Tableau’s TC14 Conference – #DATA14 in 4 Parts

Well, I’ve just returned to Indianapolis and my first priority was to get a Tableau-centric blog up and running, so here I am!

As a first post, and to get the ball rolling, I wanted to share four main reflections on this year’s Tableau Conference (#DATA14):

More is Coming

Whether you watched the TC14 Keynote or not, many things are coming down the pipeline:  Performance improvements seem to be a large part of this, but I also saw some interesting visual “helpers” in upcoming releases–things like highlighting marks while using Table Calculations, so the user can more easily understand concepts like “Partitioning”, “Addressing”, and “Compute Using” (nothing in the demo about “At the Level” unfortunately).  A tablet-specific Server app, quick wins in Formatting Story Points, more visual options for using and editing calculations, reference lines, and a many, many more great features were announced.  You can watch the Keynote to get all the details on what was shown in the Demo portion.  I hope to keep this post short and sweet…  like the Conference itself, there is no way I will cover everything I would like, so I’m just sort-of winging it here!

The User Community is Amazing… and Growing!

I thought I knew the “Community” of Tableau Users from being active on the Tableau Forums, but I quickly learned I know very few of the users who interact with Tableau on a daily basis. Being named a 2014 Zen Master certainly helped me meet some power users, but I also met many everyday users who struggle–and have great successes–with Tableau on a regular basis.  It was amazing to meet all types of users.  Special shout outs to Tableau users/customers Richard Leeke, Toby Erkson, Keith Helfrich, Shawn Wallwork, Noah Salvaterra, Jonathan Drummey (whose blog, Drawing with Numbers, has been a great source of learning and inspiration over the past year) and many, many more for making me feel welcome and for teaching me a thing or two in the process.  This was my second conference, but as a newly appointed Zen Master, it was quite different from my first. It was also the first time I have presented at the Tableau Conference–my session is listed here.

The opportunities were vast, and  the fun never ended. I’m still buzzin’ with thoughts in how to apply what I saw or heard in sessions…

Tableau Rocks a Conference

Sir-Mix-a-Lot, Hans Rosling (whom I was able to meet in person), John Medina, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tableau employees/customers, constant opportunities for networking, learning, and FUN…  Need I say more?  This conference ROCKS in a very unique way, from a former school teacher’s perspective–the Edu conferences I’ve attended are wonderful learning and networking opportunities, but certainly not as FUN as the Tableau Conference!

if you are not familiar with the Tableau Conference, take a look at the TC14 Agenda and you’ll get an idea.  There really is nothing like it.  The employees are passionate about their product, and we as customers are just as equally passionate about finding ways to utilize it creatively.  This makes for an excellent conference, with more material than one could ever hope to digest in one short week. Many of us will spend hours pouring through the material post-conference!

I Have a Lot to Learn

While I did not get to attend every single session I wanted to see (this is nearly impossible), I saw enough to open my eyes to the fact that my work in learning Tableau is nowhere near finished.  I’ve learned a quite a lot in the past 12 months about Table Calculations, and other “tricky” concepts, mostly thanks to folks like Jonathan Drummey and Joe Mako–who have worked diligently to help others understand undocumented and difficult-to-grasp concepts in Tableau.  However, I saw several sessions that focused on features that allow us to avoid the complexities and limitations of Table Calculations.  These included utilizing sets, data blends, and other Tableau concepts to accomplish what I may have “brute-forced” with a Table Calc in the past.  I’m particularly interested in the duplicate data source self-blend techniques demonstrated by Jonathan and others, like Bethony Lyons, a Tableau Product Consultant based in the UK.  I cannot wait to review the session videos and learn more (hmm, maybe a second blog post on this technique is in order?)

Being named a Zen Master can be intimidating, because so many of the Zens have pushed the boundaries of what can be accomplished with Tableau.  However, this group of users is humble and understands that Tableau is a tool that encompasses a HUGE number of features… and no one Zen is an expert in all areas of Tableau.  We all share attributes of the Zen requirements: Product Mastery, Innovation, and Teaching/Sharing — but we all do this in different ways.  This is important for anyone looking to Zen Masters for help in Tableau:  none of us know everything about the Product, but we all do our best to guide you toward your own understanding of the Product.  In addition, many of us are Zen Masters by night, supporting our mystical habits with 9-5 jobs! I hope to post more on becoming a Zen Master and how it impacted my TC14 experience in a subsequent post.

In Closing

I would have liked to have mentioned many more folks in this post–I met so many new people at the Conference, it would be impossible to thank them all here.  Just know, if you’re in the Tableau Community of users and employees, I appreciate all that you do to help others utilize this tool!

I may focus the next post on some of the highlights of the conference, as a new Zen Master: comments, thoughts, ideas? Share them in the comments below, or reach out via Twitter: @mluttonBI. This being my first post, I’m wide open to ideas for improvement, and would love to hear your thoughts on how to make the most of this little space on the web.

Until next time.