Sock Puppets: How many fake profiles are you connected to on LinkedIn?

In this episode, Blake and David explore the world of fake accounting news and LinkedIn's sock-puppet infestation, and share some ways to scope out the faux connections in your list. In other news, Sage Intacct is taking root in the Land Down Under, TSheets is raising some fees, Liberty Tax isn't sure what it wants to be when it grows up, and CFOs now prefer tech-savviness over soft skills. They also cover why finding your 'why' is important as an accountant, whether cloud storage companies, such as Box and Dropbox have seen better days, as well as what to do when your cloud breaks, and much more!


Show Notes

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Blake Oliver: Welcome to the Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver-
David Leary: And I'm David Leary.
Blake Oliver: So, David, how was your Labor Day weekend?
David Leary: Labor Day weekend, I did the most overrated thing ever - camping.
Blake Oliver: Camping?
David Leary: It's so much work. There's more labor involved in that than just working. We should just not have the day off.
Blake Oliver: I [00:01:30] never go camping. I haven't since I was a kid. My wife doesn't camp. She's never done it in her life. So, at this point, lost cause. I have too many electronics. I don't even know what I would do. Like, where do I ... I'd have to get ... I'd have to bring a generator or something.
David Leary: Every place has Wi-Fi now, at all these campsites everywhere, but the problem is, on holiday weekends, there's- the volume overwhelms the network. Everyone's trying to stream "The Bachelorette" or something like that. I don't know. What'd you do this weekend?
Blake Oliver: I went through my LinkedIn connections, scrubbing them for [00:02:00] fake profiles. I don't know if you saw my post last week on LinkedIn. It's crazy. It has 30,000 views at this point, which is the most people who have ever looked at anything I've ever done, I think, period.
David Leary: Now, are those bot views? Other bots on LinkedIn are like, "Look, he talked about me!" Then, they're liking the post ... 
Blake Oliver: That's a good question. No way to know that, for sure. I'm gonna hope not. This post was about- actually not about bots. I was using the wrong term. I was corrected on Twitter by Chris Hooper, [00:02:30] who pointed out that actually these fake profiles are not bots, because they are operated by human beings, so the appropriate term is "sock puppet." There's a human operating the sock puppet, just like there's a human operating these fake profiles on LinkedIn. Have you ever gotten an invite from one of these, David?
David Leary: I wasn't aware until you posted it. Because I think it started from, first, you saw an article on a AccountingWEB-
Blake Oliver: Yes.
David Leary: -and then you thought that her image looked familiar, and then, you [00:03:00] checked around. You either did an image search or something, but somehow, it turned you on to your LinkedIn, right? 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, let me back up and tell you how this whole thing started. Part of the job of The Cloud Accounting Podcast, being a host, is reading everything there is to read online about accounting. Just like you, David, I go on AccountingWEB; I go on Journal of Accountancy, Accounting Today. I'm reading all these articles all the time. Occasionally, I get curious. I wanna know who is this author. I've never seen this author before. 
I was on AccountingWEB, reading an [00:03:30] article called "How Accounting Firms Can Overcome Staffing Challenges." This article, by the way, no longer is online. If you try clicking the link, you won't find it. It's been taken down. The author of this article was named Annie Marker, CPA. It's this very attractive woman with brown hair, beautiful smile. The photo just looked too perfect to me. Nobody's headshot looks like that, with the black background and every ... It looked like a stock photo. So, then [00:04:00] I got curious. I clicked on the link to her profile on AccountingWEB, and it was-
David Leary: Which makes sense, because, in general, you and I know a lot of people in this space. We read lots of the articles. When you see somebody you don't know, you're like, "Who's that?" and you start clicking, right? 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I clicked through, and I see that she's affiliated with this company called Cogneesol, C-O-G-N-E-E-S-O-L, which, turns out, is this outsourcing firm operating out of India. She's somehow [00:04:30] affiliated with them, working with them. That stuck in my head, because I knew that I had seen that before. So, I went into my LinkedIn connections and I realized I have accepted invites from people working for Cogneesol.
David Leary: Five of them? Six of them?
Blake Oliver: Well, there's just one in recent memory. She had connected with me a week before. Her name, Olivia Morris, CPA ... Similar thing, where it was this younger [00:05:00] woman, attractive. I try to weed out some of my connection requests. I can obviously tell who is a business development representative, who's gonna just immediately spam me and call me. But, generally, if they have CPA after their name, I'll just accept the invite [cross talk]
David Leary: Of course. You trust the brand.
Blake Oliver: Right. She's connected to me. I go, and I look at her profile. This is a big red flag, is that the banner image on her LinkedIn profile says, "Benefits of Outsourcing," and then it has a diagram that says [00:05:30] "Time Savings, Benefits from Rich Experience, Focus on Business Activity, Cost Savings, Excellent Support." Underneath Olivia Morris's name, her - what do you call it? - subheading says, "Four years’ experience in outsourced bookkeeping, reconciliation, manufacturing, retail, and wholesale accounting." She's based in Los Angeles, California, with 360 connections, and I have 17 mutual connections with her, and she's in four groups that I'm in. She went to the University of Washington. The only employment that is listed there is Cogneesol. Most people tend to have a-
David Leary: It's that same date range, I [00:06:00] think. I looked at a couple of these. They all have that ... They all start November of 2015, I think.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: It's kinda weird. A very promotional LinkedIn banner. I guess if she was working for them, that would be possible, but then the only company that she's ever worked for is Cogneesol, and all of her posts are super-spammy. I went into her post history. It all just looks like auto-generated, spammy stuff.
David Leary: Linking to other articles.
