Thursday, 11 September 2014

Seattle Tableau Conference 2014 - Day 3

John Medina keynote

The adage of you are only using 10% of your brain is completely false – it’s about 50-60%

The left-side or right-side personality is also false – “it takes two side to make a personality”

The human brain is designed to:

Solve problems, in unstable meterological conditions, outdoors, in motion – not an office!

John’s focus today is sleep

Sleep states are as important to the learning process as awake states. Although we still don’t know why it is useful. It’s not about energy – the brain is more active at night than during the day.

8 hours of unconsciousness is insane a few thousands of years ago

The bottom trunk of the brain is the generator – it powers the rest of the brain.

Gazelles sleep for 15 minutes because if they sleep for longer then they will be eaten. Humans start to wake up after 1 and a half hours and have REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep then deepens again for a similar period so you get four or five periods of REM sleep every night.

Circadian arousal system – increases throughout the day and left unchecked would cause bipolar disorder. The homeostatic sleep drive falls throughout the day. When it hits the bottom and you fall asleep. This keeps the Circadian arousal system in check. Both measures plateau at 1-4pm and it is officially when the brain wants to nap as it allows your brain to decide when it wants to sleep. You don’t have to fall asleep, just lay down horizontally. Experiments showed there is a 34% brain improvement strategy. The nap time needs to be 26 minutes at a minimum.

There are 20% of people who are more productive first thing in the morning and 20% are more productive in the evening. This is based in your genes so you can’t change this.

Around the World in 80 clicks – Craig Bloodworth and Allan Walker

Advanced mapping

Why Maps?

It’s as simple as answering where type question. 1 in 5 google searches result in map based results

By adding a map to a dashboard, you instantly get more involvement from the reader. You get past language barriers.


Marks – Points, lines, polygons

Basemaps – Types (WMS & Tile), Tableau Map Source (TMS) and Map Providers

Toolkit – Geocoding your data and generating custom background maps

Demos – Crime in Salt Lake City, Great Britain Rail

Map in Tableau has three layers – Foreground layer, Background layer, background base. Controlling the background levels is where the fun bit starts

Foreground – important to think about how your data is spread

Background – WMS server, there are free ones and very easy to add to Tableau Desktop. You can bring a WMS server inside the network. You can then control the layers of that server. So you can create heatmap layers. Open Street Map – 600GB for worldwide mapping. You can be limited in the layering order

Tile mapping is very fast. Pre-cached. You can change the layers but normally have to pay. can give you the best of both worlds

The TMS file – purposely put it in My Tableau Repository > MapSources so you can go and play with them. See Craig’s slide for the full breakdown.

After adding new TMS files, they just become part of your Tableau Map Options in the normal Map menu

Easy mapping – Alteryx gallery (creating polygons) or

More difficult – is Geofabrik downloads (rail network) or Quantum GIS (free) (for particular shops in a location / country)

Mapbox – who have just released Mapbox Studio – very configurable

Hans Rosling keynote

The Tableau conference will be in Las Vegas 2015 from October 19-23.

There is a new TED talk from Hans

By 2100, >80% of the world’s population will live in Africa (4bn) and Asia (5bn). 10% will in Europe and North America (excl. Mexico) alone.

The projection of the number of children between now and 2100 is to stay steady at 2 billion.

“The problem with the future is that we have never been there” – great summary about prediction and forecasting

World population growth is now about death rates slowing, not high birth rates. Child mortality rates falling is the reason that once families’ feel comfortable their children will survive, they have less.

83% of the children of the world’s 1 year olds are being vaccinated against measles – proof that aid works

The breaking growth of human population growth is 75 years as that is life expectancy. The only two actions that could slow down is less longer lives with medical advances or people moving out of extreme poverty faster

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Seattle Tableau Conference - 2014 Day Two

Keynote – Neil deGrasse Tyson – Science as a Way of Knowing

For the British audience Neil is an astrophysicist who is the American Brian Cox. He is the host on COSMOS on TV in the US and this is on Primetime

Pluto is still not a planet – according to Neil

The Supermoon (when the moon the moon is closest), is only 0.001 inches larger than a normal full moon. Data is useful.

