Toronto’s subway a likely terrorist target

A focus group study by the Federal government has highlighted the common belief amongst urban Canadians that Toronto’s subway is the most likely target for terror in this country. And the inventor of pointing out the obvious rests comfortably in his or her grave.

“For many, Toronto’s size, international profile and economic and financial importance to Canada made it the most probable target, especially by participants from this city.”

I think they just forgot to mention Toronto’s cultural influence as well.

Google’s foray into web storage

Google ExperimentalGoogle’s Analyst Day in February 2006 presented some PowerPoint slides touching on some future plans for storage:

With infinite storage, we can house all user files, including: emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc). We already have efforts in this direction in terms of GDrive, GDS, Lighthouse, but all of them face bandwidth and storage constraints today.

Nortel’s revenue recognition wrinkles

Om Malik, writer at Business 2.0 and power blogger, has posted his thoughts on the Nortel announcement from a couple days ago that they would have to restate their earnings again. His reaction is one of incredulity that Nortel, “a big NYSE company,” could actually not be able to get their accounting straightened out after all this time. Let me take a stab at an explanation.

Nortel BramptonThe thing about accounting is that minor changes have trickle down effects in many related accounts and indeed many different periods. A discovery of an error in an estimate for prior years’ revenues (estimates would be required if multi-year contracted sales arrangements are used, which they most certainly would be for Nortel) would have an effect on every set of financial statements from that year forward. Because Nortel is so large, public, and has operations in many countries (and is listed on both the NYSE and the Toronto Stock Exchange), it takes the auditors a long time and a lot of work to sort through the changes and restatements and their many side effects. And it’s busy season too.

Having seen the accounting inside many businesses up close and personal, I think the average observer would be very surprised at the amount of errors and issues auditors have to clean up and/or sort through as part of their job of rendering an opinion on the fair presentation of the statements.

Corporate intranets and their effects on productivity

A post by Jeffrey Veen talks about the typical corporate IT department and how it influences (negatively) external and internet web projects. The thrust of the post is that a centralized corporate IT department consists primarily of “technologists [more] accustomed to controlling resources and managing services” than user-centered design and the user experience.

I can relate to his findings in my own firm. We have a national intranet as well as an office intranet. The national one was recently updated and looks a bit sharper, although it still clings to using frames to lay out and organize content. More bells and whistles, but still no easier to find what you’re looking for unless you know where it is. In its defence, it has to serve a diverse national firm with large offices in the major urban centres like mine of nearly 100 and smaller offices in rural Canada of less than 10.

But the office intranet is something else. The color scheme is, in a word, hideous, and it makes liberal use of the marquee tag, and probably has looked the same for many years. It certainly looks very Web 1.0, as in Netscape Navigator 1.0. I’ve been toying with the idea of throwing the office intranet into something standards-compliant, use some CSS for the layout perhaps perform radical surgery on the information architecture. I think the standards argument would resonate with accountants.

Maybe once busy season is over.

Revenue recognition and Nortel

Nortel BramptonNortel Networks Corp. once again will have to restate its financial results to fix accounting mistakes, the company said on Friday as it posted a fourth-quarter loss of $2.2 billion.

Their chief executive maintains that the revenue was just recognized in incorrect periods, from 2002 through 2005.

Revenue recognition is definitely a touchy subject these days, I know we certainly spend more time nowadays on it than we used to. We have checklists to ensure we’ve considered every different aspect of sales arrangements and there is a note to the financial statements concerning how and when revenues are recognized.

Since Nortel is large (complicated) and public (risky), the audit could take quite long and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a handful of public accountants who are there each year more often than they are at their own office.