Blake Oliver: Right. Now, I've got two suspicious [00:06:30] profiles that are connected to the same company. We've got Annie Marker, who looks like a stock photo, and then we've got Olivia Morris. Her photo looks like a selfie. Then I looked at the photo, and I examined it more closely, and it looks like somebody took it in their car. She's smiling. I'm like, "I don't know. This is weird." Seemed like very young; too young to be a CPA. So, I did something that I don't often do, is I downloaded the photos. I right-clicked, downloaded both profile photos, and I ran them through Google Image Search. [00:07:00]
David Leary: This is not a common thing. I didn't even know how to do it. I had to ask you for help.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I've only done this in the past, because if I find a photo online that I want to use or look up, and maybe I want to see if it's in the public domain, Google has this feature where you can go to - I believe that's it. You go to, and if you click the icon that looks like a camera in the search bar, you can upload an image, and Google [00:07:30] will then go find other places on the web where that image has been used. Even if it's just a cropped version of that image, it can find the full image. Dun-dun-dun - Annie Marker ... That profile picture was indeed a stock photo on Shutterstock, on a Spanish-language version of Shutterstock.
David Leary: That was on the post that was on AccountingWEB. That was the first fake profile you found.
Blake Oliver: Yes. I'm realizing she's a sock puppet. Then Olivia Morris ... This is the part [00:08:00] that was really sad. Turns out that the profile picture being used for Olivia Morris, CPA's profile was actually a selfie of Nicki Allwright, 19 years old, Australian who was killed in a car crash years ago.
David Leary: Jesus.
Blake Oliver: The picture was on an Australian news website. They had taken the photo, created a fake profile, and used that picture - on the profile - of a dead, deceased person. Immediately, of course, I removed that connection. Then I took screenshots of all [00:08:30] this stuff, and I posted it on LinkedIn last week. I said, "Hey, how many fake profiles are you connected to on LinkedIn? You might wanna go through and check your connections, because this is what happened to me."
David Leary: You listed four or five of them, I think. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I went to the company profile for Cogneesol, and I found at least one, two, three, four, five, six profiles, but I think there may be as many as a dozen. I just didn't have that much time to dedicate to doing the image reverse search. I posted [00:09:00] those links to those and said, "Hey, please report these as fake profiles. Let's get them removed." I'm happy to say that tons of people saw this post. I think people must have reported them, because all of those profiles are now deactivated.
David Leary: I was impressed when I clicked on all of them. I was not connected to any of those people. I don't know how that happened, because I accept everybody on LinkedIn. 
Blake Oliver: I was just arguing with you about this, David. I was like, "You shouldn't do that." It's not because of the sock-puppet thing, because that argument happened before, but just because you shouldn't just accept everybody's invite. That lowers the quality [00:09:30] of your network.
David Leary: I think the scary thing for me, on this, is they're pretending to be a fake person just to get content out there, right? 
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: AccountingWEB is a reputable media company, right? 
Blake Oliver: This was the part that really shocked me, is that I reported this on Twitter by tagging Seth Feinberg and saying, "Hey. I think you have a fake profile behind this article on your site." I thought that was doing him a favor, because [00:10:00] I know AccountingWEB is a community sourced site, so I assumed that they don't vet the authors and that you can create a profile and submit an article, and it will posted if it's not blatantly promotional. But then Seth got upset, I think, that I didn't go through private channels to tell him privately. I apologized to AccountingWEB, to Seth. It was never my intent to call them out for having this content on their site.
David Leary: AccountingWEB is 100 percent ... Anybody can just post. I know there's a way for [00:10:30] the guest posts, but that's fundamentally the way it's set up.
Blake Oliver: It's set up as a community sourced site. There is some sort of review process. You can't just immediately post something up. You have to create a profile and submit it. But how much review can there really be, when they have hundreds and hundreds of articles going up every year?
David Leary: Okay.
Blake Oliver: Dozens of articles a week. Anyway, it turned into this big thing. Again, 30,000 people saw this on LinkedIn. I hope it does some good. I think we need to [00:11:00] all be vigilant about these sock-puppet profiles and not letting them into our networks and into our social platforms, where they can just spam us and steal our data. To me, this is very similar to the whole bots issue that we had, that we talked about on the show months ago.
David Leary: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: It's lack of trust.
David Leary: It's not just AccountingWEB. Just doing a couple of Google searches very quickly, you can find these same people have guest blogged for other app companies [00:11:30] that are out there. They put comments on AccountingWEB and other forum posts going back two or three years. It's very, very deep. One that I thought was entertaining is Ace Cloud Hosting. They have a guest blog post on Ace Cloud Hosting about "Most Common Frauds and How Small Business Can Prevent Them." Essentially, this fraudulent sock puppet is posting an article about fraud and how to prevent it, which I thought was a little entertaining. [00:12:00]
Blake Oliver: That's ironic.
David Leary: This reminds me of ... This was before we were doing the podcast; this was on Accountex, back when Accountex in the US had their own media property, if you wanna call it, that magazine, whatever; blog site, whatever you wanna call it. It was a similar thing. I read the article. I'm like, "Who's this?" I started clicking around. I'm like, "I don't know that person. This is interesting." I could just smell it. You see this and you can just tell there's something not right. Two or three Google searches later, I found they stole the content from some other blog [00:12:30] and they're posting them on the Accountex blog. So, it's that same thing where we just have to be more skeptical of all this stuff-
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: -because there's just a lot of crap out there.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it's not just Twitter. Twitter was, I think, where this all started. Lots of fake Twitter profiles, the whole fake news thing, the whole political thing; Russia and the election. It's on LinkedIn, too. We have to be vigilant. Crazily enough, on August 27th, the day after this whole thing happened [00:13:00] on LinkedIn, I posted that thing on LinkedIn, the New York Times posted an article, and the title is "How China Uses LinkedIn to Recruit Spies Abroad." 
Apparently, Western intelligence officials are saying that Chinese agents are contacting thousands of foreign citizens using LinkedIn, including former government officials. They're connecting with them, and they're trying to basically get information from them. Fly them to China for opportunities that don't actually exist and turn them into the spies. This [00:13:30] is not just limited to an outsourcing company that's trying to get our information and market to us. This is broad. This is national security here.
David Leary: Yeah. I think the lesson here is just to listen to The Cloud Accounting Podcast and, as long as David and Blake are real people, you're probably safe.
