Category Archives: Accounting

Keyboard Control in Forms

It’s just a pet peeve of mine.

Years ago, during a period when I was using Access a lot, I got to design forms and you can set the tab control in an MS Access form pretty easily. Down one side and then to the fields on the right? Or across then down, across then down? You think about user interface, and make decisions. Then as you use the form, can modify and improve.

So many times these days, especially in web forms, that capacity seems to be lost. Maybe it is really really hard to control on sites, I honestly don’t know. But I feel quite skeptical.

You go to a site page which exists solely for the purpose of typing data in, but you can’t simply start typing, you need to click in the field first. And then when you tab out of the first field, it doesn’t necessarily take you to the next field! Some pages / screens, you need to mouse from field to field.

It used to be that there were keyboard commands for navigation in nearly every instance.

I strongly encourage anyone involved in such things to take that back in to account, and move us forward to a more efficient process.

Any tips / suggestions/ feedback much welcome!

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Bookshelf Review: the Rise of the Naked Economy

In the ongoing re-organization called Life, I came across this book and skimmed/read it to make keep/discard decisions.

It’s in the ‘Keep’ pile, but only just barely; and only for the function of identifying fallacies and wishful thinking.

I found the facile tone and smudged glossiness of the imagery very off-putting.

This book described happily the new work reality, in which many of us are super-specialists, providing very highly polished skills to a perpetually delighted market.

Others of us are to be generalists _ also very crucial, we’re told_ filling in gaps and doing – you know – general things.

All the infrastructure and ‘normal’ trappings of work are to be discarded – offices, established work relationships and protocols, permanence of any kind. Except for managers perhaps  – they can have trappings. But none for the rest!

It mentions at the end a few minor glitches – health insurance (and other benefits), collections problems, taxation policies that burden entrepreneurs vs. customers.

So ok, in reality – those minor things are kind of major, and many unstated problems exist which vastly outweigh the benefits.

For one thing, earning enough money to live on as a freelancer is very difficult to do in conjunction with maintaining the skill sets and knowledge base of a specialist. Apparently these new roles come with some sort of time-turning magical device!

Most utilization of freelancers takes place within a mature, structured workplace; because of all the ways in which that structure is necessary. The main body of activity in ‘getting things done’ will always need to happen within a permanent structure. Large groups of people engaging in innovation or existing service provision require permanent physical locations, computer and telephone technologies, long-standing interpersonal relationships.

There won’t ever be a ‘flash mob’ of people who are able to come together all as strangers for a short period to get a new design from research through the marketplace etc..

The flicking-off of a small percentage of positions from employment to contractor status weakens the people in those positions, as well as the organization itself: whether the specifics are adjunct faculty or accounting contractors. A great deal is lost when functional responsibility is lost in the shuffle.

I strongly feel that this push will turn out to have been profoundly wrong-headed; beneficial to small sets of people who managed the provision of freelance service and also to the people making the outsourcing decisions – at least until enough time passes to make clear the full impact of those decisions.

Meanwhile, from day one all the way through until a more complete relationship is re-established, the person providing the service is under-compensated. Financially, and on the wider basis as far as ongoing stability and life-planning foundation and career-wise and so on.

So many building blocks of a solid future exist only within the employment relationship. To actually replace those for freelancers – sincerely and in good faith – would take much more generous monetary compensation as well as a range of other substantive realities that have not at all been even explored, much less implemented. The reality is that these relationships have not been in good faith, but have been part of the hollowing out of the middle-class.

These authors – Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner – are themselves not distanced observers, but directly within the paradigm they’re discussing – they are both involved with NextSpace, an early pioneer in the coworking model.  Which brings up another aspect of this book – it weaves present and future, concrete realities and wishful generalizations, coal and diamonds to such an extent it’s difficult to digest.

But coworking itself is fascinating, and a great environment for certain types of functions. For folks in social media for instance, I can see how it would be perfect. It has its downsides (one example set), and will have growing pains as it matures (real estate prices for instance). But as it solidifies it also becomes one of the ‘infrastructure’ pieces that it itself is replacing, reminiscent of the conclusion of Vonnegut’s ‘Player Piano’.

