I was able to attend my first Alteryx Inspire conference last week in Las Vegas. The conference was held at the Aria Resort and Casino. This has been on my to-do list since I got Alteryx a little over a year ago. Excited doesn’t even begin to cover my feeling.
I’ve built some pretty impressive workflows to automate manual processes formerly handled by Excel. I look at some of my completed workflows and am slightly amazed at what I was able to do in Excel over the years with VB, macros, and some creativity. However, all things must come to end. It just so happens that ETL in Excel is at the top of my list!
I signed up to take the classroom training hoping to learn some new tricks to take it to the next level. I know that after using Alteryx for a year, I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible. I’m happy to report the training didn’t disappoint.
Day 1 Sessions
I was in an all-day training on building analytic apps and macros. This was awesome! The class offered instruction, exercises, and review. The beginning was a little slow paced for my taste, but I was able to sneak in a #MakeoverMonday Tableau dashboard during the slower parts. I learned quite a bit in this training. I am happy I signed up for this one early as the attendee crash line was down the hall. I walked away from this knowing how to build apps and macros and not just using ones someone else created.
Day 2 Sessions
My training classes for this day included the Art of Fuzzy Matching and Parsing Fundamentals. Both were excellent courses. I am still trying to find a use case where I would use fuzzy matching in my day job, but the mystery has been lifted. I also was able to get into some other sessions like web-scraping by Alteryx Ace Mike Treadwell. The scraping session was really interesting to me more so for my public work. I really wish this session was longer than 30 minutes, but I did learn some new tricks. I must say I think some of the intermediate web scraping is easier in other tools like Parsehub and even Google Sheets. The process shown involved pulling the entire html code into alteryx and then parsing it with several regex/text to column tools just to import the html table. That can be accomplished in one formula with Google Sheets. Some more advanced things can be done in Parsehub/Import.io to easily export csv/json data. However, the part that intrigued me was using it to connect to APIs in conjunction with a throttle tool to slow down Alteryx avoiding getting kicked out of the API. I need to look into this more to see how to use the batch/iterative macros to work around any record/call limits for an API. Good thing I know how to build those macros now!
Day 3 Sessions
My training for this day included something I have been dying to learn. RegEx expressions. My best friend (Pooja) has promised to teach me this for over a year. She even lost a crowd vote taken at our DCTUG talk last month in Washington, D.C. (Yes, Pooja you did lose), but she still hasn’t taught me. I digress. This session was awesome. I think I finally understand the Greek that is RegEx syntax. I will need to put this into use so I don’t lose it, but I now have a much better understanding of how to write this code. The best part is I can take this from tool to tool.
I also was able to take in the Women in Analytics Panel featuring fellow Tableau Social Ambassador Fi Gordon. This was a great discussion and Fi killed it as usual.
The keynote sessions were pretty good. We got to see some insight into where Alteryx is headed (incorporating more report formatting, instant visual analytics while prepping data, etc.) and industry analytics usage as a whole. I did attend the Grand Prix contest, but I wasn’t too impressed. The folks participating clearly knew their stuff and did an amazing job with their workflows, but it lacked what I love about Tableau’s IronViz: watching the tool in action. The Grand Prix contestants do everything ahead of time and then just present the workflow. You learn very little about how to do any of the advanced techniques used and some of the presentations needed work as well. I don’t know if it was the new contest format this year, but I would have rather been in another session. Also, the first group was the clear winner so watching the other groups was a little painful.
You might be wondering about the rest of the conference so here are some of my likes and dislikes.
- The conference is much smaller than Tableau so you get to spend more time with people instead of just running by everyone, but it does lack some of that energy.
- The food was great and easy to find throughout the conference.
- The evening events were really good. The bowling party hosted by Teknion was a lot of fun.
- The Expo hall was a little small in terms of the number of vendor booths, but the community hall and solution center were pretty large and always seemed available.
- I wish the training rooms were setup with laptops. You had to bring your own laptop with Alteryx (or a trial) installed. You had to download the data ahead of time of get it from a thumb drive. It was cumbersome to drag my computer around with me all day. I also was not able to stay at Aria, so I had to run my laptop back to another hotel and then come back for the evening events.
A very important part of conferences is meeting people and networking. I got to hang out with many friends I’ve met before including FI Gordon, Alex Duke, John Miller, the Information Lab crew, and Ann Jackson. I got to catch up with Jonathan Drummey, Cathy Bridges, Phillip Riggs, Keith Helfrich at some of the evening events. I got to meet new friends Michael Mixon (finally), Suraj Shah, and some new Information Lab folks (there’s a lot of them). Needless to say, all this catching up left me with a few morning Las Vegas headaches to contend with, but in spite of it all, it was a very successful conference. I am looking forward to going back next year in Anaheim.
Here are a few photos!