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More than "Hypercube Jumping", More Like "Metadata Leveraging"

I mentioned how interesting and useful what I called "hypercube jumping" is, which the Firefox XBRL Viewer add on provides, in a prior post on my blog. In another blog post I pointed you to a sample XBRL business report which is well modeled so you can experience this for yourself. Just in case you don't want to install the Firefox XBRL add on but you do want to see what I am talking about, here is a one minute video screen capture which shows this "hypercube jumping" in action.

Many SEC XBRL filings are also worth trying out. Here are two which I have played with: Apple and Carnival. Try right clicking on the balance sheet line items and see which networks you can jump to. Or try net income on the income statement, that usually has a number of places which it is linked to.

And don't forget about the ability to reconfigure the information. Experiment with that, notice what is going on. (Here are some small samples which you can use to experiment with. Although, the hypercube jumping won't be that great because these isolated examples.)

While both the "hypercube jumping" and reconfiguring the information leaves a lot to be desired, if you really think about what it going on it is pretty useful.

But "hypercube jumping" is not the right term to describe what is going on. I don't know what to call it yet, but here are some clues that some other term is more appropriate to describe what is going on. (If you wanted to follow along, I am using this sample SEC XBRL filing to experiment with, grab the XBRL instance and try these for yourself):

  • Dimensions or [Axis] jumping. If you go to the balance sheet and right click on the "Report Date [Axis]" or the "Legal Entity [Axis]" (on the top part of the rendering) you see a list of all the networks which contain hypercubes (SEC XBRL filings call these [Table]s) which use those [Axis].  So, it seems you can also jump from place to place in the report using [Axis]. (Now, what is a bit confusing is that you cannot do the same thing for "Entity Identifier" or "Date", but it seems to me that you should be able to do that, they are dimensions also.)
  • Concept or [Line Items] jumping. Try jumping from the balance sheet to the detailed disclosures for "Inventory, Net" and "Property, Plant and Equipment, Net". Now, it is hard to tell this from the viewer but if you look closely you will notice that the inventory details are modeled as concepts and the property, plant and equipment details are modeled as [Member]s of an [Axis] or dimension. Both get you where you want to go, from the summary on the balance sheet to the details or from the details back to the balance sheet. But I am not sure that "concept jumping" is right really because the concept is really nothing more than a special type of [Axis] or dimension.
  • [Member] jumping. OK, looking back at the first bullet point, what you are actually clicking on is the [Member] and not the [Axis]. Perhaps it is the values of the [Axis], which I am calling [Member]s, which is what enables the transition from summary to detail.
  • [Table] or hypercube jumping. To round out this list, let be both point out that all the [Axis], [Member]s, [Line Items], are all tied together with either explicit [Table]s or implicit tables. So, you really don't even need a physical hypercube to "jump" from place to place in a report.

(NOTE: If you are confused by the terminology I am using, see the SEC XBRL Primer here on this blog post.)

Are you confused? Yeah, so am I.  But this is what I think I am seeing. What I call "hypercube jumping" appears to be simply leveraging the meta data relationships within an XBRL taxonomy and XBRL instance. The Firefox XBRL viewer appears to be hung up on the XBRL syntax.  It leverages explicit XBRL Dimensions information, leverages the implicit XBRL information such as entity identifier and period for rendering the business report, but it does not appear to be leveraging that "quasi" dimensional information (it is NOT XBRL Dimensions meta data but it is dimensional information).

Another thing which the Firefox viewer add on does not seem to be leveraging is the information models. If you notice how poorly a [Roll Forward] renders in the Firefox viewer add on, but then you go look at a [Roll Forward] rendered by the SEC Interactive Data viewer, you can try any [Roll Forward] such as the cash flow statement or the disclosure changes in warranty accrual in this SEC XBRL interactive data for Apple, the SEC Interactive Data viewer renders [Roll Forward]s quite nicely.

What I think I am seeing is "metadata leveraging". The Firefox viewer add on is leveraging meta data to jump from place to place in the report.  It is also using metadata to render the information and allow you to pivot the report on its [Axis] or dimensions. This is pretty slick! Don't get confused by the limitations of the Firefox XBRL viewer add on.

(This blog post is perhaps even more stream of consciousness than normal, sorry.  I am still trying to figure this out.)

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