2 minutes with… Chris Love of The Information Lab

2 mins with title2

Good day Tablites! I trust I find you well this morning? And if I don’t then go and play with 8.1′s DATEPARSE function, for it will bring you great joy.

It’s that time again, where we open the brown envelopes and decide, based on size and quality of bribe, who will be the next subject of the internet’s premier interview show. And this month’s deep pockets belong to..

Chris Love (@ChrisLuv) of The Information Lab

Chris-Love-300x300Chris has appeared on the blogging and social scene relatively recently but has already made a name for himself with some great analysis and comment. He’s also a big help to us here at ninja towers. Plus he bought the beers the last time we met up. He’s recently joined the fine folks at The Information Lab as an Alteryx expert, giving this 2 minutes with a more Alteryx flavour. As a side note we also love Chris’s photography and hope to pick up some tips.

VizNinja (VN): Good morning, how are you?

CL: I’m doing good, my first few days in my new role at The Information Lab have been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest so it’s nice to take a break and chat to you.

VN: So who are you then and what do you do?

CL: I’m Chris Love, an Alteryx\Tableau Consultant at The Information Lab, Tableau EMEA Partner of the Year. I’m also the current Alteryx Grand Prix Champion.

VN: People may not have heard of Alteryx, can you quickly explain what it is? and what does being the Grand Prix Champion mean?

CL: It’s hard to pigeon-hole Alteryx, it’s essentially a visual BI tool that can be used for everything quick data processes, e.g. data reshaping, through to geospatial processing like “Find Nearest” and “Point in Polygon”; it’s also got a fantastic reputation as an Analytics tool. I’ve been using it for 8 years now and I’m looking forward to showing what it can do to a wider audience through The Information Lab.

59As far as the Grand Prix goes, every year Alteryx hold an event at their conference where ten of the best Alteryx users in the world compete with each other over a series of business problems. Each problem is a timed “lap” and this year the three laps took in an end to end process which involved taking raw data, reshaping it and then doing some K-means clustering before presenting a final report via pdf.

champI can’t remember my exact time but it took under half an hour in total to do the entire process and I was lucky enough to gain enough points from my laps to come top  of the leader board. It’s a unique experience, with a few hundred people cheering you on and watching your progress on big screens, and the added pressure of being in direct competition with others, it’s hard not to go to pieces and forget everything you know. I must say though that the prize of a weekend in Las Vegas and a drive in a Lamborghini at the Las Vegas Speedway made it all worth it.

VN: How have you seen Alteryx make an impact on businesses?

CL: Alteryx empowers people. Ordinary business users are often hamstrung because the data they need either isn’t accessible to them because it needs specialists to extract it, or the data is available in Excel or online but is in the wrong format. Even solutions like Tableau, which are so easy to use, still require data to be formatted in a certain way before it can be used. Alteryx changes that by providing a simple drag and drop interface which allows users to use a plethora of tools to import, transform and analyse data, and the ability to share the results locally in any format or via the cloud.  I once presented to a team who wanted to automate a handful of reports – I was able to build out their solution in just two hours in the course of a demo – which sold it to them; the next time I met them they were batching over 10,000 reports daily.  I was blown away.

VN: How did you first become exposed to Tableau?

CL: I must admit I had heard of Tableau but it wasn’t until Alteryx added the capability to write to .tde format that I became fully aware of it. As soon downloaded a trial then I knew I had something that complimented Alteryx perfectly, so I made it my mission to get myself a copy, which I managed, and I started learning it in my spare time using resources like the Tableau community, Blogs and Tableau Public. With Alteryx to help me format data I found I was able to build Tableau dashboards quickly and easily because I didn’t need to worry about blending and formatting in Tableau itself, and the spatial elements I was able to add through Alteryx received fantastic feedback from even seasoned Tableau professionals – which only encouraged me further.

VN: In your opinion what should we be mindful of in the BI space going forward?

