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Who is AccountingWeb for?

If it is for Accountants why isn't it restricted to Accountants?

Didn't find your answer?

Perhaps because fewer accountants seem to be using it, questions from "the public" are becoming more of a feature of Any Answers. Isn't this at odds with AW's mission statement (from the About page on the site)?

"AccountingWEB.co.uk is the largest independent online community for accounting and finance professionals in the UK - providing award-winning content and online engagement between members in a true community environment.

Accountants in Practice represent just under half of our visitors and we reach 75% of firms outside of the top 20.

Accountants in Business represent the remainder of our audience, typically working in smaller to mid-tier businesses."

Replies (75)

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Oaklea
By Chris.Mann
10th Apr 2018 08:39

"If it is for Accountants why isn't it restricted to Accountants"?

The simple, Sift reply, which I tend to (generally) agree with, is that, because Aweb's an open site, free to enter from a variety of search engines, it is almost impossible to dissuade non-accountants/advisers etc, from; visiting and using the facility.

As I say, I generally agree with the explanation. However, over the last year to 18 months, some very experienced and knowledgeable contributors visit the site; either less and less, or have even deserted the place, all together. Whilst this will be of no concern, whatsoever, to the Aweb (Sift) editorial team, it should be a concern to the general membership. Even PNL seems to have put the brake on contributions, in the last few weeks and, eventually, there will be little left of what the site was intended for.

Latterly, the illiterate, downright ignorant and, of course, a plethora of freeloading individuals, have become more and more regular posters and, on these occassions, the lack of input, from seasoned contributors, is now tangible.

The likes of; ShirleyM, Peter Saxton, stepurhan, JCresswellTax, etc etc seemingly only visit very occasionally these days and, in real terms, that a loss to the community.

Only this morning, during my daily commute, the question crossed my mind - "how long will Aweb survive, in its present format". The answer, which immediately came to mind - "not that long"!

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Stepurhan
By stepurhan
10th Apr 2018 09:08

Yes it is at odds with the mission statement.

But it has become quite clear since the site revamp that Sift care more about number of clicks over quality of content on Any Answers. It is therefore unlikely to change any time soon.

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Replying to stepurhan:
By Ruddles
10th Apr 2018 09:17

And let's face it - I could probably count on the fingers of one hand (excluding the thumb) the number of individuals, accountants or otherwise, that bother to read (or are even aware of) the mission statement before signing up.

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Replying to Ruddles:
By Tom Herbert
10th Apr 2018 09:18

Thanks Ruddles and stepurhan. One suggestion I'll be taking upstairs is to try and make our mission statement more visible, particularly to new members.

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By Tom Herbert
10th Apr 2018 09:17

Thanks for your feedback PracticePartner.

I appreciate that this is a bone of contention with several longstanding members, and I'm sorry this has tempered your enjoyment of the site.

However, if anyone in this country can call themselves an accountant, how would you recommend we as a publisher regulate who is able to post on our site?

For a relatively small publisher to hire moderation staff with enough accountancy knowledge just to check the validity of each post is not practical.

As always in the site's 20-year history we rely on our community to tell us when lines have been crossed, which fortunately for us many still do.

Wherever possible we try to politely direct non-accountants seeking accountancy advice to our sister site UK Business Forums, which has a dedicated section for this.

I would also add that the accounting world comes in many shapes and sizes, not just tax specialists. During my time here I've met quite a few accountants in industry at various events who've been put off from posting on Any Answers because they've asked a question that's been deemed as too 'basic' and drummed off the site.

We're here to help our community and are always looking for ways to improve, so as always any suggestions or feedback gratefully received.

Thanks again for posting,

All the best,

Tom

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Replying to TomHerbert:
By mrme89
10th Apr 2018 10:11

Come off it, Tom.

Yes, anyone can call themselves an accountant. I can also call myself an astronaut – it doesn’t make me one though, does it?

You don’t need an army of moderators. Sift could quite easily make it very clear on sign up who this website is aimed at. You could also make it clear at sign up that if they are not in the profession, Sift’s sister site is probably more appropriate for them.

There’s no doubt the quality of content has deteriorated since the ‘upgrade’.

The problem members have (and whilst you say it is several, it is considerably more – many are just fed up airing their feelings on the forum because it is a pointless exercise, is that the ‘about us’ is at conflict with what we see on the forum.

You also state that you try and direct not professionals to UK Business Forums. You might, but your friend Francois doesn’t. In fact, he posts pompous posts telling longstanding members that this forum is for everyone.

