Integrating Tableau Workbooks in Tableau Server

This post explains ways to pass information a web page to a Tableau Workbook on the server.  This web page can be anywhere.


Use cases

  • There are visuals in two separate dashboards that users want in one place,
  • A web page passes variables to Tableau Server, and
  • A visibility control mechanism that allows certain visuals for select people.

Note:  This is for Tableau and Tableau Server/Public 10.0 and above.

Embedding a Dashboard Within a Dashboard


Sometimes areas want to reuse visuals from one dashboard on another.  Usually this mean making a copy of the visuals and data.  The problem with this is that the visuals will slowly diverge as creators apply updates.  It may even come to the point where they will give different answers, even if both dashboard use the same data source.

To get around this problem, embed the dashboard.  This keeps the source the single version of the truth.

1. In IE 11, Chrome, or Firefox go to the dashboard you wish to embed




2. Click Share > Link

3. Copy the URL link

Note: At this point, web site designers can use this link to embed a visual into a web page if they wish to place the visualization in a Iframe.  However, a better idea would be to use the embed code for best presentation and more control.  This is useful on Microsoft SharePoint, Yammer, and blogs such as WordPress.


This is what it looks like when a Tableau Public dashboard is embeded into WordPress.  Sizing is a bit off with this view.  Full version


4. In Tableau Desktop, create a Dashboard page





5. Under Objects, select Web Page

6. Drag it to the canvas

7. In the Edit URL popup, paste the link (CTRL+V)




8. Click OK



Optional – Sizing

If the linked dashboard linked is larger than the source dashboard it might not fit the view.  To fix this you need to have Tableau adjust the size of the screen. 

Under Size > Fixed Size, choose Automatic  (easiest to use but developers should play with the fixed sized settings for best fit.)





Optional 2 – Look an Feel

Developers can also control the look and feel depending on the options sent via the URL.


Each of the colored items are options.  You can append as many as you need.

  • :embed=y  —– Turns off Tableau server header and only shows the dashboard
  • :tabs=no   —– Turns off tabs and only shows the linked page of the workbook
  • :toolbar=  —– Turns on and off download and edit toolbar at the bottom of the page
    • Yes
    • No
    • Top
  • :tooltip=no  —– Turns off tooltips
  • :showShareOptions=false  —– Stops people from being able to share the view
  • :format=png  —– Will turn the secondary dashboard to a picture.  Useful to prevent people from downloading the data. It also can be copied into presentations.

More Info: 

Note: These options only work with Tableau Server not Tableau Public.


Optional 3 – Filtering

Using Parameters

Developers can pass parameters from one dashboard to another through the URL.  This allows the main dashboard to filter items on the secondary dashboard.<Parameters.Districts>&:embed=y&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no


In this example, the link in the main dashboard contains a parameter that passes along the agency to the secondary dashboard.  Since the test dashboard has a field or parameter called ‘Districts’, this filters the embedded dashboard.  The URL can contain multiple filter-parameters.

The parameter in the main dashboard does not need to have the same name as the field in the secondary dashboard, but it may help with passing variables

See this in action: Link


Hard Coding Parameters!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa

Developers can also hardcode the filters.  This is useful when users need to see only a subset of the data.  In this example will display the state of Alaska.   Some developers will be able to use dashboard actions to finely control what is sent to the secondary dashboard.

See this in action: Link

Note:  This can be used as to filter data based on people’s ID or name.  For instance, a page a user ID via the URL to a dashboard embedded on an intranet site.  This provides good visibility protection for those non-technical users, but should not be on the public internet.


Multi-Filter Parameters

Developers can also pass more than one filter in the URL.!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa,Illinois&Category=Furniture


Here, there are multiple filter values with State using multiple values.  This displays only career reps in both Alaska and Tennessee.

See it in Action: Link

Other Notes

  • Spaces in filters and valid values need to be changed to %20 (ex: Carol Stream –> Carol%20Stream) for them to work on the web.  Other escape characters may also need to be altered to fit in a URL.




Update #1: In checking with Tableau, it looks like embedded reports do not print to PDF.  This is by design as a security and visibility feature.   This also goes for graphics and web pages that are embedded.


    1. Add a toolbar to embedded dashboard to download it as a separate report.  In the URL string use toolbar=top or toolbar=yes.
    2. Take a screen shot (I use a program called Greenshot for picture perfect capture.)
    3. Make it an online only report and point people to it.  Developers can subscribe users to updates so they always get the latest version of the report when available through a periodic email.

Using Business Objects 4.x to Create Tableau Reports

Tableau Workshops - miso -While Tableau has a great visualization capabilities, getting data into it from other databases is a chore unless the schema is simple.  Joining tables is easily through the GUI, but if the request requires complex filters it soon requires custom SQL. 

