About Chris Love

data professional, runner, photographer; these are my hobbies at present, I make no guarantees to the future.

My Top 10 Blogging Tips

In this, my first blog post of 2015, I want to talk about blogging and offer some tips for those new to blogging in the Tableau or Alteryx community.


Last year I wrote 40 blog posts, spread across this site and The Information Lab blog. I covered a range of subjects, from simple visualisations through to explainers of specific functionality, e.g. Tableau permissions, I also wrote a few opinion / commentary pieces. I’ve also just started a new site to host my more specific “BI and the Business User” blog posts. All this adds up to a lot of words, and I’ve learnt a lot, so here’s some of my top tips for blogging in the Tableau or Alteryx space.

(image by Alex Martinez - click for details / licence)

(image by Alex Martinez – click for details / licence)

Tip #1

Do it for the love of it This is the single most important tip, if you read no further please take this in. If you don’t feel it – don’t post it.

Don’t start blogging for any reason other than because you enjoy it. Blogging because you want to be the next Tableau Zen Master or the next Alteryx ACE, because you want to change careers, or even because you want to impress that hot girl you saw at TCC isn’t going to work in anything but the short term. You’ll soon lose your fizzle, the time between posts will get longer and sooner rather than later you’ll stop. Unless you are very, very single minded then I guarantee this will happen, and you’ll be disappointed with yourself for trying.

Likewise with a given post; don’t post to get views or retweets, or likes, just post what interests you, the rest will come as a result of that.

Blogging shouldn’t be a chore, you’re choosing to spend your spare time doing it after all, if it’s a chore go and do do something else – you owe yourself that.

Tip #2

Don’t Set Targets Targets will be unhelpful when you start blogging, and may cause you to feel undue pressure to post to meet the targets you’ve set. How do you know you will have enough time to post, say once a week, before you’ve tried? Believe me it’s harder than it sounds.

Instead of setting targets then just post when you have time (or when you have made time), and keep a backlog of subjects to ensure you make the most of that time.

Tip #3

Keep a notebook for subjects A virtual or physical notebook can really help record all those ideas you have for blogs. Those tips you come across in the course of a day in your work, or in a conversation with a colleague or twitter friend, need quickly recording so they don’t get lost. Sometimes a series will pop out naturally from this backlog, and you can string together a set of posts, other times you’ll find yourself with a spare 30 minutes and be able to pick a short subject and get a draft done there and then. Unless you record your ideas then those opportunities can go begging.

I currently have about 20 ideas stored away, some will never get written, some I plan to write about next week, others will probably be written by others before I find time. Before I started recording them I’d find I’d sit down to write a blog and wonder what to write about.

Tip #4

Think carefully about where the time will come from I estimate that on average I probably spend a day in total on each of my blogs, some have taken significantly more, others much less but roughly it’s probably a day. From the inception of an idea, to building a viz or module, through tidying and making it public, and then writing the actual text for the blog (not to mention proof-reading and editing) there’s a lot of work. So for me that’s about 40 posts x 8 hours = 320 hours of work over the last year – that’s about 6 hours a week.

I’m fortunate that I also blog for work and so some of those hours can happen in my working day, but more often than not even the “work” blogs are done in my personal time (after all I enjoy it). Therefore you have to find time in your week to fit in those hours – for me that’s on trains or in hotels, or while my wife is out in the evenings. Everyone is different but try and think about where your time will come from; I know some people blog in their lunch hours, others on their daily commute, I imagine others are doing it off the side of their desks at work. Regardless of where you find the time then be sure to acknowledge it needs to be spent, there’s no shortcut.

If that time is coming out of your family time then I’d also recommend you speak to your partner and explain your motivation – if you’re partner isn’t from the community they’re unlikely to understand why you’re spending time away from them to write a blog post.