Bad Maths – “Half the schools in the district are below average” (actual newspaper headline). Member of Congress “I’ve changed my view 360 degree on that issue”

There is an atlas of peculiar galaxies (interesting shapes) created in the 60s. From data, once the computing power was available, it can be modelled. 250 million years can be processed in 5 seconds and accurately modelled. Every star in the galaxies are modelled in their interaction against each other. Proves the galaxies are wrecked galaxies due to each one being influenced by the other.

LSST – Large Synoptic Survey Telescope – still fund raising. The most powerful telescope. Full image of the universe every three days. “Dim and Dark picture”. 3.2 Gigapixels – World’s largest digital camera. 30 Terabytes of data nightly. Will create the first Movie of the Universe.

Killer Asteroids – The Meteor Crater in Arizona is the remnance of a killer asteroid. The Asteriod that took out the dinosaurs was roughly the size of Mount Everest. The impact of the asteroid in Russia in 2013 was the equivalent of 25 Hiroshima bombs.

There are 1,500 asteroids that are going to cross the orbit of the Earth. In 1980 there were 9,000 asteroids that astrophysicists knew about. By 1996 it was 25,000 asteroids. 2010 there were 550,000 asteroids found (most in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter). There are a lot of asteroids been Mars and the Sun and this means they are going to collide with the Earth at some point.

Facebook Jeopardy: the Hack Edition - Andy Kriebel & Bryan Brandow

Hacks will be shared on Bryan and Andy’s blogs and are nearly impossible to capture in a few sentences so here is a clue as to what was discussed

1. My ETL was delayed today and it missed my refresh schedule?

Triggering when the data is done – using a self built tool called Trigger. The code to be posted later

2. My extract has been failing for the last few days and I haven’t noticed

A self created tool that you can sign up to extracts so you can see when they error. Emails are sent for successes as well as failures

3. Extracts are taking too long to load

Tableau Data Extract API is used to do this. The Information Lab use Alteryx for this. Facebook made a 40% saving on their server performance that you can funnel elsewhere instead by putting the loads on a separate server.

4. I like drilling down, but I hate losing context by switching tabs

Add the additional chart as a floating option. Use dashboard actions. On select and exclude all values so only by selecting it appears.

5. I want to build a waterfall chart for my 37 sheet dashboard to render

Create a scaffold and structure the data to enable it to all appear on one sheet

6. I wish I could expand my lines in a row when expanding a hierarchy

Done through floating objects that are hidden by dashboard actions

7. When my extract refreshes the data range quick filter doesn’t change the maximum date

Change the filter to use all dates. Tableau’s automatic setting is a set date range

8. My users are creating spaghetti charts! I need this to stop

Use Tableau’s SIZE() function to be less than 5. Create a COUNTD([Dimension]) that looks for 6 or more

9. Replace Data Source is Killing me. Surely there is a better way.

Sets disappear and calculated field drop. Open twb file with a text editor. Cut and replace the second data source with the first. Save as a new workbook.

10. People complain my dashboards are slow and I don’t have a way to quantify it

Using the Javascript API – look for CUSTOM_VIEW_LOAD and identify the dashboard finishing the load. You can look at browser type, server used etc

11. I took my laptop to a meeting and went to show the dashboard and it refreshed in my face

Using the Javascript API you can set up a control click to prevent refreshing and you can set up where it refreshes to. Pause automatic updates after the time your server goes to refresh.

12. Load dashboards faster

Load a static representation of the dashboard first whilst everything else loads behind the scenes use the .png image from the server

Porn, Pokemon and Pop Culture

Jewel Loree

“This conference is the only one that is like a big family reunion”

There are many reasons to have a blog – comments and response ensures you develop. It’s a friendly critique.

Subjects that are fun for people, make it easier to communicate to friends and family what you do. It’s also a great way to get recruiters attracted to your skills

If you’re engaged by a subject, then you will find others who are too

Andy Kriebel

“Friends don’t let friends use pie charts”

Andy didn’t know if anyone would read the blog, he now works at Facebook – he got noticed

The most popular content is tips more than anything else but one post about how common is your birthday has 250k views as it got picked up by the Huffington Post

Blogging has been a great way to enable him to write which he enjoys

Peter Gilks

Started blogging in 2012

The desire to have a Viz of the Day post published meant Peter got steered to having a blog

Theming creates a lot of woah to add a great feeling and impact

A CV doesn’t cut it if you are applying for Tableau jobs. Therefore the blog link really lets people see what you can do.

