Author Archive: Michael

Stephen Few: Now You See It

Portland

Readers:

Stephen_Few2I was in Portland, Oregon last week attending three data visualization workshops by industry expert, Stephen Few. I was very excited to be sitting at the foot of the master for three days and soak in all of this great dataviz information.

Last Thursday, was the third workshop, Now You See It which is based on Steve’s best-selling book (see photo below).

To not give away too much of what Steve is teaching in the workshops, I have decided to discuss one of our workshop topics, human perceptual and cognitive strengths.

You can find future workshops by Steve on his website, Perceptual Edge.

Best Regards,

Michael

Now You See It

 

Designed for Humans

Good visualizations and good visualization tools are carefully designed to take advantage of human perceptual and cognitive strengths and to augment human abilities that are weak. If the goal is to count the number of circles, this visualization isn’t well designed. It is difficult to remember what you have and have not counted.

Quickly, tell me how many blue circles you see below.

Design for Humans 1

The visualization below, shows the same number of circles, however, is well designed for the counting task. Because the circles are grouped into small sets of five each, it is easy to remember which groups have and have not been counted, easy to quickly count the number of circles in each group, and easy to discover with little effort that each of the five groups contains the same number of circles (i.e., five), resulting in a total count of 25 circles.

Design for Humans 2

The arrangement below is even better yet.

Design for Humans 3

Information visualization makes possible an ideal balance between unconscious perceptual and conscious cognitive processes. With the proper tools, we can shift much of the analytical process from conscious processes in the brain to pre-attentive processes of visual perception, letting our eyes do what they do extremely well.

Stephen Few: Information Dashboard Design

Readers:

Stephen_Few2I am in Portland, Oregon this week attending three data visualization workshops by industry expert, Stephen Few. I am very excited to be sitting at the foot of the master for three days and soak in all of this great dataviz information.

Today, was the second workshop, Information Dashboard Design which is based on Steve’s best-selling book (see photo below).

To not give away too much of what Steve is teaching in the workshops, I have decided to discuss one of the dashboard exercises we did in class. The goal here was to find what we feel is wrong with the dashboard.

I will show you the dashboard first. Then, you can see our critique below.

You can find future workshops by Steve on his website, Perceptual Edge.

Best Regards,

Michael

Information Dashboard Design

 

Dashboard To Critique

CORDA Airlines Dashboard

Critique Key Points

  • Top left chart – Only left hand corner chart has anything to do with flight loading
  • Top left chart – are flight numbers useful?
  • Two Expand/Print buttons – Need more clarity (right-click on chart would be a better choice)
  • Top right chart – Poor use of pie charts – size of pies are telling largest sales channel – use small multiple bar charts, total sales as a fourth bar chart
  • Redundant use of “February” – In the title and in charts
  • Bottom left chart – why does it have a pie chart in it?
  • Bottom right chart – map may be better as a bar chart (geographical display could be useful if we had more information). Current way bubbles are being expressed is not useful (use % cancellations instead). Symbols may have a different meaning every day
  • Bottom right chart – CORDAir Logo – is this necessary?
  • Location of drop-down. Not clear if it applies to top left chart or all charts
  • Backgrounds – heavy colors, gradients
  • Instructions should be in a separate help document. Only need to learn this once.
  • Top left chart: Faint Image in background. Suppose to look like a flight seating map. Do you really want to see this every day? It is a visual distraction.
  • IMPORTANT: Is there visual context offered with any of the graphs? No. This is critical.

————————————————————————————————-

Dashboard Example Source: Website of Corda Technologies Incorporated, which has since been acquired by Domo.

Stephen Few: Show Me The Numbers

Readers:

Stephen_Few2I am in Portland, Oregon this week attending three data visualization workshops by industry expert, Stephen Few. I am very excited to be sitting at the foot of the master for three days and soak in all of this great dataviz information.

Yesterday, was the first workshop, Show Me the Numbers which is based on Steve’s best-selling book (see photo below).

To not give away too much of what Steve is teaching in the workshops, I have decided to give one “before and after” example each day with Steve’s explanation of why he made the changes he did.

You can find future workshops by Steve on his website, Perceptual Edge.

