Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some time off.

I will be taking some time off for the next two weeks. I'll resume posting on May 12, 2009.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Operational Control with Accountability

In an April 16, 2009 podcast on Bloomburg, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz said;

... I think the depth of the problems remind us of how badly the system functioned before 2007. I mean I think this is the real lesson here, the lesson is not that we've had a little trauma today, the lesson is the system didn't work before the trauma, and it was the failures that were working before the trauma that have lead to the trauma. 
A certain eloquence is the liberty of economists who win the Nobel Prize. We have been in a very backward economy from at least the mid 1990's, in my opinion. If you can imagine trying to raise funds to eliminate the bureaucracy when employees homes were hitting the stratosphere along with there stock options. Some guy suggesting failure of the oil and gas firms. And the need to build systems to support a more innovative and scientific focus; received the old heave-ho. 

But times are changing, people are not so much sold on their home, stock options, retirement and other pipe dreams. The security that was attained by having shortages of eligible workers in the industry, provided a false and diversionary motivation. They now see the writing on the wall and it is here at People, Ideas & Objects where they see a more realistic future by participating in the Community of Independent Service Providers. This is at least an alternative future they are now willing to consider. 

The number of issues that were clearly evident to Joseph Stiglitz will be captured in many of his future papers. One of the issues that I was seeking to resolve is the separation of accountability and operational control. Once you remove the accountability for decisions, you lose the ability to learn from the success and failure of those decisions. Learning is the key to innovation. Where are the decisions made in the energy sector?

If we recall, it is the Joint Operating Committee (JOC) which holds the authority for the operational decisions. For the past number of years I have marvelled at the skill and audacity of the CFO's of the producer firms standing up and stating that the firm would grow production by 10%. This always struck me as comical as the individual generally has no authority to make that promise come true. How is a CFO going to increase production by 10% in the current fiscal period? If they were legitimately able to attain what they boasted, why have they stopped the bravado? We certainly could stand to have a number of CFO's stand up today and state, unequivocally, that production would increase. Please join me here

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

What's expected.

It's important that I revisit the status of the project now and then for a quick update. Particularly for those that may have joined recently. As of today the Draft Specification has been reviewed by over 500 people. I consider this quite remarkable considering the topic of discussion, oil and gas systems is rather obscure. We are now just past 9 months from the point in time that I published the specification and the ideas inherent within are being broadcast across a very large community.

The scope of the People, Ideas & Objects application is truly global. Through LinkedIn I have been able to discover many like minded people that may be recruited to define the Preliminary Specification. This recruitment will continue for the remainder of 2009 with the objective of securing the 100 people necessary to make the Preliminary Specification as diverse and well documented as possible. 

Therefore effective January 1, 2010 we will be in full development of the application. I now want to detail some aspects of the budget and reiterate my involvement in the definition of the software from this point forward. I have no intention or capacity to further details the scope, functionality or anything to do with the application. This project is well beyond the ability of one person to comprehend each and every aspect of the oil and gas industry. This is a collaborative project for the simple reason that it must be. It is far better for me to step aside in terms of what can and will be done by the application and its modules. The application will be left to the community to determine the ways and means that their input is necessary and required. 

The key role that I can provide is the generation and distribution of the resources necessary to keep the development moving forward. That is a task that will be more then enough for any one individual, and one that can determine the success or failure of the entire project. The budget for this project is declining as the costs in the industry become more affordable through the lack of demand. How long this will last is probably short lived. Primarily as I think the lack of either equity or debt to fuel the producers efforts will be replaced through the reallocation of the market prices to fund these desperately needed energy resources. Therefore I am hesitant to suggest that the project will require less resources than what is originally estimated. That being in the area of $1 billion U.S.

In order to define this project I have detailed four stages of the specification. I completed the Draft Specification last July 2008. The Preliminary is set to start at the end of the 2009, with the Detailed and Final Specification to be determined by the community of users that is forming. The total costs associated with these phases of the specifications will be set at 10% of the total budget. Therefore $100 million will need to be raised to support these activities. 