The IronViz contests are a great kickstart because it helps guide you on a story.

There is nothing wrong with creating the data yourself

Michael Lewis – In conversation with Kelly Wright

Art History Major from Princeton who is attracted to characters where data plays a central role. The characters’ disrupt their environment with a tool and that tool is often data.

Dysfunction on Wall Street was caused where data was hidden and difficult to use

Michael’s wife critiques his ability to look at one data point and see a trend

The change in professional sports is breath taking (in terms of data)

Oakland A’s had no other choice to find a competitive advantage than data (they could afford to do it). It’s a sign of market inefficiencies that the team (company) with less resources can win against those with more resources

Time in the locker room meant that he saw the players weren’t in the best condition / perfect human bodies. It’s about getting past the subjective opinions and look at the outcomes. The key question is, where else is this the case?

Oakland did not generate new insight, the ideas were out on the internet. They applied those ideas and had the courage to do it. The A’s could do it as they operated in a market where they didn’t have much to lose.

The controversial reaction to Moneyball was similar to Flash Boys. It’s just that Hedge Funds and Banks had a lot more resources to fight back. ML is still surprised by important people still lying about the situation and trying to discredit it.

Entrenched attitudes in Financial Services makes change and innovation a lot harder to make the changes.

The consistent trait of those who build change is storytelling. Being able to create Narratives is absolutely key.

Taking complexity out of the subject is key to get the point across. Michael uses the ‘would my Mother understand’ what I have just written. Michael goes out with friends to a bar to test out the narrative.

Pictures are a great way to make things simple but they are not easy to create.

ML – “if you take the chance to appear stupid by making your audience feel smart [by making it simple] then you will succeed more”.

Eliminating what isn’t necessary makes everything more simple and makes the story telling a lot easier

The hole in Moneyball is that following a sports team you love doesn’t make following just a rational approach easy to join the two experiences together

Tableau like a Sith – Darth Flashypants and Lord Jinbar

A full intro video (including dancing Stormtroopers) was amazing!

Use the techniques are the focus of the session rather than the tasks

1. How to get more

Advanced table options (you can increase to 16). To get 17 or more. Go in to .xml and change the options to as much as you want (but only after you raise the number to 16).

2. Downgrade the version of the workbook

In the .xml go and change the version number in the opening lines

3. Tableau performance recorder

In setting and performance in the Help menu, you will find the performance recorder you can start and stop this to measure your processes

4. Gauages

First you need to create a copy of the data – one with Start and one with End in the calculated field – and in End, take all the measures out

You need to use sin and cos to work out where the line of the needle is. Use a path line to create the end point of the dial. Use radians and not degrees to work out the angle. Some nice techniques to dig in to here.

5. Images

Create high and width of image. Use background images. Match the images. Use a web domain. Click on options in background images and select a filter. Open file in text editor. Search for <mapped-image/> and take that and copy in to excel. Use Excel to concatenate the data with the new image information (ie mapping the image to the customer name)

6. Exploding pie chart

Overlay two pie charts using duel axis. Have one at a deeper level of the hierarchy and then increase the size of the lower level of granularity and it appears from behind

7. Agent Ransack

Find interesting things on your server. Ie the login box – change the wording on the login screen. Find the underlying files in the server and search for the wording and alter it to what you need.

The Plot Thickens – Using Visualisation to tell stories - Robert Kosara

The connected scatterplot shows the flow of data or time really smoothly. Current examples are temporal so far. Use the label to show year for example. Requires neat annotations

The designer needs to think about implicit vs explicit time. Explicit time can be created in Storypoints to convince the user to explore a visualisation in a set pattern

Why do we tell stories?

