Data Visualization Humor

Hopefully none of the “featured” visualizations belong to you.

There’s enough bad data visualizations out there to mock publically. Here are some sites that do just that.

  • Junk Charts – examples with commentary on how to make improvements. You can also follow @JunkCharts on Twitter.
  • WTF Visualizations – a Tumblr blog of “visualizations that make no sense”. You can also follow @WTFViz on Twitter.

Are there other sites that I should list here?

For SAP to win, does Tableau have to lose?

George Peck demonstrates how to integrate the SAP BI platform with Tableau Server.

For SAP to win, does Tableau have to lose? George Peck, founder of The Ablaze Group and author of books like Crystal Reports 2008: The Complete Reference and Tableau 8: The Official Guide, doesn’t seem to think so. Check out this video demonstrating bi-directional integration between SAP Crystal Reports Server/SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence and Tableau Server.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlkHqvi1j1E]

Does your organization actively use both products?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Visual Organization

Phil Simon’s thoughts on data visualization.

The Visual Organization by Phil SimonThe Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions (ISBN 978-1118794388) is the latest book from technology writer and speaker Phil Simon. The Visual Organization is Mr. Simon’s sixth book and his work regularly appears publications such as the Huffington Post, Inc., and Wired. The book’s story begins on May 17, 2013, the day that Tableau Software went public on the New York Stock Exchange. Unlike Facebook, which had a disastrous opening day, Tableau’s stock shot up 63 percent, providing a market capitalization of over $2 billion.

In a few years, we may look back at May 17, 2013, as the dawn of a new type of company: the Visual Organization.

Phil Simon, The Visual Organization, page xxiii

Mr. Simon defines a Visual Organization as follows

A Visual Organization is composed of intelligent people who recognize the power of data. As such, it routinely uses contemporary, powerful, and interactive dataviz tools to ask better questions and ultimately make better business decisions.

Phil Simon, The Visual Organization, page 19

Although most organizations keep their big data and data visualization breakthroughs out of sight as a competitive advantage, The Visual Organization offers a look into three different visual organizations:  Netflix, the University of Texas, and startup Wedgies.

Mr. Simon identifies data visualization tools from five different sources: applications from large enterprise software vendors (think SAP), proprietary best-of-breed applications (think Tableau), popular open-source tools (think D3.js and R), design firms, and small start-up vendors. I was hoping for more in-depth coverage of what tools are currently on the market. For example, SAP is described in a table as only having “BusinessObjects BI OnDemand and SAP Lumira Cloud”. But neither offering is discussed in detail, nor do these two products completely illustrate SAP’s current data visualization offerings. And while there is a table describing the strengths and weaknesses of traditional reporting tools, analysis tools, and “contemporary dataviz tools”, the book needs to make a stronger case to the reader (who is no doubt trying to make their own case) why an organization’s existing tools may or may not be sufficient and why new investment is in order. Although the book is part of Wiley’s SAS Business Series (SAS tools are featured in the University of Texas case study), it mentions Tableau frequently enough (it’s used by Netflix) leaving this reader with the impression that Mr. Simon believes that nobody ever got fired for buying Tableau (see related article, Nobody Ever Got Fired for Buying Tableau).

The book concludes with several chapters organized around the theme of “Getting Started: Becoming a Visual Organization”. Mr Simon insists that “the next chapters should not be considered a step-by-step checklist for beginning a Visual Organization,” but I believe many readers are asking exactly that- “how do I get my organization from its current state to becoming a visual organization?” Perhaps Mr. Simon will answer this question in his next book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Data Visualization for Dummies

A useful and tool-agnostic guide targeted primarily at business users.

Data Visualization for Dummies by Mico Yuk and Stephanie Diamond is a 256-page guide from Wiley on the hot topic of data visualization (Wiley, ISBN 978-1118502891). Co-author Mico Yuk is well-known in SAP circles as the creator of the Everything Xcelsius web site and most recently the BI Dashboard Formula— the latter receiving significant coverage in this book. Mico and her co-author Stephanie Diamond have created a useful and tool-agnostic guide targeted primarily at business users, not technicians, interested in creating effective visualizations with data.

I have not attended a BI Dashboard Formula workshop, so I cannot offer a perspective on the materials presented here versus what is used during the workshop. Because I’m a technician and not a business user, I was immediately attracted to two resources that can be downloaded from the book’s companion web site. The first is a template for the BI Dashboard Formula Storyboard, which helps organize the content obtained from dashboard scoping sessions. The second is a Data Visualization Evaluation Form that will help organizations peer-review existing dashboards using over twenty criteria organized into seven categories. The book explains in detail how to use both of these resources for project-based work.

