Drill Down

Have you noticed how rarely you hear the term Data Mining these days? That's because a lot of people now know that it is a complex thing, and not just filtering a pivot table in Excel.

The funny thing is that 'Drill Down' is just the opposite. People ask for it - make a big deal of it - in dashboard building, not realizing that this is a simple thing in Tableau. There's a few ways to provide the 'Drill Down', but it's important to first ask what exactly do they mean by 'Drill Down'. Usually, it's one of three things:


The Elusive Executive Dashboard

Some things you should never, ever, EVER google.

Assless chaps is one and the other is Executive Dashboards.

Both searches may start out innocent enough, but will make you want to tear your eyes out. An Assless chaps search will at least give you a giggle, if not haunt your nightmares for years.

But an Executive Dashboard search will leave you exhausted and diminish your will to live. If you're analyst anyway.

You'll realize that in 2015, at least 20 years into the BI movement, and there's still little in the way of good dashboarding out there and that is the reason why you are always being asked to replicate the crap. Pardon my language, but it's sooooo frustrating. <big whine there>

Since I love to share my misery, let's play Where's Waldo with this search. How many crap dashboards do you have to search through until you find a good one?


The Nuclear Energy Option


The energy demand in developing countries like China and India is growing at a phenomenal pace. At the same time most countries are looking to reduce carbon emissions and their dependence on fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, there's no magical Scotty in engineering with the ability to bend the laws of physics and deliver that power without consequences. There is no perfect option.

I recently saw a documentary on nuclear energy called Pandora's Promise. It made a pretty compelling case for the nuclear option, but I wasn't completely convinced. So, I decided to find some data and look at it myself... because that's what analysts do.


10 Freebie Holiday Toys for Tableau Analysts

Happy Holidays!

Here's a few, very simple, free tools that will help make your
dashboarding work just a little easier.  Click on the images to
go to the respective sites for download.


Playing Nice with Tableau or How to Build a Dashboard That Your Co-Workers Can Maintain If You Get Hit By a Bus

We all like to think we're indispensable at work, but we're not. We're just not.

So get over yourself, Simon.

Have you ever built the most clever Excel dashboard/database/reporting system that you knew would keep you in the money for years?

You know you did, Simon. Yes, and it was forever referred to as the "Simon Chan Report". After the accolades, you settle in to maintain the damned thing, month after month, year after year. And it's taking up a lot of your time because it has become so complex (named ranges, linked fields, complex multi-layered formulas, vba) that any new request for change will take weeks to implement. It really has no business being an Excel report.


Bad Charts Delight

I know you love them. C'mon, admit it. Pies, donuts, bubbles,... anything stacked or layered. You love 'em. We all do. There's something about these bad chart choices that are appealing to us. If they didn't tickle our insides we wouldn't see so many of them on infographics and dashboards.

Yet we know (yes, we do) that these are bad choices for conveying information. Our job as dashboard builders is to create a cohesive and accurate information message that can stand alone in a room without us there to interpret.


Optimize Your Extract

It's a little thing, and I frequently forget to do it, but it makes a huge difference.

Basically, Tableau takes your calculations and stores the fields in the extract so it doesn't have to re-compute them every time the view gets opened.


Are You a Tabaholic?

Kathy Sierra, 2005 click to read more

Someone recently implied, quite publicly, that Tableau users are 'dumb'. I'm not even going to provide the link to the interview because this type of nonsense marketing is becoming more common. Get quoted saying something negative about Tableau and hopefully you'll get people to check out your product. Is that really 'smart' marketing?

Kathy Sierra wrote about this phenomenon a while back:
You don't really have passionate users until someone starts accusing them of "drinking the koolaid." You might have happy users, even loyal users, but it's the truly passionate that piss off others enough to motivate them to say something. Where there is passion, there is always anti-passion... or rather passion in the hate dimension. If you create passionate users, you have to expect passionate detractors. You should welcome their appearance in blogs, forums, and user groups. It means you've arrived. Forget the tipping point--if you want to measure passion, look for the koolaid point.


Finishing Touches to Avoid Clickin' Confusion

How often do you find users get confused clicking around on your viz? Surprisingly, a lot, right? You think it's fairly simple, just click to filter.  But most people double-click. Telling everyone not to double-click is pointless. So they double click and zoom in on a chart and are completely baffled as to how to get out of it (it's not entirely intuitive). Or they click on a chart that doesn't zoom, but it highlights and dims all the other values (which you don't want).


Steal and Nod

Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation ~ MASON COOLEY

To better understand technique, many art students will at some time be given the task of replicating the masters. It's a great way to learn and is useful for learning dashboard design in Tableau as well.

The Tableau Public community share an incredible amount of tips and how-to's as well as some amazingly innovative and clever tricks. A lot of people I talk to don't realize that you can download most of the workbooks people have posted (just look for the download note on the bottom right of the viz) and that the author knows that their work is out there for all to see and have graciously agreed to share it with you. You can open the workbook and look behind the curtain to see how they worked their magic. It's not considered stealing, so long as you give credit (the nod).

So next time you see a viz of the day or a blog post with a cool viz, download it and try to replicate it with your data. It's a great exercise - you will find that your learning grows in leaps and bounds this way. I think we all learn something much better when we've struggled with it, rather than just having someone show or tell us how.