This application is unique in that using the Joint Operating Committee (JOC) necessitates the global scope of functionality of the application. Hence the large nature of the project. Something of this scope is only possible during a time when organizational and business models are being revised through economic changes. Of the $100 million allocated to determine the specification, $30 million will be allocated to the Preliminary phase.

I expect to have at least 100 people involved in defining the Preliminary Specification. Participants should expect to incur approximately 500 hours on average. That is a total of 50,000 man hours that I am now setting the compensation for at $125 / hour or $1,000 / day. This work can be undertaken as soon as we have the financial resources established. 

I know these numbers are frighteningly large. The justification for these costs is based on reviewing the Draft Specification and the unique nature of using the Joint Operating Committee. Review of the business model of People, Ideas & Objects will show how this development is truly the most cost effective and appropriate means to continue. 

Our two defined groups of financial support are the governments involved in collecting royalties and the producers themselves. As this is an industry wide approach, we see these large costs allocated over the involvement of the government and industry. Making this a cost efffective solution. What I think is also paramount to consider. Is that this is the first and only user based development. It is the oil and gas users that know how to do there jobs that make up the community in the Preliminary Specification. 

The only deliverables that I have set for the Preliminary Specification is the determination of the geographical scope and functionality of the application. Other then these, the entire process of development is being handed over to the community through the Preliminary Specification. Please join me here.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No regulation here!

Yale University Professor Robert Shiller raises an interesting point in this video. Shiller is famous for the Case - Shiller housing index. And by the way, this is another McKinsey document, # 52 in a long list of top quality articles and commentary. The video and article are here, registration required, click on the title for the url.

The forces pushing to increase regulation today are potentially creating further difficulties down the road. The ability and desire to catch the Bernard Madoff and Conrad Blacks while their in the middle of planning their dirty deeds is a compelling justification. No one likes to see illegal acts being exercised on innocent victims. But are these crooks symptomatic of the entire marketplace? Or are they high profile and in the news because the Ponzi scheme could not be sold without cash.

Obama wants to completely redesign the marketplace. Good luck with that. I figure he is about 3 months away from being a mere shadow of a president. He doesn't have a clue about what it is that he is talking about, doesn't have ideas or foundation of which to build a new system on. Or the political capital to undertake such a task.

Professor Shiller notes many good points in the video presentation. Essentially laying a strong foundation that regulation is the anti-innovation. We don't need more rules to keep the criminals in-check. We need People, Ideas & Objects to make the energy industry keep the global economy fueled well into this century.

Professor Shiller makes the following comments supporting the work that is being done here at People, Ideas & Objects.

I think the government has to take an attitude that it is the sponsor of innovation, both of scientific innovation and of financial innovation. The government learned that years ago, just after World War II, when they created the National Science Foundation—and the government aggressively supports scientific innovation. We have to have the same attitude toward financial innovation.
This project seeks to support and provide the earth sciences and engineering disciplines. I stated in my thesis that the industry needs to move away from the banking basis of predictable returns to a basis of innovation and science. That will not happen on its own, we need to be build the systems to support the organizations first. No software no organization.
I don’t want to see us killing off innovation, and this is what may get lost—and I hope it doesn’t get lost—in the current crisis. Ultimately, let’s not forget that we’ve learned lessons that a capitalist economy is an economy that promotes entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship is not the province for government bureaucrats.
Therefore we have to keep this project moving forward with an eye to ensuring that unnecessary regulation begins to influence the decisions that are made.
I don’t want to say that I don’t think there will be a turnaround soon, but I think that many of us are too much expecting that it might come tomorrow or the day after. And this volatility is evidence of that. So I think it is quite possible that the stock market and the housing market, five years from now, will be close to where they are now.
Professor Shiller's timing seems accurate to me. Five years is also a good time for the community to have this software operational. Providing the innovation that the oil and gas industry needs for the next 25 years. I wonder what SAP and Oracle have in store for the industry?