Tip #5

Get social You’re going to need readers from somewhere. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t work if no-one can find it. So do some signposting. Get a twitter account and start posting links to your own posts, as well as other blogs you read – that way other’s won’t think twice about retweeting your content.. Don’t be afraid to share several posts through the day either, individual tweets can quickly get lost and you need to cater for different timezones. Google+, Linked In and Facebook are also great ways to connect and share your posts.

Tip #6

You don’t need a niche, but it helps For the last year I’ve blogged about anything and everything, whether I have expertise or not I’ve felt I can still offer something by sharing my thoughts. This approach has worked for me, but after 40 posts in the last year I’ve started feeling that a bit more specialism might help me focus, I’ve noticed other bloggers that the same approach too, moving from general to specialist over time.

Having a “specialism” (not necessarily one you’re expert in, more just a specific subject) helps you find your space in the community. Consider your likes and passions, look at what other’s post and look for gaps. Finding that specialism can help you stand out and give your readers a reason to seek you out on specific subject areas.

Tip #7

Craft blog posts around any community themes Your posts will get extra attention if you use current affairs, or post around the specific themes in the community, e.g. if it’s Tableau Politics Month then a Viz and post around politics is clearly going to get more publicity from the Tableau Public team.

Tip #8

Use your page stats All blogging platforms will give you information on your views and most popular posts, so use that information. What worked well, what didn’t. Be critical and analyse the posts – make sure you learn something.

Did you share your post on twitter on a particular day / time? Did you get a retweet from a specific person? Did your subject tie in with a given theme? Is it a particularly useful tip you wrote about? Whatever the stats tell you worked then do more of it! Likewise if something didn’t get many views then use it as a learning experience, or simply ask other bloggers – they’ll be more than happy to offer hints and tips and some friendly critique.


Tip #9

Revel in the rewards If you followed my first tip, and you’re doing it for the love of it, then that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all those views, retweets and feedback you’ll get. The communities we blog in are some of the greatest around, and all content is welcomed, from beginners to the experienced and you’re sure to get some shares and feedback.

For me this is the lifeblood of the whole experience, those retweets and mentions help justify what I enjoy, and give me motivation to keep writing about the things I enjoy the most.

Tip #10

Enjoy it! Walk to your local coffee shop, grab a wedge of cake; head to the local pub and grab a beer; or head to your office with a glass of wine. Whatever works for you. However I cannot stress enough that blogging shouldn’t be a chore.

Your Tips?

What motivates you to blog? What works for you? Do you have a schedule, or like me do you blog when you find time? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Business User and BI: Influencing without Authority

As a BI consultant I’m often in a position at a clients where I need to influence without power or authority, however I’m fortunate that I’m seen as an expert in my field so my opinion carries a lot of weight. In this article I want to explore some tips on how anyone can influence without authority, by exploring tools, best practice and techniques that can help give you the edge in getting across your point of view.

Tip #1: Making a Career Choice

If you’ve already taken the time to read this article then the chances are you’ve already realised that to start evolving your role and influencing others is going to mean making a decision; so ask yourself a question:

Is this my job or my career?

Making a career choice can be difficult, when I got my first Junior Data Analyst role it wasn’t a career move, it was a job. It was to put money on the table so I could start paying off my debts. Deciding what you’re doing is going to be your career is a significant step, and it will mean a significant change to your thinking and attitude.

There’s some bad news too, a career takes effort. It’s going to take more than 9 -5. It means reading around your subject, through magazines, blogs and maybe even journals. Push to attend conference and lap up as much knowledge as you can.

Building up a knowledge of case studies and examples from other industries or businesses will help you influence from a position of knowledge. Recommending that you’d like to try something new to your line manager can be difficult, but those examples and knowledge will help your proposals come across as opportunities rather than a risk.

