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Building Out Financial Reporting Information "Bushy-ness"

On his blog, David vun Kannon explains what "bushy data" is and the difference between "big data" and "bushy data". Big data is a current buzz word. I had never heard the term bushy data before David used that term but I think I understand what he is getting at.  This is David's definition of bushy data:

Bushy Data is data where the ratio of data to metadata is very high.

And I agree that financial information is bushy data. As a certified public accountant who works with financial information I know how bushy.  And so, for years I have been trying to express this metadata in ways that I could take advantage of that "bushy-ness".  I created Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, XBRL files, XML files and many other instantiations of this metadata.

Why would I do this? Ever heard the phrase, "Content is king." Well, metadata is content.

Realizing that it was hard to work with all that metadata in different formats, I tried to figure out "the format" to use to express this metadata.  This is when I started fiddling with RDF and OWL as a metadata storage mechanism.

My fiddling around led me to the creation of this instantiation of all that metadata. Then I tried to weave the pieces together better into an ontology, which yielded this version.  There were many other versions which were created along the way.

All that testing led to the idea of the Financial Report Ontology (FRO). Testing and feedback of that led to the understanding that ontologies needed to coexist with other ontologies. For example, the FRO would likely need to interact with the FIBO (Financial Industry Business Ontology). That led to the FRO leveraging the BFO (Basic Formal Ontology).

This work led to people who really understand ontologies and how to properly create them (i.e. I am a CPA, not a technologist; I only know enough about technology to be dangerous).

That interest led to this project. That project led to this "prototype 03" of the Financial Report Ontology. That work help move toward a more appropriate architecture of the FRO.

At the same time I was tuning and testing metadata.  I create prototypes such as this web service and this prototype application. That is just a sample of applications I created to test the metadata.

Also toward the goal of testing the metadata, I helped a handful of software vendors such XBRL Cloud leverage that metadata within their GAAPWatch and EDGAR Report Information web service. That also provided good information about what worked, what did not work, and what additional metadata was necessary.

Why have I been trying to figure out all this stuff for all these years when no one else seemed to be paying attention?  Well, there were people who have been paying attention.  Also, now that the FASB says that they are "going semantic", all that I have been doing might be making more sense to people.

Those who don't "get" what is going on are at a disadvantage.  What is happening with XBRL is part of a much larger trend, a trend toward another buzz word caused "the semantic web".  Just as many people did not seem to understand the Internet when that came along, others don't really understand the Semantic Web. Achieving this vision means achieving meaningful information exchange by business users. And personally, I agree with Wired.  This is not about "the web", it is about the internet.

Abe Lincoln said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."  I also think that the best way to fit into the future is to create the future you desire.

If you want to help create the future of the very bushy era of digital financial reporting, help create the Financial Report Ontology. Doing so will also help you understand your future.

Posted on Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 10:16AM by Registered CommenterCharlie in | CommentsPost a Comment

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