generally, I was awaiting the day that Hospital and Healthcare assets would become the topic. Seems they happened whilst I wasn’t looking.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Aerospace research facility subject of the last assignment (below) and now find myself engaged in SIMS for Schools and educational establishments. I may say a little more about that if I can shortly. Each sector, for understandable legacy reasons, tends to be dominated by one or other comprehensive Business Resource or Asset Management “Solution” – usually one no-one ever got fired for buying, but one which becomes an expensive and inflexible millstone to be managed in its own right.

Especially gratifying is the continuing generic convergence, because we also seemed to have stumbled upon an opportunity for a Generic information model management system. I say system, but it’s so generic it’s really a meta-system, a system for developing and integrating systems for modeling and managing information. One that can integrate with and evolve away from any legacy system(s).

I used to joke that we’d end up with this model, but now I’m not so sure we’re joking.

Say what?

Say whatever it is you want to say,
and we can store and retrieve it
intelligently-connected to any future context.
I wonder.

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BlockChain, IIoT or Industry4.0 ? Semantic Web or Big Data?

I realise I’m mixing categories here, that’s my point. There is so much hype (ie confusion and mis-expectations) over advancing web technology architecture “silver-bullets”, and which terms are really about technology, business or content – in fact there is a lot of entanglement of issues and lots of lessons learned in one domain not even considered in another.

Since I last posted an update, I’ve spent over a year working with a Chinese Aerospace R&D contractor – doing some actual engineering rather than information science, bleeding edge engineering too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, even in a completely left-field domain all roads seem to lead back to web reference data.

So, for a bit of fun I’ve been doing a bit of a survey of all the initiatives in “Reference Data Based Interoperability” space, in order to understand how they all fit together, which could learn from each other and where common valuable gaps exist in tools and services. I’ve put the draft “State of the Nation” paper up publicly in order to share with potential interested parties, but it is very much incomplete / work-in-progress. I will be updating without posting notification. Any suggestions. you know where to find me.

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The Fog of “Containerized Algorithmic Services”?

The latest IBM jargon here made me chuckle. It disguises a very old story.

Let’s unpick it a little.
Fog is one of the buzzwords for low-hanging / near-at-hand / in-your-face “Cloud”
Cloud being the metaphorical buzzword for all things distributed and linked via the internet.
IoT is simply a reminder that those connected things can (and will be) anything and everything.

The internet is simply the ubiquitous communications network technology connecting pretty much anything and everything these days. Within that, as specific technologies advance, possibilities for physical distribution of those things change and grow, and the optimum arrangement in terms of traffic, volume, speed, reliability, security etc for different kinds of use, continually change too. That’s the technology, the IT (or ICT).

But, communication is much older than the internet.

What matters is meaning and know-how. As Einstein famously said “The communication problem is the illusion that it has happened.” – true on so many levels here – and “Communication is like a cat, you pull it’s tail at one end, it miaows at the other.”

Transferring the bits of information is one thing, but what it means, what’s meant to happen on arrival is a whole ‘nother thing. Without the latter – semantics – it’s Einstein’s illusion to call it communication.

Sure, most people believe Sir TBL gave us the Semantic Web – thereby giving our generation the focus that use of the internet is primarily about connecting information with meaning. In fact the Semantic Web was coined long before internet technology – by Foucault in 1966 – and, not in so many words, has existed as long as philosophy and epistemology.

The population of the world being very large, the number of ways different people and organisations are working on that is enormous. Old ideas are repackaged – in both knowledge and ignorance – with new metaphors and names, and that’s fine with billions clamouring for attention. That’s marketing.

The problem is if the re-packaging is too fast – an arms race of new jargon – the communication is all Einstein’s illusion. That’s a problem for (at least) two reasons.

  • One, is that rolling the whole topic under a single new set of buzzwords also hides the fact that problem does still have distinct technology and content, functional and semantic aspects to be addressed. Sure they may all be well understood in their distinct parts, but the packaging doesn’t change the fact that these distinct “workfronts” need to be addressed using different knowledge and resources in any particular application or solution. One size fits all may be true at some conceptual level but different solutions do have different parts.
  • Two, is that the value of parts of the solution that have already been perfectly well understood by previous work – using previous metaphors and terminology – is easy to overlook and forget, and will need to be reinvented again later anyway. Baby is thrown out with the bathwater.

I was prompted to write by David Hodgson’s comment on the original thread. The phrase that tickled me particularly in the piece itself was the one quoted in my title here: “Containerized Algorithmic Services”. Frankly, for reasons Dave states, I’ve not tried to decipher the jargon of the whole article in detail, but this one concept below jumps out as one that has been well worked already, but simply trampled under the endless stream of new jargon as each new technology cycle evolves.

  • Containerised Algorithmic Services at smart endpoints – is the original vision of our Shorthand or “Signature” Templates. (ask Hans, Magne or Onno). Having characterised your “packet” of data semantically – let’s face it packets have been fundamental to the internet and mark-up languages since day one – and having expressed it algorithmically in its signature, any number of behaviours, services and functions can be driven by such algorithms – anywhere in your extended network.

I’ve managed to resist writing on the irony of “Fog” before. I’d guess whoever first coined it knew what they were doing to cloud reality 😉


Opportunities Arising

With my current London project on hold whilst the customer sorts out his financial commitment, and between my own ongoing commitment to charity board projects, I am currently looking for new information and systems management project(s). Preferences would be opportunities to be part-time North-East England and/or London based, with travel no obstacle.

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New Venture

Having finished with JORD and other iRING projects back in July 2013 I am returning to the sharp-end of capital projects full time for the foreseeable year or more from 4th November. It’s a contract engagement as Engineering Systems Management for a grass-roots Kuwaiti refinery project using Intergraph (Hexagon) tools. If and when I return to enabling developments of the shared-RDS-based approach to flexible high-quality enterprise integration, it will be with fresh drivers from a current facilities business operation.

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