Tip #2: It’s all about the data

Good decisions come from good datasets and so to start influencing you’re going to need the data to back up your opinions. Perhaps your data warehouse already has the data you need, but perhaps you need to restructure it or build new measures, or perhaps you need to seek out new datasets via webscraping or purchasing demographic data. Don’t be afraid to seek out new ways of representing existing data either, for example gathering spatial data for customers or store locations. Social media can also be a great place to look for a new untapped, data source.

Tip #3: Give yourself time

Preparing data can be time-consuming, so ensure you’re using data preparation tools that give you time to focus on the data itself. Drag and drop data preparation tools such as Alteryx take the time away from data preparation meaning it can be done in minutes not hours, leaving you precious time to draw the conclusions you need.


Tip #4: Be prepared to iterate

You won’t get the data or answers you’re looking for immediately, so don’t limit yourself to one attempt. Be prepared to go back to your source data and add new measures or bring in new dimensions, it may take several iterations to get what you need but it’s important to do this. Again, your choice of tool here is critical – for example Alteryx gives you a layered workflow to allow you to build up your analysis over time, making adding new elements in the middle of the process effortless.

Tip #5: Go Visual

If you’re in a junior position then it’s likely you are probably not going to have a lot of time to influence upwards so it’s important to make every moment count. Displaying your data in charts rather than text tables will allow your audience to quickly see any trends and patterns you talk about. However it’s important to be aware that people may be more comfortable with numbers, particularly if they are in a finance role, so ensure you show the numbers somewhere e.g. in labels, or offer an alternative view which shows the numbers. Using tools such as Tableau will allow you to build great looking views quickly, and allow customisation so that you can quickly turn on labels if needed, or show an alternative view using a drop-down menu option.

Tip #6: Tell a Story

Don’t rely on your audience to draw the necessary conclusions themselves, use your visuals to tell a story. Trying to explain your idea for a new product? Then highlight the growth bar that shows the decline of the incumbent. Use annotations on charts to highlight areas you want to draw attention to. Guide your user through the data using features such as Tableau’s Story Points.


Tip #7: Don’t Mislead your Audience

However don’t take your storytelling too far, deviating from accepted Data Visualisation best practice is a very quick way to lose your audience. Extending axes to flatten a growth curve and hide a drop in sales, or using a non-zero vertical axes for your bar chart are both big no-nos usually and will diminish the rest of your pitch if spotted.

Tip #8: Build a Dashboard not Reports

Have the confidence to build a set of interactive dashboards rather than fixed reports, your audience can then filter and examine the data without fear that you’re hiding anything. If they have a question you can quickly explore the data and answer their concerns without losing any impetus by having to go away and rewrite your report.

Tableau makes building such interactivity into your dashboard effortless by offering actions, such as highlights and filters on hover or click.

Tip #9: Allow Drill-down

Give your audience access your raw data through these simple click actions. Some people will be happy with your overall summary but others may wish to dig deeper, perhaps into specific months or products. Giving them full access right there in the report will ensure they can satisfy themselves that the underlying data your premise is built on is sound, giving them confidence in your argument.

Tip #10: Get Modelling

Using tools like Alteryx it’s now very simple to restructure your data or add extra analytics such as clustering or predictions to your data. For example you can aid your story by clustering your products / customers into say, 7, key groups via K-means clustering. Each of these 7 groups will contain products or customers sharing similar attributes, making it easier for you to talk about them as a whole rather than as individuals. By describing these groups by their key attributes you will give your audience information to identify with them and avoid you needing to get into specifics.

[Full disclosure: While I was once a customer of both Tableau and Alteryx and advocated both products strongly both internally and externally, I now work for The Information Lab who are a partner and reseller of both products]

Best of Alteryx on the Web – November 2014

Another busy month in the Alteryx blogosphere and so here are some links to some of the best content you may have missed.