There are a handful of members that have very strong accounting and tax knowledge. Perhaps accountants and tax professionals would get a far more polite response from these members when they ask a 'simple question' if the same handful of members didn't have to trawl through all the sh-it-e that is posted by the 'freeloaders'.

It's not even as though the 'freeloaders' add anything to the site. A lot of the time, they resort to insults and edit their question so that it is blank when they have received their answers.

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Replying to TomHerbert:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
10th Apr 2018 09:31

Tom, your sign up box just asks for a username and email.

It DOES NOT SAY YOU NEED TO BE AN ACCOUNTANT

how about a simple box which says "are you a practicing accountant?" Yes/No. if you tick no it says "this site is not for you, please bog off"

Its really not that hard, is it?

Yes you will see a big drop off in AA for a while, and less traffic when people are not dogpiling some stupid question, but over time (and it may take a couple of years to recover) the quality will go up and people will bother posting.

A lot of the knowledgeable posters are long gone.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
Routemaster image
By tom123
10th Apr 2018 09:57

The thing is, I am not a practicing accountant - should I get my coat :)

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Replying to tom123:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
10th Apr 2018 10:10

@Tom, fair point. "An accountant in practice or industry"

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Replying to tom123:
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By PracticePartner
10th Apr 2018 10:24

..... but you are a member of the accountancy profession, so no.

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Replying to TomHerbert:
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By Mr_awol
10th Apr 2018 10:01

TomHerbert wrote:

how would you recommend we as a publisher regulate who is able to post on our site?

It might not work, but one simple step might be actually to mention it somewhere in the registration process.

Ive just gone into another browser to click through the sign up procedure. Now admittedly I started by googling any answers, but if I was an average person with no accountancy advice just googling a question, I would easily stumble across the any answers section.

Let's just imagine for a second i have pretty much no accoutnign knowledge (shouldnt be hard, i hear some of you say) and i want to research some idiotic question rather than ask a professional advisor. I google 'HMRC late filing penalty appeal' or such like and the first thing I will see upon finding any answers is a big box at the top stating "got a question you'd like answered? Login or Register to get started". There are also huge bubbles and thumbs for 'Ask/Answer/Like questions

At this point, the site is pretty much screaming out 'free accountancy advice' rather than 'forum for accounting professionals'. It doesn't help, of course, that the C-BEEBIES style 'update' dumbed the appearance down in a .gov.uk fashion.*

So, looking forward to my free advice for my business (cant wait to sack my accountant, what a waste of money he is) I click register and the first thing I see is the benefits of joining. Top reason, 'join thousands of accounting professionals', next is 'free for life' and by now I've stopped reading TBH and I'm just going to throw my details in and get on with asking all of the inane questions I'm too embarrassed to ask my accountant, or that I don't want to pay for, or maybe i'll just 'check' the advice he has given me.

Maybe, if there was a big banner that came up during the registration process that said "this site is for accountants to discuss technical issues, and questions from non-accountants tend not to get a good response. If you are not an accountant head over to (insert link) for general advice" then people might follow this advice? Maybe they wont, but at least you'd have made a token effort.

* I don't really want to clutter this attempt at a constructive suggestion with a rant about the 'new' site but it really would have helped if you'd just admitted that we were right, the new update was a complete disaster and put it back. It's not even just the loss of users which hasn't been as bad as id thought it might - it is the fact that the site went to shit[***][***] at that time and those of us who remain don't perhaps view it as the valuable resource we might have before.

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Replying to TomHerbert:
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By PracticePartner
10th Apr 2018 10:20

Actually Tom like many others the new platofrm tempered my enjoyment of the site, well at least the AA section which is just so much harder to engage with. But on my original point why not have a separate section for "public" questions (or link it to UKBF)?

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Replying to TomHerbert:
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By Accountant A
10th Apr 2018 12:37

TomHerbert wrote:

However, if anyone in this country can call themselves an accountant, how would you recommend we as a publisher regulate who is able to post on our site?

Many of the irritating questions are not from people who claim to be accountants.

First there should be a moratorium on posting questions for a week or whatever after registering. Most non-commercial forums do similar to protect the integrity of their "community". (Presumably that functionality can be easily automated.)

Secondly, you should delete the accounts of anyone who quite clearly is not an accountant and has come here to scrounge some free advice. You could send them a pro forma email explaining why and directing them to UKBF.