CL: As Spiderman was warned “With great power comes great responsibility”. BI is changing, business users are being empowered but with that comes a sense of responsibility otherwise there will be a backlash from IT. As more users get the tools to build data and analytical processes then users, and software vendors themselves, have a responsibility to ensure that the answers that come out of those processes are still meaningful and useful. If I can build a regression model without any code then does it mean I should? It depends, for example, on whether I understand what overfitting is.

VN: Could you give me an interesting non-work fact about yourself?

65254_452448238166366_1734509599_nCL: I’m a keen photographer, I don’t get out as often as I should but when I do I have achieved some pleasing results – I even had some luck displaying my photos in exhibitions and have even sold photographs to America. Have a look at my site.

VN: Thanks for your time, see you soon.

CL: No problem, anytime.

That’s it for this episode. Tune in next time for more adventures in BI. Ping me @paulbanoub if you fancy participating in a future episode.

Regards, Paul

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5 Top Tableau Time Saving Tips

Top Tips

Hello everyone. Time for a new series on VizNinja. I’m calling it Triple T – Tableau Top Tips.

This is where I list my favourite useful Tableau features. They may be well-known already, or maybe even not so – let me know if you find any of the tips helpful. I’m going to hopefully open this up to Alteryx also as I get more familiar with that tool.

I wasn’t going to post these as I thought that hey – everyone knows these as they’re so obvious and simple. And then the first person I spoke to about Revert to Saved had no idea it existed. So if you think these are all dead obvious then that’s cool, but someone out there might find them useful.

Tip 1 -”Revert to saved”

I’m a serial saver, so the Tableau & Alteryx not having autosave features isn’t a show stopper for me, although it would certainly be nice to have. I know it annoys many bloggers.

I am however, repeatedly going back to my saved workbook version. Using most applications you’d close the GUI and reload the file. With Tableau – just hit F12 and your workbook is back to the saved version.

revert

Simple, but saves me a load of mouse clicks every day.

Tip 2 – Use the repository

Another great example of the attention to detail that Tableau show is the “My Tableau Repository” that I’m sure you’re all familiar with.

My tip here is make sure you use it properly. However tempting it may be to save that workbook anywhere in the repository, ensure you stick to the naming convention. Workbooks in the workbook directory, datasources in the datasources directory. Won’t be an issue immediately if you don’t but as your usage of the tool grows you’ll thank yourself for keeping things neat and tidy.

Tip 3 – Swap Rows & Columns

As simple as it sounds. Hit CTRL-W to swap your shelves around. Hit it again to revert.

Tip 4 – Tooltip Persistence

It really annoys me how tooltips disappear after approx 8 seconds or so. I use them all the time to provide context in meetings.

If you want the tooltip to hang around, then position your mouse over either one of the command buttons or one of the actions / links on the tooltip (if present). That will stop it from clearing. When you want it to go then just move the mouse away.

Not sure if it has been resolved in later versions. I know there was an enhancement request in.

tooltipI

Tip 5 – Cell Size Hotkeys

Don’t bother fiddling around with grabbing the edges of cells with your mouse. Use these hotkeys under the “Format” menu of Tableau desktop.

cellsize

Ok that’s it for the first TTT. More to come later. Hit me with your TTT’s in the comments or @paulbanoub.

Cheers, Paul

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Stack-Attack! A Visualisation of World Records in Sport Stacking

makingof

Hi all,

You know I’ve been feeling a bit vizzed out lately. All I can see when I close my eyes at night is data. And the Tableau splash screen. A bit like when you overdose on Tetris, or Plants vs Zombies. So I was just getting ready for a little rest when they only went and announced the Iron Viz Competition for 2014! Damn you @DataRemixed!

So I’m straight back on the vizzing horse… When Iron Viz calls, you answer.

Bit of a nightmare picking a subject for Competition 1 (Sports). Sure I could grab loads of data for (real) Football, or Baseball or American Football, but that’s just not coooool enough. I wanted something with a bit of originality. It would have to be good to beat the competition and I’m hoping that originality will count for a lot in the selection of the “Elite 8″.

