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May 25, 2015

My First Alteryx Inspire Conference

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Do you remember that feeling you had when you first started using Tableau? It’s the eureka moment that gets you. I’m going through this exact same set of emotions right now…with Alteryx. And it started at Inspire15 in Boston. A conference that felt very, very similar to a Tableau conference, in terms of its content, energy and audience.

I first got a demo of Alteryx from George Mathew back in San Diego at TCC12. I was working for Facebook at the time, Mike Roberts from InterWorks set up the meeting, but I didn’t see a particularly good use case immediately for Facebook. Why? Facebook Data Engineers have always (and probably always will) code their own pipelines.

Fast forward to Boston. Inspire15. I’m now working at The Information Lab and Alteryx is key to our business. I knew I needed to learn what all the fuss was about. Chris Love, retired Grand Prix Champ, helped me sort out which classes to take.

The day before heading to Inspire, I was sitting with Robin Kennedy and told him that I wanted to get a headstart on my training. Low and behold, he showed me all of the fabulous training modules that are built right into Alteryx. I had no idea! I completed about 15 of these on the flight to Boston.

After watching Arsenal draw 1-1 in a drab affair Sunday morning, I headed to the first of three training sessions: Predictive Analytics for Beginners. In this class I learned how to apply different data investigation techniques to help me understand how predictive a data source may be. The instructor showed us how to use the Association Analysis, Violin Plot, and Field Summary tools.

The workflow that we created...

…resulted in this series of violin plots (apologies for the blurry image).

From here, I attended Predictive Analytics for Intermediate Users, which was basically a continuation of the first class. In this session, I learned how to use regression analysis to help predict potential response rates to targeted marketing campaigns. Tools used in the session included: Logistic Regression, Decision Tree, and Forrest Model.

The regression analysis workflow we created...

…resulted in a series of tables and this chart (which shows that charting is not in the Alteryx sweet spot).

The third and final class I attended on Sunday was Intermediate Macro Development. This was a pretty simple class in which we built a workflow + macro to strip heading from a messy Excel spreadsheet.

Monday afternoon our team went on an amazing Segway tour of Boston.

Monday evening, Alteryx hosted a really nice welcome reception, including the Grand Prix, which our very own Craig Bloodworth qualified for. 

Dean Stoecker kicked off Tuesday with a great keynote about Analytics Independence. Alteryx does this kind of strange thing during their keynotes where they bring up customers for on stage interviews. I’m not sure why they do it. Personally, I found that they disrupted the flow of the keynotes and didn’t really add any value, but that’s my opinion.

I wanted to be sure to attend a few customer stories to get a better feel for how people are using Alteryx with the hope that it would give me some ideas on how I can use it. The first customer session I went to was by Sprint, and it was a stinker! The content was mediocre at best and the speakers were not very good. The second speaker stood at the front, faced his presentation with his back to the audience, and simply read the slides. It was THAT bad. Here are a couple of screenshots of their slides if you don’t believe me.

In the afternoon, I attended a great session by Ramnath Vaidyanathan, a Data Scientist at Alteryx, on the interactive visualizations for predictive analytics that were introduced in Alteryx 9.5.

Tuesday night was capped by an incredible party at The House of Blues with a Aerosmith tribute band “Draw the Line”. The band was incredible. It was clear the lead singer really wanted to be Steven Tyler, all the way down to the cosmetic surgery.

The Information Lab team ALWAYS has fun!

The final day of Inspire15 was kicked off with sensational keynote by George Mathew, in which he talked about the future of Alteryx and brought a developer on stage to demo the features coming in Alteryx 10.

Nice photobomb by the TIL team!

The quantified self work of Tim Ngwena of TIL was a keynote highlight!
I took one more training class in the late morning, Predictive Analytics for Advanced Users. My Inspire15 concluded with one of the best talks I’ve ever seen at any conference. The Information Lab’s Chris Love, Tim Ngwena and Craig Bloodworth gave an amazing talk they titled “From Data Hobbyist to the Boardroom”. It was chock full of great work that is reusable and applicable to everyone. Well done lads! You can watch the video of their talk below.

In the end, Inspire15 was a fantastic experience for me, a new Alteryx user. I’ve already started applying what I’ve learned and am working on two blog posts. My only regret is that I didn’t start using Alteryx sooner.

Stay tuned!

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