Google improves Analytics and now I’m in on it!

This weekend was the first long weekend of the summer here in Canada. On Fridays before long weekends at my firm we get the afternoons off, so around 1pm everyone clears out and gets an early start on the rest of the cubicle dwellers around the Greater Toronto Area.

I took the opportunity to do a little shopping for a new mouse at Future Shop. My old mouse had for whatever reason stopeped functioning properly. For the rcord, Microsoft mice have failed on me twice now, so I went with Logitech this time.

I also decided to splurge on a year’s subscription to Flickr, since it was so reasonably priced at about $25 USD. I hit the limit on the free account a while back. It’s useful as a blogger because I use it to host images I want to use in blog posts, such as the one in this post, and it doesn’t use up my bandwidth.

But I digress. Point is, when I got home from shopping, unwrapped and plugged in my shiny new mouse and by chance decided to check out my site statistics, I noticed that Google had upgraded my Analytics account to their new beta!

Analytics New Beta

The whole package is still freely available to anyone who has a Google account and a website. The graphics have been tweaked, but it’s the functionality improvements where the new Analytics really impresses. For example, the geographical breakdown now allows you to drill down from a map of the globe down to a specific US state or Canadian province.

Canada Analytics

Unsurprisingly, most of my traffic comes from Toronto and the surrounding area. Most of my US traffic originates from the most populous states: California, New York and Texas. It’s also interesting to see the browser and operating system breakdown of my visitors. Most still use Internet Explorer despite its deficiencies, but 31% using Firefox on all operating systems is above average:

Browsers and OS

The title of this post refers to the phasing-in of the new Analytics. Google announced the new version a few weeks ago but has been moving everyone over on a relaxed time frame, assumably to catch any bugs or glitches otherwise missed. So I’ve known for a while what was coming, but didn’t know when!

Google has also put together a video tour of the new features.


City budget indecipherable to ordinary citizens

Toronto released their budget this week and other than the usual tax hikes for property owners, this interesting post on Eye Daily about the gibberish and jargon of a city budget.

It lists the specialized terms the budget contains to describe its expenditures and revenues, and the list is incomprehensible, even to me, a soon-to-be Chartered Accountant:

  • OMBI
  • COTA
  • Net pressures
  • Revenue tools
  • Adjusted pressure
  • MPMP
  • ABCs
  • Single tier and regional CAOs
  • COLA
  • Assessment growth
  • Social service cost sharing
  • OW COA
  • EMS
  • CM & CFO
  • FY Incremental Outlook
  • Full cost recovery model

It’s a little ridiculous, no? How do they expect ordinary citizens to understand where their property taxes are going, if I can’t even decipher the above?

The link above contains comments on the original post that outline what the terms most likely mean, although no one from the City has come forward with the official definitions.


CA Convocation an evening of celebration

Last night the annual CA Convocation and “Dinner Dance” was held at the Westin Harbour Castle downtown Toronto. Good times were had by all, except that I think made an ass of myself on more than one occasion. That’s what drinking nothing but scotch and wine will do to you I guess!

Lots of fun though – great food, great live band and dancing, free drinks in a posh setting, and yet more recognition of passing the UFE. Check out a few photos on my Flickr and Krupo should have some soon too.


TransitCamp set to improve the TTC

A group of Toronto bloggers are getting together this weekend for the TTC TransitCamp to brainstorm ways to improve the TTC’s absolutely horrid website.

When I first heard about it a few days ago, my first impulse was to try to get involved. Then I realized, there are probably many more Torontonians with much more to contribute than one who drives every day to random parts of the GTA.

Some got together on January 21 to plan the event, and the group can be seen in this Flickr set. The event has even been dugg! The buzz is building and I can’t wait to hear about the great ideas that are sure to result from this innovative “unconference.”

Accounting Standards

Income trust standards (or lack thereof) and risk

So everyone and their grandpa is still upset about the recent change to income trusts introduced by the Canadian federal government. The change was, of course, to implement a tax on trust income similar to corporate income tax.

The outrage epicentre is Bay Street, Canada’s version of Wall Street, in the heart of the financial district in downtown Toronto. But in the radiating waves of anger from that focal point, senior citizens seem to be most upset. Could that be because they are more likely to be Conservative party supporters, the party that pledged no trust tax in the last election? Possibly, but it also has to do with retirement savings and poor investment advice.

The most apoplectic are the ones who concentrated their investments in the risky vehicles.

This violates the sacred first rule of investing – diversify your holdings. Unfortunately, it seems that the only diversification many people paid attention to was in the underlying nature of the trust business – i.e. natural resources (oil and gas trusts are huge). It didn’t occur to anyone to diversify amongst vehicles – some trusts, some equities, some bonds, some derivatives, etc.

The risky nature of trusts is related to the relative lack of policing by either securities regulators, or accounting standards setters. Distributable cash is a key metric for trusts, because they are by design supposed to distribute nearly all cash generated, and one that has to this point been ignored by both parties above.

The accounting standards body in Canada, the AcSB, has no guidance on trust disclosure, and the national securities regulator, the CSA, has only suggestions as to disclosing that distributable cash is estimated based on reasonable assumptions. As Al Rosen, a popular Canadian accountant and frequent contributor to various business publications, points out: “Is any company about to admit that their predictions of distributable cash are completely unrealistic?”

Trusts need more attention from accounting standards setters and securities regulators, that much is certain. But investors also need to be aware that diversification should be done across investment vehicles, as well as industries. Both carry different types of risks.