Tips and Tricks

3danim8’s Blog – How and Why Alteryx and Tableau allow me to innovate  – Part 1 and Part 2

The Information Lab – 7 Alteryx Tips you need to start using today

Inspiring Ingenuity – Alteryx – Optimising  modules for Speed

The Information Lab – Bite-sized Tips, Tricks and Tutorial Videos for Alteryx


Alteryx.com – Data Blending for Dummies – Special Edition

Schiolistic Ramblings – The Business User and BI: Analytics, Visualisation and Testing

Alteryx.com – 5 Myths of Data Blending

Antivia – From raw data to interactive dashboard in minutes

Tool Guides and Macros

The Information Lab – What Time is it Alteryx – Part 1

Human Data Associates – Visualize all Dutch Cities and neighbourhoods in Tableau (nothing good happens without Alteryx)

Alteryx Gallery - X-Ray Browse Macro

Think I’ve missed anything, or you’ve got something worthy of next months roundup? Please reach out on Twitter (@ChrisLuv) or in the comments below.

The Business User and BI: Analytics, Visualisation and Testing

Excel is much maligned. One reason is it’s so easy to make mistakes; take the recent news that Tibco investors “lost” $100 million dollars due to a spreadsheet mistake, or the story last year that there was a mistake in the Excel calculation of a 2010 paper which has been widely cited to justify budget-cutting and austerity measures across the US and Europe.

Spreadsheet Hell

The reason these mistakes were even possible is because spreadsheets are so easy to use they fall out of the usual testing procedures applied to other business critical applications. The people using Excel are not skilled developers, they have no development background and so checks are not simply missed, they are not even considered.

Now, as I see the take up of BI Analytics tools like Tableau, Alteryx and their brethren accelerate and start to become locally ubiquitous I feel it is important to step back and issue a warning:

Excel, Tableau, Alteryx and other similar tools are development tools, and as such should be given the same standards in quality assurance and documentation as any other development tool / project.

Now when I write development tool I mean that when you are writing an Alteryx workflow, or a Tableau visualisation, or an Excel spreadsheet, you are writing a program – a set of instructions for the software to interpret. In C# you do this by writing lines of code, in Tableau you do this by dragging pills and placing them on panes, in Alteryx by dragging an configuring tools on the canvas and in Excel by using formulae in cells. Regardless of how you get there this set of instructions needs documenting and checking.

In days gone by all “programming” was done by skilled developers who were trained in unit tests, user acceptance testing, and other disciplines with Quality Assurance teams who would have dedicated resource to find bugs and issues. Step forward 5 years and those same routines and reports are now being written and promoted by business users with no formal development testing.

Could we be in a position in 5 or 10 years from now where we see headlines such as:

“Tableau mistake costs manufacturer $500 million”

I doubt it, neither Alteryx nor Tableau suffer from the horrible obfuscation that nested a nested VLOOKUP can bring, but I am making a series point that needs considering during any BI deployment driven by the business.


As a BI consultant I’ve been asked about this testing problem many times, and so below I set out the common practices I’ve employed as I’ve led BI deployments as a consumer, and later as a consultant.

Purple People

Purple personIT has already learned the lessons of testing and has many best practices and methodologies laid out to catch and deal with these issues. Most of these best practices can be simply applied to BI in the business universe but they need experienced leaders from the IT world, who understand the business problems to help implement and maintain them.

Purple people are the solution – if they come dressed as this guy then ideal – but regardless they should have skills from IT but with an understanding of the business world, bringing the red of IT and mashing it with the blue of business. Employing a few purple people when recruiting a BI team can bring many advantages but the rigour of process they can bring from the IT world can really help drive testing and quality assurance.

Peer Review

My first manager and mentor Simon Hamm instilled this practice in me and I will never forget it, over the years it’s caught many mistakes in teams and projects I have run. It is simple and can be applied to any BI workflow or dashboard.

The premise:

Nothing leaves the team until it has been checked by a peer, that person is responsible for finding the issues you will inevitably have made.

