Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tableau Conference - Small Company, BIG Conference (really?)

Tableau's annual customer conference (TC15) kicks off this Monday (18th Oct) in Las Vegas. In preparation for the Conference I was downloading the Data15 App from the Android Play Store and I saw that 5,000 people had already downloaded the app. I was curious how some of the other 'BIG' conferences fared. So I took screenshots from my phone of the Play Store of dreamforce, AWS re:Invent and vmworld. I was quite surprised that we were on par with most of them in terms of downloads. Dreamforce had 10,000 and we know that is a huge conference. We already have 158 people who have rated our App and given it a rating of 4.6 and the conference hasn't even started.

Not sure if this means anything (maybe their customers use iPhones, maybe their Conference Apps aren't that functional) but we all know that Tableau Marketing does rock when it comes to Conference and a data party.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How I learned the order of a deck of cards in 1 week!!

There has been something bugging me the last couple years. My memory or specifically my ability to remember names. It's been getting worse and I've attributed it to being over 40. I had posted a few days ago about how I randomly stumbled upon Josh Foer's TED talk - 

Then I saw another TED talk -

What Josh and Idriz were claiming was that you could train your memory to learn names. That you needn't be a genius. So on a whim I had decided that I'd try and learn the order of a deck of cards. So the steps I needed to follow were -

1. Come up with a name association for each card. This way you have a face to apply to a card and it helps you remember.

I found this website Memrise. They already had the card-name associations pre-defined but more importantly, they gave a lot of challenge exercises so you could really work on learning the associations. There is no short cut for this and you have to put in the repetitions. Surprisingly, it took me only 4 days to learn the associations for all 52 cards. While it wasn't an instantaneous recollection, I could recall all of them. I must confess that I did go a bit overboard. In a few days I racked up 87,000 points to reach 'Memgineer' status.

2. To remember the order of cards, you need to come up with a Memory Palace. Basically, you come up with a series of locations and you place the characters in it. So I started from my driveway and went all the way up, into my house, to the deck etc. Then I got a tip from my colleague David Shoup, that I could place multiple people at the same location. This was great, so I went from 52 locations down to 13 as I put about 4 people in each location.

3. I then realized that if I had multiple people at a location, I could create some activity that they all did jointly. So it made it stick even more.

So last night as I was getting ready for bed and I was working on recollecting the card-name associations, on a whim I decided to try and remember all 52 cards and the order. So I shuffled the pack and went through all of them and created the story and memory palace. To my surprise I was able to recollect the entire order of the cards.

What I was able to do was create some really funny stories at each location -

1. 4 Clubs (David Copperfield), A Spades (Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore), Jack Hearts (Jimi Hendrix) - David Copperfield was doing a magic trick where every time Adam Sandler tried to hit the golf ball it would disappear and hit Jimi Hendrix while he was playing Purple Haze.

2. 6 Clubs (Sean Connery), 6 Hearts (Stephen Hawking), 2 Spades (Bart Simpson), 10 Spades (OJ Simpson), 3 Clubs (Charlie Chaplin), Ace Diamonds (Al Davis) - Sean Connery was standing at the bottom of the stairs ready to chase Stephen Hawking (in his wheelchair) who was halfway up, chasing Bart Simpson who was mooning Stephen Hawking, and OJ was running after a waddling Charlie Chaplin and Al Davis was waiting for all of them while admiring his rings.

3. 8 Spades (Howard Stern), 3 Spades (Charlie Sheen), 10 Diamonds (Oscar De La Hoya), 9 Spades (Norman Schwarzkopf) - I have a ping pong table in the guest room and I had Howard Stern playing ping pong with Charlie Sheen while Charlie Sheen was snorting coke on the table, against Oscar De La Hoya wearing boxing gloves and Norman Schwarzkopf in uniform.

As you can see, each snippet is quite memorable and the only thing that relates each snippet to the other is that they follow a path that I remember.

So I was very impressed that in a week I was able to remember the order of all 52 cards but what impressed me even more was that my stories were so vivid that I could remember the order of the cards a full 24 hours later. In fact I think I will never forget the order of the cards.

So just wanted to put it out there, that this isn't that complicated and Josh and Idriz were not exaggerating. Happy cards to anyone else who wants to try.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Indian, Engineer, Guy - Creative, Visual - Really??

As a 40 something engineer and Indian, I have always been proud of my 'Left Brainness'. In fact I would identify myself with my 'Left Brainness'. Every discussion, decision and thought was linear, logical and analytical. I believed that being Indian and an Engineer, I lacked the capacity to be visual and creative. Every argument was met with logic and every problem was analyzed. Words ruled over pictures.

