Other stuff

Visualization of data – a challenge for accountants

Accountants can easily see patterns in numbers. When I look at a financial statement, say when I’m preparing a proposal for a potential client, I can study the report and in a short time get a good understanding of what is happening in the organization. That’s the goal of financials, isn’t it? To explain what happened.

Accountants and other financial types can look at a column of numbers and easily see the story. 

Here is the challenge: How do we, as accountants, help other people see the story that is so obvious to us?  How does anyone that works with a large volume of data help ourselves and others see the story?

That is what visualization of data is about.

Upping the ante on smart phones tracking your location

(duplicate of post on my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

So bad things could possibly happen if someone gains access to the tracking data on your phone. How could someone get access to the file where that data is stored?

I attended the Christian Leadership Alliance conference in Dallas last week. Learned lots of new stuff and had fun visiting with lots of colleagues. Picked up info on location tracking that I wanted to mention.  Steve Hewitt of Christian Computing Magazine provided some information, which I will so identify.

Here are a few ways to get access to the location tracking data:

A few downsides to smart phones tracking your location – Worried yet?

(duplicate of post at my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

What could be the problem with your phone keeping track of your location and sending that to Apple or Google?

What if someone hacks the Apple or Google site?  Or hacks your phone?  Or merely gains physical access to your phone for a few minutes to grab the file that has the tracking data?

“I’m not breaking the law” I hear your say.  Fine.  Let’s consider a few other scenarios.

Time to start paying attention to privacy issues?

(duplicate copy of post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Might be time for all of us to pay more attention to privacy issues on the technology we use. This has not been a good week in terms of privacy developments.

Using an iPhone or phone in the Android family? Did you know your location is being tracked regularly and reported back to Apple and Google?

Late last week or early this week (didn’t keep a link to the first article I saw) the first reports surfaced of the Michigan State police extracting everything from people’s cell phone during routine traffic stops for analysis on the spot.  Obviously the data could be stored and thus subject to later perusal. One of many articles here.

Okay, that’s not so good, but it gets worse.

Early this week, reports surfaced that iPhones constantly record the user’s location in an unencrypted file that is transmitted back to Apple. That file is also available to anyone who might gain physical access to your phone (see previous comment re: Michigan State police), hack your phone, or hack the Apple site. 

Cross-reference that file to a map and you can see a visual of every location you have been during the time the tracking has been running, perhaps a year. See article by Brian X. Chen, iPhone Tracks Your Every Move, and There’s a Map for That.  His article has a map that he created from his phone.

Next step in the bad news.

Today’s article from the Wall Street Journal, Apple, Google Collect User Data,  claims that both Apple and Google phones are reporting that tracking data back to them. The purpose is to accumulate data on hotspots so they can draw better maps for location-based services.  Since each phone has a unique ID, the data that comes in clearly can link you to the locations.

Glenn Reynolds has a great article discussing why all of this is troubling from a legal and practical perspective:  Smartphone Searches Not So Smart—Analysis.

He is quite concerned that what the Michigan State police are doing, and just about any other police agency could easily do, looks like a fishing expedition –  just looking around to see if there is something that might be illegal.  Few people can stand up to that kind of unlimited legal browsing.

My friend John Bredehoft has a post providing some background and asking the perceptive question Which do you fear more – business Big Brother, or government Big Brother?

“But I’m not committing any felonies or misdemeanors” I hear you say.

“I have nothing to hide” is the next thought you have. 

I’ll throw out a few ideas on why you should care in my next post.

Repeal of expanded 1099 reporting

(duplicate of post from Nonprofit Update)

Previously mentioned the expanded 1099 reporting that would have gone into effect in 2012.  This would have required all businesses and ministries to report on 1099s the payments to any vendor over $600.  The major change in the rules is the exception for incorporated businesses would have gone away.

On 3-14-11 the President signed legislation that repeals the expanded reporting requirement.

Creative visualization – astounding use of a map to show statistical data

A graph of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia shows the devastating losses suffered during the advance on Moscow and retreat.  It is the best illustration I’ve seen of creatively presenting a complex body of information.  Dare I say it is a beautiful graph?  Why is this of interest to us?  It shows a powerful way to communicate statistical data.

You can see the graph here at Cartographia.  Click on the map to enlarge.

One sentence of explanation allows you to interpret the entire view – …

Creative visualizations-military history illustration

I’ve been interested lately in creative ways to show data.  We accountants are great at absorbing a lot of numbers and finding the patterns.  Other people who don’t have our mind-set can not see what we see.  We need to find new ways to explain things.

How would you summarize the location and intensity of wars over the last several centuries?  One of my favorite historians would do that verbally over the course of a few books or dozens of columns.  (And I’d love every word of it too!)

Jordi Colomer has done so in a 5 minute video:

Move the “Reply All” button to reduce the chance you will becoming the subject of a newspaper article

(duplicate of post from Nonprofit Update.)

Various tales of disasters arising from people hitting the ‘reply all’ button were told in an article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  Simultaneously entertaining to see other’s embarrassment and fear-inducing that you could do the same thing.   I’d like to give you a link so you can read the full article, but it looks like the WSJ doesn’t like that idea anymore. 

Got a great idea from the article you might enjoy:

Move the ‘reply all’ button so you can’t accidentally hit it.  Also requires a more intentional effort to choose that option.

What you do after a discrimination claim can get you into REAL trouble

Attorney Jay Shepherd gives us 500,000 reasons to worry about retaliation claims.

He explains that when something bad happens to an employee after filing a discrimination claim, it makes it look like the employer retaliated against the employee for filing the claim.  Makes it look like payback.  That is a bad thing.  Very bad.  That is a serious offense in the eyes of the law.

Peering forward – trying to figure out the future

On my other blog, I have written a series of posts called Peering Forward (okay, okay, that is about all the creativity I can bring to headline writing).  The posts have been combined into one page, which you can see here.  The discussion is from the perspective of ministries, but many of the ideas are useful for CPAs as well.

Two great tidbits to chew on that I mention in the series:

  • Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google is quoted as saying that every two days we create as much information as all of humanity created from the dawn of civilization through 2003.  (The Kevin Ring article gave the info, TechCrunch verified.)
  • Ray Kurzweil said in 2001 that “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”  (comment mentioned in the Ring article.)   His point is that technology change is exponential.