Cue a week-long thought process. A few ideas came and went, and even a few vizzes made it to the development table (step forward Athletics World Records & Driver Deaths in Motorsport), but they were too mainstream or a bit too macabre, so in the end I settled on this….

Stack-Attack!A Visualisation of the World Records in Sport Stacking

For the uninitiated, Sport Stacking is where competitors attempt to stack, and then de-stack a pre-determined configuration of plastic cups in the fastest possible time.

Like this -

Mental eh? It’s a proper sport with a governing body, World Championships and everything. The best players even have their own sponsorship deals with equipment manufacturers. Like these William Polly branded stacking cups.

And here it is! Click the image to open the viz. 

stackdash

So how’d I do this?

1. Data

Pretty easy this. All the World Record times for Sport Stacking are tracked by the World Sport Stacking Association. Better still there are a number of main game types (3-3-3, 3-6-3 & cycle), as well as multiple age groups and a gender classification. So lots of nice measures all ready to visualise. Lovely.

I used ScraperWiki to extract the tables from the website, but had to manually add the competitor nationalities to the xls. Didn’t take too long though.

That gave me a decent dataset to work with.

2. Viz design

Charts -I wanted to tell a few different stories, hence the following chart selections

Which age is fastest? – Could have done this several ways but decided to use a line chart. Allows me to see the trend in fastest time across the age groups.

Male vs Female - Tried a bar chart for this initially but it was cluttered and hard to read. So settled on a line chart with cups as the marks. This makes it really easy to compare male vs female for each game type (using filter) and age group division.

Best Nations – I wanted an at-a-glance visual to get an idea of which countries dominated. And that was easy with this bar chart. Simple enough using colours to represent the nations.

Images & Video – Now I really wanted some cups there somewhere. So I went for a worksheet of images as the game filter on the left. I also really wanted a video of each world record attempt, selected when the user changes the game filter. That was pretty easy, thanks to this handy tip from @dataremixed.

Look and Feel - Took a risk and broke from my usual safety-blanket of an all white background to go with a rebellious @pgilks style black background. I think it actually works better on this occasion, especially with the cup marks on the Male vs Female comparison as they look all luminous and glowing.

Information – Important to have an info sheet with tooltip to provide context here as I was sure viewers would want to find out more. So I provided some text as to the game types and also a link to Wikipedia.

3. Analysis

So what’s this telling me about the world of Sport Stacking? Well there are several interesting things that jump out at me from the data.

It’s a young persons game! You can see the U-shaped trend from the line chart as the young kids start off slow, but then the times improve and peak around the 12 years old mark, before tailing off again with advancing age. To the point that a seniors time is slower than an under-6′s.

Males are faster – until the male reflexes cave in at senior age! Amazing this. You can see that males are always faster, until we get to the seniors division, where it all changes. What a great story. That’s one up for the Grandmas!

USA have a strong youth policy, but Germany have the experience. The sport is dominated by USA & Germany. You can see USA have almost all of the records from youth to early teenage level. It then evens out at 17-18 years, and swaps around totally when you get to the oldies. Again exactly the sort of story I was looking for. Vorsprung durch Technik (or something like that).

So that’s my entry for Iron Viz 2014 (Part 1 – Sports). If you like it then do cast your vote via twitter, provided I make the Elite 8 of course.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to stack my wife’s finest china cups….. How hard can it be?

Cheers, Paul

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2 minutes with… Emily Kund of National Bank

2 mins with title2

Hello!

Here we go again! And they said it would never last! They said I’d amount to nothing! And here I am with top BI talent literally fighting to get a piece of “2 minutes with” action. Woah there guys – form an orderly queue. Especially you @pgilks – you’ve already had a go remember?

This time we extend a HUGE welcome to Emily Kund (@emily1852) a National Bank Examiner at the Office of the Controller of the Currency in Washington, D.C. The opinions expressed below are those of Emily and not her employer.

Quite simply – she’s mega! Our current favourite blog is a must read

VizNinja (VN): Hi Emily, how are you?

EK: Doing well, thanks for asking!

