10 Thoughts from Tableau Conference 2015

Howdy y’all,

What a setting..

What a setting..

Yeah it’s 2am and I’m wide awake. Coming down from a great week at Tableau Conference 2015 in Las Vegas. So I thought I’d knock up a post about how the week was for me.

 

 

Thought #1 – “WTF?!”

Er...

Er…

Turning up for registration on the Sunday, the last thing I expected to see was an 8 foot high poster of my ugly mug grinning out at me. I saw some younger children at the event and they would surely have nightmares at such an image. Then there’s the question of my image rights… Tableau we need to talk about that…

Although it did allow people to get their #picwiththepauls

Francois gets his #picwiththepauls

Francois gets his #picwiththepauls

 

Thought #2 – “Wow it’s so great to meet you at last / again”

TC is all about the people. It was great to meet people that I’ve been interacting with all year. Some of these were existing relationships, and others were meeting for the first time. Too many to name but I was really pleased to finally meet George Gorczynski, Steve Fenn, Mat Hughes, Jen Vaughan, Fiona Gordon, Jon Boeckenstedt, Ken Black ( & Jett) & Mike Moore.

It’s great when I meet someone that deals with Server rather than all you Desktop jockeys. See us Server folk have a secret handshake and knowing look in our eyes. We know what really matters in Tableau!

It was also great to see the new Zen Masters. Especially the British contingent – my pals Chris Love & Rob Radburn. Awesome stuff.

 

Thought #3 – “The devs smashed it”

I was delighted at the product enhancements announced this year. Functionality that is really going to make a difference to the ~4000 users I support.

It will be interesting to see which features really capture the imagination of my user base, but I can anticipate cross DB joining, union &  global filters being very popular, as well as the user home page on server.

We're not worthy..

We’re not worthy..

But I kinda gave my position away as to what made my day in terms of new functionality – yes that pic does show me bowing down in homage to Version Control. In front of 11000 people. Hey I’m not embarrassed, it took all of my self-control to prevent myself from storming the stage and giving the guy a hug.

 

Thought #4 – “Isn’t technology great”

My conference experience was massively enhanced by a couple of tech items.

Firstly the hugely useful Tableau Conference app. I love the way the organisers monitor the number of favourites a session gets in order to determine of the room allocation is suitable for thee demand.

Secondly, WhatsApp. Despite having a crappy name, this app was great for keeping in touch with colleagues and friends. My pals at The Information Lab are always super-concerned with the social aspect of events and set up a WhatsApp group to allow us to sync. Before we knew it there were 50 members and it became the prime method of determining what bar everyone was in or what session people were at. Great stuff.

 

Thought #5 – “Las Vegas – oh dear me”

download

Fabulous? Erm…

I’ve been to Las Vegas once before. Just for a couple of days passing through. I recall not being too impressed back then, and this visit just confirmed my earlier thoughts. While I’m undoubtedly amazed at the imagination and brilliance of the designers that constructed some of the buildings, I’m still left with a feeling of disgust and depression at the underlying tone of seediness and corruption. It offends pretty much everything that I stand for.

I hope some of you managed to take a virtual shower by getting out to the Grand Canyon or surrounding areas like Bryce Canyon which are stunning. That’s Las Vegas for me. You can keep your Casinos.

 

Thought #6 – “Why can’t we just have one big global time zone?”

Jet lag sucks. I propose we have one mega time zone (GMT of course) and stick to that. The rest of the world would have to work in perpetual darkness but you’d soon get used to it. Change your goddam date format while you’re at it.

 

Thought #7 – “That’s the best session I’ve ever seen at a Tableau Conference”

I hope some of you went to the talk by Jeffrey Shaffer & Andy Kriebel entitled “Dear Data Two“. Read the abstract if you want to know what it was about but suffice to say I found this talk incredibly engaging. It covered a huge variety of data viz examples, all done with fun and humour. It was also technical enough as the vizzes were also constructed in Tableau. I loved it. Original, brilliant and emotional at times, this was everything a TC session should be. And told by two natural presenters on stage.

