I have had several posts relating to what I call the "interactive information hypercube": here, here, here. The idea of interactive information hypercube grew from prototyping I was doing while testing ideas which I wanted to get into the US GAAP Taxonomy Architecture. I was successful with many, not as successful with others. Frankly, I learned a great deal from the experience of working on the US GAAP Taxonomy Architecture group. (Go look at the authors of the document, those are XBRL heavyweights!)
I took what I learned from helping to create the US GAAP Taxonomy Architecture and took that to the next level and created what I called XBRLS with another XBRL heavyweight. Those ideas where summarized in the document XBRLS: How a simpler XBRL can be a better XBRL. In that document I called what evolved into the interactive information hypercube idea "neutral format tables". These have also been referred to as "generic tables" and "general table format" among other things.
For my State Fact Book Prototype I created yet another iteration. This one actually works to a degree. You can get to that prototype from that State Fact Book Prototype link or this is a direct link to the prototype created in Excel. Here is documentation which walks you through the prototype.
Two other influences on this interactive information hypercube is the Interoperable Taxonomy Architecture (ITA) work I am doing with the XBRL International Taxonomy Architecture Working Group toward expressing a logical model for financial reporting. This UML model and mind map of the financial reporting domain are my input to that group.
I came up with the term interactive information hypercube in the following way:
- Interactive came from the SEC. I admit I stole that idea, it is a good one. The SEC coined the term "interactive data". Heck, like Picasso said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." But I did not agree with their use of the term data.
- I chose to use the term information rather than data because the hypercube are really about information, not data. See this white paper Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom to understand the difference.
- The term "cube" is used by the OLAP people, but hypercube is really a better term. A cube is three dimensional whereas a hypercube is n-dimensinal (any number of dimensions). Fundamentally, the flexibility of multidimensional model is what is important. The ADAPT model and the OLAP Council White Paper. OLAP gets in the way as its focus is on aggregating numbers. The interactive information hypercube can aggregate, but it does not have to. Also, the interactive information hypercube handles text. Most OLAP applications have a very difficult time handing text. In my view this is a limitation of business intelligence tools.
Keep all this in the back of your mind and use your imagination when you have a look at the prototype/demo. This is not a truly functional application, I took some short cuts which are explained in the documentation. I get more and more convinced that this is a good idea the more I fiddle with it.
If you look at a business report, such as a financial report, they are really a bunch of hypercubes strung together. Here is an example of that I put together in 2007, stringing pivot tables together: PDF of a financial, same financial as Excel pivot tables.
You can achieve this today give the right XBRL taxonomy architecture. The US GAAP Taxonomy is a big step in that direction but is still a little too inconsistent in the way it is built. XBRLS provides better discipline in terms of how to structure your XBRL taxonomy. Given the right architecture, rending seems both easy and it provides the "interactive information", the ability for the consumer to reconfigure the information and have it their way.