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    Itchin' for a good discussion...

    Shawn Wallwork

      Have I missed any epic discussion/banter since I left? Please provide a link. Thanks,

       

      --Shawn

        • 1. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
          Joshua Milligan

          Shawn,

           

          I'm not aware of anything.  There hasn't been anyone to stir things up!

           

          Do you have a topic to offer? I'll take part...

          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
            Dimitri.B

            I can't see how any discussion can be epic without Shawn.

             

            Why are you asking? Do you want to fire one off?

            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • 3. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
              Joshua Milligan

              Dimitri,

              I think you're right.  He's got something up his sleeve and he's going to tease us for a while... then he'll let it out...

               

              Looking forward to it!

              • 4. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                Shawn Wallwork

                OK folks how about this.....

                 

                BIG PICTURE: IS TABLEAU HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?

                 

                I wrote my first bit of code waaay back in the 90’s using IconAuthor, a multi-media software targeted at educators/trainers. It was designed and written to be as much drag-n-drop as possible. We would drag icons onto a canvas placing them in a flow chart, which then would play a bit of video or whatnot and eventually lead to a quiz. Depending on the results, we’d branch the users off to other modules or loop them back to the beginning of the lesson. For the most part this required no coding, but after creating the same sequence of icons over and over again, you start thinking to yourself “there’s gotta be a better way”. This prompted me to start using variables to substitute different file names, etc. so I didn’t have to do so much dragging and dropping.


                Here’s what the interface looked like:

                 

                iconauthor-screenshot-1.png

                 

                So why am I mentioning all this? Well here’s a brief summary of Aimtech’s rise and fall written by Ben Kopf the manager of Aimtech’s award-winning tech support department:

                 

                IconAuthor was a computer based training tool (CBT) designed for non-technical consumers to program training software. By dragging and dropping icons that represented programming functions into a flowchart, you could run the flowchart from the top to view a complete interactive set of screens. The tool aimed at making the concepts of variables and if statements understandable by mere mortals, and for the most part achieved its goal very well. The program grew from a Windows 2.1 based product up into the internet age beginnings in the mid-90's but was discontinued when the company was purchased by rival CBT software maker Asymetrix (later purchased by Macromedia, then Adobe). Asymetrix developed Toolbox, a page based authoring tool also popular at the time. The pressure of competition from powerhouses like Macromedia and their flagship product at the time Authorware didn't help Aimtech's position in the marketplace, but it did fire us up enough to create our web entry Jamba, shortly before the demise of the company.

                 

                This all leads me to ask two questions:

                 

                1. Is Tableau headed toward the same software scrap-heap Aimtech ended up on?


                2. Is Tableau pulling its product apart, fighting the drag-n-drop vs code battle – two completely opposite directions/mind sets?

                 

                 

                I absolutely loved working with IconAuthor, even more than Tableau (I know hard to believe). Creating IF/CASE statements using drag-n-drop icons would be an excellent UI, even today. [Personally I’d love to see this sort of interface added to Tableau; of course I’m not holding my breath.]

                 

                 

                That’s it, let me know what you think.


                --Shawn


                By the way here’s Ben’s website http://benjaminkopf.com/ Click the Aimtech tab to learn a bit more about this great software. And don’t miss the RezSolution & Jamba sub-tabs.

                 

                Here’s the RezSolution story:

                RezSolution was a by-product of an internal tool we created to help us resize images to adjust to the improving resolution in graphics hardware in that day. Graphics in 320x240 were common, then 640x480 became the standard, then 800x600, and finally 1024x768. It was very flexible and powerful with an MDI (multi-document interface) that was just appearing in Windows applications of the time. The software was well before the video hardware rsolution of today, but various customers had stock images in all sizes, and we needed to accommodate their efforts. RezSolution was used heavily in conjunction with IconAuthor's standalone animation module called 'IconAnimate', a basic animation package used primarily for CBT enhancement.

                RezSolution worked so well as a standalone product for our customers that we marketed it in CompUSA and other computer stores of the day, but as with all Aimtech software, it was abandoned when the company was dissolved.

                320x240 HA! Oh how the world has changed.

                • 5. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                  Jonathan Drummey

                  1. In the long run, yes. Everything dies, sooner or later.

                   

                  2. I don't think the question is drag and drop vs. code, that's an issue of implementation. What are the use cases that Tableau is trying to address, and how well does Tableau function for those use cases? What's the size of the addressable market(s) for those use cases, are they going to grow or shrink over time? What changes will those markets have over time? That latter question is actually the most important to Tableau's long-term future direction, Tableau not only needs to anticipate its markets' needs but also the things they (the markets) don't know that they need. Because if Tableau doesn't, sooner or later someone else will and that firm will be the disruptive new company that eats Tableau's lunch. Just like Tableau has been making the big players scramble.

