Generating Data using Tableau Prep

So, if you are like me and somehow, happen to have a few hours with no specific task to do, you get itchy. Itchy to do something with tech. That’s what happened today. I had a few hours and someone recently asked to create some dummy data for a project. So, I said to myself, why don’t I create a Data Generator routine using Tableau Prep Builder?

I know I can look at a lot of online data generators that allow me to create custom data. The big issue is they don’t help me create a good story because there is no signal or an outlier in the data.

Well, worry not. In less than 5 minutes, you can create the dataset that you need with your own liking for your own industry.

So, what do you need

  1. Tableau Prep Builder (Download the .tfl file)
  2. Data Input File (Download excel here)
  3. Tableau Desktop (Download .twb here)

And watch the following video. In less than 5 minutes, you will have some nice data to play with.

How do you create a “Data Culture”

All I have heard over the last 5 years is how “Data is the new ____”.

From “Data is the new oil” to “new fabric” to any other fancy analogy the author could come up with. Now, there’s nothing wrong with it. Analogies help us understand a concept and remember the concept later. My daughter told me the other day, the “best way to learn something is to teach it” and that’s why “remembering” the analogy is key. Whenever, you are trying to relay the concept to someone else, and you use that analogy, it makes the whole process of learning, remembering and teaching it later a whole lot easier.

Back to the topic (Why do I digress so much?) – So, everyone’s talking about Data.

If “Data” is so important for our organizations and is one of our strategic resources, why are we struggling so much to “monetize” this data? (I don’t mean monetizing the “data” in the sense of re-packaging what we have collected and then sell it, I simply mean “Why can’t we put our Data to good use”?)

Why do we still have just a handful of people who understand what data analysis means and then we have swaths of people who don’t? These very few people who say “Data is my job” are serving about 10-100x many others who say “I need Data to do my job”. The current model isn’t sustainable and we need to bridge that gap.

Bridge what gap?

You might ask, “Aren’t we all supposed to be doing a specific function? Isn’t it a bad idea for all of us to Data Analysis? We all have specialized skills to do something specific, right?”

Right. However, there is something different going on here.

Let’s go back in time. Go way, way back in time. Yes, back when we were probably referring to each other by making some weird clicks in our mouths to garner attention. Until, we realized that we can make a lot of different clicks and sounds and more importantly, differentiate those sounds and give each one of those sounds some meaning. Yes, I am talking about the birth of language.

We were all able to get along with sounds and sign language, yes? That worked until we figured out that it didn’t. Now, the “Homo erectus” realized that we had a power that other animals didn’t.

That was the power of language. And, they put that to great use.

And, that’s sort of what I am hoping we start doing a bit more. We can all Speak Data fluently once we learn the language. We are not all expected to do our own Data Analysis. But, I think we should all know our basics.

Why do we need to do that? Let’s dig in a bit more.

We have these two sides of our selves here. We have the side that wants to protect our Data. We are teaching the values of what owning our Data means. There are conversations going in many households (I know they are happening at our household) what you do when click “Like” and how that “Like” is monetized (in the traditional sense). As individuals, we feel that we are entitled to the privacy of our Data and the consent to using my data and my information should not taken for granted

Yet, at the same time, when we go to our professional organizations, we start talking about the power of algorithms and ask analytics teams why we can’t use Telemetry to gain deeper understanding of our customers.

You see the irony and the conflict here?

We might have a conflict in our brains about how we feel about the use and misuse of Data.

I believe we can bridge that gap to an extent by creating a culture of understanding Data better. I believe we need to bridge that gap for all generations. We need to talk about Data with our kids and we should be able to talk about Data with our parents. For that, we are going to understand some common concepts around Data, not just as an analyst or a Sales leader but as a father and a son. So, we can have a deeper conversation about such topics in our personal lives.

That’s the sort of culture that I hope we create

Now, creating a culture is easier said than done. Creating a culture is NOT a job. Not for one person, not for a team of individuals. It is something where you can lead with some principles to foster a community where culture is created organically. You probably have heard this before I will cite it again here, when you look at culture, you have to think of a culture as a bio-organism, the parts work together to support the function of the whole. (something, I just learnt is called functionalism in cultural anthropology, an approach established by Bronislaw Malinowski).

