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RSS, ATOM, Other Forms of "Notification" and XBRL

OK, try and wrap your head around this.  I cannot seem to get all this totally at the moment, but I am pretty sure this notion is an important.

How are you made aware of financial information today?  Say a company issues a financial statement or a press release making people aware of some sort of information.  What, a press release is posted on their web site or through a wire service or something?  Either you have to go to the web site or a search engine has to find the information and then make you aware of it with some sort of an alert.

Seems that this works backwards from how it could work.  Think about how a blog works.  Why can't notification of financial reports work in that manner, like a blog?  Or a pod cast?

Let's call this FinCasting?  (I just made up the term). 

The SEC provided an RSS feed to XBRL documents filed under the XBRL Voluantary Filing Program several years ago.  I don't know that this is that feed, but here is a current RSS feed the SEC provides to XBRL documents:  http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/xbrlrss.xml

Now, the SEC also modified their system to provide information feeds about filings received.  It looks like the SEC is using ATOM feeds for each filer, providing a means to subscribe to a company's filings, being notified every time a new filing is received for a company you subscribe to.  Here is such a feed to Microsoft filings.  There are other feeds you can subscribe to, based on a conversation with someone from the SEC just to check to be sure that this works how it seems to work.  For example, you can subscribe to a list of recent filings or you could subscribe to a list of particular types of filings, such as only 10-Ks.

The reason all this came up for me is that I was reading this book about Podcasting yesterday and I realized that I had been missing a big point about how I was looking at RSS feeds.  I was looking at them as a mechanism to physically link to a collection of one or more XBRL instance documents.  I missed the "notification" piece.

I talked to someone else about this, just to help me understand what I was seeing, and they sent me some useful links and I added some others:

  • Web feeds per Wikipedia "is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content."  Not sure what "frequently" means.
  • RSS per Wikipedia is a web feed format.  This appears to be the most popular format.
  • ATOM per Wikipedia is another feed format.  It is supposed to be better than RSS.
  • Notification, again per Wikipedia,  seems to be a way web services can talk to each other and share information.  This seems to have a role in this.
  • IBM discusses web services notificationand describes them as "WS-Notification is a family of related white papers and specifications that define a standard Web services approach to notification using a topic-based publish/subscribe pattern."
  • Feedhause.com (http://www.feedhaus.com) is a feed aggregator.  This is an interesting idea, seems to put feeds together and create other "super feeds" as best I can figure.
  • Mashups seems to have a role in this also, per Wikipediaboiles down to "drawn from pre-existing sources, to create a new derivative work".

What if you could hook an Excel model of some sort (i.e. financial model) to an RSS or ATOM or some other feed which would notify you proactively (i.e. push it to you; you don't have to rely on search engines finding that the information exists) and your model updates based on this new information which has been pushed to you.

More specific example, say an analysis program monitored certain rations, watching them until there was some sort of exception and then a human could get involved to investigate further.  Oh, even simpler, what if a price list was made available in XBRL and changes to the prices list could be automatically communicated to those who need to know about such changes.

"FinCasting" or "XBRL InformationCasting" or "data casting"; basically rather than a web page you can read or a podcast you can listen to, a data or information set which you use within your analysis models.  Man, imagine the possibilities.

The SEC has a lot of data.  Imagine being able to create a mash up that does something like, oh I don't know all the different types of data the SEC has, maybe someone can help us up with a comment and provide an example of what might be possible.

If this seems a bit of a ramble, well, that is because it is.  Not to clear on all this at the present time. 

Posted on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 07:29AM by Registered CommenterCharlie in | CommentsPost a Comment

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