VN: So who are you then and what do you do?

kundEK: I’m Emily Kund. By day, I’m a National Bank Examiner turned Team Leader, responsible for reporting and analysis for a subsection of financial institutions, supervised by a bureau in the federal government.  By night, I try to be an awesome mom to two wonderful, smart, crazy kids; Alex (6) and Katie (3).

VN: How did you start using Tableau? And how are you using it now?

EK: I tinkered with it a few years ago, just to see what I could do, but didn’t have any formal Tableau projects.  Then, in 2012, I used it for my first project, which is now monitored by senior management! I guess it follows the saying, go big or go home! By the way, I had help from the Tableau guy in my office…that sucker was super complicated!! Now, I rarely develop visualizations for work. My role is to provide feedback on reports and analyses that the team produces and, along with folks in my division, develop and implement a reporting and analysis strategy.

VN: How have you seen Tableau make an impact on businesses?

EK: The biggest impact I’ve personally seen is that we are now exploring the data we have collected for so long.  Because it’s fast and easy to whip up a basic workbook, we have better insight into our data.  We can start asking questions about the data and refine our process for data collection and management.  Further, it’s been pretty awesome to see data sources to come together into one workbook and provide users the ability to see what’s going on, at an aggregate and detail level.

VN: Who do you learn from in the Tableau community?

EK: You’re gonna run out of space.  There are tons of people!!! I think the ones that immediately come to mind include:

Anya A’Hearn
Andy Cotgreave 
Kelly Martin
Andy Kriebel
Matt Francis
Jonathan Drummey
Jewel Loree
Peter Gilks
Paul Banoub..you know him?
Dan Murrray
Ramon Martinez
Ben Jones

Allan Walker

EK: Even though that seems like a long list, it’s really just scratching the surface. The Tableau community really is extraordinary. And if someone isn’t on the list, my apologies, I’ll buy them a beer at the customer appreciation party!

VN: In your opinion what should we be mindful of in the BI space going forward?

EK: This is my biggest thing…I think it needs to be easier to use the data.  Because my experience has been that the data hasn’t been gifted to me in just the right way, and I’m not a data person, that including the functionality in the tools to make it easier to work with the data will be huge! Tableau is making it easier for the user to blend data.  I think that is a super important path to continue down. I’m a really big believer into turning data into information and initiatives such as easier data blending should make it easier for anyone to do just that.

VN: Could you give me an interesting non-work fact about yourself?

kund2EK: I’m pretty random! In addition to loving makeup and reading, I enjoy a good game of (American) football!  My favorite team is the Washington Redskins, who had a terrible season this year! Hopefully they can turn it around over the next couple of years and get another Super Bowl ring at some point in the not too distant future.  A little trivia for ya…there are four teams in the NFC East (New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Dallas). Of those four, Philadelphia is the only team in the division to not win a Super Bowl! Of the other three teams, Washington has the fewest number of rings, totaling three. Oh, and I like working out–especially strength training. My most favorite exercise is the angled leg press, followed by squats, then single-leg deadlifts. Oh, and I like Wonder Woman…I have all kinds of Wonder Woman stuff in my office!

VN: Thanks for your time Emily!

EK: Thanks for having me. Hope to see you in Seattle!

Well that was a pleasure. Thanks so much to Emily for sparing the time.  Tune in next time for more words of wisdom from the BI community.

Regards, Paul

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tablogowl

Hello Tablovers,

It’s time for another edition of the Tableaudown. A casual look back at the BI and Tableau related posts, comments and vizzes that have impressed or enlightened us at VN towers. Hell they might even have made a grown ninja cry. This one looks back a couple of months so you might have seen some of the info, but maybe not.

Twitterati

  • @ChrisLuv – On a mission to show the power of Alteryx. Thanks for all the help with my Winter Olympics viz.
  • @Biff_Bruise & @pgilks – More great support and chat offline from you guys
  • @emily1852 – Love your blog Emily. Keep it going.
  • @MonaChalabi & @GuardianData – thanks for featuring my viz on the Guardian Data Blog!