Best Regards,

Michael

Show Me the Numbers

 

“Before” Example

In the example below, the message contained in the titles is not clearly displayed in the graphs. The message deals with the ratio of indirect to total sales – how it is declining domestically, while holding steady internationally. You’d have to work hard to get this message the display as it is currently designed.

Before - Show Me the Numbers

 

“After” Example

The revised example below, however, is designed very specifically to display the intended message. Because this graph, is skillfully designed to communicate, its message is crystal clear. A key feature that makes this so is the choice of percentage for the quantitative scale, rather than dollars.

After - Show Me the Numbers

Additional Thoughts From Steve

The type of graph that is selected and the way it’s designed also have great impact on the message that is communicated. By simply switching from a line graph to a bar graph, the decrease in job satisfaction among those without college degrees in their later years is no longer as obvious.

More Thoughts - Show Me the Numbers

Tips & Tricks #12: How to Troubleshoot Cross Joins in SQL Reports for the SQL Generation Engine 9.x

MicroStrategy Community Banner

Readers:

In my last blog post, I blogged about the new MicroStrategy Community. Jaime Perez, VP of Worldwide Customer Services, and his crew have come up with a better way for us to engage with MicroStrategy as well as his team.

Speaking of Jaime, last June, he posted this great tip on the MicroStrategy Knowledgebase site as a TechNote. I am reblogging it since it is one of the most frequent questions I get asked and I find it an extremely useful Tip & Trick. Also, this will give you an idea of the great stuff being posted in the MicroStrategy Community.

Best Regards,

Michael

MicroStrategy and Cross Joins

In some scenarios, one may encounter cross joins in the SQL View of a standard, SQL Report in MicroStrategy.  Cross joins appear when two tables do not have any common key attributes between them in which they can inner join.  As a result, the two tables essentially combine together to create one table that has all the data from both tables, but this results in poorer performance with a common effect of increased execution times.  Sometimes these execution times, and performance hits, can be very severe.  Therefore, it is important to understand some simple steps that can be performed to resolve a cross join, as well as some steps to understand why it may be appearing in the SQL View of the report.

One common occurrence of a cross join is when a report contains at least two unrelated attributes in the grid, and no metrics are present in order to relate the unrelated attributes via a fact table.  Such a occurrence can be resolved in a few ways:

  1. Create a relationship filter, set the output level as the unrelated attributes (or the entire report level), and then relate these by a Logical Table object
  2. Create a relationship filter, set the output level as the unrelated attributes (or the entire report level), and then relate these by a Fact object
  3. Add a metric to the report that uses a fact from a table in which both attributes can inner join to

This provides a pathway from the fact table to the lookup tables in which the unrelated attributes are sourced from.  The result is an inner join between the fact table and the lookup tables, which resolves the cross join between the two unrelated lookup tables.

Options 1 and 2 provide a means in which the report template can remain as only attributes, whereas Option 3 would have a metric on the report.  Option 3 may not be desired if a metric does not want to be placed on the report.  Keep in mind that other techniques can also be employed to have the metric on the report, but formatted to be hidden from display.

More common scenarios include cross joins between a fact table and a lookup table, and are typically surprising to a developer.  These situations can be a bit more tricky to troubleshoot and resolve, but here are a few techniques that can be employed to try to resolve the issue:

  1. In SQL View look at where the cross join appears, and between which tables the cross join appears
  2. Open up those tables in the Table Editor by navigating to the Schema Objects\Tables folder, and double-clicking the tables
  3. Select the Logical View Tab of both tables to see all the logical objects mapped to the table
  4. Take note of which attributes have a key icon beside them
  5. These key attributes denote attributes at the lowest level of their hierarchy presently mapped to the table and/or attributes that are in their own hierarchy (meaning they have no parents or children)
  6. The SQL Engine will join 2 tables on common key attributes only, so if none of the key attributes on either table exist on both tables, then a cross join should appear

This means that just because a Region attribute exists on Table_A and a Region attribute exists on Table_B does not necessarily mean that the SQL Engine will join on Region.  If Region has its child attribute on the table, then that attribute should be the key as it is the lowest level attribute of its particular hierarchy mapped to the table.  If Region exists on both tables, and is also a key attribute on both tables, then an inner join should take place on Region.