Then I joined a company that visualized data. Where a picture meant a thousand words and an excel pivot table provided no insight. I marveled at the ease of use and the intuitiveness. The drag and drop interface that converted data into visuals. Yet, I struggled with presenting a story visually. My colors were off and borders were rigid. Was I doomed because of my 'Left Brainness'?

Deep inside, I didn't appreciate the impact that a work of art can have on people. My insights were functional, they got the message across but there was no emotional connection. I was presenting cold hard facts visually but not telling a story. I rationalized it by reminding myself that I was an Indian and an Engineer. This visual stuff was fluff.

We all have that voice in our head.
Then people started telling me that I was actually quite creative. This was news, but the voice in my head was there to logically remind me of my shortcomings. Luckily, for me I was surrounded by very creative people. People whose opinion I respected more than the voice in my head. Luckily, I sold a product that my customers would tell me had made them more creative. I knew it was possible. Could I believe it?

I read a few books that made a big impact.

I realized that I didn't have to be an artist to draw and I didn't have to be a painter to create. That perfection was the enemy of progress and taking the first step was more important than taking the right step. That mistakes were opportunities to learn as my 2nd grader's homework assignment said. That the journey in itself is the prize, as you end up where you were meant to be not where you thought you wanted to go.

It is weird how all it takes is a choice - A choice to try something new, be someone you want to be or to listen to the voice in your head. That choice leads to a belief. The belief turns to doubt but if you took that first step, then that action banishes the doubt. Since the journey is the prize, there is no failure and the beauty of the internet is that 99.9% of the people can ignore what you write but the 0.1% that 'like' your work, provide you the positive energy to keep going.

So I'll wrap up by saying - "Indian, Engineer, Guy - Creative, Visual" - Yeah Baby!!!

The Amazing cOoking Machine - Pachch The Troublemaker - Chapter 4

Time passed peacefully on Wastosie. 'Quick' was a success, people were generally happy with the food packets and the 'Chefs' continued with their 'MPs'. King W had reconciled to the 'MPs' and it seemed that every day more of them popped up.

Soon there was another change underway. The 'Chefs' wanted more raw food for their 'MPs' and sure enough some enterprising Wastosian's started growing their own food. No longer did King W have a monopoly on the raw food. By now, King W had realized that he could not completely control what his subjects did. Being the rational King that he was, he realized that his subjects seemed happier and since there was no way for him to meet all their food or cooking needs, he let them be.

 One of the 'Chefs' Pachch (pronounced Patchichich), was a former pirate who loved to cook and loved MPs. There was one small problem. He was a terrible cook. Try as he might he could not cook anything that tasted good. Soon word got around about Pachch and his cooking and people started shunning his MPs. Pachch was a jolly and social Wastosian but when his friends stopped coming by, he withdrew from society. Luckily, Pachch was not someone that got easily depressed. Necessity as they say is the mother of invention and Pachch was an amazing inventor. In a past life he had invented moving pictures and this had changed entertainment at Wastosie. He decided to solve the toughest problem currently facing the 'Chefs' - To invent something that could make all the 'Chefs' great cooks and not just the 'Chefs' but any Wastosians that wanted to cook.
Pachch invented the Amazing cOoking Machine (AmOoMa). The AmOoMa would take in raw food and with the press of a few buttons, out would come the most scrumptious meals. This endeavor took Pachch a year. Initially it did not work too well. Sometimes the food would be burnt and sometimes it came out raw. Sometimes the raw food got completely vaporized. Pachch persevered through every failure. He was driven by a strong desire to change how Wastosians saw and cooked food. Over time it started becoming more reliable and finally Pachch was ready to invite a few friends over for dinner.

It was a nervous evening and Pachch hoped AmOoMa would not break down. Pachch’s friends did not want to be subjected to another of Pachch’s cooking experiments, but they hadn’t seen him in a year and so they decided to accept his invitation. No one knew about AmOoMa. Pachch had kept it a
secret. Imagine their surprise when they were served the most amazing dinner they had ever eaten. Not only did it taste great, it even looked great. Every dish that was served looked like a masterpiece. Overnight, among the 'Chefs', Pachch had gone from being a pariah pirate to a celebrity 'Chef'.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Amazing cOoking Machine - Raw Food Experiment - Chapter 3

Access to raw food unleashed some cooking creativity on Wastosie. While the Wastosians did not know how to cook or did not have the utensils, they started experimenting. A few handful of Wastosians actually became pretty good at cooking while most just had fun. Some even ate the food raw!!!