Interesting Viz & Articles

Top Tips & Content

  • Cheers, Paul
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Blog on…

So we’re 3 and a bit months in to this whole big, crazy blogging experiment.

I’ve still not quite figured out what this all means to me. You know – what it actually means to me as a person. To my career, to my family and to what I’m trying to do. The truth is I don’t really know what I’m trying to do, something that I was worried about initially. Surely I need a purpose, a strategy, dare I say it even a mission statement? That shit is essential isn’t it?

A few weeks ago I attended the Tableau Google Hangout, where several key bloggers (@vizwizbi, @pgilks, @dataremixed, @jeweloree, @vizbizwiz, @vizcandy ) hosted a session where they all discussed what blogging means to them, their approaches and other stuff around that subject. The key sentiment seemed to be that most of them started their blog for themselves, either as a kind of diary or repository of how they’ve accomplished BI related tasks. It seemed that they all had a fairly freestyle approach, with enjoyment being the key motivation. I expected they’d all be super serious and regimented in their blogging approach, I mean how else can they generate that brilliant content? That certainly wasn’t the vibe though. You know what – they’re just like you and I. They want people to like their stuff, they get a bit upset at the trolls and nasty people, and they all took ages to get started and build the confidence to be able to express themselves in public. And they all get a thrill when the community shows them some love for their content.

All this made me feel that hey I can succeed, and I do have something to offer. Tableau is such a big subject it’s impossible to be an expert on all areas. Pick your niche and be an expert on that, but do branch out and explore new avenues. Give your opinion, and enjoy giving credit when someone else does something superb.

I’ll be honest. I was bricking it when I decided to start this blog. It took me weeks to publish my first post, and then I sat glued to the page stats, praying for those numbers to start increasing. No-one’s gonna read this I thought. And if they do they’ll hate it. Then people did start reading it. And then I got a few Twitter followers. And then a few direct messages. And then some quite nice comments. Then some shout-outs from Tableau Zen Masters…. Hold on… What’s happening here? Then more followers….

So I posted some more, feeding off the feedback and love, growing in confidence all the time. And the hits kept coming.. Then I started getting asked to speak at conferences, and then a couple of job offers. The job offers were interesting, no interview – it was “I’ve seen your blog and I love it, you wanna come and work for me?”.

And that all fuels the fire. The more love you get back, the more enjoyable it gets. And the more enjoyable it is, the more the quality of content improves with your growing confidence. It’s kind of a non-vicious circle. Before I knew it the ideas for content came flooding into my head. I think my list is now over 100 items for future posts.

I’ve recently managed to meet up with a number of the community that I’d only interacted with online. And it felt strange. In a good way. It felt like I was interacting with a community of friends rather than a group of work colleagues. I’m staggered at the togetherness of the BI & Tableau community. To the point that when we did have a minor trolling incident, it came as a real shock to the system, such is the infrequency of encountering such attitudes. 

I’m stunned where I’ve managed to get to in 3 months. Ben Jones pinged me a message saying that if anyone had dropped out of the Google Hangout then I was in line to replace them. That was some compliment. 

I’ve been wondering how to quantify just how much I’m having fun. I guess there are a couple of moments that give me that answer.

The first was a comment one evening from my wife, who remarked “I’ve not seen you this passionate about work in 10 years”. – “Quiet love, I’m about to publish a viz of the best pinball tables!” may have been my reply, but the comment was appreciated anyway. 

And the second was the shoulder surgery that I had a few weeks ago. Now I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to, well when it comes to people slicing me open with a knife!cos that’s what it is. So I was more than a little apprehensive about the procedure. But when it came to game time my only worry was that I wouldn’t be able to use Tableau for a few days! It really was. And to keep myself occupied in hospital I took along a copy of Dan Murray’s book. You can keep the man away from Tableau, but you can’t keep Tableau away from the man. Or something like that.

That told me I was onto something really special here and long may it continue.

Regards, Paul

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How to: To Boldly Go – A History of the Space Shuttle

makingof

Hi all,

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. DA DA DA, DA DA DA DA DAAAAAAAAA!

