Sunday, 15 September 2013

My Tableau Customer Conference Takeaways

This is going to be an unusual blog post for me, as it's not going to contain a single image or Viz. I just thought I'd use the opportunity to collect my thoughts on the recent Tableau Customer Conference in DC, so here we go in no particular order:

1. The Tableau user community is way, way bigger than you think. There are a hardcore group of Tableauites I follow on the web, and when you are part of that kind of 'super fan' community its easy to think that's what its all about. But at TCC you find you couldn't be more wrong. There were about 3.5k attendees, and many of them probably rarely read data viz blogs or follow every move on Twitter. And at the end of the day those folks are the reason Tableau exist, i.e. to service business users and not just the geeks like me who also do data analysis 'for fun' when they get home.

Maybe half the attendees I met, and half the Tableau employees, had either been using or working with Tableau for less than a year. A strong sign of growth if nothing else, but it does make me wonder how Tableau will develop as the user base widens. Can they stay true to the vision without dilution while still growing so quickly?

2. TCC is exhausting! It only lasts 3 days but TCC can really knock you for six. I think holding the (very cool) party after only one full day probably doesn't help, but also all the running around to sessions can make you feel rather drowsy. I can't have been the only one who missed a midday keynote to sneak in a quick nap....

3. When deciding on what talks to go to, choose people over topics. Tom Brown from The Information Lab told me this last year, and I followed his advice a little, but not enough. For example, I have little personal or career interest in understanding how hospitals are run -  not that its not potentially interesting, but you know, only so many hours in the day - but 'Improving Hospital Quality of Care with Data Blending' was one of the best talks I attended because the speaker Jonathan Drummey is basically a Tableau genius. Check his website out (it is by the way a complete coincidence that I gave my blog a similar title, honestly!).

Then I made a very big mistake and went against my own advice. Instead of going to hear Anya A'Hearn I went instead to something about how Tableau is made, based upon the title alone 'How we build Tableau - a Peek behind the Curtain'. Really interesting title I thought, I will get to see all the stuff behind the scenes. Nope. Just some talk about Agile and Scrum and other project management stuff I have no idea about. I'm sure it was a good talk for people into that, just not for me. Anya, I made a big mistake, I'm sorry, but thank you for making your slides available to everyone

4. I need to slow down. I have a silly self-enforced rule that when I'm working on a viz, whether at home or work, I must complete and publish the viz in a single sitting. No coming back to it tomorrow, or redesigning next week. Bish, bash, bosh get it done.

What I learnt from lots of my Viz idols (Anya included) is that actually a lot of the best work takes a lot of pre-build design, versioning and re-working before its complete. In fact I heard about viz's that have been months in the making. This is something I intend to change for myself - I think giving myself more time will both allow me to expand the types and volume of data I'm using and also to publish more complete and finished designs.

My goal for 2013 was to make the Iron Viz final, I didn't, so my goal for 2014 is the same, but now I'm going to take some more time over my efforts to get there.

5. There is such a thing as the best job in the world. And Jewel LorĂ©e has it! Jewel has probably my favourite Tableau blog on the web  with all sorts of cool and offbeat viz work on there. But it turns out she also does a fair share of 'ghost vizzing' on behalf of Tableau Public media customers, so sometimes you might see her work without even knowing it, like this excellent article from the New York Daily News . Also, it turns out Jewel is also super awesome 'in real life' so I refuse to be jealous.

6. Ramon Martinez is now a Zen Master and this makes me very happy. One of my highlights at TCC13 was getting to meet Ramon. Ramon blogs about his work in the field of public health here and he consistently produces some of the best Tableau work on the web. He combines truly beautiful design with engaging analysis to deliver some very serious and attention deserving messages.

The title of Zen Master appears to be bestowed by Tableau for various reasons, but for Ramon I think its because he produces quite simply the best visualisations around .

7. Hovering is the new black. I need to get on-trend with this, both for highlighting between charts/tables and for providing 'how to use this dashboard' tips.

OK, too much text, time to stop.


  1. Thanks for the kind words, Peter! I do love my job. It means I get to meet awesome, brilliant people like you!

  2. psst... Peter, the Iron Viz is exhausting! I'm sure you'll be in it next year, so prepare yourself - makes the conference a blur. I wish we'd had a chance to better connect this year (I saw your smiling face in the crowd a few times), but next year look for my smiling face cheering you on.

    1. Hi Kelly, I really hope I make it but I get the impression that doing it once is more than enough! We will have to make sure we meet up in Seattle.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.