This book also suggest using free resources whenever possible as a freelancer, to support the no-overhead model. Those free resources are reminiscent of procurement-chain management, in which smaller business were replaced with corporate/global supplies. Both paradigms deprive small, locally-held businesses of needed volume, causing constricted decision-making and diminished futures. More evidence of the wrong-headedness of this model

“Fun to Read!” says the book jacket. Not always ‘Fun’ to live!

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Socially Medium

With my ingénue eyes, Social Media is a fascinating, vibrant field full of mystery and excitement.. and twists and turns equal to any film thriller. Since I don’t work in the field, it is always new and fresh. And I’m not encumbered by too much actual technical expertise.

So I’m launching a sometime-series of Social Media from the layperson’s point of view, or the consumer’s point of view, or something like that.

Catchy title in process — currently ‘Socially Medium’ under consideration.

Today I just have to mention that HootSuite, much as I love it and celebrate it every day, is making me crazy.

I have used it with a range of accounts, from 2 to 5 at any given time.  These accounts are mine, family members, work places.  I’ve found HootSuite really has a serious ceiling on its functionality, and 2 accounts seems to be a limit (I’m using the free version).

So in my comments today, it’s with that framework in place – 2 account, each of which has all 20 lists in place.

Problem #1: Favoriting – when I favorite a tweet within Hootsuite, it doesn’t give me the choice of which account I want the favorite to be added to.  It makes a decision based on which account I’ve used more it seems like.  So, often the wrong account is used.. not a big problem, since I do the process knowing that that is the likely outcome, but it’s annoying. I could go to the Twitter site and favorite it there, but I’m usually trying to spend fewer minutes rather than more, and staying in Hootsuite is simpler.

Update: You know what? Classic case of the utility of writing — I figured something out about this since releasing it in this post. When Hootsuite doesn’t ask which account the favorite is for, it assigns the favorite to the account that owns the column from which the tweet came.. so if it’s a company-list, it favorites the tweet on to the company account, personal list – personal account. Finally. Still doesn’t work for me, because I put things in lists in a very organic manner, and that 1:1 correspondence is pretty off base. Good to understand though!

And when the thing I want to favorite is in a list/column from the other account, not the one I want the favorite on, just realized: If I click on the account of the tweeter (bringing it out of the paradigm of the particular column that tweet was in), then Hootsuite does ask which account I want the favorite to be on. Hallelujah.

Atleast, those are my working theories for now..

Problem #2: The lists. I often find interesting accounts on Hootsuite that I want to add to a list, or several.  One thing is that the add-to-list process works for one list at a time, which is painful. The other is that Hootsuite doesn’t update the list names from changes made in Twitter .. at all, it seems. So I have to know that X old name = Y current name.

Also, Hootsuite constantly changes the order of the list names that it presents. So I can add an account to a list from either of my accounts in Hootsuite, which is nice.. if I can find it in the constantly newly-sorted order.

Also, it presents some list names twice.. so it’s either showing two different lists with the same name, or one list twice. Neither is optimal..

I have somewhat randomly redundant processes, and overlapping list memberships, so it’s not fatal, but it bothers me. I wish there was some way to tell Hootsuite to update its list info from Twitter periodically. And I’d love to be able to order the lists that it shows in that ‘add to list’ function myself, or just have it use the list order established in Twitter.

Also, the bit.ly links – seems like for a while Hootsuite would just not send scheduled tweets that included those kind of links, so after noticing that, I started trying to remember to replace each of those links with a Hootsuite –generated link. Not time-efficient much.. and then sometimes I forget, and now it seems one tweet with a bit.ly link did go through. So maybe that isn’t required any more.

Finally, I noticed somewhere something about 6 characters being set aside for the tweet wrapper or something.. it had been the case that Hootsuite would send tweets that were longer than 140 characters. My understanding was that other Hootsuite users would see the full tweet, folks using other interfaces would not. But now it seems that Hootsuite won’t send tweets over 134 characters: 140 – 6.. but that’s not always the case either.

Clearly, there is a LOT of mystery involved for me! A smidge less would still be completely sufficient, honest.

Adapting to conditions is constantly required, would be nice though if the conditions would remain consistent – or get better. If only Hootsuite would fix these things, I’d be a very happy participant!