When this happens, Tableau is no help making it easy to code the SQL.  There are no hints or prefills like modern code programs have.  Therefore, I leverage the work of my Business Objects Universe authors.  They took the time to create the correct database joins needed to build visualization fast.  While Business Objects doesn’t produce the cleanest SQL, it will nearly always work in Tableau.


1. In BOXI (Business Object web version,) create the query

2. On the Query Panel control bar, click View Script



3. In the Query Script viewer, click Use custom query script

4. Highlight the SQL

5. Right-click > Copy (CTRL + C)



6. In Tableau, connect to a New Data Source

I have tested this and it works for DB2, SQL Server, and Oracle.  While it can work for Access so long as their is no spaces in table and field names, though there are ways to get around it by switching the [] brackets with double quotes.



7. Enter your database server information and ID/password.

For this to work, you will need at least Read Only access to the database in question.



8. If necessary, choose the correct Schema.

Most complex databases will have this, but products such as Access will not.


9. At the bottom of the Table section, double-click New Custom SQL



10. In the Edit Custom SQL popup, right-click > Paste (CTRL + V)



The SQL should be displayed.  Now the SQL should be cleaned a bit before clicking OK. 

  • Remove anything after the WHERE or GROUP BY clauses such as FOR READ ONLY.  Most databases don’t like it.
  • If there is custom field formatting in the SELECT clause such as Date formatting remove it.  That is what Tableau is for.  If the SQL will be used in lots of workbooks, I like to give them a standard name.  This makes it easier to keep naming structures constant.
  • CASE as well as Min/Max statements work fine. 
  • If you want, clean the SQL to make it a bit more readable.  Things such as adding friendly field name helps when error checking is necessary.

11. Click OK

Hopefully there are no errors.



If there is an error click Show Details in the error box to see the problem (this examples show a missing comma after one of the variables.)  Unfortunately, Tableau only show the first error it encounters.

Increase Virtual Memory for Stat Programs

In my work, I run many models using gigabytes and larger datasets.  Even with 32GB of RAM, sometimes programs crash for lack of memory.  Since it is unlikely that my work machine will receive a memory upgrade in the near future, another option is to expand Windows virtual memory.  While this is unlikely to speed up the formulation of results, allows programs more memory space to run models.  

This workflow is for Windows 7.  It will work for Vista, but some of the steps are slightly different for 8 and 10.




  1. On the desktop, click Start
  2. Type control panel




  1. If the Control Panel looks like the above picture, click View by: > Small icons




  1. In the Control Panel, click System




  1. In System, click Advanced system settings




  1. In System Properties under the Advanced tab, click Settings…




  1. In the Performance Options popup, click Advanced tab
  2. On the Advanced tab under Virtual memory, click Change… button




Now there are various ways to change it.  This system has two drives. 

The C: drive is a smallish Solid State (SSD) drive.  While increasing the memory allocation here provides the fastest access time, there isn’t much space in a 256GB drive.  I normally either leave it as [System Managed] or remove it all together to increase space for programs.  If you are going to set it manually, try not to use more that 20% or so of the drive. 

The D: drive is a large traditional hard drive.  Because of its 2TB size and the fact that programs do not install here, it is a good place to store swap disks.  Again, the size should take up too much of the drive unless it is the only thing that will be on it.  Try 64GB to 128GB start and go larger if programs continue to crash.

  1. Click the drive name
  2. Click Custom size
  3. Enter the initial size (MB)
  4. Enter the Maximum size (MB)
    1. This don’t need to be the same, but I like symmetry.
  5. Click Set button
  6. Click OK to close the Virtual Memory Window
  7. Click OK to close the Performance Option Window
  8. Click OK to close the System Options window

Generally, Windows will ask for a reboot.  Do it at the first possibility to enable the suggestion.

Note:  For best results, if you use a traditional hard drive, defrag it first to give Windows a large contiguous block of space on the drive.  It may reduce thrashing.  This step is not necessary on a SSD.  Happy quanting

Learn from Other and Don’t Reuse Passwords

imag0741_crSigh, another day, another hack.  Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta had his email hacked and displayed for all to see earlier this month.  That was bad enough, but miscreants noticed his password saved in an email.  They started to look for other accounts that used the same password finally ending up deleting everything in his Apple account and posting embarrassing tweets on Twitter.

John failed to follow two simple security protocols.  Never reuse passwords and do not put them in an email.  Emails usually have no encryption and anyone can read them when sent through the internet.  Saving the information in a document is almost as bad because malware can harvest these if a piece of hardware becomes infected.  It also a pain to keep synced with all devices unless stored in DropBox of other file shares.