Peer review should be the cornerstone of the business, it should apply to everyone and the assumption during checking should be that there are errors to find. So Senior members of the team are not exempt from errors (often they are the worse culprits as they take on pressure work and publish it quickly).

in the corporate world implementing a peer review policy can also be backed up by personal objectives, instilling an ethos of checking rather than a culture of blame, e.g. replace an objective saying “In the next 6 months your reports should produce no errors” with “Everything you produce should be reviewed by a peer”. People make mistakes, removing the blame increases efficiency and moral and shifts the onus onto ensuring the policy designed to catch those mistakes works.

Smoke Testing

Fact checking and other simple functional tests should be part and parcel of the early part of any report / data testing process. Producing a dashboard on the number of people in the UK, then check the top line numbers looks right. It’s often said the devil is in the detail but it’s important that the broad numbers are checked first – I’ve seen situations where reports that have been “checked extensively” have basic headline figures with glaring mistakes, which have been missed because of the focus on the detail – I imagine this could have been the issue with the Tibco numbers.


This sits firmly alongside peer review, as replicating the results of the module / workbook should the mainstay of the checking process and are the responsibility of the peer “checker”. Thankfully tools like Tableau and Alteryx (and other rapid development BI tools) make this easy. Checking a Tableau report? Use Alteryx to do some adhoc analysis and check the numbers. Checking an Alteryx workflow? Drop the data into Tableau and do some visual checks.

Hand crank a few rows of data, say for an individual or product, through the entire process – are the results what you’d expect? Checking a few rows is much simpler than checking 10 million.

Trend Analysis

Ensure processes track MoM and YoY trends; small data quality issues can be difficult to pick up and will only manifest themselves over time. Keeping headline QA (Quality Assurance) figures of key datasets can help track these trends and pick out issues with data processing.

Unit Testing

Modular workflows like Alteryx are easy to build but in when building them people need to ensure that checks and balances are built into the logic; tools like Message and Test can be used to build simple checks – e.g. are joins 100%? Are there duplicate records? Build in outputs at each of these key stages and ensure these row level error logs are checked if they contain data. Without these checks modules can run unattended for a long time before anyone notices key lookup tables haven’t been updated and data dropped during the process.

User Acceptance Testing

With rapid development BI comes a whole new paradigm, UAT can and should be done in an agile and flexible way. Often business users are building their own reports but even if not then co-locating individuals can lead to a much better experience for both parties.

Documentation, Documentation, Documentation 

Just do it! Documentation doesn’t have to be dry and Word / Visio based though.

Annotate requirements in the tool itself (both Alteryx and Tableau provide a rich set of tools to allow users to do this as they build workflows and dashboards, and other similar tools have similar features). Comment formula and use visual workflows to provide commentary on the analysis and decisions. Hide and disable dead ends / investigations but don’t delete them – they are as useful as the finished result as they show the development process.

Also document the checking processes: released a report with an error? Learn from it. Keep a diary of checks for each dataset to refer back to, there’s nothing worse than a mistake that’s then repeated needlessly later.



Spiderman was once told: “With great power comes great responsibility” and that’s never been more relevant than to the new users picking up the BI tools of tomorrow. Throwing away 30+ years of software development lessons would be a shame, it’s important those lessons grow and change along with the tools.

So I’m growing a Moustache – no big deal right?

I’ve decided to grow a moustache, please give some money to charity.

This probably sounds like a hundreds of requests you get or see every year.

“I’m running a mile / 10K / half-marathon / full-marathon / tough mudder / iron-man sponsor me”

“I’m climbing Snowdon, sponsor me”

“I’m cycling to Paris, sponsor me”

“I’m jumping out of a plane, sponsor me”

“I’m going on a once in a lifetime trek for 3 months, sponsor me (and pay for my holiday at the same time)” 

So big deal huh, growing a ‘tasche isn’t exactly difficult, in fact it involves shaving a third less of my face, so it’s actually easier than not growing one. You could argue I’ll look a bit daft but the discomfort I’ll feel is mild compared to some of the effort involved in some of the above.