Another stand-out session was “The New Tableau Web Data Connector: APIs, JSON & Javascript for Dummies” by Craig Bloodworth. This was a perfectly pitched run-through of the WDC and gave me real confidence that I could go and build one myself.

 

Thought #8 – “Nice one @cheeky_chappie”

Safety first at Paul's talk

Safety first at Paul’s talk

I tend to hang around a lot with Paul Chapman. No I don’t know why either, but it happens. And it was great to see him absolutely smash it with his presentation “A Single Shade of Orange“. He’s a #futurezenmaster for sure.

He has been ably coached by an expert road crew (myself & Tom Barber) so we take some (most) of the credit for his success.

 

Thought #9 – “I wish I was on that stage”

I’ve spoken at the last 3 Tableau Conferences (2 in London & also Seattle). My application was rejected this year to rightly give someone else a chance. That’s cool.

But I was super-jealous of those that did get the opportunity. Speaking at a Tableau event isn’t like other events (of which I do a few). At TC you’re presenting in front of friends, and people that share your mission. They want you to do well. No-one is watching you and judging, or hoping you don’t do well. They all want to learn from you and want you to rock.

It’s a mega buzz to be up on stage and I’d recommend anyone to do it, even if you feel you’re not a natural presenter.

 

Thought #10 – “This whole thing isn’t the norm”

Code. That’s all Tableau is. Computer code. So why has it changed my entire working life in less than 3 years? I think I know the answer. You see in order to achieve this perfect storm an organization needs to nail each of the 3 pillars

  • Application – the tool has to rock. It needs to be easy to use and needs to be able to make your job easier, not harder.
  • Company – The company needs to be solid. Progressive, innovative and approachable
  • Community – You need a great set of users, with a true sense of collaboration and friendship.

In my career I’ve seen many tools, companies and communities. Most organisations nail 1 out of the 3, occasionally you’ll get a really good one that hits 2/3 – but in 15 years of IT, Tableau is the only one I’ve seen that nails each of these pillars and then some.

It sounds almost cheesy to say it but this isn’t the norm. If you’re a 20-something graduate in your first job using Tableau and you think that all tools and organisations are like this then you’d better wake right up now. This is NOT the normal experience. I’m just grateful I found it at all, mid-way through my career. If you’re lucky enough to have discovered Tableau in your youth then WELL DONE! Enjoy it! You’ve hit the jackpot!

So those are my thoughts on another stellar event. See you in Texas everyone!

Paul

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Thoughts from Tableau Conference 2014

Howdy y’all,

I’m writing this onboard BA48 from Seattle to London after attending my first international Tableau Conference. My mind is still buzzing after such a great week, packed with emotion, knowledge, pride, fear and more.

I’m going to try and make sense of the week by attempting to document my key thoughts and takeaways. Maybe some of them will apply to others, I’m not sure.

Thought #1 – “This must have cost a fortune!”

Right from the off it was apparent that Tableau have chucked a whole load of cash at this event. The conference venue was huge, brilliantly decked out in Tableau colours. Helpful signs were everywhere, as well as tons of eager Tableau employees all dedicated to making sure you got to where you wanted to go. There were refreshments whenever you needed them, tech stations, games and all the requirements you needed to work, rest or play. The keynote arena was phenomenal and created an electric atmosphere.

I loved the keynotes. Brilliantly relevant subject areas, from passionate and engaging speakers. Particular highlights were John Medina & Neil deGrasse Tyson. I imagine that caliber of speaker doesn’t come cheap though!

A fantastic effort and one that really made me feel that this event was critical to the company.

Thought #2 – “What a lot of nice helpful people”

So many Tableau guys and girls around to help us navigate or fix any issues. We were guided into the arenas and shown exactly where we needed to go – it required no effort and no scrutinizing of maps and guides.

I also found great help when setting up for my speaking sessions. Expert tech-checks, and attentive audio-visual assistance got pretty much any problem resolved is super-quick time allowing me to concentrate on my talks.

There was also great help from my assigned Tableau partners for my speaker sessions and other interactions. Big thanks in particular to Morgan and Jewel for helping me out.