Blake Oliver: And don't just accept any invite that you get on LinkedIn. A related article in The Wall Street Journal is called "The Next Hot Job: Pretending to Be a Robot." This is similar [00:14:00] in that it's talking about humans stepping in to take over for AI when it fails. We were talking about this a few episodes ago, David, that Google Assistant that can call and book appointments for you. Remember how there was that article about how it's not actually the AI a lot of the time, it's people?
David Leary: Oh, yes.
Blake Oliver: This is because AI is still in its infancy; it can't do everything. So, what these companies are doing ... Google has a call center in Ireland. When [00:14:30] you use the AI to try and book a restaurant appointment, if the AI gets stuck, it can't understand something, a human can jump in and finish the conversation. That's sock puppets, right? There's this human-assisted AI that's going on now. This article in The Wall Street Journal cites some specific examples of this human-AI hybrid. One of them I really liked was the real-life Robocop. This woman named Mimi works [00:15:00] at a company called Cobalt Robotics that makes those ... They're like these robots that drive around offices and malls. They're like security robots. Have you seen pictures of these, David?
David Leary: I've seen them. San Jose Airport had something like that. I don't know if it was security, though. It was just a welcome robot. You took your photo with it.
Blake Oliver: The security ones have cameras, and microphones, and speakers, and they can patrol around and observe for [00:15:30] criminal activity; just secure the environment. This woman's job is to monitor multiple of these robots. She's patrolling them simultaneously. If any of them sense anything, she can take over for one and control it manually. 
That is going to be the future of a lot of human-powered AI or human-assisted AI is the idea that maybe there's a self-driving truck that's going to a destination, and it runs into a situation [00:16:00] where it doesn't know what to do. A human can jump in and pilot it remotely past an obstruction, or take it off the freeway, and then once it's back on the freeway, it can just keep going, because it knows what to do. That fits in with a lot of these companies in our space that are doing this, where it's AI until it can't do it anymore, and then humans are taking over for bookkeeping, accounting. It's such a fascinating idea.
David Leary: Maybe that bot driver or ... What'd you refer [00:16:30] to this as?
Blake Oliver: Human-assisted AI.
David Leary: Human-assisted AI, yeah. That could be good news for approximately 600 people that work for a Walmart. Walmart is gonna outsource 600 of the accounting and office jobs.
Blake Oliver: This is more ... We just talked about this last week at UPS.
David Leary: Yes, more outsourcing of accounting department jobs. A whole department.
Blake Oliver: This is a lot.
David Leary: Yeah, it's 600. The layoffs will run to January 2020. Employees will be allowed to seek [00:17:00] other Walmart jobs, and they can get a severance package, the statement said. But they did not say how many of the employees have a degree in financing or accounting. I don't know how you would digest that. If you were an accountant, or in the accounting department at Walmart, and they're like, "Hey, find another job at Walmart," but they got rid of the accounting department, what are you gonna do? Go be a greeter?
Blake Oliver: They're getting rid of the greeters, too, I understand.
David Leary: Oh, boy.
Blake Oliver: Here's an important detail. Well, first, two really important details. This in Breitbart. Are you reading Breitbart, David?
David Leary: No, I'm not reading Breitbart. I've set up [00:17:30] a Google searches to key onto keywords.
Blake Oliver: Okay, just checking. Also, in the story, the jobs are being outsourced to Indian contract workers. The article's focusing on the expansion of the H-1B program for Walmart. That's interesting, because that's not just accounting jobs being outsourced to other Americans. This is talking about jobs in accounting at Walmart [00:18:00] being outsourced to a company called Genpact that uses Indian H-1B workers to do this work.
David Leary: Yeah, and that company's a spinoff of General Electric. I know, even in the past, Intuit worked with some of these companies before in the past, as well. Again, every week, there's another accounting department that's having a huge layoff, and lot of it's probably due to automation. If you have a chance to automate your accounting department, do it now- 
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: -before you guys get laid off.
Blake Oliver: Another detail [00:18:30] in the article: "If the outsourcing saves $25,000 per person payroll costs, then the company will gain $350 million in shareholder value, because Walmart's price-to-earnings ratio is 25:1." I wonder if that's accurate.
David Leary: That's a huge jump.
Blake Oliver: What else do we got?
David Leary: Sage Intacct is now going to exist in Australia. They've launched in Australia.
Blake Oliver: That's big, because, so far, up to this date, Sage Intacct, which is their [00:19:00] flagship cloud product, has only existed in the US, right? 
David Leary: I don't think there's been a lot of cloud-level ERP enterprise-y type stuff yet, even though Australia's and New Zealand's been dominating cloud accounting. They were the first, arguably - a lot of people would argue. Australia's so forward-thinking, but they haven't had a lot of cloud enterprise-level stuff, so this is really, really big. It's been covered broadly across the industry, all over Australian press. It's been covered in the US press. It was a pretty big announcement for Sage.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. [00:19:30] This really was, if you ask me, the driving reason why Sage acquired Intacct or why Intacct wanted to be acquired by Sage was to use that Sage sales engine, global engine, to expand globally. The product now is gonna go everywhere. That's gonna put them straight up against NetSuite all over the world.
David Leary: This continues to be Sage's best growth product.
Blake Oliver: In other app news, [00:20:00] a company called Chargebee has raised a $14-million Series D round led by Steadview Capital. Are you familiar with Chargebee? I haven't seen too much of them. 
David Leary: I have seen it, yes. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, so, they are subscription management and recurring billing tool. I'm thinking they're like Zuora. They have 1,800 brands in 53 countries as their customers. More evidence that the subscription economy continues to grow.
David Leary: Yeah. I have some app news, as well. Avid [00:20:30]Xchange, a lot of people have not heard of them. They are similar to a type play.
Blake Oliver: But higher volume, right?
David Leary: Much higher volume. They're up-market, but, just like is really heading towards partnering with the banks. If you're a small business owner, in theory, instead of having the typical online-banking experience to pay your bills, you'd see inside your online-bank website. AvidXchange is getting banking tools. They've acquired a company called BankTEL, and BankTEL [00:21:00] is going to integrate the AvidPay Network. 
