First thoughts post-TCC 2012

The annual Tableau Customer Conference—TCC 2012—was a lot busier and more jam-packed than I thought it was going to be. Last year in Las Vegas there were 1,400 attendees, this year: 2,000 people came. I was on the full go from early on until quite late, barely managed to squeeze in my birthday dinner, and that a day late.

Tableau people are great ambassadors.

As always, everyone from Tableau was engaged, helpful, and committed to helping the attendees have a successful experience. Having worked for a BI software vendor, and with experience of many others, the enthusiasm and passion, the sheer verve, with which the Tableau people approach their work, and their appreciation for their customers, is really good to see.

The game-changing announcement.

This year the big news was transformational:

In-browser, on-Server editing of published Workbooks.

Dashboards and Worksheets can now be edited without downloading them.

This is going to shake up the entire Tableau world once it starts bubbling out. There was a demonstration of it during the main keynote, and it looks great. It opens up the door to all sorts of new possibilities. It also has the potential to dramatically alter the licensing and governance landscapes. I didn't see any information on how they will be affected beyond some recognition that the permissions system will need to accommodate the new Use Cases.

Other stuff.

New chart types

Several new chart types were demoed:

  • treemaps are really going to be handy and useful;
  • treemaps doubling as bar charts open up exciting new opportunities;
  • bubble charts are exciting, particularly if they work with pages and have trails a la Hans Rosling (http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html);
  • word clouds are interesting and certainly crowd-pleasing, particularly for the social mediaistas


Tableau now offers forecasting - with an existing time series data set Tableau will extrapolate into the future. The presentation was very cool - a ragged, highly variable series projected forward, and the projected data was a good visual match. They told us that there's a lot of modeling going on behind the scenes. I'm going to be very interested in seeing how this plays out going forward, how today's projected data can be captured and used as history as time passes in real-world scenarios when Tableau's forecasts can be compared to historical fact-will there be a feedback opportunity to improve forecasting over time?


Tableau Desktop has a new Marks card that appears to clarify the visualization characteristics for improved interaction and configuration, making it easier to get what you want.

The People

I didn't get to meet everyone I wanted to, or spend enough time with the people I did manage to get together with. But I did get to spend some really good and fruitful time with some of the people I have tremendous respect for. The Tableau community is one of its great strengths, and I'm frequently humbled by the range and depth the people who make it up.

That's about it for now. More will bubble up once I get ruminating on it.


  1. It was great to meet you Chris, I hope Tableau listens to you on your ideas of software that understands hierarchy.

    I agree in browser editing will be a great feature, but from my perspective it is just a port of existing features to a new platform. Yes, I can see how this lowers the bar for being able to edit workbooks, so nothing negative, but this does not affect the core of Tableau. In browser editing is just a surface change.

    The new chart types are a bigger change, but still not fully executed in what we have seen in the preview (just like in browser editing is also not fully featured). The new chart types are using a new layout engine that instead of placing marks directly based on data, it places marks based on their relation to other data contents using algorithms.

    Forecasting is another interesting addition, but is also not expected to be feature complete for the v8 release. In all nearly every major addition that I see in v8 is a halfway measure, a good but incomplete feature (eg, you can layer worksheets on a dashboard, but no transparency). It is good in that it gives us clues on the direction Tableau is going, and I am really looking forward to v9 or if they complete these in a dot release.

    The feature I am most excited about is the change in data blending, this give us more control over the query Tableau is generating to the secondary data source, and builds in an aggregate of an aggregate step when blending at one level but with a level of detail at another. What this means is more interesting analysis can be done with less ETL prior to Tableau.

    Data blending is now two separate queries each with their own where clause (and maybe having, not tested yet), and a left join after initial aggregation, and then another aggregation on values from secondary sources. This enables a lot of interesting viewpoints that previously required massive padding or data transformation prior to Tableau. One very useful setup is a self-blend on a data source that is not domain complete. I can create an example use case if this is not clear.

    For me, the new data blending is a substantial change in how Tableau works with data.

  2. You forgot to mention the pixel perfect dashboards. You had written in your previous post how the dashboard configuration was pretty limited. It looks like dashboards will be so, so much better in v8.

  3. Ahhh, dashboards. One of my favorite vexations. They keep moving forward, don't they?

    I'm excited about being able to use layers (overlays?), which will be a fantastic improvement - we'll no longer need to waste whole strips on legends and filters, and we'll finally be able to map the entire United States into a single compact rectangle with Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the territories in their own space. They do need transparency, of course, or failing that the ability to color-match backgrounds. So having a way to accurately and specifically identify the colors will be handy, and that's on it's way.

    Pixel-perfect positioning is a good thing. But less useful in the incarnation demoed than it should be. I'd prefer to have the ability to align axes in adjacent charts than the ability to specify component co-ordinates. And speaking of component co-ordinates, wouldn't it be nice if we could see them for each dashboard component? Watch this space for an announcement in the next few days for a way to do this.