Research shows even back to the 1920s that stories maintain attention span of individuals for longer. Good tv adverts tease a story in the first few seconds to keep viewers’ attention


are also really good at making knowledge stick for longer (it’s not currently known why)

Simplification is mentioned yet again. Simplification = Effectiveness

Exploration of data is great for a user but to make it easier you need to use ‘data scent’ to find the additional stuff – whether it is tooltips, highlight filtering, trails etc

Exploration is not a story as you are not guiding the user

Hierarchy – from bottom base needs, upwards:

1. Story

2. Annotation

3. Visualisation

Seattle Tableau Conference 2014 - Day 1 Summary

After a good amount of feedback from those who couldn’t be there (and those who could but didn’t want to take notes), I will be writing summaries and updates through the Tableau Conference 2014 (#data14)

Keynote – Christian Chabot and Chris Stolte

5,500 customers, a bunch of Zen Master and goodness knows who else are here. This conference feels significantly bigger than even last year. If you have never been to a Tableau conference then I really can’t get over the collective buzz that is generated. It feels like a sports event when the home team is about to win the championship. That’s crazy for a tech conference…

Christian starts by highlighting the great work (and breadth) of the Tableau community that is shared on the web wherever you go. Matt Francis, Ramon Martinez, Ryan Robatile and Kelly Martin’s work is all shared on the big screen.

The next big strides in the technical revolution is to ‘expand your creative potential’ of everyone. Adobe, Computer Aided Design and now other creative tools are allowing everyone to explore and create great design.

‘Data Analysis is a creative process’ – most important role in the modern business strategy

Analysts and artists are both on a mission to create something new and explore. Same human characteristics are used in both.

To create a tool that allows for a great creative experience takes four things:

1. Encourage experimentation – fast prototyping needed in any innovation process. Taking film out of cameras allows people to explore images and the quality of photos has risen and improved as a subject area.

2. Speed – To iterate, you need things to be able to iterate in front of your eyes. Tableau working on performance a lot

3. Expressiveness – Great artists don’t use Paint by Numbers art sheets. Business has been tied / constrained Business Intelligence solutions. Tableau creating a canvas.

4. Control – giving people control. Something is in your mind’s eye, you need to be able to get it out. Di Vinci didn’t do his work by “filling out a painting request form”.

Tableau 200 customers by 2004, 2,000 customers 2008, 20,000 customer by 2014. Growth is funding R&D in Tableau in the next two years than the previous 10 years.

7 areas for this development is:

1. Visual Analytics

2. Performance

3. Data Prep

4. Storytelling

5. Enterprise

6. Cloud

7. Mobile

Chris Stolte - New features:

1. Visual Analytics

Now double click and type in to the column or row shelf instead of dragging pills. This is done like creating a calculate field. You can double click on a pill (existing data item) and you can run complex calculations too. You can drop blended data sources in to those calculations too. Called “Freeform Calculations”. You can drag the new fields and drop it in the dimension or measures list to create the data item.

New calculation editor is a lot more simplistic. Edit the calculated field and can interact with the view at the same time. You can drag in data from the dimension and measure lists.

There is a new side pane too – the Analytics pane. Where you currently have data lists, you can flick to analytical functions and trends.

Reference lines update with the data you are selecting on screen.

Tableau calculations – can be hard so Tableau making them easier. Views respond immediately as you flick between table calcs. Tableau highlights what is being computed.

Geographic search now built in to Tableau – so you can flick between countries, states, postcodes – just type it in and the map filters (all built in to the long / lat)

New selection tool so you can Lasso, select circular areas etc to select really what you want. Very cool and is going to be great on scatterplots!

2. Performance

Tableau can go anywhere with data in very many ways – makes performance a lot harder

Andrew Beers (VP Product Development) demos

Tooltip respond instantly as you scroll round the visualization. This is still the same Viz engine bought in in version 8.0.

8.3 is showing performance improvements of x2-4 times faster. Taking advantage of multi-core processing that is now available in most machines. Using more parallel processing is changing response times to seconds rather than minutes.

Doing more in the browser is continually requested. Tooltips are instant and maps panes appear seamlessly during panning.

Analytics at scale – persistent query caching – shared across all nodes on the server and all processors.

3. Data Preparation

In the data load window, you can now ‘Split’ one data column in to it’s parts. Split is now available when working in the visualization window too.