The problem is, it's not a "community" when you have a very small number of givers and a huge number of takers - most of whom post some drivel once and then (thankfully) are never seen again.

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Replying to TomHerbert:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
10th Apr 2018 14:56

Tom - how about putting this comment on all the previous flares on this topic, it's a regular and there was one only a week or so back.

I've commented so many times in the past on this question I'll keep this short but, for the ivory tower lot out there, how about seeing this site as a window on the profession from the outside that we can use to dispel the public's view that we are a bunch of pompous, hubristic, judgmental snobs?

I enjoy imparting my knowledge to others and, from the various clients I have obtained from doing so on this site, there are cowboys (no girls yet) out there who rip off and deceive clients, and those clients will turn to sites like this to get some honest advice and guidance and to be faced with "get yourself an accountant freeloader" or "your trouser leg's down you can't be one of us" is the last thing they should expect.

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Replying to Paul Scholes:
By mrme89
10th Apr 2018 15:06

If people want to try and obtain clients, there are more appropriate forums to use. UK Business Forums being just one.

This website was, and I believe still is, a website aimed at accountants and tax professionals to discuss technical matters. When the door is open to anyone, the technical matters discussed are diluted, and I believe devalues the website to those it is intended to attract.

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Replying to mrme89:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
10th Apr 2018 16:51

You (deliberately?) misunderstand me, I don't come on here to try and get clients, I come on here to gather up to date information and opinions (on technical stuff not hubris) and to answer questions, "any" questions. The fact I've picked up clients is a by product of the above and in not being judgmental.

Besides which I was on UKBF for over a year and didn't get any business, mainly cos it's full of bl**dy accountants.

I agree with you that the site is designed for accounting professionals but see it as a bonus that others are allowed to ask questions and, believe it or not, to answer them.

That's how it is and has been since it was started, and so if you see a question that is, in your opinion, diluted and therefor below you, just move on, there's loads of others.

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Replying to Paul Scholes:
By mrme89
11th Apr 2018 11:00

If I buy a Playboy magazine, I expect to see some [***]. If I open it to find a pictures of a dogs chasing cats, I’m going to be bitterly disappointed.

I don’t think it is an unreasonable request for people like myself to want Aweb to be what it says on the tin.

It isn’t about questions being beneath me either, Paul. If I want to read and answer questions posed by business owners, again, there are far more suitable forums for me to do so. I come on here to read the technical questions posed answered by fellow professionals.

Yes I can ignore the questions I have no interest in. But the questions I have no interest in are becoming much more common, and visiting Any Answers then become a bit of a chore, rather than a bit of informal CPD with a coffee.

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Replying to Paul Scholes:
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By andy.partridge
10th Apr 2018 15:22

I don't believe there is criticism of posters who come here to look for an accountant (although there are surely better ways to find a suitable one).

The criticism is aimed at those who, proudly, announce they have ditched their accountant and are doing it themselves, but just have a few quick questions . . . and another few . . . and another few . . . and expect a welcome of hugs all round.

Some are even emboldened to start giving advice to accountants on technical matters. Encouraging such people is like inviting a bedwetter to try out your new purchase from DFS.

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JCACE
By jcace
10th Apr 2018 09:23

How would you define or determine who is an accountant?
I have worked with unqualified accountants whose knowledge and expertise, built up through years of experience, was excellent. Equally, I have encountered firms of accountants whose work has been verging on the negligent and incompetent.
As soon as you begin to bring in conditions, you risk losing out on respondents and members who might not meet the criteria, but who nonetheless add value and interest.
Personally, I don't mind Joe Public asking questions - I ignore plenty, there are plenty to which I don't know the answer, and there are some where the best advice genuinely is to use a local accountant or even solicitor.
This forum gives an opportunity for professionals to help, if they want to, and to learn. That shouldn't mean it has to become a closed shop. And when members respond, rather than looking for opportunities to be rude or snide, surely it presents us to respond as professionals.
For those of us who work in public practice, we rarely close the door to people. I sometimes wonder how successful some members would be in their work if they spoke to potential clients in the same way they answer questions on here.
Lets not forget the mission statement refers to "professionals".

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Replying to jcace:
By Ruddles
10th Apr 2018 10:05

I don't have a particular objection to the public asking questions - if an unrepresented member of the public, who has otherwise no need to appoint an agent, wants some advice on a straightforward aspect of their personal tax affairs, and asks their question in a polite manner, and accepts the advice given (rather than bleating when it isn't the answer they hoped for) then that's fine.