We need to act, now. Join me and this community in building this software for the golden age of oil and gas.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Follow on to yesterday's post.

Google's new tool, the Google Insights for Search was highlighted yesterday. I was thinking all through the day what a tool like that would be like in the oil and gas industry. I felt as a result, I didn't attach enough emphasis on the implications of having the data available for the type of analysis that is available with the tools I described in the Draft Specification .

First lets go back to the situation at hand today. Data is scattered throughout the organization in a number of informal and unknown spreadsheets, databases and file cabinets. Their are production departments, accounting departments and exploration departments that use very similar data and store this data in their own file cabinets and electronically. As we know departments only speak to each other at the higher levels of the organizations. Hence the lack of communication and shared data remains an unfulfilled promise.

A lot of this data is not structured or captured in a centralized database. The advantage of using a database is that it allows different users to perceive the data in different ways. Much of this problem has been addressed by the various POSC and PPDM data models. However, not many of the software vendors or companies have been able to implement the data models in the optimal way. Consider also that polymorphic behavior which is a cornerstone of the Java Programming Language. Allows users to perceive different methods or ways of processing the data. You begin to see the flexibility and opportunity that is missing with these poor data implementations.

When we talk about the Security & Access Control Module in the People, Ideas & Objects we begin to see the importance of getting all of this data organized and accessible by the right people.

Imagine what it would be like if People were able to access the same data in the same format for the entire Joint Operating Committee. And this would apply to the entire industry. Where the employees and contractors that are authorized access to the data are all trained in the generic industry data models. Everyone would know where the data they need is, and would be able to access it from their clients in an authorized fashion and analyse it effectively for new information.

Lastly, the Technical Vision of People, ideas & Objects. Essentially laying out for the means to have an explosion of data in every corner of the producer's domain. This is not as a result of the application being built, this data will become real on its own. The tools to make it so are now readily available and a matter of time before its generally available. If the data is not organized today, when and how will it be organized in the future with exponentially more data, risk and complexity.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Google Insights for Search

Google recently released a new service called Google Insights for Search. (Click on the title of this blog post to be taken to the announcement on the Google Research blog). Once you go to the site ( it will subsequently show up as an application in your Google Account. There is a related .pdf written by Hal Varian and Hyunyong Choi that details how to use this new and interesting tool.

In the Draft Specification we have two modules that are somewhat related to this product. Both the Analytics & Statistics Module and the Performance Evaluation Module are user defined tools that allow detailed analysis of the data in People, Ideas & Objects. The data is the key attribute to these modules. With the People, Ideas & Objects Technical Vision expecting the data volumes to explode through IPv6, Java and Wireless access to the data in a known format. Data analysis tools like Analytics & Statistics and Performance Evaluation Modules will be the key to obtaining value from it. That is essentially what Google has done with the Google Trends data, published it through a known API and interface.

The purpose in allowing users to access formatted data is the key to the value in using the tools and understanding the data. How many firms have data scattered across many departments and on individuals machine? How much of this data is available through known and trusted access mechanisms? What tools are available for people to interpret and analyze the data. We have the opportunity to embed the R application into the Modules and other opportunities.

I highly recommend downloading the R application, the .pdf from Google on how to use Google Insight for Search and Google Trends data. Experimentation with this opportunity will provide you with the beginning of understanding the opportunities we will make available to our users. And please, join me here .

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Energy declines

Calgary's Herald newspaper has an article in Thursday's issue that supports the many initiatives inherent in this software development project. My actions have been to convince the industry that the need is great for the delivery of an ERP styled application such as People, Ideas & Objects. This began in February 2003 with a proposal that dealt with the two significant constraints of any software developer, code and customers. In September 2003 I then proposed a comprehensive research proposal. This proposal would test my hypothesis of an ERP system that identifies and supports the Joint Operating Committee; would provide the producers with a more innovative footing.