                   

                  Jonathan

                  • 6. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                    Shawn Wallwork

                    More history...

                     

                    We used both IconAuthor and Authorware in our shop. IconAuthor was a far superior product. But since Authorware was first to market, IconAuthor was never able to catch up. Here's a bit of Authorware's story:

                     

                    Authorware became a rapid success in the marketplace, obtaining more than 80% of the market in about three years. Authorware Inc. merged withMacroMind/Paracomp in 1992 to form Macromedia. In December 2005, Adobe and Macromedia merged, under the Adobe Systems name. The most recent version of Authorware is 7.02; version 7 was released in 2003. The Authorware player has some issues with Internet Explorer 7 and later under Windows Vista due to Protected mode as well as runtime errors due to a bug in Authorware's implementation of ReadURL() Javascript function.[1]

                    It was generally known in the Authorware development community that version 8.0 was in production prior to the merger between the two companies, with 4 beta versions released to external testing shortly before the merger was completed. Among several other features intended for the new version, the ability to publish to Flash's SWF (ShockWave Flash) was at the top of the list. Once production shifted to Adobe's off-shore development facility in Bangalore, India, the free-flow of information that had been enjoyed between Macromedia's engineering team and its beta testers was curtailed. On Friday, August 3, 2007, after several years of keeping the development community in limbo, Adobe finally announced its plans to discontinue development of Authorware.

                    • 7. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                      Toby Erkson

                      shawnwallwork wrote:

                       

                      OK guys how about this.....

                       

                      BIG PICTURE: IS TABLEAU HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?

                       

                      ...

                       

                      1. Is Tableau headed toward the same software scrap-heap Aimtech ended up on?


                      2. Is Tableau pulling its product apart, fighting the drag-n-drop vs code battle – two completely opposite directions/mind sets?

                      ...

                      1.  Depends if they get bought out, that seems to be the underlying issue given your examples.  Even if bought, that doesn't necessarily mean they will be dropped, in fact, I can see Tableau being integrated into a large package.  I look to my experience with Cognos:  Great tool, making good progress, until IBM bought them and "IBM-ified" them.  Now it's a cumbersome behemoth with far too many applications.  It is a decent tool set but it no longer has the 'soul' it used to.

                      2.  I don't see any need for a developer API (I'm thinking something like VBA modules in Microsoft or an external file like a batch script that is called by a Tableau workbook or run by itself).  I love coding but I see no need for it with Tableau.  Thanks to user inputs they are making the needed updates but the tool has grown thus such updates do take a little longer than what our McInstantly-Have-It-NOW computer society expects.

                       

                      If there was a developer API, hmm, that could really fragment the tool and drop it from becoming an easy-to-use tool like it is now.  Once developers start hacking out programs pretty soon they become complex applications and then you get some mega-large corporation sniffing around Tableau's door looking to suck their soul...  Okay, so a little carried away, but I see it far too often where people will turn a spreadsheet application into a word processor and then I have to come in and fix the uncommented, fragmented code.  Yeah, it keeps me employed but it solidifies the fact that most "developers" couldn't code themselves out of an infinite loop even if given an Exit command.

                       

                      Maybe macros wouldn't be a bad idea; maybe some code used for reducing repetitive tasks.  Open Tableau and execute a macro for, say, building a base workbook based off a Human Resources template you've saved (or maybe a Sales template) where the formatting is set, title page created, and specific data sources are connected to.  Or maybe a macro that saves the active workbook and publishes it to the server with preset updates and permissions.  However, the macros would need to be separated from the workbook -- for example, you couldn't have a user click on an item in a chart and that would execute a macro based on what was clicked -- because then you start getting into the developer **** and over-complexifying it.  I think such stuff is that "walking a fine-line" if it is used.

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                      • 8. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                        Shawn Wallwork

                        Toby, I've got "opinions" on much of what you've said, but I'm hanging back a bit to see what others think/post. But just know a response is in the works.

                         

                        --Shawn

                         

                        PS: Dude you rock!

                        • 9. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                          Shawn Wallwork

                          A bit more fuel for the fire....

                           

                          No Code.png

                           

                          --Shawn

                          • 10. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                            Joshua Milligan

                            Toby,

                             

                            I kind of like the idea of macros -- but they need to stay simple: automating basic tasks would be fine.  I come from a software development background (mostly C++ and C# .NET), so APIs are always quite fun.  I've enjoyed playing with the new tde API and JavaScript API.  Those are still on the right track, in my opinion, because they are side products that don't impact the core product.

                             

                            But I do not want to see the core functionality of Tableau opened up to allow all kinds of "Dr. Moreau Tableau".  The last thing Tableau needs is to have their reputation change from "the software that's easy for anyone to use" to "the guys in our IT department can't even make it work!"