Insights/suggestions welcome. But save your breath if you would tell me to use a different interface – honestly that’s just not going to happen any time soon. The investment is too great.. I save most of my computer-y energy for work, constantly getting the best out of the different accounting software programs I’m using (3 different ones right now, between work and home).. everything else is secondary.  Including this site, etc.. simple suggestions welcome, anything more is probably not realistic. This is the elsewhere-focused outback on social media, hopefully with some attendant charm, despite all interwoven deficiencies!

P.S. Some other things I want to write about soon include Facebook advertising and that new option ‘Listly’..

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Online – Work vs. Personal

Last week I posted about one main difference for me, here is the rest of it.

Writing about my actual work gehts nicht. That phrase keeps being in my head. Literally: it doesn’t go. Meaning: it’s not going to happen. Hard to exactly put in in a phrase and have the sentence flow around it correctly, but that exactly captures the situation.

As I’m re-activating these various blogs and accounts and so on, thought I’d share a bit more about why that is.

My work life does not conform to the patterns I see in social media content.

For one thing, multiple aspects that folks normally write about are absent for me.

After taking away all that, what remains is the very core. Some of this content is analogous to other consulting, some is similar to IT process. Some is universal with any work process.

In those ways, I can see within my experiences that which others write about, even though they’re writing within a whole different work setting. And perhaps sometimes I’ll write things meant to be universal, distilled from multiple bits of various experiences I’ve had.

The whole rest of the time though, my online presence is about the goals of my work, which is to support entrepreneurs, creativity, adaptation, communities, and best possible futures.

And the occasional personal-self bit that might be adjacently related to work. Otherwise, my personal content is available nearby as well- but separate from this. Because it really works well for me to keep those two identities distinct, including online. For me they are different selves, with different goals, different challenges, different support systems, different rewards, different cycles, different everything.

And that’s actually the main difference that prompted both these posts – my interest in keeping two of everything – two Google + pages, two twitter accounts: in order to maintain that distinction. It fascinates me that so many merge the two.

The other part for me is about the fourth wall, like of the theater. More on that in another post… Much of work is theater (heck, much of life is), and in my personal online presence, I take away that fourth wall.

So, was thinking that since I’m the exception, thought I’d go ahead and clarify that so people can interact accordingly. I’m looking forward to sorting myself into the kaleidescope of social media more effectively going forward. See you there!

Thanks for visiting, comments always welcome.

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Only India

India: You know, that one, single, homogenous, ever-invasive bully-country that strode across the seas and snatched up many many jobs from the nice US economic systems that existed, and strode back across the seas smirking and proud?

That’s much of the image I guess I’d been creating in my head, by the turn of the Century, before being burdened with any actual information whatsoever.

Then, at Legal Aid, they had National Geographic magazines in the lunch room, and one day I read all about the caste system. And felt superior accordingly.

A while later my daughter (she was around 11-12 yrs old at the time) came across ‘Bend in like Beckham,’ and she really wanted us to watch it. I resisted strenuously, having already seen a number of kid-sports movies, and really not feeling like that Indian gimmick was going to work for me.

Finally, exceedingly reluctantly, quite a while after it came out, I gave in. And loved it. Loved the story, the characters, the setting a little bit even, and Loved the Music – especially the Indian music.. I really think looking back that it was the music as much as anything that prompted what happened next.

We found another Gurinder Chadha film, Bride & Prejudice I think, and watched that – loved it as well (the disconnects didn’t bother me at all at that time). And then What’s Cooking. And then another Aishwarya Rai film. And then, tip-toe-ing in.. another suggested one from Amazon. This was before I was on Netflix; and if I still had cable at that point, I hadn’t found any Indian content there (if there was any), hadn’t found iTalkies – was buying one film, then another. Came across a couple I didn’t care for much at all, and just about figured I was done with all that.. then saw Aamir Khan’s Lagaan. And a very long, rich journey was officially launched.