What the AvidPay Network has, it also comes with B2B suppliers. It's not just get a bill, approve a bill, pay a bill. It's a network of people paying each other all the way through the system. They've been around about 17 or 18 years. This is a company not many people have heard a lot about, but they've, I think, taken on just as much funding as, and they're going after the same- very similar space.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. That's a big deal, because what makes really successful [00:21:30] is that their network is so big. BankTEL says it services over 20 percent of US banks, so that will help Avid grow their network.
David Leary: Correct.
Blake Oliver: More app news on my end. Tesorio has raised a $10-million Series A to help companies track their cash flow. This was reported in TechCrunch. This is, I guess, more of an enterprise or a mid-market cash-flow management application. I am also not familiar with Tesorio. They [00:22:00] call themselves, or at least this TechCrunch article said, "You can think of it as a Mint for business. It helps businesses aggregate all of their cash flow, and then runs AI models over it to predict a company's overall financial health. Current customers include the likes of Veeva Systems, Box, and WP Engine, which use the company's systems to, for example, automate their accounts receivable operations to understand when customers are likely to pay. While there are other tools to help you manage the overall workflow, Tesorio is different, because it can pull in data from all sorts of disparate systems [00:22:30] and create a cash-flow forecast based on this," automatically.
David Leary: I don't know. I feel like I've seen so many products like this now. It may connect to QuickBooks or Xero. If that's where your data is at and your bank feeds are there, they could just read the QuickBooks or Xero data. But a lot of these AI-predictive models, cash-flow forecasting, it's just another one coming in. Now, they're really playing up that AI term in there. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
David Leary: In theory, I think, wouldn't this be a true statement - if [00:23:00] any cash-flow tool forecasts out ... If they're predicting something, wouldn't you argue they all should claim they have AI -if it's forecasting or predicting something next month.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. That's the thing about AI, is the definition is very broad. It just means a computer or an algorithm doing something that would normally require human intelligence. By that definition, so much of what we use computers for is AI. As soon as something just becomes a given, then we no [00:23:30] longer call it AI. Like Google Search being able to decide if my search is for a definition or a website, that's AI. We don't think of it as that, because we've just become used to it, right? 
David Leary: Yep. More related app news. Not really AI-related, but TSheets, who was acquired by QuickBooks almost three years ago, they just announced they're gonna have a price increase. They're going up to $8 a year per user for all their new accounts, on top of the $20-
Blake Oliver: Is it $8 a year or per month?
David Leary: Per month.
Blake Oliver: Okay.
David Leary: On [00:24:00] top of the base fee of $20. My observation the last three years was time tracking is a race to zero. You'll see an app, like, "Hey, we're $3.50 an employee." Another app will be $3 an employee; another one says, "We're $0.99 an employee," time-tracking apps; to where I always thought, it's gonna be a race to zero. It's a commodity. Obviously, the TSheets integration with QuickBooks is producing enough value where there's confidence to raise the price on this; that people aren't going to ... Because I always felt, with a time-sheet app, you could just switch to a different time-sheet app.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah.
David Leary: You're not [00:24:30] locked in, the way you are with other apps.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, but once ... If you're a big company, once you've trained your employees how to use it, switching out has so many high costs.
David Leary: Yeah, if you're decently sized.
Blake Oliver: Eight bucks a month per employee for time tracking? That's a steal, in the big scheme of things.
David Leary: Yeah, and that's why I've always felt like it's solves that small business owner problem, because they probably have $200 hours a week in headaches, if were doing paper time-sheets, so it pays for itself.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Exactly. Those employees that are just filling out paper time-sheets, how much time would that take them every [00:25:00] month? It would take them an hour a week, sometimes.
David Leary: Are you speaking up from an accountant who worked in an accounting firm that charge by the billable hour? Is this your expertise? 
Blake Oliver: I would put down 15 minutes- we billed in 15-minute increments. I would bill 15 minutes to doing my time sheet every day. In five days, I'm spending over an hour on my time-sheets every week.
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Blake Oliver: Let's [00:26:30] see. Box ... Big public company, Box. I remember when they were just a baby; provider of cloud storage. Their revenue growth is stalling, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. They only had 16-percent revenue growth in its latest second quarter, which is slower than the increase registered in the year-ago period. A year ago, sales rose more than 20 percent. Shares of Box have been down 48 percent over the past year, and they fell [00:27:00] more than seven percent in after-hours trading, when this was reported.
David Leary: I'm kinda confused by the need for Box or Dropbox, because they're really cloud file-sharing, first, and then they've added things like, "Hey, we'll do enterprise-level Microsoft Office." Your Microsoft Office docs will be there. You click on them. You can view them, edit your docs there. But if you're just gonna pay for Office 365 anyways, just use OneDrive, right? If you're gonna be a Google company, you just [00:27:30] use Google Drive. I just don't know where those two companies are in the future, where they're gonna fit.
Blake Oliver: This is the problem with cloud storage is that it really is more of a feature of a larger suite than it is its own product, in my opinion. The only reason that Box did well is simply because it took Microsoft so long to build a decent OneDrive. Now that OneDrive is good, is there really any need for Box anymore? You get it for free. You get it for free, if you have Office 365 - you get OneDrive. [00:28:00] If you use Google Apps, you get Google's unlimited storage, which is good.
David Leary: I think Box's play versus ... In the beginning, Dropbox was the one everybody was using. You'd use it at home; you'd use it with friends and family. Then Box came into the enterprise and was like, "Oh, we're just like Dropbox, but we're more secure for enterprise." I think that was their pitch, but it just doesn't make a lot of sense. With that said, I'm using Dropbox for one thing, and it's the podcast. The software we use to record the podcast [00:28:30] has an API connection to Dropbox. As soon as we're done recording the podcast, it automatically saves it to my Dropbox- 
Blake Oliver: But do you pay for Dropbox?