Thought #3 – “This App was a good idea”

Messages, updating schedules, announcements and much more, the data14 app was a key companion for the whole week. Also very useful for the organisers as well I imagine, with the favourites function allowing them to gauge potential interest in talks and allocate rooms accordingly. Don’t get me started on that gameon thing though.

Thought #4 – “I wouldn’t mind living in Seattle”

What a nice city. I flew in a couple of days before the conference so had a good look around, including a great tour of the area in a seaplane (flown by @cheeky_chappie(!). Some stunning scenery and a great chilled out vibe. And that’s not even mentioning the greatest music scene ever (I’m a bit of a grunge kid at heart). We also went off to the ball game which was cool.

Thought #5 – “Wow! It’s so great to meet you at last”

I20140911_090609 lost count of how many times I said that. The opportunity to meet and thank members of the Tableau community was my top takeaway from data14. I must have met several dozen people that I’d been regularly interacting with over the last year. I’d be here all day if I mentioned everyone but meeting Ramon Martinez (@hlthanalysis), Mark Jackson (@ugamarkj), Emily Kund (@emily1852) and Kelly Martin (@vizcandykelly), and being able to thank them personally made me feel incredibly happy.

Thought #6 – “I don’t know much about data viz”

Despite learning an absolute TON of new skills at the conference I still left feeling that I’m faced with a mountain to climb. So many insightful, passionate, and clever people. I met many of the Zen Masters also, and was very humbled by their skills and also by their willingness to pass the skills on. In fact my first lunch break featured an impromptu masterclass in data densification from Jonathan Drummey. Superb.

Thought #7 – “I know quite a lot about data viz”

Yes that does contrast with the previous thought doesn’t it. How come? Well if I think about it then several hundred people came to see me speak across my 2 sessions. Lots of people stopped me and asked questions about my blog articles and other presentations etc. In fact I couldn’t go anywhere without being stopped and engaged in some great data conversation.

Then on the final day, a data fan stopped me and told me that my work, blogging and community interactions have helped him to get out of bed every day and do a better job. That was fabulous to hear. If a little surreal.

So I left thinking yes I do have tons to learn and take in, but I’ve also got my own skills that people want to hear about.

Thought #8 – “Everyone should try and get up on stage”

BxMOf9QCEAAzYetI used to be scared about presenting. Not with the Tableau Conference. The community is so strong that it’s like presenting to a group of friends. I was lucky enough to be able to present 2 sessions and both were a great thrill, despite a couple of technical hitches!

So if you think you’ve got a Tableau story to tell then try and get involved. Tableau open the speaker applications early in the year so look out for it. You’ll love it.

Thought #9 – “This whole thing isn’t the norm”

Code. That’s all Tableau is. Computer code. So why has it changed my entire working life in less than 3 years? I think I know the answer. You see in order to achieve this perfect storm an organization needs to nail each of the 3 pillars

  • Application – the tool has to rock. It needs to be easy to use and needs to be able to make your job easier, not harder.
  • Company – The company needs to be solid. Progressive, innovative and approachable
  • Community – You need a great set of users, with a true sense of collaboration and friendship.

In my career I’ve seen many tools, companies and communities. Most organisations nail 1 out of the 3, occasionally you’ll get a really good one that hits 2/3 – but in 15 years of IT, Tableau is the only one I’ve seen that nails each of these pillars and then some.

It sounds almost cheesy to say it but this isn’t the norm. If you’re a 20-something graduate in your first job using Tableau and you think that all tools and organisations are like this then you’d better wake right up now. This is NOT the normal experience. I’m just grateful I found it at all, mid-way through my career. If you’re lucky enough to have discovered Tableau in your youth then WELL DONE! Enjoy it! You’ve hit the jackpot!

So those are my thoughts on data14. I’ve been to dozens of conferences. None have been like this. Many companies don’t sign off on conference attendance as they are often seen as a waste of time. And many are. But Tableau events are better training than any classroom course and I’d say invaluable to anyone that wants to make a career in this fantastic field.

See you in Las Vegas 2015!

Paul

Building a Tableau Centre of Excellence – Additional Resources

Hi

If you’re reading this then the chances are you attended my talk at Tableau Conference 2014. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say. I certainly enjoyed delivering it. As mentioned in the presentation, this blog post lists all the resources referred to in the talk.