This essentially means that one can find a cross join, investigate the tables in which it appears, and verify if at least 1 common key attribute exists between the tables.  If not, then that should be the first path to investigate because a cross join is correct in that scenario.

Video

You can find a detailed video on how this issue is reproduced and resolved here: Tech Note 71019 . Steps to reproduce and resolve

Note

MicroStrategy Technical Support can assist with resolving cross joins in a specific report, however caution should be taken when resolving such issues.  In some scenarios, the cross join is resolved through modifications to the schema objects, which can have a ripple effect to all other reports in an environment.  For example, if a relationship is changed in the Region attribute to resolve a cross join in one report, this change will be reflected in all other reports that use Region, and potentially the hierarchy in which Region belongs.  As a result, the SQL View of one report will have the cross join resolved, but the SQL may have changed in other reports using Region or its related attributes.  This may or may not be desired.  MicroStrategy Technical Support may not be able to fully understand the impact of such a schema change to the data model, so before a change is made to the data model the consequences of such a change should be fully understood by the developer, and any changes made to the schema should be recorded.

References

[1] Jaime Perez, TN47356: How to troubleshoot cross joins in SQL Reports for the SQL Generation Engine 9.x, MicroStrategy Community, 06/24/2014, http://community.microstrategy.com/t5/Architect/TN47356-How-to-troubleshoot-cross-joins-in-SQL-Reports-for-the/ta-p/196989.

[2] MicroStrrategy Knowledgebase, Tech Note 71019 . Steps to reproduce and resolve,

New! The MicroStrategy Community

MicroStrategy Community

Source: Welcome to the new MicroStrategy community! , MicroStrategy Community, September 8, 2014, http://community.microstrategy.com/t5/Community-News/Welcome-to-the-new-MicroStrategy-community/bc-p/198140#M84.

We’re very happy that you are here. We read and analyzed feedback from many events and surveys concerning our current Discussion Forums and Knowledge Base. Today, we are proud to present to you the new MicroStrategy community. We’re very excited to have reached this milestone after a lot of hard work over the past six months.

Our primary goal with our new community is to ensure the best possible experience for you when interacting with everything MicroStrategy. Not only have we enhanced the look and feel, but also merged the data of our Discussion Forums and our Knowledge Base into a single site. Our search capabilities have expanded to make our information easier to find and more accessible.

Note that not everything from the old discussions forums is held true here in the new community. For instance, we have a new ranking structure and other fun elements such as badges. There are also some changes in terminology. Previously, for posts marked as “helpful,” now posts are given a “kudo.” Also, instead of “right answer” we now have “accepted solutions.”

Thanks for taking part in our beta launch. We hope it offers you a fresh perspective on what MicroStrategy can be as we focus on delivering a world-class customer experience that is simple, transparent, and empowering for everyone.

MicroStrategy’s Community Team is always open to hearing from you. Post in the Community Feedback board to share your thoughts or message us to address your personal concerns. We are always looking for more ideas and suggestions because the more we share, the better we grow and design the community.

Post away!

Lili and Daphne
MicroStrategy Community Managers

DataViz: Squaring the Pie Chart (Waffle Chart)

Readers:

Robert-Kosara-Tableau-Software-200x200In the past, I would have highly condemned pie charts without giving you much explanation why. However, Dr. Robert Kosara (photo, left), posted a great thought study of pie charts on his wonderful blog, EagerEyes.org, that I want to share with you.

Dr. Kosara is a Visual Analytics Researcher at Tableau Software, with a special interest in the communication of, and storytelling with, data. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Vienna University of Technology.

Also, as part of his blog post, Robert offers an alternative way to create pie charts: using waffle charts or square pie charts.

Dr. Kosara is also one of the great minds behind Tableau’s new storytelling feature. I hope you enjoy his creative thoughts as much as I do.

