User conference with a view

I often have to suppress a question while I listen to pitches for BI “solutions.” I want to interrupt and ask, “Hey, isn’t most of what you’re saying just bullshit?”

I’ve found an exception. That voice didn’t even make a peep Sunday as the three-day Tableau Software user conference unfurled in Seattle. Last night at a reception at the Edgewater Inn overlooking Puget Sound on a rare sunny day, I listened to Tableau staff tell me about their visualization software. Not once did I feel that restless need for more air.

They’ve got something good, really good. The quick stories I heard, sometimes barely, in cocktail-party shorthand ring true: for example, the heavy-hitting analysts who’ve been combing through rows and columns suddenly find they have a lot more time to plumb the data; the anti-terror people who can examine not just a handful of factors at once but a dozen or more; the consultant who feels he’s “stealing” from clients who demand Excel-based solutions who would benefit much more from Tableau; the anti-fraud guy who bought the software on his credit card and within a few hours found something so alarming he had to alert his boss. Some of them will make it into my story for BI This Week.

The only bad pitches today were by the Seattle Mariners. Tableau took a few dozen attendees to the game, and the Indians won easily.

Talking to Jock Mackinlay, the Tableau director of visual analysis, was actually more fun. He looked at the bands of alternating shades of green left by the mower and said, “That’s an interesting pattern. It’s almost like a visualization.” That’s dedication speaking.

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