A still small vice

As readers of my previous blogs will know, I am an unashamed technogeek. I make no apologies for this – sad as it is for a 50 something chartered accountant – but I like to think it is one of my few vices and mostly harmless, if not, at times, somewhat expensive.

One of the darker sides to my obsession is an uncontrollable urge to do things to my various gadgets which I know deep down will end in tears, but which I have to do to discover what the result will be.

When looking at various computer programmes or working on a complicated spreadsheet, my dark urge takes the form of pressing what I call the “Oh sh.t” key. I know it will be disastrous but it just calls to be pressed.

I did this once when setting up my contacts on Linked In. I ending up inviting the whole of my Outlook address book – causing as you might imagine some bemused responses.

My latest lapse was with my pride and joy -my Iphone. I recently upgraded to the Iphone 3Gs – a great piece of kit if ever there was one. Who else has a phone with its own compass – pointless, yes, but fun all the same. My Iphone was jailbroken which means I can run it on the network of my choice and use some pretty nifty applications which for reasons known only to Apple are not available in the standard application store.

Apple have just upgraded the software to version 3.1. I know that a jailbreak version for this was just round the corner but could I wait….

The result, I now have a fully featured Ipod but can I make phone calls – no I can’t. I now have to wait until the fix becomes available.

If anyone knows of a clinic somewhere which will cure me of this, please let me know..just don’t phone me.

My take on Twitter

I am a relative newbe when it comes to Twitter. With a modest 90+ followers I am a long way from the likes of @StephenFry or even @BookMarkLee who has written an excellent summary of the way that he uses Twitter.

However, I thought that I would add my halfpenny worth to the discussion with my personal view on how I have found Twitter working for me.

I must confess to being somewhat sceptical at the outset, and couldn’t see why information that so and so had just made a cup of coffee (or in some cases, done something a lot more personal!) could be of any interest to anyone – and I must say that is still the case. But when I realised that the medium could become considerably more focused and targeted, it became much more interesting.

As regular readers of my blogs will know, my particular area of interest is Cloud Computing with special reference to SaaS applications relating to the accounting world. Now, writing a blog is one thing – getting someone – anyone – to read it is another. And this is where Twitter comes in.

By using Twitter as a medium for directing traffic to my blog, I have built up a small but steady following which would never have existed otherwise. I have now exchanged comments and thoughts with interesting people from all over the world and have started to develop a modest reputation as a commentator in this area. I suppose that in some respects it is a modern day equivalent to having numerous pen pals (no wonder Royal Mail is in such trouble!)

Another aspect of Twitter is as a provision of interesting and relevant information as commented on and re-tweeted by those that I am following. To anyone familiar with RSS feeds – a method whereby relevant site information is downloaded directly to your browser – Twitter becomes an RSS feed with a personal face.

It is also an excellent Networking tool, and for those so inclined, it provides a great opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with people with similar interests. I have had a number of useful networking meetings and conversations which have originated from Twitter exchanges -I must add that it is a very strange experience meeting up with someone for the first time and, as a result of seeing their Twitter image, having a deja -vue moment!

Have I generated new business from it – no, but to be fair that hadn’t been my intention. Have I found an audience for my thoughts and ideas on my favourite topics – most definitely.

Have I become a celebrity as a result – well not yet, but I have made it to Accounting Web’s Ten accountants to follow on Twitter list – does that count?

Selling my old mobile – a salutary tale!

I have fallen foul of the old adage “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”. In my case it was responding to an advert in the Sunday Times which offers to give you cash for your old mobile phone.

Being the unashamed geek that I am, I have recently upgraded my Iphone to the 3Gs (a great piece of kit- it even has a compass!). I saw the advert in the Sunday Times and was pleasantly surprised (more fool me) when their web site advised me that the amount they would pay for my old iphone was £101. Not bad and it would go some way to ameliorate my somewhat guilty conscience for such an extravagance.

I duly completed the details, and very efficiently, a few days later received a letter confirming the offer and an envelope in which to send off the phone.

At this point matters became somewhat Kafkaesque.Having posted the phone, I received a few days later a text message simply stating that the phone had been received and – wait for it – the revised offer was £20!

Now I am not that naive not to realise that any offer must be subject to confirmation of the condition of the phone – but £20 as compared to £100 is a bit steep. I immediately texted back to say it was not acceptable and would they please return the phone.

Silence came the reply – nada – nothing. There followed three days of fruitless phone calls – sorry we’re so busy but extreme call volumes etc… – when on finally speaking to a human being, I was advised that my phone had a software problem (it didn’t when I sent it) and thus the reduced valuation.

OK I say, send me back the phone. No, they say, we dont return the phones. As you may imagine, at this juncture, the conversation became somewhat circuitous and little bit heated.

There is a moral to this. These adverts are obviously a scam. What is surprising is that they appear to be backed by a respectable newspaper such as the Sunday Times.

So be warned – if it sounds too good to true – it is!
13th October 2009 – There is a psotscript to this story. I complained to the News of the World who are the apparent sponsors of this scheme. I received a prompt response from the Senior Associate Editor with a profuse apology and agreeing to pay the full amount originally offered. I have today received a cheque from them.

It is good to see that customer service still exists in some quarters!

The helpful tax man

This is a real reply from the Inland Revenue (UK). The Guardian newspaper had to ask for special permission to print it.

Dear Mr Addison,

I am writing to you to express our thanks for your more than prompt reply to
our latest communication, and also to answer some of the points you raise. I
will address them, as ever, in order.

