Simple, Amazing, and Happy: A Story About Data

May 29, 2014

Last week’s two-part series on The Three Big Lies and The World Doesn’t Know Its Own Numbers got me thinking about how all of this is connected.  It’s all one big story, and I need to stitch it together.

I actually told a big part of that story in one of my sessions at the PASS BA CON earlier this month, and people seemed to genuinely both enjoy and benefit from it.  Because of that (and because I spent over 100 hours prepping that talk!), I’ve been meaning to re-record that talk for YouTube.

So I thought, hey, let’s cross the streams.  I’ll make a series of short videos that tell the entire story – including, but not limited to, what I shared at PASS.

Today I present the Introduction to the story.  Anyone who’s used Power Pivot for awhile will “recognize” the transformation I’m hinting at in this Intro, but if you’re just starting down the road, I hope you find it exciting.  Because you have some amazing discoveries just around the corner.

Please tell me what you think of this video – either here or on YouTube – because I’ll factor that into the series.  The more I know, the better I can tell the story.

(Note that we will be switching over to a new server this weekend, so comments might be disabled here starting Friday night).

Compulsive Data Crunching Disease Pt1 (Relevant Even if You Don’t Like Football, I Promise!)

September 5, 2013


This spreadsheet-wielding Scrooge was the logo of my fantasy football team (“Mighty Ebenezer”) circa 2001.  Yes, I had this art custom commissioned for that purpose.
Yes, that is really, REALLY sick.  And simultaneously PURE FREAKING AWESOME.

Let’s start here:  Football Season is Spreadsheet Season.  Yes, even more spreadsheets than usual, even for me.   And football season starts tonight here in the US.  So it’s high time I tell you this story.

Even if you don’t care about American Football, or sports in general, I suspect you may still find the story itself to be interesting.

Deep down, this story is actually about a trait shared by probably everyone reading this.  And there is a TWIST in this story, a BIG one.  So go get another cup of coffee.  I will wait.

Scene:  Rob Collie, 1996-1997.  And Lots of Losing.

My Microsoft Badge Photo – Taken at New Employee Orientation, July 22, 1996My Microsoft Badge Photo – Taken at New Employee Orientation, July 22, 1996

I started at Microsoft in July 1996, fresh out of college.  I was raw, lazy, and unskilled.  I had never really applied myself to anything.  I had a computer science degree but had scrupulously avoided learning how to program.  I got the job largely because I was decent at logic puzzles, which were the MS interview du jour.

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Open Letter to My Friends at Microsoft: The Power of Excel’s Internal Network Effect

May 21, 2013

image  image

Excel on the Left.  Other Data Tools on the Right.

Today I’m going to “get my nerd on” in a big way.  Buckle up.

The genesis of this post is an email I’ve been meaning to send to my contacts at Microsoft – one I’ve been thinking about writing for at least a year.  But I also figure it’s the sort of thing you folks might find interesting, and I really don’t have time these days to write the same “opus” twice, so here goes – two birds with one stone.  And it’s a friendly stone.

Has there ever been a tool as flexible as Excel?

Let’s take a moment and just marvel at Excel’s “range.”  (VBA macro programmers – yes the joke is intentional).

You can do damn near anything in Excel.  Calendar chart visualizations.  Music videosBeautiful artMore music videosRespiration wavelengthsChess gamesWord clouds.

But those are just the outliers really – the novelties.  The truly valuable examples are much less dramatic and happen hundreds of thousands of times every day.  I’ll give some examples in the next section.

Feature A Was NEVER “Intended” to Be Used With Feature B!


“Hey You Got Your Slicer in My Conditional Formatting!”
(And then the whole jar fell into a bucket of DAX)

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Rob Collie’s Real Microsoft Stories: Paper or Plastic?

February 5, 2013

A “Chuckler” of an Interview Story

My use of “paper or plastic” in today’s post reminded me of a funny story from Microsoft.  There was a manager in Office who used to sit across the hall from me in the late 90’s – let’s call him DH.  He was famous for being a tough interviewer.  And I don’t just mean tough in the “only good candidates got by him” sort of way.  He was tough in ways that went above and beyond the call of duty.  In fact, on at least one occasion he made a candidate cry.  (Not a good thing).

But this isn’t about one of those times.  This particular story is about what happened when a particularly eccentric candidate crossed paths with that draconian interviewer.

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