From data “Rockstars” to data “Garage Bands”, the Tableau Conference 2014 opened up an opportunity for everyone with an interest in big data to freely and openly exchange ideas on how maximize, optimize, and visualize data. In a world where the constant flow of information is encouraged, derided, and praised all at the same time, Tableau has emerged as one of the cultural centers for exploring the possibilities of what data has to offer.
In an audience of Tableau Zen Masters, amateurs, partners, and potential customers; no one stood out more so than the keynote speakers. They demonstrated how all the work done cleaning data warehouses, connecting tables, and visualizing data can ultimately affect change and bring a piece of truth to the masses.
Neil deGrasse Tyson waxed on about how our understanding about our universe and beyond has grown leaps and bounds in recent years due to our ability to not only capture thousands of terabytes of data, but actually make sense out of them. Ultimately, Tyson took this information to the people in the form of his documentary series entitled “Cosmos: A Space Odyssey”, which aired on Sunday night - during primetime - with an average of 5.8 million viewers. Talk about bringing information to the masses!
Another influential speaker, returning after a two year gap, was Dr. John Medina, who spoke about his book “Brain Rules”. In one hour he transformed the lives of the conference audience with his discussion on sleep science, debunking classic myths like “We only use 10% of our brain” and that there’s a left brain/right brain split. He went on to show that, based on the data (of course), we all maintain different sleeping habits that are embedded in our DNA and that the 2pm drag we all feel is just our brain trying to decide how awake we need to be for the remainder of the day. FYI, a 26 minute nap between 2pm and 4pm will boost productivity by at least 30%!
Attendees also received updates from the Tableau team themselves on the future of the product. There are two features that I am most excited about: the first is that Tableau is improving their Excel data import, adding the ability to automatically detect the structure of an Excel file and identify field names and data without any input from the user. The other is a data connector for data stored on the web; you will be able to connect to Tableau through REST APIs, JSON, etc. But you should also be on the lookout for an interactive calculation editor, drag-and-drop with multiple data sources, and integrated geographic search… just to name a few. The Rockstars really came to play!
Playing and Sharing – Visual Best Practices and the Art of Storytelling
While it may sound a bit cliché, I assure you with complete seriousness that the key themes of the Tableau conference were fun and learning. While these two words have had a rocky relationship in the past, at TCC they became synonymous. No matter your learning style or needs there was a plethora of options. While the giants of the data visualization world, Stephen Few and Edward Tufte, were often mentioned in talks such as “Deep Insight with Minimalist Dashboards” and “The Art of Visualizing Financial Data”, they could also be imagined losing their nerve during “Pimp My Viz” and “Making a Visualization that Stops Traffic”. Under constant discussion was the tension between clean, easy to understand visualizations and making something compelling. Here’s a great example showing the likelihood of a white Christmas.
There were also great discussions on the best way to apply table joins, twisted table calculations, and how to bring a technology challenged organization into the 21st century. Ultimately the theme was crowdsourcing. Nothing is off limits; everybody was willing to help, from the keynote speakers to the attendees. Need an expert? Call us, we’d love to help. Need a Tableau trainer? We’re at your beck and call. Need a new visualization for you marketing data? Here, use mine. Want to integrate your data sources and clean-up your data? We’ve got you covered! Decisive Data made the most of our space by creating a Macklemore tour viz, showing the size of each crowd on his latest world tour (spliced with crazy videos of him performing in different countries) to get people’s imaginations moving.
The After Party
Yes, Sir Mix-a-Lot, the Blue Scholars, and The Head and The Heart all performed for the audience of roughly 5,000, but that’s not the after party I’m talking about. We had all come together for a brief four days to create a data, but eventually this party had to end. In order to maximize the use of potential partnerships and knowledge shared, many of us data roadies hung out for as long as possible in the convention center, including Decisive Data! We said our last goodbyes and exchanged our final business cards. If you missed out on any of this, you can check out the rest our website or check out the list of companies that were also in attendance. If there’s a question you have about Tableau, you’re looking to get the most out of it, or just wondering if it’s the right solution; there are partners out there looking to help out with anything, including:
- Database cleanup
- Tableau training
- Creating amazing Tableau visualizations
- Tableau Licensing
- BI Consulting
There’s also a whole world of experts you can access directly via Twitter. Here are a few handles, from some of the presenters, to take a look at: @ugamarkj, @craigbloodworth, @vizcandy, @nelsondavis, @paulbanoub, @datablick.
Be on the lookout for further details regarding Tableau Conference 2015, which is planned for October in Las Vegas. Start running your Monte Carlo Simulations now!
Posted by Brian Pohl