February 2012 - Posts
Let's all take a moment to gather around the warm glow of our monitors and study Wikipedia's insights into the concept of a microsite.
Now let's study the ICAO Unification Microsite. You don't have to click away, I'll give you a screenshot:
What exactly is wrong here? There are both technical and semiotic issues at play in their use of the word "Microsite" and how they've deployed it on this page. The quote "I do not think that word means what you think it means" comes ot mind as you scroll around.
I don't claim to be a hugely skilled web designer, despite having built a couple of websites from scratch, but you would think introductory text of some nature would appear. Instead you see a map of Canada that doesn't do much to support the idea of "Unification" by making Ontario pop out with a golden glow, followed by a rack of size links, four very short news clips, and two "upcoming events". Compare this to a list of well-designed sites and your shoulders sort of slouch with despair. What happened here?
If we continue by playing along with Wikipedia's definition, you would expect to see a custom domain or subdomain. There is no such thing as "http://unification.icao.on.ca", or "http://www.OntarioCAUnification.ca" so they really aren't trying very hard to stand out. Of course, web optimization isn't really the ICAO's strong suit. I mean, google for them and the other ICAO is the one that pops up first.
The calendar of events is best avoided. There are only 4 of them left. Hopefully that'll fill up between now and the June vote, but it does look rather sad.
The last technical point is more nitpicky, but it matters: whoever designed that page clearly phoned it in. Look at the top of the page.
See how it says "Uniting the Accounting Profession"?
That's not all it says.
Drift further to the right and note that they were too lazy to remove "Page Title" when they designed the site. Consider the thousands of dollars the ICAO collects from each of its members, you would think they would make sure they're getting a quality product.
Of course, if you're using a "modern" browser that hides the title bar, you wouldn't even notice that. I'll suspect that someone at the ICAO may have opened the page in Chrome or IE9, and not even have noticed that "Page Title" phrase.
It gets deeper
In a semiotic sense, using the term "Microsite" brings forth the connotations of the word "Micro" which are completely out of place. Even if it were technically correct to call the page a Microsite, would you want your visitors to think of it in that manner? This is an issue that touches upon years of education and professional experience, and a "Micro-anything" is being used to "bust" the "myths" that you may have heard?
The tone comes across as either dismissive or combative, especially in the body language you see in some of the videos. It's amusing to see the Myth Busters
section, which is a nice idea, being filmed in what looks like various rooms at the ICAO headquarters, but its insistence on making you sit through
the video is pretty brutal. People in a rush don't want to spend half an
hour digging through clips. Share the transcripts so people can quickly
read along. In terms of accessibility, it doesn't help those with
hearing disabilities. And in terms of communicating your message, you
keep staring at the message while someone is speaking to the
counterargument. How is this an effective approach to countering the
For example, look at the "This is 2004" clip, which shows "This is 2004 all over again."
I don't see why the third point, 'now we have CPAB' has any effect as
they sort of run otu of time at that point, but I'll let you ponder that
My friends have asked me about my opinion regarding the merger. If you have trouble parsing my view from this commentary it's for a simple reason: I see some of the benefits, but I'm not impressed with the manner in which they're being communicated! Though the site has a very "professional" look to it, there are loose threads sticking out here and there that give you the feeling that things were just a bit rushed and they're sort of scrambling to address the problems that have arisen. We'll see how this unfolds.
Feel free to visit the fan page for this site if you're sitting there despairing over the confirms that didn't come in, or better yet, don't match the balances your client claimed existed. I'm sure you'll figure it out after you hit up this page. Major benefits include an ever more constant intrusion into your daily life and easier ability to comment on posts that appear here. It may be a good place to share "ACS" related links that don't merit a full post but are worth sharing, or germs of ideas that may indeed become full articles down the road. And of course it's always nice to have a convenient outlet to ask questions in case I lose your queries in my spam folders, so enjoy all this for all its worth.
It took a lot of mediation and careful thinking about silly acronyms before finally settling on the "ACountingSchool" part of "https://www.facebook.com/ACountingSchool", since they only let you pick that once, so go ahead and click around.
While Ontario's successful writers of the 2011 UFE prepare to party at the Westin Harbor Castle, the Globe offers its takes on the ongoing merger saga.
Alberta's CAs recently decided to back out of the merger talks, while Ontario drives on towards June's non-binding vote.
Much whinging has alreadyeen expressed about the pros and cons about the idea of merging Canada's three major accounting designations. Talk to people studying in the various programs and you'll get an earful about the different hoops the students have to jump through to qualify for their respective designations. The CGAs and CMAs have tough programs, but most of them will point out that the CAs set their bar even higher, particularly in terms of pre-requisties to be admitted to the program, in both marks and course requirements. The barriers to entry have shifted over time, but they're still a relevant factor to consider.
Is it fair to let everyone to use the same credentials if they represent very different practices?
What makes the entire situation more curious is the fact that the proposed solution would have everyone use both a new "Canadian CPA" designation alongside their "old" designation for at least ten years or so, which arguably makes things even more confusing. I suppose the counterargument is that in 2025 things will be ever so straightforward!
