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

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