A Simple Security First Step

Keeping track of more than a handful of id and passwords is pain and nearly impossible on today’s internet.  So, use a password manager.  Several of today’s password managers such as LastPass and KeePass integrate seamlessly into desktops and mobile devices.  To find one that meets your needs, Likehacker or PC Mag sites have some good information on how the software works.

Remember to make the password on the manager unique and easy to remember you will use it daily.

Changing Passwords

If you are using the same password in more than one in place, stop.  If there is a breach, especially if it is your email account, then all other sites become vulnerable.

It is tedious to change passwords on all of the web site you access at once.  To break up the frustrations start in this order, doing a bit at a time:

  1. Protect your email and phone. A breach of one these leave all accounts venerable to hacking because of the password reset options sites have.  A stolen phone without a password or other lock leaves your virtual life open to snooping.
  2. Accounts holding financial information. Bank accounts are most important, but this group also includes sites such as Amazon or your power company since they store credit card information.
  3. Social sites. This includes social media sites such as Facebook but also other sites that you regularly use to communicate with others such as forums.  It is embarrassing for a spammer to hijack your account and start spamming fake Nike or pharmaceuticals to your friends and family.
  4. Anything else. Update other sites as you log into them.

Other Security Ideas

  • Occasionally check the news to see what sites have breaches.  Have I been pwned is a good side to check if your email address or user name are in lists of stolen accounts.
  • For important sites, use two-factor authentication. This can come in form of a text message sent to your phone, an email, or an app downloaded to your phone.  Even if someone gets your password, they will be unable to get into your accounts.
  • Don’t share accounts with others. Find out a way to give each person a unique log in.  As a bonus, the personalization features stay unique to you.  No longer will you receive cartoon recommendations when you use Netflix.
  • Don’t share passwords with anyone for any reason. Legit tech people will next ask for one.
  • Password-protect your phone. It is your most important piece of technology and is the center of their lives for many.
  • Do save password in the browser.  It is hard to move from one machine to another and malware can read it if installed.
  • Install an ad blocker.

While taking these steps won’t make your digit life hack proof, it makes you a more difficult target and just like locking your front door, it raises the time and hassle it takes do to something to you.  It is worth a few hours of investment for some extra protection.

Ad-blockers Improve the Surfing Experience

free-image-download-blank-not_allowed-signA few weeks ago, someone I know contacted me and said they received a message when visiting a site.  It said their computer was infected and to call Microsoft.  This was a common scam where less savory internet elements buy ad space on sites to con the unwary into calling or downloading malware.

This is an easily alleviated problem.  Just install an ad block extension to the browser.  They block a common vector of viruses, scams, and malware that often piggy back on malicious ads.  This happened to me a about 5 years ago when an ad on downloaded malware to my machine.  Fortunately, the hackers only wanted the gold in my World of Warcraft account.   Ever since, all of my browsers had ad blockers.

Ad blockers also have another use.  They make the web a cleaner, less flashy place.  No more loud blinking ads.  No more ads breaking up content.  Below are the versions I normally use and install on people’s machines to improve their browsing experience.


image Firefox / image Pale Moon

Icon of uBlock Origin

For Mozilla compatible clients, uBlock Origin seems to be the one of the better ad-blocker extensions.  As my main browser, I have tried at least a dozen of them and found it to be a little lighter on my machines.  It also plays well with the other add-on installed in the browser such as NoScript, Disconnect, and EFF’s Privacy Badger.  I also feel it is a good one for people who have little knowledge of how browsers work.

The only issue is that a few sites like Forbes will block access to their site, but most ad laden sites don’t have much in the way of original content so there is no real loss.


image  Chrome

imageI use Chrome at work over Internet Explorer because users can install plug-ins without administrative rights.  Again, uBlock Origin is the one of choice.  Given the closed nature of Chrome, it runs a bit rougher than on Firefox but most users will not notice it.


image Internet Explorer 11

imageBeing hard to code for and growing obsolete, there are few addons for IE 11.  When I reluctantly need to use IE, I use Adblock Plus (ABP.)  It works fine but is slower because IE is just pain to use compared to faster and newer browsers. 