Now I’m no Trekkie, but I do love a bit of space action. And I remember rushing home from school early as a misty-eyed 9-year-old to watch the first launch of the Space Shuttle.

space-shuttle-atlantis_1223_600x450The Space Shuttle programme should rank as one of mankind’s greatest technological achievements. Over 130 missions across 20 years, to the point where a launch was completely routine and barely a newsworthy item. Incredible. And even more so when you look at the technology itself. Old and creaky by the time the programme ended, but it still worked.

I was pretty sad when the programme came to an end a couple of years ago. So I thought I’d relive the excitement by vizzing up some of the mission data.

And here it is!

shuttleviz

So how’d I do this?

1. Data

wikiI got the data from 2 sources. First off was a nice list of all the missions, dates and other data from Wikipedia. Columnar, consistent and easy to chuck into Excel.

The only issue with this data was that there were surely a load more measures of interest for each mission. Duration of mission was interesting and would make a good measure to viz, but what else could I find?

nasapdfThat brings me to the second data source. This excellent pdf from NASA details all the shuttle missions and crucially adds a couple more cool measures – namely distance travelled in miles and total orbits of the Earth.

Problem was that this was pdf and I couldn’t get to the text easily. To get around that issue I used this Mac automator guide to extract the raw text from the pdf into a text file. Then I used a quick bash script to return just the 2 measures I was interested in, in a columnar format that I could paste into excel alongside the existing measures from Wikipedia. I could have used Alteryx for that also.

So how’d I do this?

2. Viz design

Timeline – I wanted to show a year on year timeline of the mission launches, broken down by shuttle and also to have one of the measures on there as well so I could pull some trends. That was easy enough, and I wanted to use a shuttle shape to act as one of the points.

shuttlelcipI had to download a simple shape and then make the background transparent so that I could further differentiate using colour. The end result looks a bit cluttered when all missions/years/shuttles are selected, but is still okay for analysis. 

E.g. I can see from the timeline how missions started short, then gradually got longer as the programme progressed. You can also see the gaps in the programme after the 2 shuttle crashes in 1986 & 2003. You can also see how each Shuttle had a different usage profile, something that I expanded on with the box & whisker plot.

Images – Yet again I followed Shawn Wallwork’s tip for dynamically assigning images. I downloaded each mission patch image and then assigned it to the appropriate point on the timeline. The image is then displayed when the user hovers the mouse over the shuttle shape. Took me ages to assign them all so you’d better appreciate it.

Shuttle Stats - Simple bar chart view of the key measures. I’ve used the average of the values to colour the bars.

shuttlestatsYou can see from this that although Discovery and Atlantis got the most missions, Endeavour and Colombia did more miles per mission on average than the others.

Box & Whisker Plot – First time I’ve used one of these. Seems to work nicely, giving an indication of the different usage profiles of each shuttle and the spread of mission distances. You can see how Endeavour was used primarily as a long haul shuttle, whereas Columbia’s mission distance spread is much greater, being used as a total all-rounder. A really effective view. Let me know what you think.

Look and Feel – Now I really wanted this to look Nasa-esque, and I managed to find the NASA font for download. Here it is. 

I’m sure you agree it makes the viz look good. But there’s a problem. For anyone to get the same effect they need to install the font or it will default to one of the regular fonts and the effect will be lost. To get around this all the titles in this viz are actually small images. A bit of a pain to do but I can see that technique becoming something I’ll use a lot.

3. Final Thoughts

Hope you like this viz. I had a lot of fun doing it, in particular browsing through the NASA catalogue of images from various missions. Some spectacular photos out there.

But we all know that all this progress wasn’t without pain. So I’d like to end with the following dedication.

This viz is dedicated to the astronauts that lost their lives during the Space Shuttle programme.

STS-151-L – 28th Jan 1986
Greg Jarvis,, Christa MCauliffe, Ronald Mcnair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee

Challenger_flight_51-l_crew

STS-107 – 1st Feb 2003

Rick D. Husband, William MCcool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, Ilan Ramon

030201-F-9999G-001

Regards, Paul

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