Battle of the Tipsters: Post-match analysis

I recently filled out a form putting myself forward to participate in the Battle of the Tipsters at April’s #LondonTUG. I wasn’t too worried. After all, I didn’t expect to be selected.

Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks later when David Pires asked me whether I’d like to take up the challenge. I’d filled out a form. How could I now say no?

That’s when the fear kicked in. I’d be up against Lorna Eden. She of Data School fame, herself a champion, not once but twice!

Now I love faffing around in Tableau as much as the next person, assuming I’m sat next to someone who loves faffing around in Tableau. But now I had to come up with five tips. Five tips that stood a chance of beating Lorna’s. But also five tips that would pass muster when presented to a friendly crowd of Tableau Rockstars, future and present.

Were I to lose, I couldn’t go out with a whimper.

So I got my thinking cap on. And I came up with a list. It wasn’t a shortlist, as that would suggest I had drawers full of tips ready to bring out at the drop of a hat. No, it was simply a list. A list of things that most people would know how to do, but that hopefully few people would have thought of doing.

I put some life to my tips by giving them musical names:

  • S’Express: Making your tooltips grammatically correct with a “pluraliser” field
  • Goodie Two Choose: Limiting the selections available within a field
  • Let’s Do The Time Warp Again: Letting the user select the time unit used for reporting
  • Break On Through (To The Other Side): Sorting a field but forcing the “Other” category to the end
  • Total Eclipse of the Chart: Putting summary totals onto a stacked bar chart.

(Videos of each tip can be accessed at the bottom of this post.)

I even created my own UK version of the Superstore data, featuring Asda, Lidl and Waitrose, to make the tips a little more accessible to my local audience.

Then the day itself came. And I was a little nervous, but I quelled the nerves with a beer downstairs beforehand with Ravi Mistry and Mark Edwards.

And then the fun began. And I have to say, the experience was somewhat of a blur. And not because of the beer. For me, presenting the tips required quite deep levels of concentration. At home you can do them in your sleep, and a slip-up is unimportant. Presenting to the London TUG, my main worry was that a slip-up would unravel the tip, making me hit the 1m30s time limit with nothing to show but groans and regrets. My step-by-step instructions sheet was my lifeline.

Lorna’s tips were impressive, but were similarly blurry, as I composed myself for the next round. After each pair of tips, there was audience participation: a cheer and a whoop for each of us to determine that round’s victor. As I was positioned off to one side of the room, it was difficult to tell who won each round, so I had no idea how we stood come the end. As I understand it after the event, it was pretty much a draw and it came down to a tweet-off, which Lorna narrowly won. That said, I think I remember speaking to Liam Butcher from Bose over a drink after the event. Perhaps he could commission some more calibrated and accurate whoop-analysis?

All in all, it was great fun and I pushed my comfort zone. There’s even talk of me figuratively wearing Lorna’s crown to the next London TUG as she may be retiring undefeated. To do that, I’d need five more tips. Yikes!