Today my film tastes are forever changed – I’m more used to having subtitles on than off, because even when I do watch American things, sometimes there’s a cultural dialect or it’s independent and the sound is muffled now and then or whatever. I really enjoy the emotion (and music still) of Indian film, the multi-genre aspect historically, the playfulness and other specific choices often made, the rich character focus, and the details such having a line at the end either replicate an earlier line (coming full circle) or completing a pattern etc…

I’ve learned that there are many languages, multiple regions, close to 50 major cities, a tapestry of rural communities, sophistication and intelligence and subtlety and every other similar attribute to infinite extents; right along with and within all the opposites and deficiencies that are most everywhere in various mixtures; many strengths for the rest of us to learn from and much to enjoy and celebrate.

I don’t know if I have any ancestral relationship to India, and probably never will, but my current country (US) certainly has been much richer for it’s existence, with the Civil Rights movement and many other aspects. Also India and one of my countries-of-origin – Ireland – certainly share a great deal historically.

And after all that, as far as India’s effect on financial services, I mainly put that to entities within the US. Changes were inevitable, they didn’t have to be implemented the way they were.

So I’m happy to have started learning about the global neighbor and friend that is India, and am looking forward to including Indian food (which I also love), music, and film as well as democratic struggles and so much more the rest of my life.

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Workings – Accounting

Returning Online Message to the World. Hello World!

I do accounting, and I don’t talk about it. Almost ever anyway. The one time I do talk about it.. well, it’s this blog post! This is my sole episode of self-exposition, hopefully a foundation for the rest of my social media life going forward. There are links to this, so that other main posts can be as pithy as self-awareness suggests they be. I hope this is illuminating to those interested, while still not getting me in any trouble. (Maintaining that delicate balance is strenuous, hence the singularity of this event).

Accounting is a dynamic, variable, and intrinsically-confidential process that most people in the best of times are unaware of. In the current moment, the accounting process has been rendered even more invisible, because of the paradigms that have sprung up around it.

Talking about it in an interesting way that is relevant to others yet also maintains all necessary confidentiality is generally impossible. Despite that, I’m going to share some information about it this one time, in re-joining the social media world after a long absence.

In my work, I create and maintain accounting structures and practices that enable efficient, correct financial transactions; and that also result in those transactions generating a data trail. I do additional steps with sets of transactions at periodic or project-specific intervals, to put that transaction data into specific patterns. And then I turn that data into information, both to meet external requirements and to provide useful organizational and programmatic information to internal managers and staff.

All of that is done within the framework of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), as well as federal and state laws (regarding payroll, sales tax, and all sorts of other things), particular structures established within specific grants, and the body of established practice within each entity.

A significant part of the work is also engaging productively with the organization itself, participating in relevant decision-making, sharing information, and implementing change proactively; also helping with the organizational work itself sometimes.

All of that happened a certain way when I started out, in the mid- to late- 1980’s. That established ‘normal’ for me. I thought things would always be that way. I imagine now that, if they had, it’s possible I would have ended up in a certain comfort zone, a set of habits and practices within which I would have been content in a static way, and work would have existed within 9-5 and the rest would be my personal life.

Instead, things turned out differently.

These accounting practices in general have since been subject to a series of pressures that I did not at all foresee when I started out – as is the case with many work practices. I may write more about them at some point, but here’s a brief description.

Quickbooks – which I can honestly say I identified as a very mixed change agent right from the very beginning – operates on the basic premise that accounting as a theoretical framework or structured practice really doesn’t exist. Anyone can do it. There are qualifiers inherent in that statement over time, but that’s the basic gist. Anyone can do it, and any negative outcomes from that process are manageable. If outcomes are to be better managed, you can get help after the fact to fix it. (Stop rant now/)

And while I support all small businesses and entrepreneurs, and I know it’s been an effective tool for many to some extent, I am critical of the messaging and the implementation and the reaction to it by the other entities. (And that last part is something I’ll probably never talk about, which leaves a gap, but so be it).

Outsourcing of financial work has been another huge sea change. I only ever briefly worked for ‘Corporate America’ – but the shift from there of people looking for work has been substantive in the arena I do work within. It’s been just as impactful of the shift from the bottom up caused by the Quickbooks mindset. I was angry at India – you know, that one big entity that is India-of-Outsourcing-Fame – for a time; and then ended up in a discovery process with India, and became very fascinated and enthralled. More about that some time too perhaps. Not angry now (not directed there, anyway!).

