A conversation with Charlie Hoffman and Brian DeLacey about XBRL

Charlie Hoffman, the director of industry solutions for UBmatrix, is acknowledged as "the father of XBRL" -- the eXtensible Business Reporting Language to which I had a bit of an xallergic reaction when I first encountered it a couple of years ago. But when Brian DeLacey, a researcher turned XBRL entrepeneur, suggested that I interview Charlie I jumped at the chance. In this week's podcast the three of us discuss the history of XBRL, its relationship to XML, its goals, its successes, and its challenges.

In next week's InfoWorld column I'll write more about what I learned from this long and fascinating conversation. But in a nutshell, though my criticisms of XBRL's complexity were and are valid -- as Charlie Hoffman admits -- the real story is (as always) much more nuanced. The inherent complexity of accounting standards, the competitive forces at work in the realm of global finance, the regulatory pressure being brought to bear -- these and other factors form the context in which the development of XBRL must be understood.

It's worth noting that while XBRL is a complex beast that makes aggressive use of certain advanced features of XML, Charlie Hoffman isn't (or anyway wasn't originally) an XML geek. He's an accountant who, as you'll hear in this interview, is deeply grounded in the practice of his trade. That makes this story an interesting contrast to the development of many of the web services standards I've studied.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/08/11.html#a1504