Best Regards,

Michael

The Pie Chart

Dr. Kosara contends that pie charts are perhaps the most ubiquitous chart type; they can be found in newspapers, business reports, and many other places. But few people actually understand the function of the pie chart and how to use it properly. In addition to issues stemming from using too many categories, the biggest problem is getting the basic premise: that the pie slices sum up to a meaningful whole.

Touchstone Energy Corporation Pie Chart
Robert points out that the circle (the “pie”) represents some kind of whole, which is made up of the slices. What this means is that the pie chart first and foremost represents the size relationship between the parts and the entire thing. If a company has five divisions, and the pie chart shows profits per division, the sum of all the slices/divisions is the total profits of the company.

Five Slices

 

If the parts do not sum up to a meaningful whole, they cannot be represented in a pie chart, period. It makes no sense to show five different occupations in a pie chart, because there are obviously many missing. The total of such a subsample is not meaningful, and neither is the comparison of each individual value to the artificial whole.

Slices have to be mutually exclusive; by definition, they cannot overlap. The data therefore must not only sum up to a meaningful whole, but the values need to be categorized in such a way that they are not counted several times. A good indicator of something being wrong is when the percentages do not sum up to 100%, like in the infamous Fox News pie chart.

The Infamous Fox News Pie Chart

Fox News Pie Chart

In the pie chart above, people were asked which potential candidates they viewed favorably, but they could name more than one. The categories are thus not mutually exclusive, and the chart makes no sense. At the very least, they would need to show the amount of overlap between any two (and also all three) candidates. Though given the size of the numbers and the margin of error in this data, the chart is entirely meaningless.

When to Use Pie Charts

Dr. Kosara points out that there are some simple criteria that you can use to determine whether a pie chart is the right choice for your data.

  • Do the parts make up a meaningful whole? If not, use a different chart. Only use a pie chart if you can define the entire set in a way that makes sense to the viewer.
  • Are the parts mutually exclusive? If there is overlap between the parts, use a different chart.
  • Do you want to compare the parts to each other or the parts to the whole? If the main purpose is to compare between the parts, use a different chart. The main purpose of the pie chart is to show part-whole relationships.
  • How many parts do you have? If there are more than five to seven, use a different chart. Pie charts with lots of slices (or slices of very different size) are hard to read.

In all other cases, do not use a pie chart. The pie chart is the wrong chart type to use as a default; the bar chart is a much better choice for that. Using a pie chart requires a lot more thought, care, and awareness of its limitations than most other charts.

Alternative: Squaring the Pie

A little-known alternative to the round pie chart is the square pie or waffle chart. It consists of a square that is divided into 10×10 cells, making it possible to read values precisely down to a single percent. Depending on how the areas are laid out (as square as possible seems to be the best idea), it is very easy to compare parts to the whole. The example below is from a redesign Dr. Kosara did a while ago about women and girls in IT and computing-related fields.

Kosara Square Pie

Links to Examples of Waffle Charts

I did a little Googling and found a few great examples of Waffle Charts. I have provided links to examples in Tableau, jQuery, R and Excel. I hope in the new month or so to create an example for you using MicroStrategy.

Squaring The Pie

Sources:

Interview Question #9: Governing VLDB Properties

Question

Which of the following VLDB properties govern the length of a SQL string as well as the time a SQL pass takes to execute? (Select all that apply).

A.  SQL Time Out (Per Pass)

B.  Preserve All Lookup Table Elements

C.  Result Set Row Limit

D.  Maximum SQL/MDX Size

E.  Allow Index on Metric

Answer

Both

A.  SQL Time Out (Per Pass)

and

D.  Maximum SQL/MDX Size

 

Maximum SQL/MDX Size and SQL Time Out (Per Pass)

The Maximum SQL/MDX Size and SQL Time Out (Per Pass) VLDB Properties govern the length of a SQL string as well as the time a SQL pass can take to execute.

Maximum SQL/MDX Size sets the maximum size (in bytes), on a pass-by-pass basis, of the SQL that the ODBC driver sends to the warehouse. Or, in the case of MDX, it sets the maximum size of the MDX that is sent to multidimensional cube sources such as SAP BW, Hyperion Essbase, or Microsoft Analysis Services.

If a pass exceeds the limit, the report execution terminates and an error message displays:

I9-1

The possible value for this VLDB property is any valid integer. The default value is 0 (No limit).