All well and good but it was at this time the producers turned against any idea of using the JOC. Or so I thought. Throughout the months of 2003 my proposals were steadily moving up the chain of command of the large intermediate producers. Reaching most of the CEO's in these firms was a reflection of the effort and the scope of the idea. Or so I thought. The one comment that in retrospect resonates with me is the comment that "we don't hire small research firm's." When none of the producers were interested in spending any money on this idea, I decided to conduct the research my self at my own cost.

In March 2004 I was informed that my thesis was complete and passed. I then set out to rewrite the document in commercial form. This was completed in May 2004 as the "Preliminary Research Report." Upon publishing this I was approached by some one in the industry who gave me two documents from Cambridge Energy Research Associates. These research documents were obviously on the same track as I was on in establishing the JOC as the key organizational construct. Their problem was it was well behind my completed work. I therefore won the right to the copyrights of these ideas. This also brought to mind the comments about "not using small research firms". I concluded this was a deliberate attempt to steal what was now mine. Understand the proposal I made in September 2003 was to conduct the research. The intellectual property was to be for the industry as they would be the ones that financed it. And since I financed it, the IP was mine.

Nonetheless it was around this point that I knew I was now an outsider to this industry. Any attempt to find work became useless and frustrated. Resigning myself to this fact I sought employment in other businesses and industries. And began writing this blog. After over 600 entries and 700,000 words I have been able to take the initial concept of using the JOC and detailed the research and results of the Draft Specification. An overall vision of what the oil and gas industry would look like and operate as by using the JOC.

I mention this bit of history as the basic need for People, Ideas & Objects was evident in the difficulties of finding and producing oil and gas. Finding energy was becoming substantially more difficult. Instead of developing these ideas and applications the industry chose to remove me and my ideas from the marketplace. Instead of doing anything constructive the industry has done nothing about their business but line their pockets with inappropriate levels of compensation.

That is a strong indictment of the brain trust of the Canadian oil and gas industry and particularly its management. And today we see the evidence that they are challenged by the difficulties in finding and producing oil and gas. From the Calgary Herald article.

Natural gas makes up two-thirds of all activity in the oilpatch and production has fallen almost 15 per cent over the past two years, taking the biggest contributor to the government’s revenue stream down with it. From a peak of about 14 billion cubic feet a day in 2001, Alberta’s gas production has steadily slid to a little more than 12 billion cubic feet at present. That figure is widely expected to fall as much as a billion cubic feet a day in 2009 as a result of spending cutbacks by big producers such as EnCana Corp. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which are the two biggest drillers in the province.
It is important to remember that it was during this past two years that record activity in the field was taking place. More money was spent then in any prior period, and a 15% decline is the result? If doing all that activity lead to a significant decline in production what will doing nothing bring?
Herring was poring over numbers that showed only seven per cent of available rigs were drilling in Alberta.
Now granted some of that activity is attributable to road bans. But nonetheless budget cuts have been deep and systemic through out the producers involved in Alberta. In order to resolve this the solution that is suggested is;
The only way to increase production is to punch more wells to offset declines, said Don Herring, president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors.
The only way? Doing more of the same thing, expecting different results reflects a mental disability, not a solution.

Its time for the independent actions of people who are concerned about the effects of these irresponsible, selfish and criminal people. The CEO's of the major Canadian independent firms who were party to the discussion of using the JOC should be held accountable for their actions. The opportunity to do otherwise has passed, the damage is done and they are responsible. The road these producers are heading is towards their ultimate decline. Based on their performance in the province of Alberta, they will be out of business fairly soon. Please join me here.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

That's a five minute misconduct.

Using a hockey analogy to reflect the opposing team is indulging in inappropriate or unfair play. It's also an analogy that will be intimately understood by Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNeally. I'm speaking of the actions of IBM in this proposed acquisition of Sun.

