Friday 30 March 2012

Miami here I come

It's that time of year again where I am looking forward again to "Qonnections", the QlikView global partners conference.  This will be the 3rd year in a row where we will be at the Fontainebleau Resort in South Beach, Miami Beach.  It kicks off on Sunday 22nd April and finishes up on the following Wednesday.

I have to say that my favourite Qonnections was 4 years ago in the Lowes Hotel, also in South Beach. There were a number of reasons:

 - Jonas Nachmanson, then CTO, announced Set Analysis coming in version 8.5. The techies in the audience gave the announcement a standing ovation.

 - Stephen Few delivered the keynote speech on the first morning. This changed pretty much everything about the way I have delivered QlikView projects since then.

 - Capricorn Ventis won the award for the fastest growing partner. It was a great experience to win an award at an event like this.

 - I attained certification in the brand new "Professional" Certification program. Earlier that year I had been one of the first people in the world to achieve the new "Developer" Certification.

So, there were a lot of highs that year. I would have to say that subsequent Qonnections were somewhat lesser in the number of highs.

I think that maybe, for me, it is that Set Analysis was the last "great" innovation in QlikView. There have been a lot of "nice" features in subsequent releases, and good features to make the product more enterprise ready, but none of them changed the way that I used the product so fundamentally. I don't think that there has been 1 .qvw that I have created in the last number of years that has not used Set Analysis.

I have an idea that this year might have some more interest. I think that v12, whose features (without promises of final delivery) will probably be announced to partners next month. I don't know, but I suspect that there will be some really interesting things happening and perhaps some fundamental changes. Of course, I will be restricted from commenting on them until they are made public, but I might whet your appetite.

Enjoy the tune - Will Smith, Miami

Stephen Redmond is CTO of CapricornVentis a QlikView Elite Partner

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Where are the Irish going? Another poor pie chart.

Oh dear.  Yet another poor example of a pie (in fact a doughnut) chart to try and get across something that is very important to Irish people.

David McWilliams is a leading Irish economist.  One of the few to predict trouble many years before the crash, mostly not listened to.  I think that he has a wonderful grasp of world economics and how they apply and interlink with Irish economics.  Unfortunately, when he described the chart below as a "wonderful graphic on Irish emigration", he showed that, like many, he doesn't know much about the presentation of quantative data.

The chart in question is found here:

It is an "interactive" doughnut chart where each segment represents the number of people going to different locations around the world.

Besides all the usual issues with pie type charts (my blog post on "Defending Pie Charts" might be a good place to start reading about the problem with pies; and of course, Stephen Few's Save the Pies for Dessert), the whole interactive thing makes it even more difficult to grasp the numbers and the relationship between them.

I grabbed the numbers from the chart into QlikView and created a much simpler, but far more effective, line chart:

(click for larger image)

From this chart, it is quite easy now to see that there is a general trend upwards in emigration and the UK and Australia are the main destinations.  There is a huge spike in EU12 (the 12 countries that have joined the EU since 2004) during 2009.

I had my suspicions of what that was so I went to the Irish Central Statistics Office website and retrieved the figures for emigration by nationality.

(click for larger image) 

This confirmed what my suspicions were - many of the eastern Europeans (Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, etc.) who had emigrated into Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years, many of whom worked in the construction industry, left in 2009 because of the collapse of that industry.

"Fancy" charts often actually hide the numbers that people want to see.  Here we have two very plain and simple line charts that tell much more of a story.

It is not a great story if you are Irish.

Stephen Redmond is CTO of CapricornVentis a QlikView Elite Partner

Sunday 18 March 2012

What are the colour of your eyes?

I often find myself reading other blogs, in the name of "research", and finding myself jumping from one link to another, following one idea to another, storing lots of fascinating facts within my grey matter (in theory).

One of my favourites is Robert Kosara's Eager Eyes blog.  Recently, he was discussing writing as a metaphor for visualisation which led me, via a couple of hops, to an IBM research piece called "How NOT to Lie with Visualization", written by Bernice E. Rogowitz and Lloyd A. Treinish of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY.

The article is a discussion of colour maps used in visualisation.  It is worth reading.

My own rule of thumb for a colour map is to use just the one hue - e.g. Blue, because it is relatively neutral - and change the lightness of the colour from one end of the scale to the other (e.g. using ColorMix functions in QlikView).  If I need diverging scales, then use two different hues that go from light in the centre to dark at the extremities.  For this, I always imagine an old ordinance survey map that shows sea and land - as the sea gets deeper, the blue gets darker; as the land gets higher, the brown gets darker.

Of course, there is always the question of ability to discern the difference in colours in between those extremities and whether a colour map is suitable at all - some humans are much better than others.  So what can we do for those of us whose eyes are not so good?

In many cases, I will implement a simple rule - anything that needs investigation based on the business rule gets coloured, everything else stays neutral.