Short-term shenanigans aside, it does seem curious to be held hostage to the decisions made by rival bodies of professionals 50 to 100 years ago, while this country was still evolving and solidifying how doctors and other professionals regulate themselves.
If you've been privy to the subtle drama that's been boiling, it does seem like better communications could have made the process a lot smoother. I've seen a very detailed survey come out gauging my "mood" about the merger talks - but it only arose after the powers that be thought that they had arranged a fait accompli, only to be presented with the CA equivalent of a Large Angry Mob.
And of course this is a sign of an organization engaging in some damage control, trying to recover control of an agenda which was assaulted by a grassroots resistance to change. I've always found it amusing to see young people serving as the vanguard of reactionaries - but I guess that's a Thing. You can learn more about the Party Line at the "unification microsite", which as usual, speaks to an organization that has a weird relationship with the internet. It's such a bizarre webpage I'll devote another discussion just to that.
With all this protesting and opposition you'd be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled upon a strike at the gates of the Parthenon.
Last time we discussed the joy of empty roads and the ability to find a
seat on a subway train when commuting home from work. I of course
glossed over the fact that you can also avoid the rush by leaving before
5 pm, but that crazy notion should seem absolutely foreign to anyone
living in AuditLand so why bring it up?
Sure, an auditor could come in at 7 am instead of 8:30 or 9. Would it
mean they would leave one or two hours earlier? If you think the answer
is yes don't let an actual auditor know that. The bitterness of their
laugh, while epic, may cause permanent scarring. On your soul.
Anyway, long hours. Why bother subjecting yourself to that sort of torture?
You must learn.
Unless you're some mad prodigy who picks up everything on the first shot
perfectly, you need to practice if you are going to have any hope of
getting good at something. And auditors are constantly being bombarded
by new "somethings". An average clerk may spend days or weeks becoming
proficient at a task. Compare that to a CA student, possibly months or
mere weeks out of university, who is tasked with understanding that
clerk's entire job in a few hours. Sure, there are lovely things like
"prior year working papers" which simplify matters. But if the job's
expected to be "easier" because you've been lucky enough to get assigned to an "old" client for which you have
that lovely prior year file, that simply means you'll be expected to
learn things even faster with less guidance.
Tough it out. After a few years this becomes second nature, and that's why an
experienced CA who toughed it out in AuditLand is still considered a
prized employee. They'll figure things out, and do it quickly.
But it's a long road to get there. Not unlike training for a major sport. And you're not keeping to a standard 9 to 5 day in the process either. Practice and all its associated cliched phrases still matter. Stick to it, but be smart about it. A hard working team will learn a great deal. Of course, an exhausted
team quickly becomes useless. Maintain some kind of balance.
When the entire team is zoning out, however, then perhaps it's best to call it a day before the subway shuts down for the night. Be realistic, you may learn a lot during the extra three hours, but after 9 or 10 pm you're more likely to spin your wheels. After midnight you really shouldn't be in the office unless there's a fire to deal with, and you're only going to do it that "one time" before things go back to normal.
Hopefully whoever's in charge of your team knows that. And if they don't, leave this page open on their screen when their computer is foolishly left unattended. This only works if there's more than two people in the room, of course. Otherwise consider leaving print-outs strategically in their mail slot. And leave out the last paragraph: it's the perfect plan.
I was going to compare the punishing hours one experiences in AuditLand
to the more "normal" hours experienced by most other people and make
some lofty defense about the good things that come about from sticking around an audit room while an entire
client site empties out promptly at quitting time. And we'll get to
But first let's talk about one entirely practical upside: skipping the 5
pm rush on public transit, particularly overburdened systems like the
TTC is nice. People who go home between 6 pm and midnight are not aware
of what "crush load" really means.
Having said that, the people who are leaving at all sorts of crazy late
hours do miss out on various things, like a healthy and normal meal with
family or the ability to
go out with friends on a weeknight. So it's not *much* of an upside, but
when you're sinking in the ocean, there's no point in turning down a
life preserver simply because the shade of orange on the jacket doesn't
match your shoes. Take what you can get and be happy.
We'll discuss the grand philosophy behind "Long Hours having an upside" in our next instalment.
I received an e-mail inviting me to give free marketing to someone who put a lot of effort into a cute cartoon explaining the job prospects for accounting students. I'm responding publically because I can: I won't do link to your graphic, because you ignored who I am and what I do.
Your cartoon is about the US market, and about the American CPA designation.
This is a Canadian blog, and I when I do get around to writing, it's typically about living life with the CA designation. That's Chartered Accountant, not "certified accountant." I may sometimes also venture towards the CMA and CGA, and the ongoing idea of creating a Canadian CPA designation, all worthy topics among the many that I should write more about. But I typically leave the American CPA to people who specialize in that sort of thing.
Sorry to be so harsh about it, but you work for an accounting exam website, so you asked for it: if writing an e-mail to me could be tortuously contorted into a kind UFE question response, you would've failed at it right there.