O'Reilly Chums the Water: Ken Rises to the Bait

Juice's own Ken Hilburn brings it home at the Strata conference. He sits down with Mac Slocum of O'Reilly for a few data softballs. Here's a second-by-second account.

[0:03] Q: What are the most common visualization mistakes that people are making?

[0:03] A: The bottom line is usability. Stay focused on your purpose, making decisions, taking action. Stay simple, if you have to explain you're failing.

[0:15] Brett Favre endorses Wranglers, but Ken wears Data Wanglers [not shown].

[0:59] Dropping names, and twisting the knife on usability.

[1:25]? What better time to confront a little gap in your knowledge than when you're being filmed? It's Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

[1:48] Q: Do we need different tools to create simple visualizations?

[2:05] Plentiful shout outs to friends in the industry. Even Business Objects gets a friendly mention, is Ken getting soft?

[2:53] A difficult point to cover in a short time. We speak of data journalism and telling stories with data, but there are really no great tools that allow this in an everyday business environment. There is a lot of attention, not much progress.

[3:15] Q: What makes a great dashboard?

[3:25] A: Zach and Ken just delivered a 3 hour tutorial on the subject earlier in the week. Can Ken cover it in 30 seconds? Attention, context, and data drilling are keys but there's precious little time to do more than mention big concepts.

[4:20] Q: Are dashboards too complicated?

[4:22] A major softball to close the session. Cheshire cat grin from Ken.

[4:54] "Getting your brain around it." What Ken isn't saying is that we know today's businessfolk aren't just looking at one dashboard, they have to look at many. They have to integrate info from lots of disparate systems into a picture of how their business is doing. If your info is harder, more complex, presents a bigger cognitive load, or is slower to load, then it's going to be less valuable.

If you haven't had the pleasure of getting to know Ken, stay tuned. We'll be doing more Viva Visualization events in '11 with more detailed prescriptions for great dashboards and there's no better way to spend your morning than eating a nice warm bagel and listening to Ken.