One on one with Slalom’s Tableau hackathon winner, Erika Bakse

James Young Headshot_cropped

James Young

I’m happy to officially announce the winner of our 24-hour Tableau hackathon, Erika Bakse! I sat down with Erika to pick her brain about the process and see what she’s looking forward to with Tableau in 2014.

Congrats on your winning dashboard! Tell me a little bit about how you approached the challenge, how the dashboard works, and some of the key insights it brings to light. 

I began by thinking about what I’d want to know about the social conversations around Dreamforce, and Twitter seemed like a natural place to start. I wanted to find out what’s being tweeted and pull in a real-time feed of the most recent tweets. I also looked at the top people tweeting about Dreamforce, what was being retweeted, common hashtags and trends, and the tweets and trends over time.

Then I started thinking about how we define an influencer on social networks. Someone can tweet a thousand tweets, but it doesn’t really mean anything if nobody’s reading them. But retweets can get a lot of traction. So what’s the ratio of retweets to tweets? If someone tweets once but it hits 100,000 people, that’s pretty influential. So I pulled in that ratio to determine reach, and then I evaluated users to determine who has the most reach vs. how much they’re tweeting.

Next, I layered in interaction so it’s easy for people to drill down to find more information about specific users to see their interactions over time—all in one dashboard.

I like my dashboards to be pretty clean and simple—I definitely subscribe to basic visualization best practices. So I really tried to focus on making my dashboard functional and easy to use.

Erika Bakse dashboard

What do you like best about working on Slalom’s Tableau team?

I love working with the people that we have on our Tableau team. We’ve got some awesome Tableau jedis that are fantastic resources—studying what they’ve built is a great way to discover features that I might not have found on my own. I gained a lot of inspiration from Slalom’s Tableau CFO Profitability dashboard, which helped us earn recognition as Tableau’s North American Alliance Partner of the Year.

I think consultants can really differentiate themselves by taking the initiative to learn how to implement those tricky, really cool features in Tableau that require some hacking. I like that Slalom has the resources for consultants to learn how to do that and truly become experts in their fields.

What kind of trends in data visualization are you looking forward to in the next year?  What can we expect to see with Tableau 8.1 and the new R integration?

We’ve seen that Tableau’s added a lot of really cool visualization features. There’s actually been some backlash about that, with critics suggesting we’re losing insights in favor of shiny new things. But I think with the new R integration and forecasting features, we’ll only get a clearer picture of our data. The new functionality of 8.1 will lend itself to deeper analysis.

You need to know where you were in the past to be able to move forward. I think a lot of companies have realized that and have adopted business intelligence to look at their past performance and trends. It’s really exciting to see more and more companies really understand the importance of leveraging their data, and we’re looking forward to partnering with those companies to help them do that.

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