Inexperienced visualization designers will appreciate the “what not to do” voice-of-experience aspects of the book just as much as the “what to do” aspects. And throughout the book there are lots of references to web sites and other books that will be useful on the data visualization journey. More experienced designers may already have a bookshelf full of titles from other voices like Stephen Few and Edward Tufte. But even they will find help here if their organization struggles with the “human” side of  visualizing data.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Nobody Ever Got Fired for Buying Tableau

Gartner’s 2014 Magic Quadrant for BI

Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.

Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft.

Nobody ever got fired for buying Tableau.

Gartner Magic Quadrant 2014

Gartner has published their 2014 Magic Quadrant for business intelligence and analytics platforms. Looks like a lot of folks are going to be doing this…

Installing Tableau 8.1

Tableau has posted a reprint of the Gartner report here.

You can’t expect to make something beautiful the first time

“Your first projects are gonna suck, and that’s okay”

Jerr Thorp
Photo Credit: Ken Tisuthiwongse via http://blprnt.com

Mashable has a fantastic interview with data visualization expert Jer Thorp.

It’s the same thing with almost everything. There are so many people who I hear from who are like, ‘I really want to do this, what are some books, what should I read?’ You just have to do it.

. . .

The two things that I always tell people is that: First you need to just get started with it, and admit that the things that your first projects are gonna suck, and that’s okay. Y’know, you can’t expect to make something beautiful the first time. My first data visualization was terrible.

The second thing I tell my students is to think about something that’s close to you, something that’s personally relevant to you. If it doesn’t resonate with you, you’re not gonna do a good job with it.

You can read the entire interview on the Mashable site. Jer’s remarks reminded me of the words of Jiro Ono in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, currently on Netflix.

Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work.

I’m so grateful that my career turned toward business intelligence nearly ten years ago. Even when my career stresses me out, it’s a profession that I’ve fallen in love with. I hope you’ll read the Jer Thorp interview. And watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, even if you hate sushi.

Links

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this web site above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Also, some of the books I review were received as review copies and I’ve given my best effort to accurately disclose that information as part of the review. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Few Words about Visualization in SAP BI 4.0

A few choice words about exploding pie charts and exploding egos.

Last week, I tweeted about a recent post on Stephen Few’s blog, a criticism of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, was conveniently posted during the week of SAP’s annual ASUG/SAPPHIRE conference.

It’s worth noting that the article was not written by Stephen Few himself, but one of his team members, Bryan Pierce.  Honestly, I was a bit nervous making my tweet, as 140 characters doesn’t give much space to convey whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with a tweeted link.  And by tweeting in this case, I’m giving free publicity with increased page views to a point of view I disagree with. But another Twitter user shared my sentiments.

Yep. An article criticizing BI 4.0 based on a marketing slide (shown below) with a dreaded pie chart. An exploding one, even. Here’s the offending slide.

And yes, it is offending. But there are two issues with this kind of reasoning.

First, the product has been judged using a single marketing slide and not a thorough evaluation. Just as we’ve heard of the “death of political journalism“, articles such as this one illustrate a similar death of technology journalism. Looking for on-line eyeballs during a vendor’s annual user conference is not much different than technology web sites trying to get hits for Usama bin Laden’s death. There’s intense pressure to obtain page views at any cost. A ratings bias takes precedence over any editorial bias.

Second, there is always tension between the capabilities of tools and the limitations of the people that use them. In other words, buying a set of expensive chef knives does not automatically qualify me to challenge Bobby Flay on The Iron Chef. Simply removing exploding pie charts from a product like Web Intelligence does not guarantee that I’ll create reports with effective visualizations. Neither does removing bullet points from Microsoft PowerPoint. No matter how many wizards Microsoft includes, I am still perfectly capable of creating ugly and ineffective slides if I don’t think about design.

In “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs“, author Carmine Gallo reveals that you never see bullet points in a Steve Jobs presentation. And in “Information Dashboard Design“, Stephen Few encourages us to avoid pie charts, exploding or not, in favor of more effective visuals. We need books like this (and the experts who write them) to help us create our best work.

But we don’t need product reviews based on PowerPoint slides.

Interested in better visualizations and better business intelligence products? Join the engaging dialog unfolding in the comments of Perceptual Edge’s blog post, SAP BusinessObjects 4.0’s “Engaging New User Experience”.