What I object to are questions from those in business that clearly ought to have already appointed an adviser and are simply trying to get the advice for free. Again, if it's someone simply looking for a second opinion, and they're up front about it, they're more likely to get a professional response.

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
10th Apr 2018 09:59

Why not have two Any Answers,?

One for those without an accounting background, where if members wish to help such posters they can, and one for those confirming they have an accountancy background/experience where readers will expect a better standard of question presentation and basic, building brick, knowledge to be displayed.

All Ridiculous, Stupid, Enquiries Submitted (ARSES)

And some other appropriate "Any answers" title.... for the non accountants

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Replying to DJKL:
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By PracticePartner
10th Apr 2018 10:17

That would be my suggestion, however we might then raise the question of whether the discussions in the "professional" section should be publicly visible. The answer from Sift's perspective will be yes because the site is free to use.

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Replying to DJKL:
By SteveHa
10th Apr 2018 10:22

Similar to taxationweb.co.uk? The forums are general and available for anyone to post into. Then there's a forum specifically for professionals, that you have to be added to (i.e. you can't add yourself).

Of course, the professionals forum over there is one of the most quiet I have seen (with only two posts since the start of the calendar year).

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By PracticePartner
10th Apr 2018 10:28

Online forums generally seem to be in decline. Maybe we should invent a new SM platform called Arsebook? GDPR compliant of course.

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Replying to SteveHa:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
10th Apr 2018 16:53

Wonder why? Maybe cos it's boring?

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Mr_awol
10th Apr 2018 10:22

DJKL wrote:

All Ridiculous, Stupid, Enquiries Submitted (ARSES)

There's already an ARRSE[***] forum. It's somewhat more entertaining (and sometimes has more sensible questions) than this one.

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By mumpin
10th Apr 2018 10:32

I don't understand why some members feel it necessary to comment on every post and try to police the site.

Surely if you suspect a poster is a freeloader then its best just to ignore the post.

I think this site is a useful resource and its not really Sift's fault if some frequent posters have too much time on their hands.

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Replying to mumpin:
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By andy.partridge
10th Apr 2018 11:20

mumpin wrote:

I don't understand why some members feel it necessary to comment on every post and try to police the site.

A bit like you are doing now, you mean? Can you not see the contradiction of posting to advise people to ignore posts? Yes, it's difficult, isn't it, particularly when you are engaged which is the whole purpose of the site.

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
10th Apr 2018 10:42

Whatever the difficulties in improving the site now, it was brilliant once, so it must be possible to replicate that.

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Replying to Red Leader:
Oaklea
By Chris.Mann
10th Apr 2018 10:59

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/im-running-out-of-patience-a...

Interesting, but highly frustrating.

Sad to say but, I'm coming to the conclusion that I need to find other "distractions", away from the Aweb family.

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Replying to Red Leader:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
10th Apr 2018 10:59

Given Entropy I am not so sure, we may have reached the point where.

"Heat death is the point at which the universe has finally settled down completely (or almost completely), and nothing interesting ever happens again."

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Replying to DJKL:
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By PracticePartner
10th Apr 2018 11:23

DJKL wrote:

"Heat death is the point at which the universe has finally settled down completely (or almost completely), and nothing interesting ever happens again."


I wondered what had happened to Heat magazine
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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
10th Apr 2018 12:05

On registration can there not be a identifier question -
Are you:
Accountant /bookkeeper in practice
Accountant/bkpr in industry
Retired accountant/bkp
Other finance professional
Other

If they tick ‘other’, they get rerouted to UKBF?

Or use the taxationweb format?

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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
10th Apr 2018 12:23

Or as suggested above, 2 very clearly defined “ask a question” sections.

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By NYB
10th Apr 2018 12:54

Should payroll administrators be/bureaus be exempt or can we latch on to "accountants"

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Replying to NYB:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
10th Apr 2018 16:22

As I posted it I thought “oh, I should have added payroll peeps”.

I’ll let you stay :)

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By Ruddles
10th Apr 2018 14:34

And this is exactly the type of querist that should be told to take a running jump:

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/as-a-retailer-how-should-i-r...

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By neiltonks
10th Apr 2018 15:08

My personal approach is just to ignore the questions I don't like, but I understand others who would like to stop them appearing at all.

Many of the "freeloaders" only come here once, to ask one question. They have no concept of the volume or quality of questions which are posted on here.

Such people must wonder why they get such a negative response when all they've done is ask a question on a webpage which has "Got a question you'd like answered?" in large letters at the top, followed by a big yellow "Ask your question now" button.