David Leary: -but other than that, I have ... I'm not paying for Dropbox.
Blake Oliver: Right. 
David Leary: But it's the only thing I use Dropbox for. I pulled everything off of Dropbox.
Blake Oliver: Same thing for me. I only use Dropbox for integrations like that. I use Google Drive for everything. I signed up for Google Apps, so that I can get unlimited storage, and I just stick everything in Google Drive.
David Leary: I think QuickBooks Online actually had ... The Accountants edition [00:29:00] actually had an integration with Box. I would say I know it's gonna age me. It's just Box. I think that partnership was either killed or they pulled back on it. Accountants weren't using it. This would be interesting for you listeners - how many of you guys are actually using cloud storage, but specifically Box or Dropbox? I know a lot of people are using OneDrive. I use OneDrive. I also use Google Drive a lot. But how many people are still using Box or Dropbox?
Blake Oliver: If you invested [00:29:30] in Box back in the day or, at least, before their stock price dropped 50 percent, you're probably not very happy. I've got an article here about why you shouldn't pick stocks. I don't know, David, are you an investor? Do you like to pick stocks? Do you do that thing?
David Leary: I want to. I just don't have the time and the patience, so I'm just like ... Throw it in my 401K and just whatever happens.
Blake Oliver: I read a book 10 years ago, maybe longer than that. What was it? "The Millionaire Next Door" or something like that? I can't remember the name [00:30:00] of the title, but-
David Leary: I remember that book, yeah. 
Blake Oliver: It was all about ... Well, a big part of it was about investing and picking stocks being a really bad idea. If you wanna be successful, you should go long term. You should invest in index funds with the lowest cost ratio and just bet on the market, bet on the US economy, and don't try to pick winners, because all the evidence says that nobody is good, on a regular basis, at picking stocks, not even the professionals. All [00:30:30] those funds, actively [cross talk] 
David Leary: No. None of them. Obviously, not the professionals.
Blake Oliver: No. Of course, all of the professionals, all of these hedge fund managers will dispute this, and they use amazing marketing to try and get you to buy into their actively managed funds. But the research shows they are not any better than the index funds. I'll point you to- if you wanna see this, I'll point our listeners to an article on called "Vanguard Active Funds Struggle to Beat the Market." This [00:31:00] article highlights research from Index Fund Advisors, which looked at Vanguard Investments' active funds and compared them to their index funds. If you're not familiar with Vanguard, they're basically the gold standard when it comes to index funds. They created or popularized the concept.
David Leary: I think so. Yeah, they were one of the first ones to do it.
Blake Oliver: They actually started with active funds, but then, very shortly after, they created their first index funds. Those are the ones that are hugely popular. They have very, very low expense [00:31:30] ratios. That's something that's really important to know is that, in actively managed funds, the people who manage them take a good chunk- they charge a fee every year. Even if they beat the market, you still have to pay their fee, so you may end up making less.
David Leary: A lot of times, it's one percent of the total asset value.
Blake Oliver: This study - I'm not gonna get into the details - looked at 57 actively managed Vanguard funds with at least five years of a track record through 2018 to gauge their alpha, or [00:32:00] returns in excess of benchmarks. They found that the funds in the study had a slightly better than 50/50 chance of beating their Morningstar-assigned benchmarks. The benchmarks are the funds that they're trying to beat - the S&P 500 or whatever. 
The odds got worse when the authors controlled for risk, trying to distinguish between reckless gambles and repeatable management expertise. By screening out dumb luck, the authors found that only two of 57 funds consistently outperformed their benchmarks. The conclusion was that all of [00:32:30] Vanguard's active strategies could be replicated "more cost effectively through the use of index funds." There you go. Don't try to pick stocks, at least with most of your money. You can have fun with some of your money, but most of the time, just stick them in appropriately balanced index funds and let it ride out.
David Leary: Or only buy stuff you really, really, really know. If you know you're a cloud accountant, and you're into this space, and you know, "Hey, these companies are winners," invest [00:33:00] in them- those ones you know, because you're gonna know before the rest of the market, if the software's getting janky; it's not working as well anymore; you pull out.
Blake Oliver: Only do that, though, if you can diversify enough. Don't go all in on a company that you know, because who knows what could happen to them? There's so many unknowns in life.
David Leary: Why didn't you tell me this before I went all in on Uber. Dang it, you should've told me these things.
Blake Oliver: Anyway ... 
David Leary: Maybe these investors need a fix. I'll show where I'm going with this a little bit. I have a couple [00:33:30] of articles that are a little bit related. The Journal of Accountancy had an article, "What to Do When the Cloud Goes Down." Essentially, they're focusing on contingency plans [cross talk] 
Blake Oliver: CCH went down-
David Leary: -because of some of the recent outages. 
Blake Oliver: iNSYNQ ransomware attack- 
David Leary: So, the CCH outage, right. We talked about- 
Blake Oliver: Centrum went down; cloud provider-
David Leary: Having plans is all fine. Great. Whatever. The quote I wanna call out is something that I brought up a couple weeks ago when we were talking about the iNSYNQ. I'll read this. This is from David Cieslak. He says, [00:34:00] "Whether they're a "true" cloud provider. Software that was designed for the cloud is more secure than software that was built in-house and moved to the cloud later on. Legacy applications that were moved to the cloud or that use an in-house server are vulnerable to ransomware. SaaS - software as a service - multi-tenant solutions don't operate in the same way, so they're more resistant."
Blake Oliver: Yeah, that's exactly what we were saying.
David Leary: This is what we've been saying. Now, it's in the Journal of Accountancy, Blake.
Blake Oliver: Good. [00:34:30]
David Leary: It's not just on The Cloud Accounting Podcast. It is right there for everybody to see.