Lets go back to the Microsofts offer to purchase Yahoo. I thought Microsoft never wanted to purchase Yahoo, but they certainly were not happy with having to deal with both Google and Yahoo in the critical and valuable search business. Microsoft's acquisition of Yahoo has similar anti-trust issues to what IBM would be presented with in purchasing Sun. In fact it is the management of Sun that are contending that IBM stick to the acquisition in a potentially difficult anti-trust review. This may be a key point that helps Sun in the very near future and adds fuel to my hypothesis of IBM's dirty tricks. 

If Microsoft could have eliminated Yahoo from the marketplace without spending any money, would that not be a worthwhile action to take? For IBM to walk away from Sun after reducing the offer and peaking at what Sun has under the covers, IBM quickly learned more then they otherwise would have in normal operations. Key contracts, technologies, strategies and tactics of Sun were possibly made available as a result of the offer. Walking away after this peek, after they have the goods, after they make a revised less valuable offer shows that Sun may have some big nasty skeletons in its closet. It also does not speak well of Sun's management in deferring the opportunity to fulfill their shareholders potential on a short term basis. Which introduces a conflict and concern that otherwise is unnecessary and is certainly destructive. This is why IBM needs to be assessed this penalty.

Sun is having a difficult time. They have technologies that few fully understand or appreciate. In a world where value is attributed to those with coherent sound bites, Sun looses a lot of people beyond Java. Sun also has a number of technologies that are unique and far more valuable then the sum of their parts. And that is what IBM is after. Like Microsoft wanting Yahoo's market share for search, IBM wants desperately needs Sun's technologies. 

After the introduction of the personal computer, IBM blew it, big blue time. Under Lou Gerstner, austere management and a lot of luck the firm was able to recover. But what is it that they own now? Services in the form of corporate services to companies. Few if any actual technologies, certainly not a coherent story that can be told. I ask what are the benefits of services to companies? If I buy some IBM services, how do I know that you have provided that excellent quality of services that you claim? And if they are of such high regard, why am I being asked to sign another contract? Selling services without any products is not a long term viable strategy to making money, in my opinion. 

So IBM has now put Sun into play. What ever damage that is done to Sun is of net benefit to IBM. I'm not a fan of this tactic, and I find it oddly coincidental that it's only played out by those with anti-trust difficulties. We'll see how this one plays out, but IBM should be penalized not only five minutes, but a game misconduct and a 10 game suspension. 

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Project P.U.M.A.

"Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility" from GM and Segway. What have they done to my Segway? I have frequently pointed to the need to stop hurling 4,000 pounds down the highway at 60 miles per hour. As one solution to the many energy demand issues. We can't afford to be spending so much energy so inefficiently. If you believe in global warming, then you should also get behind this type of transportation. Using it to replace the car in your daily commute. And relegating the car to one or two days per week.

There is a large amount of talk in the blogs about PUMA. Segway have a blog that I subscribe too and they had three announcements today. You can read these here, here and here. Another one of the better sources of information is Fast Company. During the announcement Larry Burns, GM's VP of R & D says it well.
It'll be one-quarter the cost per mile, he told journalists. This is a vehicle that runs on electricity made from a wide range of sources, and because it's so small, it's efficient--it's approaching 150- or 200-gallon [tank] efficiency.
Note he doesn't call it a car. Those that have issue with the looks, I suggest it looks like any of GM's products. Me I'll buy a Segway as soon as all the insane city councils make it legal for them to be driven on streets and sidewalks. Also the TED Conference highlighted archive video's of Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway, and Larry Burns talking about his ideas in the car business. 

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Monday, April 06, 2009

"From Bubble to Depression?"

Professor Vernon Smith is a Nobel Laureate with an article in today's Wall Street Journal. His analysis rely' on the qualitative, and this article doesn't disappoint. Two comments that stand out, and that show the economic situation we are in is unique and historical. Relating the current experience to the great depression, he writes.