Poorly formatted Excel sheets are now going to be easier to clean up. Just connect and Tableau is now becoming smarter to clean those excel files. Transposing data through ‘Unpivot’ in the data load window (big reception for this). Handling survey data from agencies is going to be a lot easier

Web Services data – REST API and JSON – “Web Data Connector” now possible

4. Storytelling

Dr Jock McKinley

“The next chapter in storypoints”

View thumbnails are produced so you know what you want to drag in to the Storyboard on your list of worksheets and dashboards.

You can now format the storypoints navigator – background colour, font, style (numbers instead of word descriptions), size and position.

5. Enterprise

See Enterprise deployments as mission critical.

Scalable, Resilient and Easy to Manage – are the main aims

Secure – Kerberos, smart cards and permissions

Extensible – API improvements – Javscript, Data Extract and REST API. Publish content and assign permissions through the APIs to come.

Thumbnails of the workbooks, instant search on the server browser and all appears instantly

You can look at the Data Sources of the workbook on the details in the server (I love this little touch!)

New heatmaps for the permissions in the server so easier to see what is allowed for

6. Cloud

Tableau Online allows On Premise as well as Cloud data storage and then deploy to mobile

Tableau Online allows a live-to-live cloud base querying and connection

Tableau Data Safe – allows Tableau Online to control On Premise feeds in a secure way.

Tableau Online can embed directly in to SalesForce

7. Mobile

App performance speed increased as you scroll through the thumbnails of the viz.

Now allowing for calculations in mobile and web editing for the first time – this will be huge

Swipe through the visualizations to switch between them

Offline snapshots captured at your settings down to every 15 minutes

New tool!! – Project Elastic

From a csv attachment – you can open it in “Project Elastic” and it creates a basic visualization for you. Click and drag to filter the data. Switch categories (dimensions) by sliding your finger across the dimension title. You can change the aggregation by sliding up on measure name.

Email the new image in two taps

Date hierarchy explored by stretching the time series – stretch an individual record to see the underlying data – genius!

Alberto Cairo – The Island of Knowledge and the Shoreline of Wonder (visualization for a better world)

Professor from Miami University and Data Visualisation Author

New Book coming called ‘The Insightful Art’ (working title)

AC believes sketching with pens and papers is the most important first step of creating visualisations. Aligns to Christian Chabot’s thoughts on design.

“A visualization is a display of evidence” – convey the information in a way the listener / viewer can absorb easily.

“Information shaped as a graphic function as a cognitive aid” – what ever is on the screen aids the cognitive understanding and importantly isn’t the cognitive function, it’s just the help for that.

“Words alone are useless, but so are visualisations” – it’s the combination of the two that makes the magic happen

“Good answers lead to more good questions” and visualization can really help this process.

Learning stops when blockages / impairments add too much resistance – often happens with lies / political bias etc

With the larger Island of Knowledge, the Shoreline of Wonder grows too.

Data visualization tools that are free and open can perpetuate bad behaviours – misleading visualisations. promoted an article about creating an infographic from start to finish and it articulates the creator should decide their story and then find the data – very dangerous and likely to mislead.

The Challenge of Clarity – AC argues there is a value that precedes clarity. Truth is not an absolute, it’s a continuum.

Good features a visualization should have:

1. Truthful – be honest, be aware of your own biases

2. Functionality – needs to work and smoothly

3. Beautiful – draws the audience to the work

4. Insightful – allows the viewer to learn and if possible explore further

5. Enlightening

Only a divine being can truly be truthful – hence truth is a scale. For objectivity you need to be open to argument and debate.

A habit of skeptical thinking can be transformed in to a habit of visualization design

When working you should increase BREADTH and DEPTH to fully explore what you are presenting

Data literature takes for granted the quality of data. The books do not protect individuals from lying to themselves with data

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool!” – Richard Feynman

The phrase, “It’s more complicated than that” should always be kept in mind – never feel satisfied in the quest for understanding.