And the last huge change has been the recession of course, which has had pervasive effects in the number of employment options for everyone everywhere in accounting, and the related pay scales. I know it didn’t affect me nearly as much as so many, but it’s still been quite a change agent in my life.

My mother has worked in organizational consulting in the practice of nursing for several decades; familiarity with her practice and implementation of it has fueled my belief that I could adapt sustainably to this all, and keep going. And I have done that. Some aspects involved have been SWOT, Social Media, continual learning and the serenity prayer.

I’ve considered other options, and explored some, discarding them due to the long lead-in time required, market aspects, investment requirements, my own interests/skills/strengths and so on.

The main other area I was interested in early on, and partway through my college career – computer technology – has also been very over-populated; in addition it’s been dominated by monopolistic entities and the barriers to entry at this point are as high as my interest level today is low. It still works well for me to simply focus on accounting software, and to some extent the relationships with related other software packages, web technologies and operating systems, although I haven’t done as much with that lately.

Writing and everything about the written word – always a primary interest core to my being – remains as an internally-rejuvenating interest only, for the time being at least.

So as a result of those pressures, and those explorations, and every experience to date, I’m still in accounting but it’s quite different from how it was in the 80’s. Not only no more ledger paper (sigh), but organizational paradigms are very different, cost pressures are huge, and regulations/adherence monitoring is much more significant. It’s a 24/7 continually changing social-media-enriched client-focused experience, very different from how I thought my career would be way back when.

I’m continually grateful that I have been able to continue in the practice of accounting, in a sector of it that I’m happy to be in (nonprofits, and entrepreneurial entities), in physical locations that are often Downtown and always transit-friendly, with organizations that are doing great work and people that are truly wonderful.

The social media result is that I’m here, but talking about myself as others do gehts nicht – it’s not going to happen.

I’m thinking now, after being away for a while and within my current complex work situation, that I may write something once a quarter or so, about distillations and non-specific accumulations that might have relevance.

The whole rest of the time though, my online presence is about the goals of my work, which is to support entrepreneurs, creativity, adaptation, communities, and best possible futures. Sometimes that support lends itself to writing, such as new technologies or new impactful situations etc.. but I like to support the writing of others who have invested much time and energy in doing that well also – I respect their commitment to that process.

There, hopefully we’re all still standing and no lasting damage has been done.I know I feel Better.

So you see, my lack of original writing: it’s just the way my work is.

Although I know it’s true – the one constant in life is change!

Comments/feedback always welcome! Thanks for visiting.

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Filed under Accounting, Business, Community, Entrepreneurship, Minneapolis, NonProfits, Social Media, St. Paul, Technology

Update: Starting up activity again!

Hello again!

Have been away for a while, just due to normal busy-ness and so forth. But things are starting to begin to commence simmering a little more easily soon, so I thought I’d hurry up and take advantage early accordingly.

I have an exciting post coming up soon, a literary interview in conjunction with CCLaP of Chicago.

In advance of that, thought I’d better stop back in, open the windows, let the place air out a bit.

And thought I’d start doing something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but haven’t yet: actually write a little bit about what I’m doing.

I’m currently working with 5-7 entities, providing accounting services. Some of the relationships are employment, some contract, some a combination (providing contract services as an employee of a service provider).

Needless to say, it all adds up to a strenuous work week. But I thought I’d note (for the record) that I really believe it’s important to keep striving for excellence, despite all the challenges.

I started out being employed as an accountant, in a company that consulted on the process of work. And the values of that company have stayed with me ever since. They include focusing on the overarching goal at all times, even when the task is a piddly one. Mutual respect, functional trust, eschewing pettiness, going that extra mile to get the job done.

These are challenging days for anyone in the accounting field. There is a sort of mania out there to pay the least amount, which often translates to doing the least possible chunk of work, which then often has effects that accumulate and multiply.

Instead I believe in gaining an understanding of what the optimal amount of work is – balancing outcomes with effort required – to meet the best needs of the organization, and doing that to the best of my ability within the existing constraints. The strenuousness of that is why I have not written very often lately.

I believe many in the work world today are facing similar challenges in different guises. I hope we’re all able to keep carrying on, and that better days will soon be on the horizon!

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