Had the mounting difficulties of the banks and the final collapse of the banking system in the "Bank Holiday" in March 1933 been caused by contraction of the money supply, as Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz argued, then the massive injections of liquidity over the past 18 months should have averted the collapse of the financial market during this current crisis.
The causes of the Great Depression need more study, but the claims that losses on stock-market speculation and a monetary contraction caused the decline of the banking system both seem inadequate. It appears that both the Great Depression and the current crisis had their origins in excessive consumer debt -- especially mortgage debt -- that was transmitted into the financial sector during a sharp downturn.
The cause and remedy of the great depression is a topic that I am not satisfied that we have discovered the answer too. There are too many variables and actions that occurred over a decade of experimentation, trial and error. Professor Carlota Perez is someone that I have written about extensively on this blog. Her long wave economic analysis' and theories resonate with me. Suggesting that the old economy is no longer capable of meeting the demands of society. And that new technologies have matured and are readily available to take the weight of the "old" work horses.

I include the bureaucratic method of organization as one of the innovative technologies of the past century. Alfred Sloan, then CEO of GM used it to great effect in establishing the firm in its hey day. That technology can't provide the speed and innovativeness that is necessary for our current and future societal and individual needs. It is a form of economic organization that does not provide any further value, and I would suggest is the reason that much of the value in today's economy is being incinerated. 

Using the Joint Operating Committee provides a strong understanding of how better to organize the energy industry. Inherent in that understanding is the use of the Information Technologies that are readily available, and Professor Perez suggests are ready and able to begin to provide the value in society. Now is the time that change is being demanded of our economic ways and means. I would suggest that the economy will only commence the building of value again when we build the systems to support the innovative and speed capable oil and gas producer. 

In a related note, Shell was downgraded to neutral by Merrill Lynch due to "the groups [lack of an] ability to grow production". Just as BP and Chevron were downgraded yesterday, Shell could probably use a new method of organization, and capability based software developer, please join me here

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Professor James Hamilton on energy.

Professor James Hamilton writes the popular and often cited weblog (Click on the title to download this paper.) I have highlighted many of his writing in the left hand column of this blog, his writing is clear, comprehensive and based on fact. Through the Brookings Institute he has published a paper entitled "Causes and Consequences of the Oil Shock 2007 - 2008". The abstract to this paper reads;

This paper explores similarities and differences between the run-up of oil prices in 2007-08 and earlier oil price shocks, looking at what caused the price increase and what effects it had on the economy. Whereas historical oil price shocks were primarily caused by physical disruptions of supply, the price run-up of 2007-08 was caused by strong demand confronting stagnating world production. Although the causes were different, the consequences for the economy appear to have been very similar to those observed in earlier episodes, with significant effects on overall consumption spending and purchases of domestic automobiles in particular. In the absence of those declines, it is unlikely that we would have characterized the period 2007:Q4 to 2008:Q3 as one of economic recession for the U.S. The experience of 2007-08 should thus be added to the list of recessions to which oil prices appear to have made a material contribution.
I recommend people download and review the comprehensive nature of this paper. This is an individual who, with tenure at the University of San Diego, and an impressive global following has nothing to gain or lose by saying what is said. This is the first paper that I have seen that confirms the concern that all should have with respect to our energy demands.

We see the political leadership continue down the road to energy alternatives. I would expect these moves will be short lived as the reality of their stupidity begins to show. If they are truly concerned about the CO2 that oil and gas production and consumption produce. What will their move to electric cars with lead acid or lithium batteries recharged by electricity generated by coal do. A little rational thinking from alarmist politicians would show them the demise of the landfill and the far more polluting coal. 

The solution to these problems does not involve a car. To move away from internal combustion engines to electrical can never happen. The costs would be formidable. Transportation should have a priority on the oil and gas resources. People, should begin skipping the 9 to 5 commute, and keep short trips to the Segway. People, Ideas & Objects are a big part of how these problems can be approached.
A key finding of Professor Hamilton's includes:
The most important principle for understanding short-run changes in the price of oil is the fact that income rather than price is the key determinant of the quantity demanded. p. 1
In a related item Bloomburg is reporting that many of the difficulties the major producers are having in increasing their production profiles. It sounds to me they need a new more innovative organizational construct supported by a capability based software developer. Please join me here.

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