Categories
Web

Using RSS to keep up with your favourite sites

If you want to keep up with this blog but don’t want to have to remember to check back on a regular basis, one option available to you is the RSS feed.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that’s easier than checking them manually.

To take advantage of this technology, you’ll need a feed reader. The software is either web-based, which has the benefit of being able to be accessed anywhere in a browser, or client software, which arguably has more features. Google Reader and Bloglines are two of the most popular web-based options, and on the client side, RSS support is built into Microsoft Outlook 2007, Internet Explorer 7, and Mozilla Thunderbird, to name but a few.

The technology lends itself well to the typical email software layout, as blog posts or articles appear in feed reader software much like an email — the sender is the site itself, the subject is the headline, and the message is the body of the article.

I personally use Google Reader to read my favourite blogs. It features typical Google simplicity and an interface very similar to Gmail. I have a feeling, however, that RSS is really going to take off in the mainstream now that it is in Microsoft Office, in Outlook 2007. Up until this point, you needed one of several plugins to read RSS feeds in Outlook 2003. In 2007, the technology is baked right in.

As far as my feeds go, you can subscribe the RSS feed using a reader, or you can have the RSS feed delivered as email. There is also a feed just for the comments on this blog.

Categories
Web

FreeAgent simplifies small business accounting like no other

Dennis Howlett recently announced a new accounting web app called FreeAgent, which looks pretty cool and seems to be approaching an age-old problem in a new way:

All the well known products and services are geared towards people who already understand the fundamentals of book-keeping. Sage, Intuit and others will argue they’ve simplified the user interface and that much of the grind of double entry has been removed. I agree. But the basic design problem remains.

From the FreeAgent Central website:

FreeAgent is an online money management tool intended for small, UK-based service businesses of 1-3 employees. This will include most kinds of freelancers, contractors and consultants. … FreeAgent will probably not be for you if you tend to sell lots of products rather than services, hold materials and stock, or handle cash as part of your business.

Sounds promising. I took the tour to learn more, and a few things stood out. First, the software allows users to upload their bank data file, provide explanations for their transactions and the software will ‘learn’ for the next time what certain transactions are. That’s pretty slick. I love software that learns me, and no doubt so will business owners, since it will allow them to focus on growing their business.

Second was the focus on taxes. For now, the service is focusing on the UK market, but plans are afoot to expand into other markets. Tax is going to be the most difficult part of this transition. FreeAgent will help business owners self assess their income tax and VAT, as well as other corporate taxes if they’re operating as a limited company. This is a key addition of value for small business owners, as it will allow them to decrease their compliance costs.

The service is still in Beta at the moment, and accounts are available for free for the time being. They are going through some hiccups however, as I was unable to log in once I’d created my Beta account, and initially it gave me a 500 error when I signed up. But that’s what Beta is for – working out the kinks.

I’ll have a full review once I get set up and check out all the features firsthand, including screen shots. I also hope to help wherever I can with their Canadian translation!

Categories
Web

Twitter for accounting professionals?

Dennis wrote a post a few days ago about Twitter within “a business context” entitled “The pain of disruption“:

I want to DO something with Twitter. The more I think about what Twitter might deliver, the more scary it becomes. Twitter challenges my ingrained notions of how services and value are delivered.

In case you haven’t heard of Twitter, it is basically like group instant messaging. You create your own account and start making small (144 characters is the max) posts about what you’re doing or thinking about. Other Twitterers “follow” you and receive your postings on their home page.

For whatever reason the post really ignited something within me and I found myself commenting right away, although with an idea that sort of just fell out of my brain half-baked:

Off the top of my head, how about Twitter channels for large, distributed groups working together (I’m thinking specifically of audit teams but there are obviously other applications) to aid communication. Group IM seems useful as long as it can be secured for sensitive business.

I continued to ruminate on the issue and hoped some more ideas could be generated.

How about for Twitter for an entire accounting firm office? I could throw out a question to the entire firm, like “Does anyone have a GST reconciliation schedule template handy?” or “Why is the capital gains exemption limited to only qualified small business corporation shares?”

Being able to ask those sorts of questions is helpful since I’m rarely in the office unless it’s busy season (and even then it’s just evenings and weekends). Being able to ask my more senior colleagues technical questions when I’m in the field would be great, but not too different from using email. The difference I guess would be not having to enter all their addresses.

How about using Twitter to communicate with clients? This has some possibilities as well. Being able to communicate with clients about new accounting standards coming into effect, or relevant changes to tax law would improve client service and provide timely updates that blows the current model away.

Any other ideas for using Twitter within a business context or specifically for accountants?

Categories
Marketing

Google Analytics is open to all

I’ve been using Google Analytics for a little while now to track my blog’s vital statistics, and it’s a pretty well-rounded package, not that I have anything to compare it to.

But to sign up for it, you had to submit your application and then wait for them to let you in, presumably because they were trying to slow down the rollout and not overload their servers.

Well the floodgates are open now, as it has been announced on the Google Analytics Blog and verified by yours truly, you can sign up immediately for the service and reap the benefits of getting to know your site’s visitors in greater depth.

Categories
Technology

Amazon’s 1-click patent to be reexamined

It was recently announced that Amazon.com‘s 1-click payment patent will be reconsidered by the USPTO, but what is so interesting is that it was not filed by one of Amazon.com’s business competitors or by an NPO like the Electronic Frontier Foundation which protects online freedom, but from a New Zealand actor who paid the reexamination fee with money raised through his blog for the purpose.

In his words, this is about nothing more than payback for an annoyingly slow book delivery.