So is growing a ‘tasche a big deal? It is for me. This year I have a very good reason for wanting to adorn myself with some extra top-lip hair, you see Movember has just started supporting Men’s Mental Health.

Mental Health is, for most men, a big taboo subject; Men are bought up culturally to be tough; strong in body and in mind. Showing your emotions is generally considered to be weak, crying is for “girls”, even our language reflects this: “man-up” you’re told if you seem to be having a problem. There’s little wonder then that of the 1 in 4 adults who do suffer mental health problems then most keep it quiet, choosing to suffer in silence, never admitting they are struggling.

Certainly for my brother Steve this is the way he chose to deal with his issues, he’d been through a very difficult divorce and was in a bad place mentally. However on the surface, while you’d know he was fed up with it, you wouldn’t have known the turmoil in his mind. How depressed he was, how down he’d been in those months before we’ll never know because the first sign we had that he was struggling came in the most horrible and unexpected way: Steve chose to take his own life before admitting to those that loved him that he had a mental health problem.

Suicide isn’t a rational choice. You don’t weigh up the options. For people driven to the brink, and beyond, like Steve was then suicide seems like the only way out. However getting to that point doesn’t happen over night, it takes a long time.

If, as a society, we were more open about out mental health, and discussed our problems more openly – and accepted that it was alright for me to struggle with things – then we might have been able to help Steve. We might have been able to talk to him early on, he may have been willing to open up, to speak to a doctor, to get help. His kids might still have a father, his parents a Son, and me a Brother.

So next time you’re held up on a train after someone has gone onto the tracks, as I often am, don’t curse your bad luck, don’t think about that missed meeting or that you’ll be late to work. Take a minute to think about that person, it’s probably a man, they almost certainly have a family and friends who were there for them, there was almost certainly a point earlier on where they could have opened up about their issues to someone, if they’d hadn’t felt they’d have been judged. We as a society owe those people a debt, we need to help talk about mental health more openly.

It isn’t all about suicide, there’s plenty about mental health that needs research and help, and an openness and lack of discrimination.

So if you see me sporting my Mo, I do so to remember my true Mo Bro and it is a big deal, because I miss him, but I don’t want his death to be in vain.

I don’t need your money, I’ve already asked my friends for money for running a marathon and they supported me massively, this time it isn’t all about raising a fortune for me, I just want to be open. So let’s talk about mental health, and prostate and testicular cancer, and all the other men’s health issues that men find it hard to discuss and let’s change the world. We’ve got to start somewhere and today’s not a bad time and place.

Donations are still welcome, Movember is a great charity and you can sponsor here to show your support.

Thanks for reading, this is a difficult subject for me to discuss, and an emotional one. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to discuss it though, when we meet and you see my Mo feel free to bring it up, that’s the point of the above isn’t it?

Recent Alteryx Web Round-up

I thought I’d round up some stories / blogs recently that have caught my eye from an Alteryx perspective. I couldn’t help but firstly comment on the great news that Alteryx have secured 60 million dollars of investment, this can only be good news for customers, partners, and Alteyrx themselves. Alteryx Chairman and CEO Dean Stoecker published the following blog post:

Alteryx: Solving for the 2.5 Million Plus Person Opportunity

From a more technical perspective first I thought I’d start by sharing Ken Black’s results from his flat file import of data, in comparison to other methods he found Alteryx to be impressively quick:

A Truly Unbelievable #Alteryx Flat-File Reading Result

Data Glut offers a new blog on Alteryx here, looking at parsing publicly available data

Digging for Data: Unearthing the Locations of Farmers Markets in Boston – Part 1

Jarod Theuner looks at merging IP Addresses

Merge Ranges

Chris Freeman of Alteryx talks about Web Scraping using Alteryx

Web Scraping with Alteryx, Part 2

Mike Treadwell at Interworks talked about how to clean files ready for use in Tableau

Make your Data Tableau ready

Please don’t miss Adam Rileys latest version of his Macro Pack, a must have download:

Blog Macro Pack – Q3 2014 Release

Finally there’s my own post over at The Information Lab, which runs through a means of quality checking your data quickly using Alteryx and Tableau

Health Check your Data using Alteryx and Tableau

Please let me know if you think I’ve missed anything, also highlight anything useful to me on twitter @ChrisLuv and I’ll ensure it gets published in what I hope will become a regular feature on my blog.

