Saturday, May 25, 2013

What would Joe Mako do?

One of my clients is getting fairly far along with their Tableau experience and competence. Which is really rewarding, and bringing along a raft of challenges. As their sophistication grows their interest in more substantial and innovative analyses keeps pace.

A week or so ago I was asked to assist in creating out a particularly interesting analysis. The details don't matter, but it was subtle and complicated in some really interesting ways. I wasn't even sure if it -could- be done in Tableau, much less how to do it. So I started puzzling it out – the usual process of contemplating the data, the desired outcome, and Tableau's capabilities. It was hard going, the pieces weren't falling into place, remained half-glimpsed shapes veiled in the dim corners of possibility.

And then, my breakthrough—I thought to myself:

"What would Joe Mako do?"

So I gave it a shot, tried thinking about the things Joe has contributed to the Tableau community and the thinking behind them. Dragging mostly-forgotten or unrecognized insights up from the deep. Remembering what Joe has said about the nature of VizQL and Tableau's data operational model as best I could. (something in there about the six layers/levels/steps involved in getting data from the source to the viz)

Slowly, slowly, shapes began to emerge from the dust, noise and confusion and cluster themselves into formations, much like structures revealed by X-ray crystallography.

After worrying it for a spell like a Terrier with a rat I felt increasingly comfortable that not only could Tableau handle the problem, but that I was able to coax it into shape. At the end there was a bit of a leap of faith, but I was confident that I'd found the right approach and the path was clear, so I took the last step. And everything fell –snap into place and voila!

Thanks, Joe.


  1. magical or not, but I agree: thank you Joe! As a side note to Joe: you are "folk" hero now...

  2. Ha!

    And yes, I've done this same thing myslf. Joe's solutions are a reminder to sit back and consider the big picture, and not get stuck in trying to twiddle one bit "here" when I could take a different step over "there" and get to my desired results.

    1. Agreed, Jonathan, and I find that doing so invariably leads me to a deeper and richer understanding that I can draw from from then on.

  3. Ammo for the next post:
    Inconsistent function naming conventions:
    WINDOW_MEDIAN where MEDIAN is spelled out but
    WINDOW_AVERAGE isn't valid, for Average it's WINDOW_AVG. Why? WHY Tableau... ? Why...
    It's not WINDOW_MAXIMUM it's WINDOW_MAX so we know you can abbreviate... change it to WINDOW_MED