Firstly, I must take issue with your description of our last as a “begging
letter”. It might perhaps more properly be referred to as a “tax demand”.
This is how we at the Inland Revenue have always, for reasons of accuracy,
traditionally referred to such documents.

Secondly, your frustration at our adding to the “endless stream of crapulent
whining and panhandling vomited daily through the letterbox on to the
doormat” has been noted. However, whilst I have naturally not seen the other
letters to which you refer I would cautiously suggest that their being from
“pauper councils, Lombardy pirate banking houses and pissant gas-mongerers”
might indicate that your decision to “file them next to the toilet in case
of emergencies” is at best a little ill-advised. In common with my own
organisation, it is unlikely that the senders of these letters do see you as
a “lackwit bumpkin” or, come to that, a “sodding charity”. More likely they
see you as a citizen of Great Britain, with a responsibility to contribute
to the upkeep of the nation as a whole.

Which brings me to my next point. Whilst there may be some spirit of truth
in your assertion that the taxes you pay “go to shore up the
canker-blighted, toppling folly that is the Public Services”, a moment’s
rudimentary calculation ought to disabuse you of the notion that the
government in any way expects you to “stump up for the whole damned party”
yourself. The estimates you provide for the Chancellor’s disbursement of the
funds levied by taxation, whilst colourful, are, in fairness, a little off
the mark. Less than you seem to imagine is spent on “junkets for Bunterish
lickspittles” and “dancing w**res” whilst far more than you have accounted
for is allocated to, for example, “that box-ticking façade of a university

A couple of technical points arising from direct queries:
1. The reason we don’t simply write “Muggins” on the envelope has to do with
the vagaries of the postal system;
2. You can rest assured that “sucking the very marrow of those with nothing
else to give” has never been considered as a practice because even if the
Personal Allowance didn’t render it irrelevant, the sheer medical logistics
involved would make it financially unviable.

I trust this has helped. In the meantime, whilst I would not in any way wish
to influence your decision one way or the other, I ought to point out that
even if you did choose to “give the whole foul jamboree up and go and live
in India” you would still owe us the money.

Please send it to us by Friday.

Yours sincerely,
H J Lee
Customer Relations

The Cloud – my favourite applications – Part 1

With so many excellent Cloud applications now available, I thought I would compile a list of my favourite ones and the applications that I use the most. I must emphasise that this is a personal choice and no doubt many of you will disagree and have your own preferences – if so I would be delighted to hear from you and we can compile our own top ten.

The problem with lists such as this is that there is so much choice it is difficult to know where to start, so I am going to begin with three applications that I use the most and then see where we go from there.

Accounting software for business
When I first entered the market (the subject of a future blog) there was virtually no choice in internet based accounting systems. The virtual market place is now swamped with providers and I will be compiling a review of the different offerings in the near future.

For now, I am going to concentrate on one particular product – e-conomic.

e-conomic is a Danish based offering which has been extremely successful in Scandanavia (having been adopted by a number of top 4 firms as their principal accounting software), and is now trying to gain a foothold in the UK. It is an extremely versatile package with a comprehensive list of functionality and add on modules, including departmental accounting and stock control.

The ability to import opening balances and charts of accounts (which are completely customisable) via excel spreadsheets, facilitates set ups and menus can be adapted to suit the user – from the most basic data entry to full scale book keeping mode.

For those diehard Sage users who are just considering a move to the cloud – e-conomic will probably be the easiest way to make the jump.

I tend to work from three different computers depending on where I happen to be. I have my office laptop which is, of course, set up to operate through the firm’s network, my home laptop and my netbook (on which, incidentally I have just installed the Alpha web based operating system Jolicloud).

Dropbox is a virtual drive which is installed on your PC and syncs automatically via the Cloud so that it is available – either via the web – or as virtual drives on whichever PC you are using. Any changes to documents become available on whatever PC you are using. It also has the ability to share directories with other users, making collabaoration that much easier.

Dropbox provides 2GB of storage for no charge and provides additional space at a modest monthly charge.


Evernote works in a similar way to Dropbox in that it places a syncable drive to your PC which then syncs with your other PC’s via the web, making your notes available wherever and whenever.

What makes it so versatile, as far as I am concerned, is that it has an excellent Iphone application thus making notetaking truly global. The Iphone enables notes to be entered manually, by voice note or by photograph. Notes can also be added via Twitter.

The extract from the Web site sums it up:
“…..Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere……”

To be continued…..

Fame at last – of a sort!

So- I have been included in a list. I may have been included in lists before, but they were probably ones which were not of great interest. But this list is the creme de la creme. It is Accounting Web’s Ten accountants to follow on Twitter list.

Ok, admittedly I am at number 10 and my 55 followers are a mere drop in the ocean when compared to the likes of @dahowlett but its a start.

The interesting point about this, of course, (apart from my 15 minutes of fame) is the way that Twitter can be used for a business and professional purpose. Much has been written on the subject already – but the networking benefits that can arise from using Twitter are a much underplayed benefit.

Likewise, it is an alternative or more personal approach to RSS feeds – a source of interesting articles, posts and technical information and serves as an excellent medium for publicising ones particular cause or issue.

To those of my professional colleagues who have yet to discover this medium, I would strongly recommend that it is worth investigating.

As for me, I will enjoy my 15 minutes – as the words of the song go.. after 25 years it doesnt mean a thing.. but its nice to know!