A year in Tableau – from beginner to “expert”

Wow has it really been only a year since my Tableau love affair started? It seems like several.

Tableau has changed so much in my life and career in so many ways – it’s hard to look back and see how things were different before it was around.

Let’s start at the end

So here I am, for those who don’t know me then I’m a Tableau and Alteryx Consultant with The Information Lab. I’ve been in this role 9 months now, helping companies – some small, some big household names – get the most out of Tableau during consultancy visits and through blog posts and training. I hesitate to call myself an expert because that’s relative, I still have lot’s to learn, but I think most people would call me an expert.

I’m also an Alteryx ACE, having used Alteryx for 9 years, and I’ve won the Alteryx Grand Prix for the last two years. Effectively making me one of the best Alteryx users in the world.


Rewind a year

There I was, a Development Manager / Senior Consultant and latterly Product Manager, at an international Marketing Services company. I was loving my job, I had some great colleagues and was well respected throughout the company but for the last few years I’d been struggling with my raison d’etre. I was great at linking business and IT, I more or less was IT but I could see things from the business perspective. I’d like to think I led the team well; but was I technical, or was I a manager? Was I part of the business, or part of IT? Where did my future lie? The answers were hard to come by, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do because I hadn’t found it, but I was kinda happy doing what I was good at regardless.

Then a blog…

I started a blog, I found myself wanting to talk about my Alteryx and data experiences, I found sitting at home blogging was an outlet, it gave me a reason to flourish my technical skills in Alteryx and other software (which had started to stagnate through time in management) and it gave me an opportunity to teach others, or at least start a conversation. I knew the Alteryx community would react well to any blogs
I wrote, I knew a lot of them, but I also wanted to extend outside that group and experience new software.

Blogging wasn’t easy, being at a large corporate meant social media policies – “you shall not endorse any products we sell” was the message. So how could I blog about my job and technical experience, was I allowed to endorse Alteryx? I decided to try and find out, I like following the rules, but no one could tell me “You might get a slap on the wrist” but that’s all. Okay….i continued blogging but kept my head down.



I’d been wanting to try Tableau for a while, I’d just seen the Alteryx 8 Tableau connectors unveiled and Alteryx were starting to talk seriously about their commitment to their partnership with Tableau. The live demos at Inspire, the Alteryx conference, looked good, but it was just another reporting tool, right? Still I thought I’d try and get a licence at work…but it had been a while and I was getting tied up in red tape, even getting an approved install of the trial was tricky due to “policy”

I managed to try Jaspersoft in the meantime, spent 4 hours trying to build a chart and gave up. Sigh.Maybe these reporting tools weren’t what they were cracked up to be.

Tableau Public to the Rescue

Thankfully I found Tableau’s free product Tableau public – this meant that from home I could investigate Tableau and also blog about it – no social media policy worries as I didn’t even have a copy at work.


I remember my first experience, I’m not a person who reads the manual and I dived right into it. I connected to my first file and well, I built a chart. No help, no training, no internet videos. It was natural. I just played that night, bringing in datasets and experimenting, I don’t think I kept anything but I was blown away. This wasn’t just another reporting tool – it was a canvas for my Alteryx paintbrush, and data was my palette.

A renewed focus at work

The next day at work I renewed my efforts, I pushed hard and made progress through another division, soon I had an unused licence from another division and I could finally start to play…I quickly set up a small user group to start showing off what I was doing and trying to bring others along, but it was hard work – people didn’t have time to try something new and not everyone wanted to try things in their free time.


