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App is a Noun - Search

The current storehouse of iPhone Apps is climbing past 225,000. Mix in the Android and Microsoft Windows platforms and the Apps numbers will grow exponentially for a very long time. My previous article identified categories of applications that are being used and will be used by the accounting community. In this article, the application focus is SEARCH.  There may be a few cave dwellers somewhere that have not used search to discover a word definition, a restaurant, or some federal or state law statutory requirements. Readers of The Progressive Accountant know that search is an integrated feature of the publication. TPA provides search to locate an article by title, by a specific category, or by a specific writer.

My childhood visits to the town or school library included access to an unabridged dictionary. Requirements for use included knowing how to approximate the spelling, especially the first two letters. When I needed more than definitions and pronunciation assistance, I went to another reference book. Today my dictionaries are online and provide easy access to words, phrases, quotes, synonyms, antonyms, and more.

Most search capabilities are accessible through any internet connection whether using desktop, laptop or Smartphone Apps. The two most used search parameters for this working life are people contact information and a calendar of events. Having digital versions of your calendar and contact list in a mobile form started with the Personal Digital Assistants from HP, Toshiba, Dell and others. These devices set the foundation for accessing information with a pocket sized form factor.

The evolution of music listening followed a similar path. First records needed large equipment that was soon reduced to portable box about the size of a big bread box. Records were created to be played in only one of three speeds – 33 1/3, 45 and 78. Records begat tapes which begat boom boxes which begat Walkman players which begat CDs and a whole new capability for music listening. A CD search for a song did not require fast forwarding a tape or moving the tone arm.

Digitizing audio and video has been exploding over the past 20 years. Now search for a tune or phrase or anything else on the audio/video landscape does not require changing a record platter or tape or CD. The digital library was in one place allowing access to all my music all the time.

Data storehouses are expanding throughout the known world. We get to choose what we want when we want it. And Smartphones are leading the charge to deliver mobile access to data wherever you are. For example, here are a few personal interests search Apps that you can use.

•    To go fishing - FindFishing
•    To eat raw fish - Sushipedia
•    Need a quote – 55,000 quotes
•    Compare retail store prices for an item - RedLaser
•    Need movie information – IMDB
•    Need classic movie information - TCM
•    Discover the name of the song that is playing right now - Shazam

Contextual based search helps you find information about your usual terms and phrases suspects. This includes tax regulations, audit filing rules, CPA webinars and CPE. Your mobile smartphone provides these same results, on a smaller screen. There is more. No matter how you have used search before, mobile search Apps enhance and expand whatever was previously done in your business or home office. Search will integrate our personal data, such as: calendar, firm information, client contact information, current news and the weather.

Search is embedded in everything we seek from recipes to operations manuals. App developers are straining every muscle to leap frog each other with new capabilities. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook (yes, that Facebook) and lots of others are all engaged in one of the major battles of the 21st century – The Search Wars. Weapons include voice activated search, image based search, topical category alerts, push notification based on categories (time, date, event), current location based information. Search can be global, same results for everyone, or personal, results include filters from your personal files. 

Through the integration of personal filters, search is being reengineered. The most used example today is location based results. With Global Positioning System (GPS) as a standard feature of every smartphone, results of any search can be linked to your current map coordinates.  The information you are viewing can be immediately integrated with your location.

There are lots of search Apps to locate nearby services such as gas, cash, food, hospital. Starbucks has an App so you can locate any of their stores. If you have any difficulty locating your parked car, G-Park can show you a walking map with directions from where you are to your vehicle. Yahoo’s Sketch-a-Search can narrow your efforts to find a restaurant. This App shows a map starting with your present location. You can widen or narrow the map and then draw a circle (with your finger) to identify the search radius. Y! Search then displays locations with pins along with associated detail about each restaurant.

The mind boggles at the variety of new Apps that are being generated by the hour. My suggestion is that periodically you follow progress as new Apps are offered and older Apps are updated.

You need to encourage partners, professional staff, admin staff and client staff to use search to help answers be more accurate and current. Here are a few parameters for you to consider how to expand the use of search with what you do.

1.    Specific Data Topic
a.    Accounting rules and regulations
b.    Government regulations
c.    Law – federal and state statutes, court cases
d.    Auditing procedures and guidelines
e.    Tax regulations, filing dates
f.    Business best practices
g.    Investigate alternative or related topics   
h.    Refine and narrow any topic

2.    Subject Expertise
a.    Personal help from experts   
b.    Sites ranked or tagged as valuable or relevant   
c.    Primary or original content source
d.    Other people’s opinions

3.    Getting the facts correct
a.    Doing any search without entering date parameters could provide information that is not just irrelevant, it can be wrong.
b.    Person
c.    Place
d.    Company
e.    General reference data
f.    Background facts and documents

4.    Specific media format
a.    Maps
b.    Clip art, photographs (free or for a fee)
c.    Videos – live or past
d.    Radio broadcast – live or past
e.    Music – songs, albums
f.    Speeches
g.    Quotations

5.    Statistical data
a.    Reference data – dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia
b.    Reference data – accounting pronouncements, research
c.    Almanac data

6.    Books and other printed works

It was Paul Harvey who used to say so eloquently and often, “and now for the rest of the story.” Using his idea, but not his eloquence, you need to explore how your firm’s website supports search. This TPA publication you are reading integrates search as a key user enhancement. The question for review is how your firm’s website enables search for documents, newsletters and client oriented information in a searchable manner.

Websites need to be more than a one and done exhibit of the firm’s location, staff and engagement experience. Firms should find ways to encourage clients to return to the website frequently for a continuing flow of usable information. The extension of this premise, of course, is the development of simple Apps that can be delivered to clients for their use. One App can be free for anyone while another App can require username and password to access.

There are tools that can help add search to your site. Two that are worth assessing are: www.gigablast.com/cts.html and www.google.com/cse/.

Last on my list is a simple question: Have you found yourself lately? This is not a psychology question. This is all about searching your name, your firm and people you know. Anyone can post anything on Facebook, YouTube or their own blog. This includes pictures, factual statements, and opinions. The information can be accurate or false or a spin that is intended to be misleading. All of this information is discoverable through an internet connection. Searching about you is an important protection for the possibility that something wrong is available. The wrong could be accidental or intentional. Either way, you need to know and be prepared to take action. By the way, if something nice is said, you should be able to say thanks.

Make this ‘search for yourself’ process a standard procedure for you, your partners, the staff and your clients.

See you next time for more of the Apps story. Send questions and comments so we can keep this information relevant for what you need.

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