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Excel as a Database

TDWI (particularly Wayne Eckerson) has always had a hangup about using Excel for BI, typically calling BI done in Excel "spreadmarts". While I don't fully agree that using Excel is as bad as people say it is, there are definitely some problems if it's not used in the proper context. So this link is for Wayne: how Excel becomes a database.

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My 2008 Coolhunting Prediction: Goatees Are Out

I'm an uncool person. I'm used to that fact. However, I have an affinity for cool people and cool things. That means that I'm often a leading indicator. The hard part is knowing what for, since I'm uncool. I once thought about doing work as a coolhunter but I don't have an affinity for the work, other than self-absorption. However, I've turned this to better use in the tech industry where I've been right the past few years much more often than I've been wrong (for a funny take on wrong, check IDC and the Itanic or Gartner and Qwest).

So on to my 2008 prediction: Goatees are Gone. I sported a goatee starting in the early 90's, where I was often frowned at by IT and consultants as some sort of freakish hippy. But around the mid-90's suddenly everyone had them. About two years ago I decided that it needed to go, and finally started shaving earlier this year, blending in again with the trendy web developer crowd. And now it's official: goatees are out (if it's made fun of in Dilbert then it's definitely uncool).

If you doubt my powers of prognostication, consider that I was right (2-3 years ahead) about the rise of coffeehouses, southwest cuisine, US wine consumption, sushi, ecotourism, commercial blogging, bold home and restaurant color schemes, the non-starting of natural language search, online video sharing and square dinner plates (which you can now get anywhere but which I had to search for weeks).

I was also way off on real estate investment in the bay area in the late 90s, Microstrategy dying after suing one too many customers, and MDM products, conflating them with Modern Drunkard Magazine and giving them (not the practice but the products) a pass. Never claimed to be perfect.

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TripAdvisor Travel Site Updated

Out of all the hotel sites, I've found TripAdvisor to be the most helpful when looking for hotels in places I haven't been. They seem to have more hotel reviews than other travel sites. I often use review sites when I'm unsure of the neighborhood, general location, etc. Reviews here have saved me from staying at some dirty, nasty places (I looked in on a few that I passed on recently).

They've been adding features over time and done some site updating. One feature I played with was the "where have you been" map, which I'm sure is all over the web. It was a little slow on adding pins, but I had fun thinking of all the places I've been and have yet to go. It seem like a lot until I looked at all the blank places on the globe:

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How Do Get Better Speaker Ratings

I'm at conferences a lot, and I listen to a fair number of webcasts and podcasts. My one piece of advice to presenters is get to the point. Today I listened to 25 minutes of a 1 hour talk on what should be an interesting topic. The first 9 minutes got me through the introduction and landed me at the "agenda" slide. Several minutes on agenda got to the actual topic intro, and a few minutes of this finally got to the presentation material I wanted to hear. 25 minutes of that and it was Q&A time. 14 minutes of wastage to 25 minutes of content is a very poor ratio.

This is why I never listen to webcasts live. I can skip all this crap in recorded webcasts and podcasts.

To speakers: I listen so I can learn. I do not listen so I can hear about your career history or how wonderful and super-special your company is. I don't listen to learn about travel, hotels, your mother's bursitis and particularly your pets and children.

I rate people very low when they waste my time (and I know others do the same to me). Here are some things to avoid that will help you to get better ratings:
  • Minimize personal introduction - Who you are, where you're from, and a small amount of credentials for background is all anyone needs. If we want more we'll Google you, ok?
  • Minimize agenda - We don't need a detailed breakdown of what will be on every slide in the talk. Show the agenda, hit a couple highlights, and get to the talk. Total time for these two things should be no more than 2-3 minutes, tops.
  • Ignore the "tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them" advice - It's bullshit. Agenda and a summary are fine for this. Don't tell me the same crap three times or we'll think you're suffering from a head injury.
Really, just getting to the point will put you well ahead of the other guys. You know who the worst offenders often are? The people who should know better: industry analysts like me. It's just that most of us are prima donnas who can't be bothered to read our speaker ratings.


Must Be Something in the Water: "open season" on Industry Analysts

I've noticed a significant uptick in Gartner criticism over the past 6 months. From little offhanded remarks at conferences (like mine when looking at a couple of their quadrants related to integration), to Colin's statements about their relevance, to this, the strongest reference I've seen in print:
"No show ripping on Novell and Red Hat would be complete without a helping of cynicism directed at Sun Microsystems, Facebook and the masters of the felch spoon over at Gartner."
...which is part of the description of the Open Season podcast this week. Trash-talking is always entertaining.
Now, I happen to know some of the Gartner analysts and like them. I also know some that I'd like to bang repeatedly with a shovel. But as an organization, I don't think it offers much of a service to the industry given how products and technologies are evaluated and how those evaluations are paid for. The problem is that if Gartner went away today, some other company would soon become exactly like they are.
Reality in the analyst world is that there is a love-hate relationship between vendors and analysts, and there are constant ethical challenges and real or perceived conflicts of interest that you have to watch out for. The slow erosion of the profit motive over telling the truth leads to the current trust situation, in the same way it has worked to destroy the journalistic tradition in so many countries, particularly the US. If anything, I look at some of the analyst firms the same way I look at Fox "news".
Analysts should be like investigative journalists. Often they are forced to soft-pedal negatives by their managers to avoid jeopardizing revenue. More insidious is self-censoring (like the white house press corps or the celebrity TV interviewers) where negatives or embarrassments are avoided for fear of losing access. OMG! Tom Cruise isn't talking to Gartner and went to Forrester instead! Except in this case Gartner is like an important tabloid you don't want to anger.
What the market really needs today is an analyst firm that tracks analyst firms, rates their predictions, examines their conflicts and assesses the quality of their work. Maybe the Open Season can create an annual "felch spoon" award too.

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Open Source Channel at B-Eye, Funny Kindle Review

The open source BI channel is up and running at the B-Eye Network. I'll be collecting resources, papers, sites as well as blogging about open source over there, so there won't be many OSS posts in these parts any more. Other BI-related or emerging tech content is landing over at Intelligent Enterprise now. Plus there's this whole new emerging tech site I've been working on that hasn't launched yet. I've been slowly distributing myself across the Interweb. I hope one day to dissolve into the network like that dude in TRON.

That mainly leaves items of interest like this great review of Amazon's Kindle ebook reader , killing all the annoying hype about the latest device that won't take the market by storm because of brain-dead EULAs and DRM. It also leaves this as the place for snarky comments and things that aren't safe for work so would get pulled from the other sites.

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Considering a Mac

I need to get a new laptop. The horrors of Vista are scaring me into considering a Mac. I don't use one now even though I spent several years as a Mac developer because all the enterprise software I look at runs under Windows. Turns out I don't need to travel with most of that, so I can be unchained. This video turned up as I was poking around looking for a devil's advocate.



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