Blake Oliver: I wish that quote had come up at the beginning of the article, because there's an unfortunate quote here from Jim Bourke, who - I've never met him. I don't know who he is - he's the partner-in-charge of information technology at WithumSmith+Brown in New Jersey. He says, "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when and how an outage will occur, and you need to anticipate that. The same malware outage could happen to any of the cloud software providers. It's the nature of the cloud. It's going [00:35:00] to happen." I think that's ridiculous. It's not inevitable. Like you just said, David, depending on the technology in use, whether it's old technology that has been re-platformed to cloud, or if it's true cloud, that makes a huge difference in the security. We shouldn't just accept this as a given.
David Leary: We've really beat this horse that ... I'm skeptical on these legacy companies that are just pushing things to the cloud, and it's still just a Windows box, and that, arguably, it's [00:35:30] no more secure than anybody else's laptop. The true SaaS apps are fundamentally-
Blake Oliver: More secure, yeah.
David Leary: -architected to be more secure.
Blake Oliver: We should say that some of these contingency plans, things you should do, are really good and important in this article. A great tip is backup your data off of the cloud. Just because it's in the cloud doesn't mean that it's being backed up. Either verify that the provider is mirroring it to offsite disconnected servers or make sure that [00:36:00] you're doing that. Then, consider business continuity insurance, which apparently is affordable even for smaller firms, so if your cloud provider does go down, you have insurance to pay. Also, make sure that you request, especially of larger providers - they should have these reports - find out whether the vendor has a SOC 2 report, and a SOC for Cybersecurity report. S-O-C. If they don't have them, then be a little more skeptical as to whether or not they've gone through a proper audit. [00:36:30]
David Leary: Thanks for considering and talking about the insurance.
Blake Oliver: Yeah
David Leary: I'm headed down a path here, Blake. Headed down a path to your guaranteed investment return.
Blake Oliver: Oh, really?
David Leary: Ransomware. Again, Krebs on Security. It's a great headline. It's: "Ransomware Bites Dental Data Backup Firm."
Blake Oliver: I love that headline.
David Leary: It's PerCSoft. It's a cloud management provider for digital dental records. They operate an online data backup service called DDS Safe. They archive medical records, charts, [00:37:00] insurance documents, and other personal information for dental practices across the US. They got hit on Monday, August 26th. Their encrypted dental records for all- I'm sorry, for some, but not all of the practices that are using DDS Safe.
Blake Oliver: Oh, man.
David Leary: It caught my eye, because, before when we talked about that dentist in Florida that had got ransomwared. He was on the news. Do you remember that a few weeks back?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: I scrolled through the article. It's fine. There's not much in there, but at the very bottom [00:37:30] of the article, ProPublica recently published a piece last week, and there's a link. This Krebs on Security led me to this ProPublica article. Essentially, the premise of this ProPublica article - "The Extortion Economy: How Insurance Companies Are Fueling a Rise in Ransomware Attacks." 
Blake Oliver: Wait ... So, the insurance companies are making more ransomware attacks?
David Leary: What's happening is, because people are insured ... You just read the Journal of Accountancy.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: It told people-
Blake Oliver: To buy insurance. [00:38:00]
David Leary: -to get insured. Buy insurance for ransomware attacks. What's happening now, the cyber criminals aren't stupid. If you're gonna target companies with ransomware, who are you gonna target?
Blake Oliver: The ones who have insurance that are gonna pay out. 
David Leary: The ones that have insurance. Exactly. The onus isn't on the insurance company to stop the criminal. They're just there to help you get back in business.
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: But the attackers see there's deep pockets-
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: -and insurance payouts can be great. This vicious [00:38:30] cycle's started to occur now.
Blake Oliver: There's a quote in the article, "One cybersecurity company executive said his firm had been told by the FBI that hackers are specifically extorting American companies that they know have cyber insurance." That's actually ... Oh, that's creepy. Buy cyber insurance, and that might make you a bigger target.
David Leary: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Certainly, something to consider [cross talk]
David Leary: That's the fix, right?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: There's guaranteed ways to make money here.
Blake Oliver: Oh, man.
David Leary: And [00:39:00] a bunch of other ways, instead of picking your own stock. There's a third article from ProPublica, also, that's a little bit more of a magazine deep read, that just talks about ransomware, in general, with small businesses. It's a super-deep, more of a magazine-style article with graphics and everything else; multimedia-type experience. It's worth checking out, as well. I just thought it was interesting that people with insurance are the ones getting targeted more than people without insurance.
Blake Oliver: That deep dive ... It's called, "The Trade Secret: Firms That Promised High-Tech Ransomware Solutions Almost Always Just Pay the Hackers," that [00:39:30] is going to be in the show notes, so check that out. Let's shift gears a little bit.
David Leary: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Let's talk about what accounting even is, David. What do accountants do in your mind?
David Leary: People get upset if you say anything bookkeeping-related, but ultimately, they keep a tally of the financial doings of an entity.
Blake Oliver: Okay. That's good, but that is bookkeeping; financial accounting, right? What else [00:40:00] do we do? We do tax, audit. Tax and audit are the two big ones, along with client accounting services, now. It's always been a question. What do accountants do? The joke is- 
David Leary: Track their time?
Blake Oliver: Track their time ... The joke is that the general public seems to think that every CPA knows how to do taxes, even though only a fraction of us do. The reason I asked you that question, David, is because our friend, friend of the show, Donny Shimamoto, CPA, wrote an article that appeared in CPA Trendlines that I really [00:40:30] liked. The title is "Accounting Services Aren't What You Think They Are." 
Donny starts out by giving a history- a historical view of the definition of accounting services, based on his illustrious career. He talks about how, in the late 1990s, the AICPA and the CPA state societies collaborated on a project called the CPA Vision Project in which they ID-ed some core services of the profession. Here's what they said in the 90s, that accounting [00:41:00] services included assurance and information integrity, technology services, management consulting and performance management, financial planning, and international services. Notice that tax and bookkeeping are not mentioned, and audits are mentioned under the parent term, 'assurance.'
That was the definition in the '90s. Then, when they reconvened to do this again in 2010, Donny Shimamoto was a part of that. He was part of the CPA Horizons [00:41:30] 2025 Advisory Panel. They deliberated. They actually, back then, decided not to define it. They said, "The services provided by CPAs have become so varied and diverse that the concept of core services is no longer representative of the profession." We no longer actually have an official definition of what accounting services encompasses.
