Are you still reading this?Why? Most people don't care about warts on a toad. And why should they? Toads are warty; it's their natural state, normal and expected. If, when handling a toad, one encounters a wart, it's no surprise. If a toad grows another wart, nobody really cares; after all, what's another wart on a creature already festooned with them?
(I know that toads' skin lumps aren't really warts; I'm invoking poetic license)
An Ode to Warts–or–
A Fractured BI Fairy Tale
The traditional BI products are warty. Toady. Awkward, even unpleasant to handle, they're difficult to use, putting lots and lots of crufty operational controls, gadgets, layers, and other lumpy stuff on top of your data, making it very difficult to get at, and even harder to make sense of.
And yet, in a world populated only by toads, the population of people seeking to understand their data thought that toadiness was an essential characteristic of their BI tools—all the tools were like that, so it must be good, eh? They even came to embrace their essential wartiness, even to the point or proclaiming that wartiness/toadiness was a desirable characteristic of BI tools. In advanced cases some kool-aid drinking souls grew to love their tools' toady wartiness and declared it a virtue without which BI could not exist, much less flourish.
When Tableau came upon the BI scene it was revolutionary. Designed from the outset to make it as easy as possible to connect to, organize, and quantitatively visualize data, it was virtually wart-free. Devoid of the usual lumpiness and bumpiness, it provided a smooth unblemished palette upon which data could be painted in a dynamic model that encouraged and fostered exploration of the data.
Close but not quite.–or–
Why Tableau's warts are so irksome.
Tableau has its warts. Very few compared to it's enterprise BI brethren, but there are some. This blog is in one sense an inventory of the warts I encounter that vex me enough to keep track of.
Because Tableau is so remarkably unwarty those that it does have stand out like, well a wart on the tip of someone's nose. They're prominent because of their rarity, sometimes disproportionally so in relationship to their real effect.
Encountering a Tableau wart is jarring. It interrupts the normally fluid user-Tableau interaction and imposes upon the user the cognitive cost of recognizing and interpreting it, and the effort to adjust and accommodate the wart and its effect.
Why we need to worry about warts.–or–
Removing warts is important.
There are two aspects to addressing Tableau's warts: guarding against the introduction of new warts should be a primary principle of designing and implementing Tableau's new features, and existing warts must be aggressively hunted down and eliminated.
Evolving a commercial software product takes a lot of time, energy and attention. Adding new features, expanding the breadth and depth of functionality are the whole point. When adding the new features it's critical to be constantly on the lookout for new warts and ruthlessly eliminate them. As Tableau has evolved it appears that this principle hasn't always been given the attention it needs.
Guarding against the introduction of new warts isn't enough. It's even more important to relentlessly focus on hunting down and removing the existing warts. Doing this will continue to improve the product in a different dimension than adding new features, but one that's arguably more important to the overall product quality. Releasing a new version that consists only of wart removal is good and valuable, and sends a clear signal to the product's users that their investment in the product is well made and worth continuing.
Evolving a software product by only considering the new features and functionality, and not also considering fixing existing problems—removing existing warts, is shortsighted and inevitably leads to an increasingly warty product. Eventually, the product evolves into a toad.
As Tableau continues to evolve it's becoming increasingly warty.
If the trend continues Tableau will become a toad. If this happens Tableau will have become one of the products it successfully competed against by being simple, easy, and transparent in use, and with enough depth and breadth of functionality to let people achieve their data analysis goals with a minimum of friction. At this point Tableau will be vulnerable to new products that provide the same basic functionality without Tableau's warts. Tableau the disruptive BI tool will become itself displaced by newer, less warty competitors.