Tableau - Tricks for becoming a Jedi

Marc Rueter

1. By dropping the new pill over the top of the old pill (measures) it maintains the reference lines and forecasts etc (time saver)

2. Summary card - good for calculating totals and other levels of aggregation as you change what you select on the visualisation

3. In the analysis menu, you can fix the visualisation to always use a table calc on a certain workbook. Also, the partitioning too!

4. When nesting table calc, the original set up of addressing and partitioning is carried through as a new default.

5. Tableau does some Smart Sorting when it absorbs data that just makes sense - temporal sort for days if week or month name (even when the field isn't recognised as the date). Also works for IP addresses too.

6. Trellising of small multiples done through the two calculations pictured using index and sqrt. You then have to change the table calcs to compute by region etc

7. Moving reference lines - you can action a worksheet to itself

8. You can blend on a dummy data item. Just type in "dummy" as a calc field in each data set.

9. You can highlight at different levels - ie region, state, county etc

Zen Master Tips and Tricks – Craig Bloodworth, Kelly Martin and Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson

To filter data set for a condition (but not only those items) you need to create a new field that is a Boolean looking at another new field looking at CONTAINS(product, product parameter search). Apply that Boolean to Conditionally filter the Customer name / id

You can create layers of these by working with the Context filters (google it if you don’t know what I mean by this)

Tableau calculations in filters will act after all others. Partitioning in Tableau Calcs Advanced settings is like Group By.

Craig Bloodworth

Tableau Server and REST API

API – Application Programming Interface

The Google Extension for Tableau by the Information Lab utilizes the API to give fast access to workbooks and data sources

The undocumented API (v1 – been present since Tableau v3) and it can do everything that Tableau Desktop and tabcmd

Get started:

1. Download Fiddler – captures all the interactions between Desktop and Server

2. Look at /auth.xml

3. Choose a language or tool (Alteryx, cURL, Python, Java, C#)

4. Understand the Authorisation Model

Using /datasource.xml /users.xml and /workbooks.xml to get the raw .xml response back. These are the files that The Information Labs tool is using in Alteryx

Kelly Martin

Stop users clicking certain objects by putting a textbox over the top

Use a dual axis chart to put a click filter over the top of the bars that you do let people click on. It looks like a selection mark

Use a help icon or an ‘About’ tab to explain the data where possible

Data Driven Storytelling - Ryan Sleeper

1. Know your audience – understand what they want and need

2. Smooth your Excel Transition – Tableau and Excel are very different tools. You can force things but use the right tools for the right job

3. Do you always need the number? You can still show the pattern and that give the reader the information that they need to act on

4. Leverage Colour – use neutral colour palette, limited number of colours. You are making the user work harder if you do

5. Keep it simple – strip back the dashboards as much as you can without taking away from the story

6. Use the Golden Ratio – most important things in the top left

7. Don’t Neglect the set-up

8. Don’t use pie charts – cogitatively they just don’t work. 5 slices or less just about ok. Never in a time series

9. Corporate Chart Types – Sparklines, Small Multiples, Bullet Graphs

10. Use call out numbers – make the key numbers jump out by being isolated or significantly larger

11. Allow discovery – include something for everyone (ie even the small teams for sports analysis)

12. Balance Data and Design – depends on the audience you are developing for

13. Eliminate Cart Junk but not graphics – Only a picture can carry such a volume of data in such a small space (look at Tufte’s rules

14. Tell a Story – annotations are great and makes things more easily absorbed

You can go to for full right up

...more to come

Friday, 5 September 2014

All good things come in threes...

So my world has changed somewhat as I have three developments that means whilst I will keep sharing, my work will be published elsewhere as well.

1. I have a new job. 
I'm going to be a Tableau (and Alteryx) consultant with The Information Lab. I have known the guys for a couple of years now and am really excited to be working with some of the best Tableau users in the world on a day-to-day basis for some amazing clients. Therefore, some blog posts will now be available here too -

2. I am going to be at #data14 the Tableau Global Conference. 
I have been asked to present by Ben Jones who runs Tableau Public (that's where all the embedded Tableau items in this blog is hosted) so will be doing that on Thursday at 4pm. Until then, I will be live blogging on here as well as at along with some of the other Information Labbers

3. I also have also landed a new web domain so I will be migrating the blog to soon. Not yet but soon. 

See you in Seattle!