I have been doing some experimenting with different approaches to looking at XBRL taxonomies. This experimentation is more about ways to view the information in networks (i.e. presentation, calculation, definition). I am looking for a business user view of this information, more semantic related than XBRL syntax.
Here is some of what I have come up with. I am experimenting using two sample XBRL taxonomies and the related XBRL instances I have been maintaining for years, the combined XBRLS meta patterns and the comprehensive example.
The first view is really more for dynamic use of XBRL taxonomy information. Say you are wanting to write an Excel macro to do something with a XBRL taxonomy. Dealing with XBRL taxonomies at the XBRL level can be complicated, particularly when extension is involved. An XBRL processor knows how to do this, but XBRL processors are generally too complicated for business people who know how to write Excel macros to use. But, if you put the information into a simpler form, this can be much easier.
Here are easy to use XML views of the presentation and calculation networks of these two examples. It is not much to look at if you don't know how to program, but if you do, these are easy to use views of the networks of an XBRL taxonomy. These were created using XBRL Cloud which provides a way to generate these XML files from any XBRL taxonomy.
- Combined meta patterns presentation
- Combined meta patterns calculation
- Comprehensive example presentation
- Comprehsnsive example calculation
Again, not much if you don't know how to program, but if you DO know how to program a little, try reading these XML files into Excel.
More along the lines of what the majority of business users might want are renderings of the information in an XBRL taxonomy. I have created two views: static and dynamic. Each has their pros and cons:
- Combined meta patterns static presenation
- Combined meta patterns dynamic presentation
- Combined meta patterns static calculation
- Comprehensive example static presentation
- Comprehensive example dynamic presentation
- Comprehensive example static calculation
So, I want to make some points about these different views of XBRL taxonomies.
- You are not locked into one view. As an XBRL taxonomy is readable by computer programs and because it is a standard format, you can get literally any number of different views. Proprietary formats are generally the cause of the "locked into one view."
- Why do you need three views (i.e. presentation, calculation, and definition)? Well, you may not. What if you could have one hybrid view which provided all the information about the taxonomy that you desired? That is what I am shooting for. Again, the XBRL taxonomy standard syntax is not the only way to look at XBRL taxonomies. In fact, they are more complicated than most business users can handle.
- Look at the coloring in the static views. Notice the patterns of the colors. Text tends to be blue, numbers tend to be green and the hypercube, axis, domain, and member information tends to be shades of brown. The idea is to use color to help you understand the information. Others use icons, there are probably other approaches people will come up with. The idea is to make this easier in some manner, using patterns within the XBRL taxonomy.
- You may miss this so I will explicitly point it out. Click hereand see where you end up in the taxonomy rendering. Notice how you navigate to a specific row in the static rendering. This idea came from the CoreFiling taxonomy viewer. In that application you can provide a URL and open the application and navigate to a specific spot in the taxonomy within a specific type of network. You can do that with the static and dynamic renderings by providing the ID of the line item. See the URL you clicked on, you can figure out how to do it.
- What if the taxonomy did not look like XBRL taxonomies tend to look these days (i.e. trees of some sort), but rather what if they looked like an actual report. For example, take a look at this Excel spreadsheet. Or another example of this is the prototype interactive information viewer I created.
- What if you could extend the XBRL taxonomy by simply adding a row or column into the interface and you are limited to specific points in the taxonomy where extensions are allowed (i.e. see this blog post relating to extension points)
The views of the taxonomy above are just interim steps in the process of getting to where I really think we need to be. People tend to look at XBRL far to much from the perspective of the XBRL syntax. Think about the semantics. That is what you really want to understand.
If you want to understand more about this, read the archive of blog posts. In particular, look at the category "modeling business information using XBRL".