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PyCon 2011 Atlanta

March 9th–17th

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Open Source & XBRL: the Arelle Project

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Experienced / Poster
Arelle is an OS project to provide an easy to use open source facility for parsing & validating XBRL content. Users can explore the functionality and features from either a GUI or command line, and can develop their own controller interfaces as needed.


Abstract: Open Source & XBRL: the Arelle Project Authors: Herm Fischer, MarkV & Diane Mueller, Director, Product Management, ActiveState

Currently, there are a number of proprietary XBRL processors on the market each with varying degrees of conformity to the XBRL 2.1 specification and differing levels of implementation and support for recent modules. A quick look at on XBRLCloud, will give insight into the wide variety of tools available for creating XBRL instance document each with a slightly different approach to document creation, with varying levels of validation leading to a wide range of errors and warnings. However, this should not be seen a US centric problem, as the same issues arise in each jurisdiction where XBRL has been adopted as numerous software developers struggle thru interpreting the XBRL 2.1 specification and making valiant attempts at implementing conformant processors some more successful than others – but all adding to the wide variation in levels of conformity in XBRL instances and tools that consume and validate them. There is a need to supply software developers with a cohesive, easy-to-use programming model for building XBRL-compliant applications and curb the proliferation of non-conformant XBRL processors. Developers new to XBRL are forced to learn and interpret the entire XBRL 2.1 specification just to build a simple application. Advanced XBRL developers are forced to write tedious plumbing code; and tools authors are limited in what they can do to simplify the experience due to the underlying complexity. XII itself is dependent on member vendors to implement and test changes to the specification or new modules, constraining XII to vendor member’s resource availability and interest levels in specific aspects of the new modules – which are not always in line with the market needs and requirements to drive adoption of XBRL. Our Approach In order to advance the adoption and resolve the interoperability and conformance issues, we have launched an open source software effort to facilitate the ongoing development of XBRL-related technology resources that will be freely available to the public obtain, use, redistribute, and modify. The XML standard, the underpinning technology of XBRL, is an open source project, with a strong, stable open source community supporting it’s care and maintenance. "Open source" is defined as: freely available technology licensed under terms compatible with Version 1.9 (or later) of the Open Source Definition, as established by the Open Source Initiative (see Using Python, an open source dynamic language, we have developed a highly portable software library for parsing and validating XBRL documents, and released it under the Apache license. This will remove significant barriers to entry into the XBRL market; enable the development of reliable, stable and conformant financial software applications that would promote the adoption of XBRL technology across the globe. In this presentation, we want to enroll the conference attendees in the Arelle project and educate them about how to participate and contribute to this open source project.