David Leary: Because you see accounting firms are doing IT, technology consulting. They're doing app consulting. They're doing HR-type functionality now.
Blake Oliver: All sorts of business services, right? 
David Leary: Yep. 
Blake Oliver: Donny has [00:42:00] been clearly thinking about this for a while. He says in the article, "If we don't have a definition, that doesn't sit well with me. How do we describe what we do? It either means that we don't do anything, or we do everything, and neither answer feels right." Then, when he was trying to revamp his website, he came up with an answer. I'll share this with you, David, and you can tell me what you think. He says, and actually he was inspired by Simon Sinek's "Start With Why" video that you can find on [00:42:30] YouTube. Great video. 
He said, "Let's not describe our services as what we do. Let's describe them as why people would want us to help them." He came up with three whys for his firm. Number one is peace of mind. Number two, vision and clarity, helping clients visualize their ideas and clarify how to make it a reality. Three is hope. "Clients working with us experience a feeling of hope, because of the way we provide our services." So, peace of mind, vision and clarity, and hope. That [00:43:00] is, to Donnie, what core accounting services really encompass.
David Leary: Whatever skills you have to help make that happen ... If you happen to have tax skills, and bookkeeping skills, and IT skills; whatever you need to do, you can- 
Blake Oliver: Do that, yeah. 
David Leary: -support those three things.
Blake Oliver: It's not what you do that matters. It's why you do it. I like that. I really enjoyed that, so I wanted to share that. 
David Leary: You could have no skills and just, you're really good at giving hope.
Blake Oliver: Isn't that business coaching?
David Leary: Business coaching, yes. 
Blake Oliver: I will say no more.
David Leary: I'm [00:43:30] out of articles this week. Do you have anything else?
Blake Oliver: Oh, I got a long list, but we may not have time for all of them. Let me see what's really good. Here's one that I like. Speaking of hope and those softer skills, Accounting Today published an article called "CFOs Seek Candidates with More Tech Skills, Survey Finds." It's a survey about what CFOs are having trouble finding, the rarest skills in accounting job candidates. It was done by Robert Half; a poll of 1,100 CFOs of companies [00:44:00] of 20 or more employees across the United States. 
Believe it or not, it wasn't soft skills that's the hardest thing to find. Tech expertise came in on top. Over 30 percent of CFOs say that tech expertise is the rarest skill in accounting job candidates, followed by functional job skills, then leadership, then soft skills, and then culture fit. I posted it on LinkedIn. Tongue in cheek, I said, "Good news. You can skip those soft skill courses and get straight to the software, because [00:44:30] apparently tech skills are what CFOs are looking for."
David Leary: It's interesting, because I feel like the last decade, it's been telling accountants, "You need to get soft skills. You need to know how to communicate with people." Either A) they've all gotten them now; or B) they still don't have them, and maybe accountants and people are just correct; they didn't need them, the whole time.
Blake Oliver: I think it depends where you are in your career and what you are aiming to do. If you're aiming to be a CFO, then, yeah, soft skills are really important, because the CFO's biggest job is communicating the story of the financial picture of the company to everybody in the company, [00:45:00] and the stakeholders, and everything else- investors. 
But if you're just a staff accountant, soft skills are not what's going to drive your career success at that early stage. It's gonna be technical expertise. If you're in a company where you're doing GAAP reporting, it's being good at GAAP, and then also being good at tech, or being good at both. These days, tech is so important, you can be just good at that, like me. You can know enough GAAP to pass a CPA exam, but I never do it. I don't need to know how to do revenue recognition. I [00:45:30] need to be able to learn enough so that I can implement a revenue-recognition platform.
David Leary: You would come in, and you'd be like, "Hey, I can do a reverse image search on Google ..." 
Blake Oliver: Exactly.
David Leary: They're like, "Boom! Job for you." You just beat every other candidate.
Blake Oliver: I like that survey. What else? What else? Here's a weird one: Liberty Tax is acquiring Sears Hometown Outlets for $132.9 million.
David Leary: Full Circle, right? Because if I remember, as a kid, [00:46:00] H&R Block used to be inside of Sears.
Blake Oliver: Oh, was it? I don't know.
David Leary: Yeah. You'd go to Sears. You'd get the family photos at Sears. You could get your taxes done at Sears. You could hang out in the tool section with your dad at Sears. You could do everything at Sears. Full circle, a tax company is now buying what's left of Sears.
Blake Oliver: I don't even know if the plan is to put Liberty Tax inside of Sears, because they also, earlier this month, bought the Vitamin Shoppe store chain. [00:46:30] Liberty Tax is ... They're going into completely unrelated businesses now.
David Leary: I think Liberty Tax, their specialty is franchising.
Blake Oliver: Right. They're broadening to run multiple franchise businesses that have nothing to do with tax. I wonder if this is because they see the writing on the wall, which we've been talking about this for months, with the success of Intuit, TurboTax, and TurboTax Live. The only people that are going to [00:47:00] these retail tax shops are old, so the business will not exist in 20 years.
David Leary: Yeah, because I think we've looked at it; it's like 11 years, when we started; the numbers-
Blake Oliver: Millennials are not using [cross talk] Yeah, these franchises are not attracting millennials. It's done.
David Leary: This is not a strategic play to help their tax business; this is a diversification play.
Blake Oliver: They're just getting out of it, I think.
David Leary: Interesting.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. That's my theory.
David Leary: That's one to watch. That would be one to watch.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. They didn't say that, of course. Here's the quote from their chairman, Andrew [00:47:30] Lawrence. He said, "We are excited about the acquisition of Sears Outlet and its unique model that offers its customers in-store and online access to outlet-value products across a broad assortment of merchandise categories, while serving as a valuable supply chain partner for its vendors. This is a continuation of Liberty Tax's strategy of identifying and acquiring franchised or franchisable businesses while also building scale at attractive acquisition valuations. It's an exciting time for Liberty Tax and its shareholders, as we begin to recognize [00:48:00] the strength in our future-facing franchise business model."