Also, I don’t really endorse ABP.  The company who writes the software acts in a scummy way.  Advertisers can pay to have ‘acceptable’ ads show through.  However, there are few decent alternatives. 


image  Microsoft Edge

imageEdge in Microsoft’s new browser that is available on Windows 10.  Despite the hate, it is actually a decent browser.  It was recently made better when Microsoft started to allow extensions.  Like IE 11, I don’t use it much because it doesn’t have the extension pool I need yet, but when I have to surf on it, I use AdBlock.  I choose it because it was the most downloaded extension not out of any well founded research.  Overall, I don’t have many complaints except that it sometimes causes odd style sheet changes to web sites where uBlock Origin doesn’t on other browsers.


image Safari

I have no idea what is good since I don’t use Macs.  Fortunately, Apple recently updated the browser to allow ad blocker.  Quara users have a decent list to try with some being on my own list.  Remember that Safari isn’t the only browser available.  Installing the extensions above in Firefox or Chrome will work just as well.

Tableau Conference ‘14 Diary–Day 2

Let us review day 1:

  • Most of the conference goers where relatively new to Tableau, few that I spoke with had more than a year or two of experience.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, Tableau has grown rapidly in the last year or two.  The other is the conference seems geared toward newbies.  It also doesn’t hurt that Tableau gives out free passes to new enterprise clients.
  • Many of the presentations to on day one focused on data presentation and little on how to get the data into Tableau.
  • There was little explanation on what insight people received from using Tableau.  Most dashboards created were around user self service.


The conference started at 9 instead of 8 today.  I think this was to give marry makers some time to recuperate after last nights festivities. The breakfast was different today, but just as good.

Session #6: Keynote:  Neil deGrasse Tyson –Science as a Way of Knowing

Oddly, I wasn’t familiar Mr. Tyson.  I should turn in my geek card.   As co-creator and main host of the new Cosmos series I should have known who he was.  The original inspired me to get into the hard sciences as a kid.

His presentation focused data should be used to explain the universe and how humans need to be open to new ideas that can challenge how we see the world.

Source: Tableau blog

  • The tree of life doesn’t have humans at the top.  We are just one of thousands of species on its branches.  Also we are more closely related to mushrooms than to plants.
  • It is not a matter of if, but when we will be hit by a large asteroid.
  • We don’t have to destroy the asteroid to save the planet, only use the gravitational pull of a space ship to alter its course.

Takeaway: It might not helped me use Tableau better, but it was sure entertaining.  Oh and Pluto is not a planet.

Session #7: Making a Viz that Stops Traffic

big_circle_zen_masterMy first real session of the day brought in three Tableau Zen Masters, Paul Banoub, Anya A’Hearn, and Dan Montgomery.  20 or so are chosen each year based on the knowledge of the software based on their contributions to the Tableau community, user feedback, and employee nominations.


2014-09-15 19_37_17-

2014-09-15 19_38_04-

Thanks for Patty Walsh for snapping these.

The three all had decent presentation styles focusing on data presentation over analysis.  As a fan of Edward Tufte, I wasn’t a fan of what they has built, but well-crafted.  I felt they were too over produced to be practical for users.  However, they all had great color sense and use of language.

  • Use your dashboards to tell a story
  • Pair down your charts using only ones that will enhance user understanding of the data
  • Match colors and fonts with company standards
  • If putting a visual online, use the Blog size, 650×650 canvas
  • Max number of colors should be 2 to 3
  • Use conversational language to explain visualizations
  • Add pictures where necessary
  • Tableau does not embed fonts, so you will have to screen print specialized fonts and add them as a graphics.
  • Learn by pulling data on topics you love and building visualizations.

Useful links:

Takeaway:  The is a trade off with visualizations.  Data heavy ones might be easier for analysts but management and casual users need simple visually pleasing visualizations.  Try to make your works look cleaner and less like Tableau.

Session #8: Porn, Pokémon & Pop Culture: Using Data That Doesn’t Suck

Similar to the previous session, a few more Zen Masters and a Tableau employee took the stage.  For whatever reason, I thought that Jewel Loree, Andy Kriebel, and Peter Gilks had a better presentation.  I think it was because they spoke less about their visualizations and more about how to get data into Tableau.

  • Cut and paste is king.  There are few tools that help clean data.
  • Cleaning data it the most time consuming part of creating visualizations (hear-hear.)
  • Excel is still comes before Tableau.  You still need to build the data sets somewhere.
  • KISS is the way to go as user engagement is the key to success.
  • Create your own data to hone your skills.  Use an app like Moves to capture what you do or last.FM to capture your musical life.

2014-09-15 20_00_51-Paint By Numbers



2014-09-15 20_04_06-Jewel Loree

Note: since my pictures did not come out, I found the visualizations referenced in the presentation from from the presenter’s respective web sites.  Click on the visual to discover more.

Useful links:

Takeaway:  Tableau only makes data pretty.  It is still hard to get the data in a useful format.