If the desire is to discourage non-accountants from posting, maybe all that needs to be done is to change that wording in order to put off casual users?

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Replying to neiltonks:
By Ruddles
10th Apr 2018 16:51

It’s a fair point, Neil, and one that I hadn’t considered. While we mump and moan about the amount of [email protected] that we have to wade through, Joe Public - signing up to post his solitary question - will be blissfully unaware.

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
10th Apr 2018 17:39

It does make you wonder exactly who this site is working successfully for. Not for Joe Public based on the reception they get. Not for a lot of us professionals.

Does it work for Sift? If not, then what is the point?

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Replying to Red Leader:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
10th Apr 2018 17:49

Presume we now have to edge towards the editorial team , gaze into their eyes, pause and hesitantly ask them if there is any future in our relationship, do they really love us etc, or is our relationship with them merely friends with benefits. (and not so many benefits as previously enjoyed)

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bike
By FirstTab
10th Apr 2018 22:35

Sift is a business. If the new site did not bring the revenues or cut costs, it would have changed by now back to the old one.

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Replying to FirstTab:
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By andy.partridge
10th Apr 2018 22:53

Some businesses aren’t very good at business. Some don’t realise it until it is too late.

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By justsotax
11th Apr 2018 09:48

You needn't go on everyone.....Tom has already stopped listening....he has given the SIFT standard response and has probably not read a single comment since....or has at least be insufficiently moved to comment.

Before the move to this more 'dynamic' web design AA and the rest of the site was full of useful information/comments and debate....the signing in process hasn't changed....so one can only suggest that the loss of quality members due to the site change has altered the happy balance there once was between public and practitioners....

Tom are you still listening? Hello....is there any one out there.....

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Replying to justsotax:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
11th Apr 2018 09:54

" Hello....is there any one out there....."

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone at home?
Come on now
I hear you're feeling down
Well I can ease your pain
Get you on your feet again
Relax
I'll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?
There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb

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By lesley.barnes
11th Apr 2018 10:07

From my perspective the site has gone downhill recently for a variety of reasons. There are so many nonsense posts it is a full time job to trawl through and puts people off.
Some of it is down to finance professionals posting for help as if they are non finance people or as anon when they are really looking for help with a clients problems. Please stop it. If you've taken time and done some research and you can't find the answer just be honest and someone will help you out.
Then we've got the business owners posing as finance professionals who think they won't be rumbled, or the business owners who really should appoint a finance professional but think they can do it themselves. They don't like being told to appoint an accountant. They don't realise its not because finance professionals are protecting their income its is because the issues raised are complex and depend on the posters circumstances. Only by going through everything will solutions be found tailored to that person. There is also the question of indemnity insurance - if someone on this site gives duff info and the poster acts on it there is no comeback. If they are a client and act on duff info they have a potential claim.
Finally we have the business owners who give you half a story hoping they will get them answer they want. When 20 posts later we've filled in the gaps and given them the right answer they turn rude and argue black is white.
I can't see how this can be stopped unless the anon function is taken off. Perhaps if you have a sensitive question you could contact the admin of the site with a brief outline of why you need to post as anon and request a one off anon posting. Moderators could then decide if it was appropriate. It would then give the A Web community some assurance that it was a valid post that was anon for sensitive reasons and not because the poster is too lazy, embarrassed or mean. For my part I'm more inclined to read a post when I can see the posters name and the title makes sense. The idea about stopping people posting immediately after joining could help as well. Please can we go back to the days of good quality questions that give answers that we all learn from.

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Replying to lesley.barnes:
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By andy.partridge
11th Apr 2018 10:46

Well said.

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Replying to lesley.barnes:
Quack
By Constantly Confused
11th Apr 2018 11:01

lesley.barnes wrote:

W
A
L
L

O
F

T
E
X
T

My only input to this discussion is can we please not have wall of text posts they make my brain hurt more than VATA1994 Sch8 Group1...

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Replying to Constantly Confused:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
11th Apr 2018 11:40

I thought that was in tribute to my "Comfortably numb" post,

"Since, my friend, you have revealed your
Deepest fear
I sentence you to be exposed before
Your peers
Tear down the wall"

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Francois
By Francois Badenhorst
11th Apr 2018 11:43

Tom H explained it best. This site is on the open internet. We're not Google or YouTube. We don't have squadrons of moderators to enforce entry and exit.

There are ways we could ring fence it - like a subscription fee.

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