Adventures in Identity: ASIC Connect

Stylised screenshot of ASIC ConnectMy legal name, a single word or “mononym” that’s a given name, with no surname, isn’t handled well by poorly-designed bureaucratic information systems — that is, the usual kind. Today I launch Adventures in Identity, a blog series where I politely request every guilty organisation to fix the problem — and post their responses.

First up, our corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), and in particular their ASIC Connect online service.

This was drawn to my attention because the registration for one of my business names, Skank Media, is due for renewal — and ASIC Connect is the easiest way to do it.

Part of the ASIC Connect account creation screen: click to embiggenThe first problem I encountered is that ASIC Connect’s account creation form has both “Given name” and “Family name” as required fields, so immediately I must enter something other than my legal name to create an account — although to ASIC’s credit, the rest of the process was painless.

ASIC had previously sent me a letter with an “ASIC key” that linked this new account to my existing ASIC business name record.

I have another business name, Prussia.Net, so I decided to link that in too. But ASIC Connect wouldn’t let me. My name didn’t match the name of the registrant of Prussia.Net. Really?

Sure enough, while Skank Media is now registered to “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”, and it was previously registered to “Mr Stilgherrian”, Prussia.Net is registered to “_____ Stilgherrian”. Five underscores! What an excellent work-around.

Then when I tried to link both business names to my Australian Business Number (ABN), the basic business identifier for entities other than registered companies — I’m a sole trader — that’s now listed as “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”. It was once correct, though, as an historical ABN search shows a single-name version from 4 October 2000 to 27 February 2010. See the attached PDF.

One of key problems with this mess — apart from the untidy data that makes it look like something shonky is going on — is that these are all legal records. “To the best of my knowledge, the information supplied in this transaction is complete and accurate (it is an offence to provide false or misleading information to ASIC),” we are warned. But I can’t do that.

As I write this, it’s still before 0900 AEST, so my tweets directed to @ASIC_Connect have yet to receive a reply. They may well have a straightforward way to sort this out. Stay tuned.

I should also point out that in ASIC’s defence, they’ve recently merged data from state-based business name registries, cross-matching it with the Australian Business Register — and the latter was notoriously inaccurate.

[Update 1415 AEST: I just got a call from the ASIC staffer who was monitoring their Twitter account earlier today. This isn’t the first time they’ve encountered a mononym, but so far they’ve just carried across records from the state databases so left the work-arounds in place. In my case, they have to cleanse the data so all my records match — and they’ll need to decide on a policy so that similar cases are handled uniformly in the future. So I sent them some photo ID, and they’ll take it from here, and let me know what they decide. Pleased.]

[Update 1620 AEST: The ASIC staffer just called again. They have a system. The back-end database can handle mononyms, it’s just that the web front end has the more stringent input validation. So they’ve settled on putting “Stilgherrian” in the given name field, and a single underscore “_” in the family name field, so I can still enter something and get a match. They’ve manually updated all my records, and now I should be able to merge them. Now that’s service.]

Note: I’ve previously called ASIC incompetent and reckless, calling for a head on a spike, but that was a completely unrelated matter. Obviously.

Internet hosting: the cost of reliability

[This is the second in a series of three articles to help people understand how internet hosting services work from a business perspective. They’re written for my small business clients over at Prussia.Net as part of a review of our own internet hosting service, but I’m hoping they’ll be of general interest. Enjoy.]

Prussia.Net logo

As I explained yesterday, the big cost in providing internet hosting is paying humans to provide support. However there are still some technical factors that affect the price, and that’s what we’re looking at today.

Most internet hosting customers would be familiar with the usual measures: the amount of storage space you get and the amount of data transfers (“bandwidth”) per month. Those raw measures of capacity are certainly important. You need enough capacity to meet your needs. But you also need to consider performance, reliability, scalability and flexibility.

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Internet hosting: the cost of support

[This is the first in a series of three articles to help people understand how internet hosting services work from a business perspective. They’re written for my small business clients over at Prussia.Net as part of a review of our own internet hosting service, but I’m hoping they’ll be of general interest. Enjoy.]

Prussia.Net logo

Internet hosting prices are usually explained in terms of the amount of storage space you get and the amount of data transfers (“bandwidth”) per month. However the real cost factor is paying the humans who provide support.

Some technical factors do affect the price of hosting, and I’ll address those tomorrow in Internet hosting: the cost of reliability. But with storage and bandwidth prices always dropping, particularly when set up on a large scale, hosting is now so cheap that Google, say, or and many others can provide free hosting in exchange for advertising. Or in Google’s case with Gmail, monitoring your email to build a profile so they can target advertising at you.

No, the humans are the expensive bit, and the cost can vary dramatically depending on how that support is provided. Here’s just a few of the factors.

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The problem with changing what you do…

… is that if you want to do a New Thing, you have to choose an Old Thing to stop doing. Otherwise you run out of hours in the day. And that doesn’t work.

I’ve written before how I’m starting a business called Skank Media, and the new Topic 9 website is the first project out of the starting gate. Certainly since the beginning of this year I’ve been spending more time writing too: 133 posts in January 2008 compared with just 16 a year before. I’ve spent more time in dialogues online too, re-establishing links with my community.

What’s the Old Thing that’s stopped?

I’ve been getting less sleep, certainly. And less exercise. But I’ve also been doing less work for my “old” business, Prussia.Net — and therein lies a problem. Prussia.Net is what generates the income.


Yes, cashflows are down. And because I wanted to change Prussia.Net itself, that change process takes more time of its own too. Some client projects are running terribly late. I even lost a wonderful long-term client a few weeks ago because I couldn’t dedicate enough time to their change process.

Big Oops.

So for me, today’s the day I start sorting out that chronological challenge. Here’s how I’ll proceed…

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There ain’t no shortcuts to professionally-managed IT

Prussia.Net logo

My business Prussia.Net always has clients who resist any long-term IT planning. While researching potential suppliers to handle our increasing workload, I stumbled across the best explanation I’ve ever seen for how the process should work.

Many SOHO and very small business seem to have no plan for their IT at all. Most, actually. They just call for help when something breaks, and only replace computers and other equipment when it’s completely dead. They complain that their computers are slow or unreliable, and yet resist spending anything on preventative maintenance or minor upgrades which could deliver substantial improvements.

Zern Liew and I have discussed the causes of this before. However the two key elements are, I think, a lack of understanding of IT issues and the perception that doing things professionally will be expensive.

Last year Australian IT services company First Focus‘s website presented a 3-phase model for developing professionally-managed IT. They removed it when they renovated the site, which I think was a mistake. But here it is anyway, thanks to The Wayback Machine

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Prussia.Net versus Skank Media: my new business structure

Prussia.Net logo

I think I’ve figured out how to explain my business plans for 2008. I’ve written about this previously, but while running errands today I had a brainflash. How does this sound…?

In my new About Stilgherrian page, I wrote:

I’m particularly interested in how new social networking and communication technologies are changing the way we work, play, socialise and organise our societies. Yes, I’m a geek… But I’m not that interested in technology itself. I’m more interested in the social questions.

What does it all mean for your life? Your family? Your business? Your community? For the law and politics? How will it change the very core of what it means to be human?

Well, my brainflash is about how this translates into what the two businesses actually do.

Continue reading “Prussia.Net versus Skank Media: my new business structure”