Session #9: Keynote: A Conversation with Michael Lewis

200px-Michael_Lewis_2009I was looking forward to this keynote as I have read a number of his books.  I like how he brings the data users to life without getting into the gory details of the analytics they employ.  Personalities always come before numbers.

This session was a Q&A that started off stiffly, but as he and Tableau’s Kelly Wright warmed to one another the conversation improved.

  • His stories focus on personalities over data.
  • Most of his stories are about outside or little guys fighting consensus in the marketplace.
  • He related better to people who use theirs instincts vs detached people like venture capitalists.  He finds it hard to connect with quants and entrepreneurs.  The are too detached.
  • He likes using a minimalist writing style and does not use jargon.
  • Pairs down is story and leaves part unsaid to to let the reader interpret.


  • Thinks that the right-left divide in the country was due in part to the financial crisis.
  • The financial sector is scared of change.  Many people fear technological change will cause them to loose their jobs.
  • Thinks there is a disconnect in capital markets.  Most people working on Wall Street are free agents and don’t hold allegiances to their employer of customers.  This is harmful.
  • He gets writing ideas from talking to people in his network.

Books I have read w/Twitter reviews:


Takeaway:  Work to pair away your data until you can see the story you want to tell.

Session #10: Use Tableau like a Sith


In the end, I am not sure what I got our of the Sith presentation done by Darth Flashypants, and Jinbar Nomix.  It focused on hacking Tableau desktop and server to bend it to the will of the user.

Much of the time, I spent wondering if I would use anything they presented in real life.



  • Tableau employees hate pie charts.
  • Tableau Data Stores are in XML.  If one knows how to decode the parameters in the file, they can change a file saved in 8.2 to open in earlier versions, create pivot tables with more than 16 columns of data, change Excel connections to Access connections, and muck around to point at Internet URLs to pull in pictures rather than embedding them in the file.
  • There is a way to create exploding pie charts using dual axis charts.
  • There is a way to create gauges, but it is so complex why would you?
  • You can use a jitter function to show over-lapping data points.
  • There was a lot on how to improve Tableau Server performance, but since I am not a server admin, I didn’t bother to capture it.


Takeaway:  Tableau uses XML, so it is possible to do some cool things if you know how to read it.

Session #11: BI Reboot at Coca-Cola: Driving Sales with Tableau

Chathura Manawadu was wonderful.  This was the best presentation of the day and a great note to go out on.  He created a dashboard called SalesPulse for the thousands of Coca-Cola distributors that interact with the local Walmart and mom and pop stores.

2014-09-15 20_57_43-



  • Designed their metrics from the bottom up as they implemented Tableau.
  • Package the dashboard weekly by division.  3,500 users pick the packaged Tableau workbook off a file share and can use it when offline.
  • Use a consistent color schema for all dashboards they create.  Schema are color-blind friendly.
  • Track sales, volume, and R.E.D. score.Sketch1627410
  • In the back end, use Business Objects connected to Teradata or Microstrategy connected to MS SQL databases and Excel files.


Takeaway:  Companies can use reader to distribute dashboard to field users. It just takes some effort to make it happen.


At night we took Seattle’s light rail to see a baseball game.  I continue to be impressed by the cities transit.  Chicago’s pales in comparison.  There is little graffiti, it is cheap and it seems to connect bus, monorail (which I don’t think many ride,) and their funky trolley system well.


Safeco Field and Century Link field, where the Seahawks play are right next to each other on the south side of the downtown.  Personally, I like the building aesthetic of the Seahawks field, but Safeco’s upper decks view has an unparalleled view of the city.  It is the best view from any park I have been to date.


Garlic fries is a local Mariners fan favorite.  The first third was overpowering, the second third wasn’t too bad…the last part was more garlic than fries.  Vampires beware.


In the upper deck, it was a cold clear and clam night.  The stars were out but the Mariners lost to the Astros.  I thought their pitching was decent, but their hitting line up was scattered and weak.  Luck is the only way they will sneak into the wild card playoff spot.

Update: 10/21/2016: Sine spell corrections.

Tableau Conference ‘14 Dairy–Day 0 & 1

2014-09-14 16_02_58-Tableau Conference 2014 _ Seattle, Washington September 8–12

This is a rambling account of how I experienced the Tableau Conference 2014 (TCC14) held in Seattle.  I will highlight the sessions as well as the city attractions attended adding color where necessary.

Day 0

Up at 4am, is there another 4? Why wasn’t I informed of this?! It started good, if you are leaving from anywhere, Bloomington airport is one of the best to go from, from parking to the terminal takes less than 30 minutes with security being a breeze.  The only place better is from Charlottesville, VA.  What makes that better is various historical artifacts at the terminal to peruse, otherwise they are similar. 

