3danim’s Blog is About Solving Problems

Introduction

This is blog post number 101, and I now have a clarity about 3danim8’s blog that I did not have before I started writing it a year and a half ago. It took me writing the previous 100 blog posts to gain this clear vision and to develop my mission statement. It only took me 536 days, 12,864 hours, 771,840 minutes, and over 4.63 million seconds to realize what I am doing. Now I have a mission statement and I am going to tell you what it is in this article.


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Background

Do you remember the first time that you took-off in jet in a heavy rainstorm, with low thick clouds? As the plane accelerated, it leaped off the tarmac and you suddenly entered the clouds. You got bounced around for a while as you watched the rain-water trails on the windows go from vertical to horizontal until the windows became dry. Just as suddenly as when the plane hit the clouds, you were thrust into a type of solitude as you exited the stormy clouds. Your nerves settled down and you relaxed. The turbulence stopped and you began experiencing smooth sailing, which allowed you to become calm.

As the plane got quiet, you looked out the window to see that the sun was up and the sky was blue. You were moving at 500 miles per hour with a view that allowed you to see all the way to the horizon, hundreds of miles away. As your plane continued to climb, you looked down and saw the tops of the clouds. You realized that these clouds were still wreaking havoc on the people below.

A few minutes before, these same clouds were causing you all kinds of stress as you drove to the airport through the driving rain, unsure of whether your plane would even depart. Now, as you looked down, the clouds did not bother you at all as you sliced through the cold, thin air. You had unlimited vision, you had clear, clean air and you were ripping through the atmosphere with the greatest of ease.

That is now how I feel about writing this blog. My nerves have calmed down and I feel ready to get on with my mission. I now know what I have to do in the confines of this technical space. I have direction, inspiration, and focus. I hope to be able to fly above the clouds with a vision that will remain intact for years to come.

How Did I Achieve This Clarity of Vision?

The only way that I could have developed the blogging mission statement I will be revealing, is by doing what I did. I started a blog and began experimenting. I spent countless hours writing, refining, revising and simplifying as the months went by. I learned what worked as I moved along.

I started with a simple statement that looked like this (Figure 1), in which I stated “I have a lot to say, so let’s get started with a little Tableau training.”

Fig 1 - Blog Post 1, May 31, 2013.

Fig 1 – Blog Post 1, May 31, 2013.

I started with an idea on how to train Tableau users to build specific types of charts. As I look back at this post, I can see that it was the beginning of my vision. As I moved forward through time, I found myself being focused on other more general problem solving techniques using Tableau because it is the tool that I had used for seven years to solve a lot of problems. I ended up writing more than 70 Tableau-focused problem solving techniques and/or Tableau applications in the first 100 articles. People responded to the problem-solving types of articles, but not so well to the application articles. The technique articles continue to be viewed, many months after they were written. This difference in reader responses has helped me refine my approach to blogging.

As I finished the first year of my big blogging experiment, I decided to write about the “lessons learned as a Tableau Blogger” (Figure 2) in a two-part series that allowed me to understand the value of my blog. In this series, I uncovered a finding that really surprised me.

Figure 2 - Lessons Learned as a Tableau Blogger.

Figure 2 – Lessons Learned as a Tableau Blogger.

 

I learned that more than 76% of the visits to my blog originated from general internet searches. What this indicated to me was that I had successfully written about techniques that allowed people to solve problems. They found my work when the time was right for them to solve that particular problem. In essence, my work had helped people solve problems at the time they needed help. When they did the search on their topic, I suddenly appeared in their office, ready to teach them how to solve the problem. What a great insight that was!

To verify this finding, I thought of the way that I work. When I encounter a problem, I do an internet search. I rarely pick-up text books anymore because the internet is the new “learning frontier” and the new knowledge is being written every day, by people like you and me. I use the work of others to solve my problems, too, just about every day. With that insight, my blogging mission started to become more clear.

