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I attended a Cognos seminar on Wednesday because I wanted to learn more about what Cognos has to offer with its version 11 (Cognos Analytics) upgrade.  Though I am the Tableau Administrator for our company (and was originally employed as a Cognos developer, too) there is a Cognos admin and webFOCUS admin in our team and they sit next to me.  Knowing what the other products have to offer and how they differ is good to know.


Here are a few take-aways from that session that made me envy Cognos over Tableau , thus what I would like to see with Tableau:

  • Their portal has a list of recently viewed reports.  Tableau Desktop does this, why not Tableau Server?
  • Their community support page has How-To documents and short videos of new features as they are released.  Users are immediately 'trained'; no reading, no experimentation necessary.
  • Their reporting web portal is very customizable to brand it to the company.  Tableau Server is terribly weak in this aspect nor is it easy to hack.  Tableau APIs/Java scripting?  Not what I would call 'user-friendly' nor simple.  The ability to import a couple images and change a name in a simple fashion is the best we've got
  • Users create their own robust schedules (e.g. 2nd Tuesday of the month @ 1:35PM) for subscriptions, there's no need to rely upon an administrator to create it...and we already know the scheduler needs a big revamp for greater flexibility.  Information Builders product, webFocus, is this way as well.  As the Cognos product manager stated, it's all part of them moving towards self-service.

I know there is the Idea section but not everything should be subject to democracy, it should just be.  Besides, the Ideas section just isn’t effective for some intrinsic, should-already-be-there things, nor does it do a good job of getting that information "out there" (granted, there isn't an easy solution for that).


It was obvious to me that Tableau has muscled in to Cognos' territory and they are seriously working to simplify and improve their products.  It's still not a threat to Tableau at this time but for those locked into Cognos at least they will see much needed improvements and I think Cognos is finally moving in the right -- and now different for them regarding all this "self-service stuff" -- direction.  For example, they were proud of the fact that a small, new server environment will only take about 1/2 to 3/4 of a day.  Meanwhile I'm smugly thinking to myself that such an install for Tableau Server is 1/2 that time


People I'm spamming cuz I want them to see this:

Sean Boon

Tableau Community

While trouble-shooting a subscription issue with an end user o' mine they sent me the URL of their viz:

That is an URL that I had never seen before and it totally baffled me.  I tried entering in my user ID instead of theirs,, and got the generic "That page could not be accessed." error. 


So I asked the user about it and they said it probably had something to do with it being a saved custom view.  Huh.  So I went to the viz and sure enough, it was a saved view:



We use Active Directory for authentication so the custom view was saved under the AD account ID followed by the custom name.  Mystery solved and now you know how to read these different view URLs! 


Toby Erkson

Awesome Twitter post

Posted by Toby Erkson Ambassador Mar 15, 2017

Toby Erkson

Opinion:  The Zen-effect

Posted by Toby Erkson Ambassador Mar 13, 2017


An issue I personally have is what I term “the Zen-effect”.  It’s when there is someone in the forums who is actively providing great content, displaying amazing skill, and becomes a staple to the community, only to effectively disappear once they become a Zen Master.  What…huh…where…???  A Zen Master doesn’t have to come from the Tableau Community forums, just to be clear, but it’s this particular group I’m talking about.


About as transparent as an engraved rock

Not knowing exactly what’s expected of a Zen Master it’s hard to know why their participation flounders. I doubt it’s a coincidence of extra work at their job or a life change because the falling-out is often after such Tableau promotion.  While it’s true these Tableau greats have blogs or other information webs to maintain, they had them already so there should be no change there.  I can only guess there are additional requirements above and beyond their prior non-Zen status OR they reached their goal and are moving on (which is really disappointing in my opinion!).  It's particularly troubling that of all the things these people do it's the Tableau forums that get assigned the low priority and are dropped.  I've read the posts/blogs about how one becomes a Zen Master and I've heard conflicting details about whether it's a recognition or a position, meaning there are rules around it and further expectations.  We do know that the title can be taken away given the list of "Former Tableau Zen Masters" so for me that says it's more of a position than an honorary title.  Thus Tableau fails to be transparent about what happens after someone becomes a Zen Master.


Where I'm coming from

The problem is that no matter what the exit reason may be it’s the forums in the Tableau Community that lose. The loss of a master Tableau-er from the forums affects everyone in the community because there’s now a hole where their service and skill-set once was.  It could take time for someone else to come along and fill that hole.  Now, it could be argued that people who need help can perform a web search, like using Google, and come across a blog posting by a Zen and possibly get their question answered.  But that doesn't drive users to the Tableau Community forums!  I kinda thought that's what Tableau wants:  If someone has a problem then they should go to the community forums first!  If the user doesn't post a question in the Tableau forums then they lose out on the numerous rapid-response solutions possible; with version changes they could very well land on a blog post that is no longer accurate and it won't answer additional questions they have nor draw upon the knowledge of others who may have had the same or similar situation or a better solution.  There will be no real conversation or else it will be one-sided.  I read the comments in the blogs and lots of questions go unanswered   With such a vast amount of questions and answers in the forums I'd be willing to bet that, statistically, there are more questions that are answered by the forum search than through a web search that includes blog postings.  I'm NOT saying blog posts are worthless!  They are the deep-dives, the external knowledge base documents if you will, and they can contain fantastic content but in no way do they have the potential to address the many questions as the forums do.


The heart of this post

The other loss – what actually started me writing this article and the one that is hard to measure as it's something that is emotionally felt – is the loss of a comrade.  Knowing that the person will no longer be there to help you or others out; that familiar face (or avatar) will only be seen in old posts now, rarely if ever in new ones; conversations in private and tangential in threads…gone.  I for one really miss these wonderful people and our interactions



Those very few who become Zen Master and continue to help in the forums display the real Zen spirit in my mind. They are like a “Zen Master + 1”. Not only do they carry the title but continue to help where they started and where they're needed…hmm, maybe they should be given a new title like Community Zen Master?   I'm not mad or angry at those who've moved on because it does happen and naturally losing them makes me blue, however, I'm being honest when I say I'm just a little disappointed when it is due to the Zen-effect.


The staff of the Tableau Community Forums will ask for input from the Tableau Ambassadors about who we think would make a good Ambassador.  There are some basic things we look for on the Community Forums side -- that info can be found by searching the forums -- however there’s one aspect about the Ambassador that I try to be aware of:  The Supernova.


The Supernova

In astrology a supernova is the dying event of a star that results in a phenomenal and spectacular release of energy, making it one of the brightest objects around for a short period of time.  So in the forums I view someone as a supernova if they come in strong, help a lot of people and do it in a great way, and then once they get to a certain point level/title they drop off, either suddenly or fairly quickly. Typically they last only a few months but never more than a year.  It’s great to have such people but disappointing as well because they were such a great resource and now they spend little, if any, time helping out in the forums.


While we try to notice who has the potential to be an Ambassador for when selection time comes we must be wary because it is the supernova that catches our attention and thus can be deceiving – will they stay around?  Those who have kept a fairly steady pace tend to be better contenders because of their very nature of being consistent and reliable.  Think of those type of folks as the red dwarfs in the Tableau galaxy



This is why the decision-making process for Ambassadors isn’t as cut-n-dry as some think.  It's not just based upon points gained or the number of posts marked with Correct Answer.  We do not have the final decision, that belongs to the Tableau Community staff, but we help and this is a consideration among other criteria.