Link to Presentation – on Prezi

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 01.08.07

 

In order of reference

Grab me anytime @paulbanoub if you’d like a chat about anything.

Cheers, Paul

How UBS Created a Tableau Centre of Excellence – Additional Resources

Hi

If you’re reading this then the chances are you’ve just watched my talk at the London Tableau on Tour Conference in July 2014. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say. I certainly enjoyed delivering it. As mentioned in the presentation, this blog post lists all the resources referred to in the talk.

Link to Presentation – on Prezi

prezi

In order of reference

Grab me anytime @paulbanoub if you’d like a chat about anything.

Cheers, Paul

Review – Big Data Debate

Good morning,

debateLast night I attended my first “Big Data Debate” (@BigDataDebate) event. These are a series of regular events focusing on all things data. Big Data in Media, Finance, Data privacy, open source data etc. http://www.meetup.com/BigData-Debate/

cot2This particular event focused on Data Visualisation and consisted of a presentation by the always entertaining Andy Cotgreave of Tableau, followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A.

First up was Andy. His presentation focused on 4 pointers of why we visualise information. He spoke about pre-attentive attributes and Gestalt Principles of visual perception as his first pointer, moving on to critique David McCandless visualisation of colours as emotions as an example of why you should engage with function, not candy. He contrasted this with Simon Scott’s visualisation of the Iraq death toll.

Unnamed_CCI_EPSmcandless

 

 

 

Andy’s third pointer was to focus on the message of your visualisation. To illustrate this he completely changed the feel of the Iraq viz by simply inverting it, changing the title and the colour. Very impressive.

Finally Andy highlighted the need to explore and discover using your data. To illustrate this he broke out Tableau and did a live demo focusing on his Spotify data. See this blog post for more info on that.

Then it was time for a panel debate / discussion featuring the following. From left to right..

panelJohn Burn Murdoch: Data Journalist, Financial Times (Moderator)

Andy Cotgreave: Data visualisation expert and Tableau evangelist, Tableau

Paul Joyce: CEO, Geckoboard

Jim Hodgkins: Managing Director of Marketing Services, Visual DNA

Richie Barter: CEO, AltViz

Got some very interesting topics of discussion, including the following

  • What is it about dashboards that make them a good approach for data viz?
  • How do you ensure your top line allies with that of the consumer when designing vizzes?
  • Critique of bling vs function
  • At what point do you intervene if your customer disagrees with your interpretation of best practices?
  • Is it part of a data viz professional’s job to educate their audience?
  • Is there a role for animation and motion graphics
  • What do you see as the next step change in data visualisation technology / principles?

A wide variety of answers to these questions from the panel including discussions on how dashboards have been made to do too much by many software companies, the importance of educating users and maintaining best practice and how bling charts may be ineffective but can be very useful at bringing in new users to the world of data visualisation. Some of the new tech ideas focused around mobile/wearables/quantified self and also the use of story telling in data visualisation.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much time for audience Q&A, and that wasn’t helped by some dodgy microphones. I was hoping that part of the session would be much more dynamic.

Overall well worth attending. Connected with a few Twitterati for the first time and also had a very good post session chat with a couple of the panel members. I’m particularly interested in the work of AltViz.co – keep an eye on those guys.

Looking forward to the next one. Keep an eye on http://www.meetup.com/BigData-Debate/

Cheers, Paul

Review – Tableau 8.1 Experience – London

heros_thetableauexperience_0

Evening all,

Thought I’d post a small review of the Tableau 8.1 Experience event, which I attended this afternoon at the brand new London HQ of Tableau.

Here’s the programme for the event.

20131202_142543First up a nice bit of networking in the event foyer where I caught up with Paul Chapman (@cheeky_chappie) and Matt Francis (@Matt_Francis). Disappointing lack of free Tableau pens though.

Then into the plush (but overly warm) auditorium for the presentations. 