Around that time another group of inventors came up with a new version of the cooking factory that made 'Beau' obsolete. This new factory took only 6 months to build, but it required fewer experts to run and could now generate food packets daily and at a lower cost!!! The clincher was that it could meet the needs of many palettes. While it could not meet every individual’s needs, it could take the people’s input and prepare many versions of the food packet.

The people loved the speed of this new factory and named it 'Quick'. This led to the second national holiday being announced on the planet. Food was plentiful, there was variety and the cost to run it was lower.

King W decided to stop providing the people raw food as he thought he had met their need for variety, but a strange thing happened. There was an uproar. The Wastosians (especially a small vocal bunch) really wanted access to the raw food. While they appreciated the frequent food delivery and the variety, they wanted to experiment. This was puzzling  to King W as he had assumed that the people would prefer his high quality meals from 'Quick' rather than their cooking experiments, but that wasn't the case. There were quite a few people
who loved their experiments and the freedom to cook whenever they wanted and whatever they wanted. This group of Wastosians were called 'Chefs'.

King W sent out his advisers to talk to the 'Chefs'. They were tasked with finding out what the 'Chefs' were cooking and why they wanted to cook rather than just eat the food packets. What King W's advisers found out was that while the 'Chefs' were still consuming the food packets, they also had the need to augment the food packets with their own cooking. Groups of 'Chefs' would get together and have 'Meeting Parties

(MPs)'. MPs were a new concept at Wastosie that had only come about in the last few years, once people started experimenting with cooking. In a MP, They would get together and share what had been cooked and everyone would discuss how to make the food better. King W could not really grasp why anyone would have an MP, but since they weren't bothering anyone, he decided to leave them be.

The Amazing cOoking Machine - 'Beau' To The Rescue - Chapter 2

A few years went by and everyone got used to the monthly food packet and guess what!!! Now they wanted more. They wanted food twice a month!! They were not happy eating one month old stale food. This was not an easy problem to solve. 'Beau' had not been created to send out the food packet more than once a month and any changes to 'Beau' was going to cost a lot of money.
King W wanted to keep the Wastosians happy and agreed to a big upgrade to 'Beau'. After a year and many tests and problems, the changes were rolled out and 'Beau' started sending out food packets twice a month.

King W was ecstatic. He was sitting on this throne, thinking back to the time when there was no food on Wastosia and how in the last 10 years, they had come so far. He was looking forward to enjoying the next few years and relaxing. The euphoria from this new upgrade lasted a few measly months, before the Wastosians started complaining about the lack of variety in the food. They all got the same food and now that they had developed a taste for food they wanted the ability to change a few things in the food packet. Some wanted it spicier, some wanted other ingredients. How quickly things change. They had all forgotten the days before the cooking factory when they were always hungry, but that is the price we pay for progress.

Solving this problem was impossible with 'Beau' and so King W called his trusted advisers and asked them to come up with a solution. After many months of deliberation and argument,a decision was reached. This wasn't a unanimous decision, as some advisers felt that this was giving too much
power to the people, while others wanted to empower the people. In the end, to keep the Wastosians happy, King W decided to make the raw food available to any Wastosian who wanted it. Anyone who wanted a bit more variety could get access to some raw food and they could do whatever they wanted.

The Amazing cOoking Machine - The Hungry Immortals - Chapter 1

Once upon a time, many many years ago in a galaxy far far away, was a small purple planet called Wastosie (pronounced Waste-O-See). On this planet lived an immortal race; the
Wastosians. The Wastosians were very good inventors and constantly building gadgets but there was one little problem. The planet itself was barren and no food grew on it and the people were always hungry. Imagine being immortal and hungry all the time!!! Needless to say, they weren't a happy lot.

All this changed when an alien spacecraft stopped by with a group of very weird looking explorers. These explorers were lost and had landed on Wastosie by mistake. These alien explorers talked about their home planet Flabocurry. The Curry-men as they called themselves were quite roly-poly. They talked about a time many centuries ago when Flabocurry had also started out as a barren planet and how they had solved their hunger problem by building a cooking factory.

The Wastosian King, King W, pleaded with the visitors to leave some seeds, soil and building plans, so they could build a cooking factory on Wastosie. The Curry-men were a friendly bunch and were glad to help out.

Soon the biggest transformational project on Wastosie was under way. All

the experts from the planet were brought together and the factory was built. It was a self-sustaining factory that grew the raw food, cooked it and delivered it to every house on Wastosie. People loved the factory so much that they called it 'Beau' (pronounced Bee-O). Once a month a packet of cooked food would be delivered to each person. The day the first food packet was sent out was declared a national holiday. The Wastosians were thrilled. They had been starving and now once a month they got their food delivered to their doorsteps.