4142382064_186593cfb4_z vs. airport

One thing I’d change about the travel arrangements was the car.  I rented a Kia Sorrento.  A decent upgrade to my ride, an a upgrade to my Hyundai Elantra Touring, but was unnecessary.  The public transportation in the city is truly excellent.  I suspect the train from SeaTac to Seattle proper would only take 20 minutes and cost a few dollars. 

Once checked in the Motif hotel, the car stayed parked as it was too expensive and a pain to drive around.  The hotel itself was good, living up to its name with weird colorful rooms and an open lobby with furniture chosen more for its modernist style than comfort.

After dropping my luggage off at the hotel, some of my collogues and I went down to the waterfront and at ate at The Crab Pot, a local tourist trap.  While the salmon wrap was the worst food I ate during the stay, it still was tasty enough, I’d not recommend it for the price and so-so atmosphere.

Then to check-in at the conference.


Unfortunately, this initial start of the conference sucked.

IMG_0648[1]Going up the escalator, the group I was with was treated to dub-step played by a DJ via his MacBook and Tableau employees milling around giving away stickers and other flair to adorn your clothing.  The check-in process was simple overall just walk up the some Apple tablets, enter your info and the cleric finished the process, 5 minutes tops.  The best part was the free self-styled Tableau backpack, which came in handy as when traveling the conference center and city itself.

The main problem during this process was receiving the lanyard, which as the size of a 7 inch tablet, which made me feed dorky when wearing it outside the conference.  When you met someone for the first time, the lanyard caused them to stare at your navel.  My eye are up here, HERE!  Because they had RFID chips, vendors and those letting you into session poked your belly with wands.  I made me feel like to Poppin-in-Fresh Doughboy – he-he.


Source: Wikipedia

Session #1: First Timers; Field Guide to the Tableau Conference

Uh, painful and by far the worst session I attended in the four days.  Matt Francis and Emily Kund did their best to pack in 10 minutes of content in an hour of presentation.  They tried and failed to explain what we were about to embark on in hipster-isque fashion.  Upon refection, their presentation style made sense, but just was poorly executed.

Takeaway:  If you have been to any conference in your life, skip it if your going to TCc15 in Las Vegas.


I does a choice of a network event with free beer and Seattle.  Of course I chose Seattle since I am uncomfortable in large unstructured gatherings.  So off to Pike Place Market, which I found that many of the shops were closed since it was after 5.  So a group of colleagues and II  walked to Etta’s, a Tom Douglas dinning establishment.  The overall décor make me feel out of place.  I’m much more confortable in jean wearing family establishments. Despite this I had an excellent salmon dish decked out in local farm grown vegetables and their specialty rub.  Included was some of the best calamari I have ever ate.  I wouldn’t eat there again, but it was a good experience overall.

Day #1

The first day we were treated to an excellent buffet-style breakfast instead of the usual carb filled donuts and coffee style spread, which I see the norm.  For those that didn’t like the fare of egg, meat, potato, and bagel combo they could go to the juice bar or refreshment stations place strategically around the center.


Source: Tabeauza via Twitter

Session #2: Keynote: Christian Chabot (CEO)  & Chris Stolte (CDO) – The Art of Analytics

2014-09-14 16_31_14-Live Stream of Keynote _ Tableau Conference 2014 - Internet Explorer

Tableau really came out the of the gate with a wow factor similar to an Apple product launch.  It was a high-energy affair that seemed to enrapture the audience.  It is not often that you see a CEO of a billion+ dollar company start off with a marijuana joke to get the crowd into what he’s saying.

While topics at the sessions start were interesting, it was a typical affair about how visual analytics was going to change the world and how Tableaus power users will make it happen, so I won’t going in details.  You can go to the conference site and watch.  The more interesting things were about upcoming features.

Terminology explanation is in order before going into the new features:

Pills – These are the measures and dimensions when used in a visualization


Shelf – Anything that holds pills such as Pages, Filters, Marks, Columns and Rows.

Table with one measure

Tableau Desktop

  • Enter measures on shelves.  This bypasses the Create Calculation popup. You can save them as measures too by dragging them into the Measures area.
  • Auto complete on the shelves.  This is similar to what Excel 2010+ does when you enter a formula into a cell on the taskbar.  Should be a great feature that will make simple calculations easier to enter. 
  • Analytic drag and drop.  Users will be able to drag, say Median pill onto a measure on a shelf and change the calculation on the fly. 

Takeaway:  Expert analysts will enjoy them and the changes will make it easier for newer users to build out visualizations.