By mid-2014, I began using Alteryx for some project work, after dreaming of its usage for years. I was finally able to convince our ownership to make the investment in this incredible tool. Once I began to use this tool, I was initially foggy on how to use it because of it enormous capabilities. However, I was quickly able to use it effectively on a few projects because of my technical background and experience.

The more I tried to learn, the more I realized that more blog posts were needed for this tool. So I started to write about it and got great feedback from several people at Alteryx and from the relatively small (compared to Tableau) community of Alteryx users. I got significantly more positive feedback about the Alteryx work I was writing about than anything I did in Tableau. Consequently, this feedback energized me and helped me shape the vision I now have. So thank you to those people that have reached out to me with respect to Alteryx. It is your encouragement and support that will lead to much of the work I am going to do over the next couple of years.

As I wrapped up the first 100 blog posts with a two-part beast of a series on using “Alteryx and Tableau to Innovate”, my vision was crystallized. As I completed that multi-thousand word manifesto (so to speak), I ended it with a simple statement. The statement was “I simply want to help people.”

Figure 3 - Problem Solving Explained.

Figure 3 – Problem Solving Explained.

My Blogging Mission Statement

I will now give my definitive blogging mission statement. My complete mission statement is: “I simply want to help people solve problems“.

With that being said, my future blog posts will be geared towards explaining the problem solving techniques that I use and the ones I develop. I will probably still share some personal stories because some people also seem to like them, so I promise to intermix these when appropriate. The tools I use for solving problems will still be Tableau- and Alteryx-focused, but it is likely that I’ll throw in some computer codes I have written as well as using some techniques from my favorite other software packages like Vedit.

Therefore, this blog will be written with the intent to help people solve problems. In the purest vision I now have of myself, I realize that I am a problem solver and have been one for a very long time. I have migrated my career focus from a very specific niche numerical modeler, to being a business analyst, to being a big-picture thinker and problem solver. For these reasons, it is only natural that I write a blog that is intended to help people solve problems. This progression has been logical and now it makes sense to me. My “analytics” self-assessment is now over and my “logical analysis” is complete. If you want to know what Google thinks about the value of people that can solve problems, listen to the podcast that is attached to this article.

The problems to be solved can be of many types, originating in business, basic science, math, sports and various other disciplines like engineering, geology, computer science, etc. Those are the kinds of problems that I work on and solve. Therefore, I write about techniques that help people solve these types of problems. I use experience, software, applied math, and programming techniques to solve these types of problems. I have the great fortune of having the proper education and experience coupled with the software and hardware resources that allow me to solve these problems. Since I have the privilege to use these tools, I want to share my knowledge and experiences so that bigger and more challenging problems can be solved.

Finally, as an example of a very big problem that I am very well suited to work on, watch this very interesting segment of 60 Minutes from two days ago (Nov 16, 2014) to understand how groundwater science is being coupled with satellite imagery, big data, and visualization techniques to quantify groundwater depletion in the Central Valley of California. This is a VERY BIG PROBLEM for all of us and is similar to that situation that I first observed in Las Vegas in 1990. I’ll write a post about that at a later date. These are the types of problems I want to help solve. Thanks for reading.

 

2 thoughts on “3danim’s Blog is About Solving Problems

  1. Hey Ken. Very good post.
    I’m following your blog since this week.

    Very good the segment from 60 minutes. That’s a big problem.

    I’m beginning to use Tableau more frequently in order to answer questions. I hope to get some new knowledge from your previous post about Tableau, as well as from Alteryx.

    I’m going to make a reference to this post in a MOOC I’m currently enrolled in Edx, called “Solving Complex Problems”.

    If you can have a look also to my blog, let me know your opinion about the Tableau analysis I made. It’s a baseball blog, in Spanish. graficosymetricas.wordpress.com

    Best Regards.

    Daniel

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for taking the time to write to me. It doesn’t happen very often, so I am glad to hear from people that like what I am doing. I have looked at your blog, but since I don’t understand Spanish, I cannot comprehend what you did!

      Thanks,

      Ken

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