David Leary: Yeah, so they're becoming an equity company that's buying other franchise. It's an interesting jump.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, and if you like picking stocks, definitely short Liberty Tax, and all the other store-front tax shops. Although, this is not financial advice. Don't take my advice. I'm really ... It's not good advice.
David Leary: Yeah. We do have some good things.
Blake Oliver: Okay.
David Leary: We have [00:48:30] reviews.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah.
David Leary: We didn't read them in the beginning show. We can read them now, though. We jumped right into the fake profiles, the sock puppets. All the reviews, though, I have checked them. None of our reviews are from a sock puppet.
Blake Oliver: Oh good.
David Leary: That's how you know you've made it, though, right? If we get 100 reviews in one week from sock puppets, we know we've made it. 
Blake Oliver: What we should be doing is setting up our own sock puppets and giving ourselves lots of fake reviews, David. That's how you game the system.
David Leary: To me, that is just so much work, because these sock puppets were putting [00:49:00] comments on each other's articles.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: I'm like, "Who has that much time?" 
Blake Oliver: Just outsource it.
David Leary: Wow, wow, wow, wow ...
Blake Oliver: Let's read them up.
David Leary: I'll let you take the first Apple review here.
Blake Oliver: All right. This is five stars from Destructo Mo: "Interesting content" is the headline. "This is a great podcast for industry news. I would characterize this content as stuff you might learn at a trade show or industry event, except you get it each week." That's from Joel Slatis, CEO of Thank you, Joel!
David Leary: This one [00:49:30] is from Podchaser. It's from Jungleboy - five stars - "This is a great podcast for staying current on the trends in accounting. David and Blake make a great combo to discuss current business events."
Blake Oliver: Kenji said, "Perfect blend of accounting industry news, witty banter, and investigative journalism. I never miss this podcast."
David Leary: Juliet Aurora: "Two of the brightest minds in our industry [and] we get a peek into their brains through this podcast. Always relevant, thought provoking, interesting, delivered with humor. A great resource, whether you're [00:50:00] new to the industry or a long-time veteran." Thank you, Juliet.
Blake Oliver: Amanda Aguilar had said, "Blake and David constantly strive to bring the most relevant issues in cloud accounting to the listeners. This podcast is a great resource for accountants and bookkeepers just dipping their toes in the cloud, but it's also a must-listen for those of us who've been around for a while. Love it."
David Leary: And Sherrell T Martin - five stars - "The Cloud Accounting Podcast is the best podcast for staying up to date with what is happening in the accounting world today. David and Blake are not afraid to ask the questions that raise the [00:50:30] eyebrows and awareness on issues that affect this industry. They are just what we need to keep conversations going."
Blake Oliver: Thank you, Sherrell. DaveOlsen said, "The Cloud Accounting Podcast is my favorite source of news and information about the cloud accounting industry. Blake and David are great guys, in person, and authentic on the podcast. They know their stuff and aren't afraid to ask tough questions and address controversial issues. Thank you for your efforts to make our community better." Thank you, Dave, and everyone who left us a review, for all your help in spreading [00:51:00] the good word about The Cloud Accounting Podcast.
David Leary: The gospel.
Blake Oliver: If you wanna leave your own review, you can do that at, David-
David Leary: You can go to, or you can do that in your Apple iTunes podcast player. Whatever Apple's calling it this week.
Blake Oliver: If you wanna get the show notes emailed to you automatically, or a link to the show notes, I should say, head over to, click on the blue Subscribe banner at the top of my website, enter your email address, and you'll get an email the day after [00:51:30] an episode drops with a link to the show notes, so you can go and check out the articles we're talking about on the show.
David Leary: And come see us. We are going to be in Boston. I have an update, after last week! My jury duty-
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah. What happened, David?
David Leary: I am pausing here, for a second, because I'm a little frustrated. I finally check; I have to wait til Friday night at 6:00 p.m., to check if I'm on jury duty. It says, "Oh, the courts are closed all next week. You're relieved of your jury duty." I'm like, "Why did you even schedule me for?!" I [00:52:00] got on JetBlue. I bought a plane ticket. I'm booked. I will see everybody in Boston at Accountex this week.
Blake Oliver: That's great. We're gonna have fun. Come see us at booth ... I think it's 1008? 1008?
David Leary: Yes. I think we're facing food, the snack bar.
Blake Oliver: Oh, sweet. That's great. 
David Leary: Get your hotdog and chips and come by and check out our recording.
Blake Oliver: Swing by, say hi. If we're recording, you can snoop on us. If we're not, we'd love to chat with you.
David Leary: Come get a sticker.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Come get a free [00:52:30] podcast sticker to put on your laptop, or your iPad, or your face ... We should get temporary tattoos, too, David.
David Leary: Of our faces?
Blake Oliver: Of us. Yeah, that ... I was thinking more of the podcast logo, but, yeah.
David Leary: Maybe I'll add it to the list of cool things to get for conferences. If you are not gonna go to Accountex; Blake, if somebody's not gonna make it to Accountex, how would they get in touch with you?
Blake Oliver: You can tweet at me. I am @BlakeTOliver. You're also welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn. Just make sure that you [00:53:00] add a note when you connect with me, so I know that you are not a sock puppet.
David Leary: Yeah, say, “Not a sock puppet."
Blake Oliver: Yes. 
David Leary: That's probably the best, right? You can get a hold of me. Reluctantly, yes, I'm on LinkedIn. It seems like that's where lots and lots of people with connections have been coming in lately, but also on Twitter. I'm @DavidLeary on all the socials.
Blake Oliver: Yep and find and follow The Cloud Accounting Podcast on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Until next time, David, have a great rest of your Labor Day.
David Leary: I'll see you in two days, three days? Four days? 
Blake Oliver: See you soon.
David Leary: Whatever [00:53:30] it is. All right, bye.
Blake Oliver: Bye.

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