  • Search – Users will be able to type in say, Colorado, and have the map zoom into the correct location.  It will work with countries, states, counties and cities (and maybe more)


  • Circular and Lasso selection – Users will be able to select areas in anyway they choose. Right now you can only select in squares.

Takeaway:  Great updates for power users, but casual users will not notice these feature.  They are not prominent on the UI.


  • Caching will make maps update quicker
  • Maps will pre-render in the background so there is no lag when moving around.
  • Calculation will now use more than one core.  Most systems have at least 2 to 4 so expect much faster results.
  • Calculations will persist once calculated.  This will help when opening a book to continue to work or switching between dashboards.

Takeaway:  Minor but useful improvements.

Data entry

  • Auto clean up Excel imports.  Can’t wait for this feature. I will no longer have to format Business Objects reports before entering them into Tableau.
  • Split on qualifiers.  If a column has something like this, Illinois-Bloomington, you will be able to separate it into two columns on import.
  • Web data connector.  This allow users to pull into content from web APIs.  This might be an awesome bridge to import data from Adobe SiteCatalyst or other could data API sources.

Takeaway:  Not flashy, but these are the most important improvements.  Data cleaning takes up large portions of most analysts time.


  • Can control colors on the screen now.

Takeaway:  There were other features talked about bit I didn’t write them down.  Storytelling is still worthless in an enterprise environment. 


  • Caching calculations.  Same as above
  • JavaScript API version 2
  • Infinitely scrollable views.  Finally, I never liked that it only displayed 10 workbooks at a time.
  • Cleaner interface with more meta data displayed on screen.
  • Easier to adjust security features on a per user/group basis.

Takeaway:  Features will make finding work easier.  The server features should help infrequently updated workbooks run faster.


  • “Cloud 2 Cloud” login.
  • Push data from one cloud based software (such as Sales Force) to Tableau Cloud.

Takeaway:  Only good for those using Tableau’s cloud instead of Tableau Server.


  • Caching calculations again.
  • Ability to favorite workbooks and to highlight
  • Web and mobile app will have more ways to edit.  Eventually Tableau wants parity with desktop and mobile operations.
  • Snapshot – Ability to save data to use when offline

2014-09-14 16_32_37-Live Stream of Keynote _ Tableau Conference 2014 - Internet Explorer

  • Mobile workbook creation
    • Ability to pull in Excel files and create dashboards
    • Mobile app can zoom down to the record

        Takeaway:  In 5 years it could be a game changer, but most changes are minor or untested in real world scenarios.  I personally like this feature because it means my tablet will have more powerful editing features.

          Session takeaway:  Tableau says that they will invest more in research in the next 2 years than since the inception of the company.  If that is the case, expect great things when these upgrades arrive in the coming months.

          Session #3: DATA @ NFLX: Building a culture of Analytics Everywhere at Netflix

          Of all sessions on the first day, this was the one I wanted to see and it didn’t disappoint.  Blake Irvine and Albert Wong went into detail about the analytic strategy of  Netflix.  It turns out that they are going down the same path as Country Financial, just on a larger scale.


          Each division has its own analytic group.  The benefits are that the system engineers can become system experts rather than generalists.  This improves analytics expert response time to meet user needs.  Each area operates independently and therefore Netflix must own multiple reporting data stores.  To minimize duplicate reporting/metrics, analysis teams have frequent knowledge sharing meetings.

          My take: This is a good short run strategy as a company grows, but becomes burdensome as it ages.  All these process need experts to keep them running.  Knowledge is often lost when people move jobs so it becomes harder to maintain and upgrade.   Even with open-source technologies, which Netflix often uses, eventually the company will have a difficult time with maintenance and an nearly impossible time switching technologies when the need arises.

          Other things of note:

          • The company does a lot of A/B testing to improve user experience.  Tableau is used in some of these workflows.
          • Mostly reporting systems use open source technologies to gather and store data, though they still use Tableau for the front end and occasionally Teradata in the back.
          • Nearly all of their data is in the cloud using Hadoop and Amazon S3.


          • Have an OE department that uses Tableau through Hadoop and Teradata.
          • They are open to developer changes on the fly (empowerment) to reporting systems.  Many have access to the underlying database and can change code to meet their users insights need.
          • The IT is reluctant to remove reporting systems once built.  This is one of the reasons why I think their strategy will become unsupportable in a decade or so as people who build the systems leave.
          • There is little to no data governance.

          Takeaway: Data, analytic, and insight silos are common no matter if the company in the new or old economy.