First up was Tony from Tableau who provided a short general overview of Tableau the application and the company and how they had come to exist. He called it the Tableau Revolution and given the proliferation of the application that might not be too strong a term. Tony alluded to the fact that typically there had previously been too much reliance on BI teams and that forming analytical insight was too difficult a task for most business users. A bold statement was that Tableau were 10 – 100x faster than other companies to get from A to B in terms of the analysis process. Not sure how that was quantified, maybe I should have probed. We also saw Tony highlight the positioning of Tableau in the Gartner magic quadrant. 

Then it was over to Kurt from Tableau for a product demo. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more 8.1 features highlighted here but I can imagine that any non-Tableau users in the audience were more than impressed as he went from data to chart to dashboard to server fairly seamlessly. 

Then it was over to Matt Francis of the Wellcome Trust Sangar Institute. Matt works for in the DNA Pipeline Group and has made Tableau integral to their operations. 

Matt has a quick-fire, dynamic presentation style. Reminded me of a younger Hans Rosling and showed some cool examples of how he’s used Tableau to visualise DNA sequencer data as well as views of data from the cancer genome project. 

20131202_154050I expected that kind of view but I didn’t expect it when Matt showed how they use Tableau to manage the lab information, in terms of monitoring the health of some of the heavy hardware in the laboratory like the DNA sequencing machines. He correlated the quality data with room temperature information to show that one of the problem machines was near an open door, thus affecting the results. Excellent stuff. Tableau really comes into its own when data correlation is performed. He also showed Tableau views that are used to measure the availability of the sequencer machines. This helps his organisation plan resources for cleaning the machines and ensuring they are ready for the next run. 

Matt ended by touching on the ethics of DNA profiling. He highlighted the example of Angelina Jolie who discovered she had the BRCA1 Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene and took actions accordingly. Interesting stuff. 

Then a bit of a Q & A session before the invaluable networking in the bar. Had a good chat with Tom Brown (@_tombrown_) of The Information Lab about a number of subjects.

Another useful session at Tableau HQ. Looking forward to the next one. 

Cheers, Paul

Social Data Day @ Google

Hello Tablegions,

I’ve just spent a very enjoyable afternoon at the shiny and brightly coloured offices of Google in the City of London.

20131126_132946The event was part of Social Data Week (#sdday) and was billed as a discussion about social media, data analytics and such like with a product demo of Tableau from Andy Cotgreave (@acotgreave) as well as a couple of panel discussion sessions.

Here’s how the afternoon panned out.

The event was hosted by Rob Easton (@robeaston33), Head of Enterprise Cloud Platform at Google, and he opened up with a brief introduction before handing over to Tim Barker (@timbarker) of DataSift.

tbarkerI wasn’t aware of them prior to this session and Tim laid on an excellent introduction to their services and then a demo. DataSift suck in massive volumes of data from social platforms, filter out the crap and irrelevant content and then feed that to big enterprises who use tools like Tableau to perform their analytics. It was amazing to find out that a single tweet contains about 140 different data points that DataSift can report on. Sounds a really good tool. Tim was also super chatty in the breakout sessions and provided some great insight into their business.  “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure”.

Next it was over to Rishi Kumar of Unilever (@Rishi_NK) to discuss how they’ve used data analytics tools and in particular Tableau to achieve their business objectives. It featured how Rishi’s work has allowed them to gain valuable insight into data on social platforms. Very interesting stuff. “Data trumps opinion” was one memorable quote.

Then a bit of a panel discussion where Rishi was joined by a couple more guys including Nathan Sage of PA Consulting. Unfortunately I can’t recall too much about the Q & A session but there were a good few questions from a very engaged audience.

bradkNext up was Brad Kilshaw (@bradderskilshaw), Google’s head of Social, who gave us a tour of the Google portfolio of social tools. He seemed very confident in Google’s ability to be the best in all areas. I’ve got some opinions on that which I’ll elaborate on in a future blog, and also around the area of Platform as a Service which is a big topic in my area at the moment.

andyc

The final presenter was the always entertaining Andy Cotgreave (@acotgreave) of Tableau. He gave a demo of the tool and how easy is to turn data into insight. I’m interested in what people thought that have not had any previous Tableau experience. Let me know.

Then it was the final wrap-up panel discussion and again more cool questions.

All in all a good afternoon. I look forward to future sessions.

Cheers, Paul