I blogged about my lessons in Tableau and it’s differences to Excel, I’d just started tweeting and so I tweeted a link. Wow! What a reaction, I think the RTs went through the roof compared to what I was used to, I even made the Tableau “Blog Posts of the Month“. This was little me, using it just a few weeks, I was hardly an expert….

At the same time I turned to some public datasets and started to publish some Tableau Public Visualisations. I took my running data and started cleaning it using Alteryx and plotting it in Tableau. I downloaded Hygiene Ratings from a cloud API using Alteryx and published a viz….

The Tableau Community

..and as I did the community came back, they offered suggestions and RT’s (the life force of any newbie tweeter). I learnt new tips, I found experts and blogs to follow, I started chatting to fellow newbie Tableau users….this was getting interesting. There was a whole group of people here who *loved* this stuff, and when I say “loved” I mean it was bordering on scary….

The Information Lab – and the “Job Application of sorts”.

The Information Lab

At that point I came across The Information Lab, they were clearly very knowledgeable Tableau users and they were recruiting. I wasn’t looking for a job really, I was 10 years into a promising career and very happy, but a rush of blood to the head after a Saturday looking at some Tableau blogs and I dropped them an email – it rambled and went something like:

“I’m still learning Tableau, I want to learn more. I’m not really looking for a job but I kind of am. Oh by the way I know this software called Alteryx – you’ve probably never heard of it, I’m pretty expert at it through, you should look at it, it’s a fantastic data tool. It’d be great to meet some of you guys at some point and grab a coffee at a conference some time”.

The answer came back from Tom:

“Chris – we’ve just become Alteryx partners, does that change things?”

Well of course it did, I didn’t think twice (well I did, it’s scary moving jobs after 10 years, but I never once thought it would be the wrong move). I realised this was what my career was missing. That email turned my world upside down, soon I was changing jobs and giving up 10 years of investment in a career Marketing Services and my burgeoning leadership skills and heading off to be a consultant in Tableau and Alteryx.

Were my Tableau skills up to it? Well I was about to find out….I’d clearly got the job because of my Alteryx skills but I was expected to pick up Tableau quickly.

A new job

Tableau was interesting, it turns out i had all these skills that I could leverage through my use of Alteryx. I could clean and prepare data using Alterx that made even Zen Master’s jaws drop, my Tableau Arrows being a case in point.

Migration Arrows

That made my move into Tableau as a career much easier, it gave me the confidence to talk to clients about data prep and what was needed, also my SQL background helped enormously. My new colleagues supported me a lot, and the culture at TIL just breeds people who love sharing knowledge and helping each other. I found even the internal systems there helped this.

Fast forward

Twitter, blogs, conferences – I now feel such a part of the Tableau community. The Alteryx and Tableau communities continue to grow and overlap, and I love being at the centre of that.

I’ve even managed to earn a few coveted Viz of the Day and got myself a reputation as a bit of a Whisky drinker – who knows how that started!

2014-10-04_19-37-04 2014-10-04_19-38-29

I look forward to the next year, who knows what it may bring? I do know that this career move has been nothing but positive. Like I said at the beginning of this post I can’t imagine my world without Tableau in it.

What does this mean for you?

Probably nothing, but I enjoyed writing it down anyway.

If you’re looking to pick up Tableau at work though then don’t let that stop you. Using Tableau Public can give you important skills, it can give you a renewed vision of what’s important to you, and it can give you a “CV” of Tableau to show to future employees.
So what’s stopping you? Look what happened to me in a year….I look forward to seeing what the next year brings you, and me.

Where to find me

Drop me a line @ChrisLuv on twitter – or you can see more of my blogs at theinformationlab.co.uk\blog, I’m always happy to chat about anything – career, Alteryx, Tableau, Whisky.