          Session #4: Visualizing Unstructured Data with Tableau, Featuring Bill Inmon


          Honestly, I didn’t get much of out this presentation.  Bill was too detailed in his explanations of unstructured data using taxonomy created by Wand.  When pivoting to his Verizon and 1st American Tableau reports, I was unimpressed.  Having used unstructured data from call center and surveys before, this added nothing someone couldn’t do with R or Rapid Miner’s text analyst add on. 

          The main problem was there was no sentiment or context analysis, so you have to use qualitative or other data to indicate whether or not groups of calls were positive or negative.

          Takeaway: I still think that Tableau stinks for mining/displaying unstructured data.  It is better to use a specialized tool and the display the insight in Tableau.




          Food provided continues to impress.  The conference had a main place to eat near the vendors booths, but also stocked at least a dozen fridges with wraps, drinks, and salads so you never had to go far for vittles.  I am sure a few people left for lunch, I did for a bit to purchase some bottled tea, but if you weren’t picky as me, you could eat hardily, even if vegan. 

          The main problem with lunch was the wait.  With 5,500 and at least 1,000 Tableau employees going to each at once (all of the sessions ended at the same time) people could wait a half and hour to get to the buffet.

          Session #5: Zen Master Tips & Tricks Panel

          In this session, the there were three presenters, Kelly Martin, Craig Bloodworth, and Mark Jackson each with a different style they used to create visualizations.  Overall, the session was average, the best part was looking at the examples rather than the tips they offered.  This and the following session really helped stoke the design side of my brain.

          • There is no need to type if or case statements.  Tableau will handle the branching for you.  If used, I think this will make statements less clear to others.
          • There is an ability to do top ten (or any number) on by a category basis [link.]
          • There is an ability to do context filters [link.]
          • There are two API for Tableau Server.  Version 1 is undocumented and version 2, new to Tableau 8, is documented. To understand version 1, you can use Fiddler to discover it features by spying on the traffic between the computer and server.  It also helps to code by using Alteryx to code the API and pull XML data.
          • Use blank text boxes over data to prevent people from clicking on it.
          • The [+] in front of a dimension in a hierarchy is called the power key.

          Takeaway: Tableau is flexible. Most of the tips offered have multiple ways to accomplish the same thing.

          During this session, some of the examples helped me figure out ways to solve some of my problem dashboards.  During the session, I drew an updated design for the Agency Dashboard.  Hopefully, I will have time to integrate it in a few weeks. Note: I know my drawing sucks, bare with me here.


          Session #6: 10 Tips to Becoming a Tableau Jedi

          I was impressed with Marc Rueter’s presentation.  He was knowledgeable and went just at the right speed to explain his tips without having to hurrying like many presenters did with the limited time they had. 

          • You can drop dimensions and measures on top of existing pills to replace them.  The new pills will inherent the previous pills existing formats and display.  I use this trick when building dashboards.  Frist, I duplicate the worksheet and then make the change on the copy.
          • Create a Summary.  on the visualization, right-click > Summary
          • Create a source average or median.  Duplicate data source w/o connecting it to its parent and place the measure the chart.  For best results use dual axis.  I am not a fan because you have to use data blending and a duplicate source.

          2014-09-14 16_56_29-Trellis Chart with Linear Regression

          • You can create trellises
          • You can create drill downs on dashboard using actions (Country > State > County)

          The rest were too complex to explain or I already knew they existing so didn’t write them down.


          Not knowing the extent of food that would be on hand at the Data Nite Out, I went to eat at Elliott’s Oyster House out on Pier 56.  I think it had the best food I ate during my stay.  This might be because I didn’t eat much during the conference, but whatever, it was great.   Chowing down on their Sockeye salmon ruled and tasty spicy clam chowder while looking out on the harbor was awesome.

          Data Nite Out235px-Marge_vs._the_Monorail_(promo_card)

          Getting back to the hotel, I was soon on a bus to the Seattle Center that Tableau rented for their networking event.  This location is familiar to tourists.  It contains the Space Needle (which I had already been in on a previous trip) and the starting leg of the monorail built during the 1962 World’s Fair.

          I wasn’t prepared for this event’s scope.  With 8 to 10 bands and dozens of food and adult beverage locations, it was easily the most impressive part of the entire conference.  They did it in style.  Each area has a unique theme, food type, and activity.  After wandering around sampling every sugar, salt and, grease concoction I could find, Sir-Mix-A-Lot started.  I never been a huge fan, but the show was high energy helped in part by the free booze Tableau provided those in attendance.


          Ode to Sir-Mix-A-Lot

          I like big data and I cannot lie
          You other quants can’t deny
          A dataset comes in with a little bit of analysis
          And a pie-chart in your face
          You get insight


          Update #1: Spelling and photo sizing changes.  Added some graphics based on comments.