SQL Time Out (Per Pass) sets the maximum duration allowed (in seconds) for each SQL pass (even intermediate passes). If any pass of SQL runs longer then its allocated time, the report fails and an error message displays:

I9-2

The value you enter to define this VLDB property must be an integer.

MicroStrategy Course Where You Will Learn About This Topic

MicroStrategy Engine Essentials Course

Interview Question #8 : Many-to-Many Relationships in MicroStrategy

Question

Which of the following issues can result from many-to-many relationships?

A. Exclusion of some attribute elements when drilling

B. Multiple join paths to fact tables

C. Missing values on reports including all attributes from the hierarchy

D. Multiple counting when aggregating data from base fact tables

E. Lost analytical capability

Answer

Both

D. Multiple counting when aggregating data from base fact tables

      and

E. Lost analytical capability

 

Challenges of Many-to-Many Relationships

Because many-to-many relationships require distinct relationship tables, you have to design the logical data model and data warehouse schema in such a way that you can accurately analyze the relationship in regard to any relevant fact data.

If the structure of your logical data model and data warehouse schema does not adequately address the complexities of querying attribute data that contains many-to-many relationships, you can have problems like lost analytical capability and multiple counting.

I will be exploring both of these topics more next week as Tips and Tricks.

MicroStrategy Course Where You Will Learn About This Topic

MicroStrategy Advanced Data Warehousing Course

MicroStrategy Leads in Forrester Wave Agile BI Report, Q2, 2014

Forrester Wave Agile BI Q2 2014

MicroStrategy Analytics Platform received top scores for the features technology professionals need to enable business user business intelligence (BI) self-service, as well as for the effectiveness of its advanced data visualization (ADV) functionality in the recently published Forrester Wave: Agile Business Intelligence Report for Q2, 2014.

According to the report, “Forrester also scored MicroStrategy highly for the business user capabilities to provision applications and data and perform data integration tasks within the BI tool. MicroStrategy received high client feedback scores for its agile, business user self-service and ADV functionality. Clients also gave MicroStrategy a top score for its product vision.”

The report also stated that “in addition to its Agile BI offerings, MicroStrategy’s traditional strengths are its organically grown architecture and a powerful ROLAP engine, which in the long-term can often reduce total cost of ownership by reducing the number of reports and dashboards that need to be produced. With its integrated desktop and cloud-based SaaS offerings, MicroStrategy buyers can start small and scale quickly.”

To get a free download of the complete report, visit MicroStrategy’s Web site at http://www.MicroStrategy.com.

Interview Question #7: Object Manager

Question

As a MicroStrategy developer, you are constantly using Object Manager to migrate objects that you develop inside the Subject Areas folder in your project. To save time, what object can you create to enable you to go straight to this folder when you open Object Manager?

A. Layout

B. Project Source

C. Script

D. Template

E. You cannot accomplish this in the Object Manager.

Answer

A. Layout

Opening multiple project sources at once in Object Manager

You may need to migrate objects between the same projects on multiple occasions. For example, you may need to move objects from your development environment to your test environment on a regular basis. Object Manager allows you to save the projects and project sources that you are logged in to as a layout. Later, instead of opening each project and project source individually, you can open the layout and automatically re-open those projects and project sources.

The default file extension for Object Manager Layout files is .omw.

To open an existing Object Manager layout

  1. From the File menu, select Open Layout. The Select Layout dialog box opens.

  2. Select a layout and click Open. A Login dialog box opens for each project source specified in the layout.

  3. For each Login dialog box, type a MicroStrategy login ID and password. The login must have the Use Object Manager privilege.

  4. Click OK. The project sources open. You are automatically logged in to the projects specified in the layout, as the user you logged into the project source with.

To save a workspace as an Object Manager layout

  1. Log in to any project sources and projects that you want to save in the layout.

  2. From the File menu, select Save Layout. The Save Layout dialog box opens.

  3. Specify a location and name for the layout file and click Save. The layout is saved.

MicroStrategy Course Where You Will Learn About This Topic

MicroStrategy Administration: Application Management Course

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