Articles for August 2015

35. Constraints: Use Them to Your Advantage

I recently read a business book called “A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden. It describes how to use constraints, like lack of time, money, resources, attention, know-how, and use them to help transform your company for the better.

Beautiful Constraint Book Cover

The book discusses how to shift away from the typical “victim” role by understanding how our routines control things, asking the right questions, and focusing on “how” and not “if”.   For an example, one of the recommendations discussed in the book is that in your group sessions no one on your team is allowed to utter the words “we can’t because…” but must replace those words with “we can if…”.   This forces the generation of ideas and promotes a positive attitude rather than a victim attitude.
The book describes how many innovations were created due to constraints and those innovations would never have been created without having those constraints to direct the thinking.  To force innovation in your organization you can create constraints for your team, even if they are just artificial constraints, to help foster innovation and push for “outside the box” thinking.  The tougher the constraint, the greater the challenge for your team but then possibly the greater the final outcome.
The term Theory of Constraints may be common to some.  However this concept is different than what is being discussed in this book.  The TOC essentially relies on managing the constraint or eliminating it, and then address the next constraint in sequence.   The authors here propose to exploit the constraint or leverage it to create a new possibility, hence the title “beautiful constraint”.
As we all know the mining industry as a whole has more than enough constraints placed upon it right now, be it lack of funding, lack of skilled talent, environmental pressures, supply-demand issues, social issues, security issues, etc.    Each operation or mining project may have additional constraints above and beyond those of the general industry, so one does not need really to create artificial constraints for your team.  The mining industry almost has no option but to try to use these constraints in a constructive manner and not let them pull the industry down or simply try to wait and they will go away.  When people say “mining is cyclical and it will all turn around soon” is an example of waiting for the constraint to go away.  Well how long do you wait before taking your own action?
My bottom line is that the book was enlightening, although maybe telling us what we already know subconsciously but don’t acknowledge openly.  Don’t wait, start innovating, and don’t be afraid of grand innovations.  The book should be required reading for all those working in the mining industry today.

34. On-Line Technical Report Library

Recently on LinkedIn I noticed a discussion from a member of an Australian/New Zealand consulting group about developing an on-line community for undertaking free peer reviews of new resource estimates and technical reports.   The objective was to help the mining industry improve on their standards, consistency, and quality of resource estimates and the supporting technical reports.
RSC are steadily compiling a Dropbox library of technical reports that can be accessed via a searchable map on their web site at this link.  The map functionality is quite unique and interesting.  Check it out – there are many global projects already listed on the map.
The proposed peer review concept is not described on the web site but was part of a LinkedIn discussion, which now seems to be deleted from LinkedIn. The goal is (or was) to develop a team of pre-approved volunteer mineral consultants that would review the various technical reports for accuracy and compliancy.  The list of comments would then be complied and would generate a ranking to be provided back to the original author and/or the mining company.   The hope is that such on-going peer reviews would help improve the quality of technical work.
Via LinkedIn, they were seeking out volunteer reviewers and had numerous people interested already.  My understanding is that they were planning to start a trial run of the system within the next few weeks, however seeing the article gone from LinkedIn, the idea may have been put aside.  Nevertheless the searchable map is still there and it is an interesting way to see what project developments are occurring in the mining industry.

33. Blogging and Spam

This is a short non-mining topic but it’s something I found interesting.  Spam and spamming is everywhere.
I started this little WordPress blogging site a few months and enable the readers to comment on each blog.  Well lo and behold it didn’t take long for the spam to start arriving.  The image below shows the typical spam that I would get in the comments section, even though commenting requires one to enter an email address in order to post.  It took a few weeks to start but most recently I would be getting 5 to 10 of these spammed “comments” each day. It’s not like my website has a lot of followers or comments, but it still ended up a target to the bots or spiders or whatever else that is roaming around the web.


Example WordPress blog spam

Example of spam sent to blog comment.

The first solution is to turn off automatic commenting to prevent comments from being posted immediately on-line.  I switched to moderated comments whereby each comment needs to be manually approved by the administrator before being posted live.  However after being continually asked to approve a lot of pending spam comments, it got tiresome.  The next solution was implementing the CAPTCHA (see image below).


Example of a Captcha

Example Captcha form

WordPress has various plug-ins designed to limit spam.  One of the simpler solutions is to add a “captcha”, which is the little box where you need to type in a word or number.  This is designed to hinder the automated spam-bots.  CAPTCHA is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, a great acronym.
After five days of using the captcha, I have received no new spam and weeks later still none.   However this won’t stop any manual spamming, so that will be the next thing to wait for.   It’s interesting to see how much unproductive technical energy is being expended out there in cyberspace.
What’s the reason for this specific spam that I am getting?  I understand it’s not to install a virus or malware but part of search engine optimization (SEO).  Google search will rank websites higher on the search result if that site has many other websites linking (pointing) to it.   So creating web links for a certain site on various blogs will improve that site’s rank.   I also heard that if Google detects a lot of such phoney links on my site, they will downgrade me as punishment. There is always someone out there looking for a new angle.