Raw Data By P3 Adaptive
Technophobes Make Amazing Technologists, w/ Kerry KoloskoListen Now:
Hello friends! On the show today, we have a special treat for you. Straight from the Outback, recorded past midnight, and punny as hell, Kerry Kolosko, freshly minted, accidental Microsoft Data Platform MVP. An avid fan of JIT learning (Just In Time) and a follower of the teachings of Google, Kerry is a self-professed technophobe whose desire to remove redundancies just won’t let her disconnect. She has a storied past of chasing answers and creating solutions. She truly is living the dream by dabbling in every interesting technology that comes her way. From Array formulas to Deneb, learning on the fly to save time and frustration is Kerry’s superpower.
That’s not all! Today, we also dig into the age-old question of what hidden fear do many Power BI users share? That great shared doubt when someone asks for the .PBIX file. The irrational trepidation. The spurt of adrenaline. What one small, inconsequential fear do most OG Dax pros share?
BADAXAPHOBIA: The fear of being judged for less attractive DAX coding.
Well, friends, we are here to tell you that it is an unfounded fear is. OG DAX was more readable, easily digestible, and inherently more interesting before it was streamlined into mere code. Rob and Kerry agree that bad DAX should enjoy a comeback, and nobody should fear embarrassment for writing human-style DAX.
All this and more on today’s episode.
Don’t forget, if you enjoyed this episode, send a link to a friend. Friends don’t let friends miss Raw Data by P3 Adaptive where we celebrate data, with the human element.
Also on this episode:
“MVPness” Doesn’t Sound Quite Right w/ MS MVP Ed Hansberry
Deneb – Declarative Visualization in Power BI
What is Data May Never Die w/ Scree
Kerry Kolosko Blog – Visualisations
Leaders Need Not Be Flashy, w/ Microsoft VP Dave Gainer
Rob Collie (00:00): Hello, friends. Today's guest is Kerry Kolosko. A Microsoft recognized MVP for the Data Platform. I didn't know Kerry really at all. Except from Twitter where we've had ... I don't know. Two or three interactions tops. So I came into this a little bit blind, but guess what? We had a blast.
Rob Collie (00:19): We took a tour through some of the familiar favorites of this podcast. Such as accidentally becoming a data professional, the growing need for a bad DAX movement in the community. One of the things that I really identified with was she describes herself as a technophobe. First of all, that's funny. Microsoft Data Platform MVP. A technophobe. I completely relate to that apparent paradox of being a technophobe technologist.
Rob Collie (00:48): And yet, here we are. She and I both identified and correctly identified as a member of a technology community. I think it speaks highly of Microsoft's platform, by the way, that a couple of self-identifying technophobes can absolutely fall in love with it. I loved listening to her and the way that certain technologies just really spoke to her. Just drew her in.
Rob Collie (01:12): Also, in other cases, how other technologies that might not have had that same appeal for her ... She refused to let them be off limits. Those two spirits. Not letting things be off limits, and leaning into the things that really spoke to her. Those two things have driven her quite a distance. I found an additional point of common ground with her on the topic of intuitive thinking and how it differs from logical thinking, and even better, what the two of them can do when you use them in tandem.
Rob Collie (01:42): It was a great chat. I definitely enjoyed meeting her. I want to throw out a very special thank you to her, for staying up past midnight her time to record this with us. The episode about the technophobe technologist starts right now.
Announcer 1 (01:58): Ladies and gentlemen. May I have your attention please?
Announcer 2 (02:06): This is the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive Podcast with your host, Rob Collie. Find out what the experts at P3 Adaptive can do for your business. Just go to p3adaptive.com. Raw Data by P3 Adaptive is data with the human element.
Rob Collie (02:29): Welcome to the show, Kerry Kolosko. It's evening for you, right? Morning for me.
Kerry Kolosko (02:34): It's just ticked over 12:00 AM on the dot.
Rob Collie (02:37): Okay. Not evening.
Kerry Kolosko (02:38): No.
Rob Collie (02:38): Middle of the night. You're in Adelaide, Australia. Help me place that mentally on the map of Australia. Where be Adelaide?
Kerry Kolosko (02:47): If you picture Australia as an upside-down koala ...
Rob Collie (02:50): Which everybody does.
Kerry Kolosko (02:51): Or as a koala on its feet. I'm on the belly. I'm on the south in the center.
Rob Collie (02:58): It's winter for you right now.
Kerry Kolosko (03:00): But it's reasonably mild this week. It's not been quite so bad and cold at the moment. The heating's off.
Rob Collie (03:07): Everyone thinks of Australia from a distance as it's just desert and it's always super hot. On the Southern end, do you ever get snow?
Kerry Kolosko (03:14): There's mountains in Victoria. We've got some snow fields there. But otherwise, no. It's really quite rare.
Rob Collie (03:22): I see your MVP plaque behind you. Are you a Microsoft Data Platform MVP?
Kerry Kolosko (03:30): Yes. Data Platform. I first got it in December. Freshly.
