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Blippy: Sharing Your Transactions Online

When I first saw this I did not know what to think: sharing your transactions online! Here is one example of someone sharing their transactions online.

Sharing your transactions online. What, and someone is going to actually spend their time reading your transactions?  I have to admit, at first I did not understand Twitter either.  But now having used Twitter, having fiddled around with the API (application programming interface), I can see the sorts of things you can use it for.

So let's think about sharing your transactions online a little.

My first question is how the heck are they doing this.  It seems that the way this works, Blippy creates relationships with vendors like iTunes, Amazon.com, eBay, and other seemingly enlightened vendors; they read your transactions from them and repackage the transactions together.  So the transactions are grouped not by vendor, but by who the transactions relate to.

Now that is useful information to other vendors who want to sell you stuff.  I wonder if Blippy sells this information to others who want to sell you things.  It is sort of like providing information to create a profile of who you are based on the transactions you undertake.

I am not saying that sharing transaction information like this is good or bad; it is just like pretty much anything else, it can be used for good things or it can be used for bad things.

You do realize that you are being watched already.  When you go to a store and buy something a ton of information is captured: what you bought, what time you bought it, what other stuff you bought, where the stuff you bought was located in the store, etc.  All that is made possible by that little UPC (universal product code).  They also have your credit card number which they may not store in their system but they do know which credit card number or check number purchased something and they assign an internal ID to that.

About 15 years ago I took a class at Microsoft on Excel.  I found it strange that three quarters of the class was from Proctor and Gamble.  I started asking some questions and what they were doing was learning about Excel so they can use it to slice and dice all the data they were capturing as a result of the UPC information.  I thought that was interesting.

Personally, I have no problem with people knowing what I buy and in fact I would like Google and others trying to market things to me to do it more like a "smart bomb" with laser focus and less like the saturation bombing approach (i.e. volumes of junk mail relating to things I have no interest in).  I am sure this can get out of hand, but what the heck; I'm game.

OK, so let's look at this from a financial reporting perspective.  Why do we need financial statements when a company could just provide all their transactions and you could create your own financial statement, interpreting transactions how you want them interpreted and not how a company decided to spin their information.  Now, I am not saying every transaction, more summaries.  There is certainly information that a company has that should never be made public.

You can already look at a financial statement as a transaction, particularly if it is provided in XBRL.  You can read the financial information of one period, compare it with another.  The financial information is really a set of information.  Clearly humans need a nice presentation wrapper to look at the information, but providing the information itself with only one wrapper limits your ability to apply other presentation wrappers.  Separating the data and the presentation wrapper make it much easier to apply a different presentation wrapper.

Even if a company did not want to make all this data available to the public, this would still be a very useful process to use internally to piece together the financial report which comes from many different pieces within an organization.  The transactions or summaries such as the accounting schedules used to create the financial statements.  Also the auditor's (internal or external) schedules used to have a look at the transactions or summaries.  All these things are pieced together in something that is called a "closing book".  It used to be that these were collections of hundreds of spreadsheets and word processing documents.  They could be a Blippy-type service which consolidates them from your different business systems used to run your business.  There are different security levels: one for internal users, one for external users, another for internal auditors, another for external auditors.  Everyone is looking at the same information set with different security levels.  How efficient would that be!

Why should financial reporting not work this way?  What, we want those multiple sets of books, one used internally and the other (wink, wink) that we provide to the shareholders?  I don't think so.  Sure, you can reorganize the transactions for book and for tax purposes; but the information set is the same...the transactions which have occurred.  Security levels manage who has access to what, not Excel spreadsheets or Word documents.  The information from the user perspective looks pretty much the same, it is the back end which is radically different.

Posted on Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 06:57AM by Registered CommenterCharlie in , | CommentsPost a Comment

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