So, how can one person starting thinking about influencing a culture? It will take time and it will happen with the help of many others. This isn’t just one of those enablement efforts or a directive wherein, if the higher ups in the organization start talking about Data Culture and mandating us to attend courses on Data Culture and sit in trainings that we will have a better “Data Culture” next year.

This is more of how your household evolves over time. You all do what you are supposed to do together. But, you find certain ways of doing something seem easier and more comforting and satisfying that other ways. For one family, it may kneading dough by hand is more satisfying even if it takes longer. Longer time in kitchen means more connection if you are in the kitchen together with your family. For other families, a Breville might come to the rescue and that’s completely fine.

Over time, though, your family will have certain beliefs and values that you will establish that make sense for you. The important part about that establishing of beliefs is the debate that must occur.

Debate is vital and serves as the lifeblood for Data Culture to grow and evolve.

The debate / discussions and arguments about what we should and shouldn’t do is what provides our culture stronger roots. That’s sort of what we need to aspire to do at our organizations.

I hope this inspires you as a organization leader to be a cultural leader. You want to make better decisions using better Insights from your data? Then, let’s remember some of the basic rules to evolve our understanding of Data and thus, our Data Culture

A. We have to be able to all “Speak Data” and that starts with establishing the language of Data. This depth of your “Data Language” maybe different than other organizations’ language. And that’s, okay. Over time, each one of our languages will evolve

B. The second concept of this evolution will be tied directly to our ablity to debate about data. Just looking at data and dashboards isn’t enough, we need to question what we see and its interpretation. We need to be able challenge ourselves and other about what we see coming in our Data

C. Prepared to be challenged by not just what we see in your data but also the different interpretation of it. The cognitive diversity that your team provides to the interpretation is a boon and let’s learn to recognize that

Of course, evolutions didn’t happen over months or over years. So, if you are worried about the timespan it might take for your organizations to evolve. Our “Homo Sapiens” brains are unbelievable at understanding new concepts. Given our own rapid transformation in understanding the Data that we have (given the explosion of data storage) over last 2 decades, I am not too worried about our abilities to make sense of it from hereon. I am only worried about us not putting in the effort.

I will follow up with some posts about how specifically we can start implementing some of our ideas to evolve our “Data Culture” and improving our “Data Literacy”. Follow me as we go on this journey together.

For now,

Let’s start with the ABC. We will get to “Z” together one day.

Do you know what your kid is listening to?

You immediately think “Oh, I wonder what my kid is listening to?” As in, what sort of music taste do they have? Nah, not that. I am referring to the conversations you are having with other adults that your kids are listening to. Those conversations might actually be even more impactful to them than the ones that you are having with them.

The station they tune-in everyday to is “What I learnt growing up” .

And you are the main contributing artist to that station

I grew up in India to a generation of parents that basically were working hard to gain a certain standard of living. My parents didn’t have the time to have “The Talk” and neither did any of my friends’ parents. For that matter, we hardly ever had any serious talks about anything. Well, other than them nagging me all the time that if I didn’t study well, I would end up on the streets selling beans. Life is ironic in the sense that I love cooking and one of my pipe dreams is to be a chef 😉

Anyhow, they were working hard to provide a better life for us. So, why do I bring that up? It’s because I learnt a lot from them without them teaching me. I learnt a lot from seeing what conversations they were having with other adults. How they were interacting, the sort of topics they would talk about.

Now, here in America, we are raising kids of mixed heritage and ethnicities. Most of my friends aren’t working to gain “a certain standard of living”; they are working to gain “a certain fulfillment in their work”. We all have luxury of time to have “The Talk” and for that matter, any talk we want. And often, I think, many of us are spending too much time thinking about what we should teach our kids and what we should tell them to do or not to do. I am not sure if that matters as much.

So, think less about what you want to teach them. Think more about how you present yourself when you interact with others. I think it’s even more relevant today than it was a few years ago. The virus has not only had an impact on what we do, how we do it and where we do it from. It has also had an impact on what others are doing and how they are doing it. In other words, we are now in this politicized world where some people feel that their civil liberties are being infringed upon because of certain mandates. I am not here to judge anyone. All I say is this, when you have a conversation with your kid, with other adults in front of your kids, think about your stand. Think about the reasons why think a certain way and make sure to have meaningful debates with others.