                             

                             

                            So, Big Picture:

                            Tableau is probably at the most exciting and the most dangerous time in it's life so far.  IPO, most ambitious version release, moving up in the Gartner quadrant, rapid growth.  All of these things are great, but carry risks.  I too worry about waking up to find that Tableau has been bought by some company that's going to ruin it.  But even if that doesn't happen, Tableau is going to feel considerably more pressure than ever before to conform to the vision of others (investors, stake-holders, potential customers, etc...)  If Tableau can remain true to it's vision of software that makes it easy (and fun) to explore, analyze, and visualize data ("see and understand data") and can keep using best-practices, even when markets seem to demand the contrary, then they will continue to produce outstanding software AND to grow and capture those markets for a long time.

                             

                             

                            Regards,

                            Joshua

                            • 11. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                              Dimitri.B

                              Not sure if you missed this one. It has been raging for a while on Stephen Few's blog, and I heard that this forum had a thread going but I didn't come across it. Stephen had to close the post for comments, only to restart it with a sequel. In my opinion it qualifies for the 'epic' label.

                               

                              Here is the original: http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/?p=1532

                               

                              And here is the sequel: http://www.perceptualedge.com/blog/?p=1612

                               

                               

                              I am sure Shawn would love to bite into this, if he didn't already.

                              • 12. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                                Dimitri.B

                                MS Excel nicely separates drag-n-drop from coding. Most people are just vaguely aware of VBA (they might know it as Excel Macros), and blissfully ignore it while graphically interacting with the UI. At the same time, some people have extreme VBA object oriented coding as their day job. Both use exactly the same product - Excel.

                                 

                                Having said that, we stopped making new reports that use VBA and hope to replace old ones with Tableau. We just find it too much headache to support scattered files on different computers with different environments, i.e. missing DLL, ActiveX libraries, etc.

                                 

                                So, my summary is - it is possible to have both graphic UI and coding in the same product, peacefully coexisting and not intruding on each other, but API like this is a Pandora's box in situations where Tableau is used - use it at your own risk.

                                 

                                I just tried to think of any use cases in our case where I would need scripting in Desktop, and I couldn't think of any. Server - yes, but not desktop.

                                • 13. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                                  Shawn Wallwork

                                  2. I don't think the question is drag and drop vs. code, that's an issue of implementation. What are the use cases that Tableau is trying to address, and how well does Tableau function for those use cases?

                                   

                                  In Tableau you really can't get very far, before you're pretty much required to learn coding. Even basic visualization require it. Unless you learn how to write IF or CASE statements you are extremely limited in the interactivity you can offer your end-users. (See attached.) This limits the universe of potential customers, because for many lay-persons their eyes glaze-over when you start trying to explain code syntax. [ BTW, Jonathan, I challenge you to provide links to 5 Public visualizations that don't use any code.] The point being that notwithstanding all the great videos the Sales Department produces, Tableau is not an easy drag-n-drop environment; it's currently a coders environment, I hope that will soon change.

                                   

                                  What's the size of the addressable market(s) for those use cases, are they going to grow or shrink over time? What changes will those markets have over time?

                                   

                                  Huge! If we could use drag-n-drop coupled with dialog boxes to create all our visualizations, the Tableau market share would explode. Anybody that has the skills to put together a Powerpoint presentation, would be able to author a set of data visualizations -- and never have to write a line of code. As to changing markets, ease-of-use doesn't change over time. Nobody ever wishes software would get harder to use. Demand for ease-of-use has always, consistently been at the top of every software user's wish list.

                                   

                                  That latter question is actually the most important to Tableau's long-term future direction, Tableau not only needs to anticipate its markets' needs but also the things they (the markets) don't know that they need.

                                   

                                  I'm all for Tableau 'having a mind of it's own'. And yes Tableau should anticipate customer needs. But we're (I'm) talking basic usability functionality. Their UI is difficult for the vast majority of users, and until these basics get fixed, looking into the 'anticipation' crystal ball should be way down on the priority list.

                                  Because if Tableau doesn't, sooner or later someone else will and that firm will be the disruptive new company that eats Tableau's lunch. Just like Tableau has been making the big players scramble.

                                   

                                  Disruption is great, and I agree that's how they got started and grew so fast. But they are now in the teenage years, and getting it right (and right now) is much more important than gazing off in the distance. In my opinion. Enough.

                                   

                                  --Shawn

                                  • 14. Re: Itchin' for a good discussion...
                                    Shawn Wallwork

                                    BTW, an example of a 'good' buy-out results is when Google bought SketchUP. I was a heavy user at the time and feared the worst. Google pretty much left them alone and let them do their own thing, and everything worked out. [Massive amounts of development money sure can make a good product great -- given the right management/environment.] Bravo Google.

                                     

                                    --Shawn

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