All the different tracks in your music station will impact how they will lead their life. You better make sure you are not just playing random songs with no meaning behind them just because the beat is good. Instead play tracks with meaning, a symphony and something with a purpose.

How does that machine make an intelligent decision?

Reading to your kids at night is a pleasure. I didn’t realize how much my kids loved it and how much I loved it as well. For some reason, I haven’t been doing as much reading as I would like, both to the kids at night and in general. So, it was time for a change and I took on a challenge.

So, I brushed up this book and mentioned that I would be reading this to them every night.

Both kids got excited and huddled straight into bed. And, of we started on this journey. The plan is to read a few pages every day so by the end of the year, we have finished this book. Yes, that’s slow but that’s intentional. There is so much to pack in the history of various civilizations. I will report on what we learned towards the end of the school year.

Back to the main story, “How does that machine make an intelligent decision?”. So, as I started reading the book, I realized that I needed more light and called out to the Google device, “Hey Google, change the brightness to 30-40%”. You see what’s interesting here? For me, its perfectly reasonable to ask for brightness that is 30-40% and all humans will deal with impreciseness without any issues. How about a machine, though? How does a machine deal with 30-40%? Should it ask a clarifying question? If it did, would it bother me and frustrate me? Should it just take an average and turn it up to 35%? Should it go to 30% given its night time and then prompt me if I needed to turn it up even more?

See, these decisions that come to us so naturally are not so natural for machines. Instructions that might sound simple may have many downstream decisions. That is not easy to preconceive.

We keep talking about how machines make human life better with better decision making. But, in every bit of information that we receive back from the machine(s) to help us with decision making, there are a lot of decisions that go into creating those branches. Not an easy job, for a product manager.

So, it got me thinking and got me googling for various articles. One of them happened to be this one (it is mostly an informational piece about expectations in a temporal expressions):

Managing Uncertainty in Time Expressions for Virtual Assistants

At the end of the articles, it lists what humans would want from a virtual assistance (in context of managing uncertainty in time expressions), but I think those expectations might go even beyond the scope of the paper. Here are some of the expectations:

  • Implied flexibility
  • Implied constraints
  • Complex expressions
  • Respect uncertainty
  • Recognize uncertainty
  • Embrace flexibility
  • Notify intelligently
  • Leverage implicit knowledge

You can read more about it in the paper, but its great thought process to keep in mind when designing for such systems. I have been researching and haven’t come across many articles (yet) that describe how that that uncertainty is coded into the system? Does it have to be rule-based? Does it have to be derived from the order of the words? What additional context can be used?

  • Time of Day? – If nighttime, choose lower end of the range and reverse for daytime?
  • Previous brightness level? – If the lights are already at 30% and there is a request to change something, don’t keep the brightness at 30% unless mentioned specifically.

You can see the types of information humans can use in context comes to naturally and it is very hard to programmatic embed those contextual systems into a machine. But, I wouldn’t be surprised when it is done.

Reading the book “Super Intelligence” as we seek to find some answers.

Please comment and let me know if you got some interesting papers for me to read.

Papa, but I don’t want the computers to be smarter than us

So, I have been reading a bit about 4IR, artificial intelligence and a few related topics and obviously some of that conversation seeps in when I am having some chats with my kids.

The other day, we were chatting about how advancements in technology can make the life of humans easier and I believe it was a interesting paragraph from the book “AI Superpowers” by Kai-Fu Lee that I might have been reading to them (I thought they would find that bit amusing) when my 10 yr old goes

“but Papa, I don’t want the computers to be smarter than us”

I had to pause, take a moment and break away from the book for a bit and then have a chat with them and we talked about how computers are already better than humans at many things. We talked about being smart or intelligent is very subjective. How we tell a computer to do something for us will decide what it will end up doing.

The conversation got a bit awkward and it sort of escaped the initial intent of her question.

It’s been on mind since

We sometimes talk about a few other elements of artificial intelligence and computer algorithms
but I have been thinking of making those concepts more accessible to my kids so they can grasp the concepts in a way that when they grow up, they are a bit better equipped to understand the positive and adverse impacts of technology. Ultimately, (I hope) affect the world in more positive ways by taking some time to think about application of technology to better the human experience.

Unlike, what many social networks have done...

Please feel free to connect with me to share how your conversations with your kids are shaping up as it relates to technology