Rob Collie (03:34): Newly-minted MVP status. There are a number of roads to getting MVP status. We were just talking to Ed Hansberry and he's super active on the forums. What's your community contribution? Primarily, what is it that Microsoft has recognized?
Kerry Kolosko (03:53): I don't know.
Rob Collie (03:53): You just do nothing. You don't write anything. You don't produce any content. And then, this plaque just shows up. "Kerry. You're awesome."
Kerry Kolosko (04:08): Of course. But I don't know what got me over the line or anything like that. What it was specifically that I got my MVP award for. My contributions in there, coming up towards that time period where I was blogging. I began a blog in April of 2021.
Rob Collie (04:24): Fresh blog.
Kerry Kolosko (04:26): A fresh blog. I was helping Daniel Marsh-Patrick out, testing his Deneb custom visual. And I Shared them with the community.
Rob Collie (04:36): Deneb has, for me, gone from zero awareness ... Meaning I have zero awareness of it. "What is it?" To, "This seems to be the thing, if you're in the custom visual space." Hey. Why not? Let's talk about that a little bit. Because the custom visual space of Power BI, I think we've really yet to see what's really going to come of that. The final form of what happens in that corner of the market. Meaning, there's so much untapped potential is what I'm really getting around to.
Rob Collie (05:08): A few episodes back, we had the man who goes by the moniker, "Scree." He's a guild admin. He's in charge of this gaming guild. Partially administers it. His site that he put together for his guild ... There's some Deneb in there. You have to get those gradients just right. It's so cool. How'd you get into Deneb? What drew you into that corner of the tech stack?
Kerry Kolosko (05:31): I started my Power BI career in 2017 just by chance. I was a project coordinator, and one of the things that I'd been assigned to do was create project status reports. Weekly ones using Jira. Inputting all our stories and doing our sprint management in Jira. What was happening was that the project coordinator before me was manually extracting the data. Typing out all of the stories, all of the epics, into a Word document. Into a table.
Kerry Kolosko (06:00): They had an embedded Excel chart in this Word document, entering the data to create a burndown chart of the sprint each week. And then, doing the retrospective in a Word document. I sat there and I'm going, "What? Why? I have to do this two to four hours a week. I'm not doing this. This is ridiculous."
Rob Collie (06:26): I can see it in your eyes. This is just part of the job. The job of being the project manager, the project coordinator, involves many things. Including making this report. It's not the only job, but the previous person in the role has basically been using stone tools to do it.
Rob Collie (06:46): At this crucial juncture, when you collide with this problem ... You said it was accidental. I completely understand. Did you think of yourself as a data person before you encountered this awful reporting process?
Kerry Kolosko (07:02): Well, sort of. I'd gone to university and I'd studied social science. Social science research techniques, statistics and things with a psychology major. So I had a bit of that statistics background. But when I came out of that, I couldn't continue my psychology studies, because I had a baby.
Kerry Kolosko (07:17): I wasn't able to go through the honor's pathway and the master's pathway. I was very homeless in my career for quite a while. Just aimlessly going from contract job to contract job. Just trying to get the money and trying to pay my mortgage off.
Rob Collie (07:30): Yup.
Kerry Kolosko (07:30): I was taking whatever I could get. I was lost in administration jobs, mostly. I had no tech or software background or anything like that. I was a technophobe. I still am a technophobe, in a way. I hate being online. I hate being connected to my computer all the time and technology stresses me out. I was very avoidant of it.
Kerry Kolosko (07:52): And so, I worked my way up through admin into project admin, project coordination. A bit of light project management here and there. But I did a lot of business analysis. I was very process-orientated. I loved doing the Lean and the Lean Six Sigma. Synthesizing information and organizing information. I enjoyed the strategic side of project management and project portfolio management. Being outcomes-focused and all that kind of stuff. It was there.
Kerry Kolosko (08:20): I wasn't a technical data person, and my spreadsheet skills were always quite basic. That was, until I was in a software engineering project. I felt just very overwhelmed at the time, because I barely had a passion for technology at the time. I got landed a spreadsheet that had array formulas in it. My boss gave me a spreadsheet with array formulas in it.
Rob Collie (08:45): Oh no. The worst.
Kerry Kolosko (08:48): I looked at it and I'm like, "What is this? What's that asterisk doing? I don't understand." So I Googled. I think I copied the whole formula and put it into Google. I was like, "It's an array formula. Okay. How does that work?" My mathematical mind got moving, because I really did enjoy maths at school. I did the physics, chemistry, specialist mathematics.
Kerry Kolosko (09:08): I was the only girl in their physics class at my school at the time as well. So I was quite scientifically minded. And then, I got really stuck into it. My Excel skills improved at that point. That was the job that I had prior to this project coordination role. When I came into this project coordination role and I saw this Word document, I'm like, "Surely, there's a way to extract that data automatically."
Kerry Kolosko (09:31): I was like, "I know that I can do an Excel dump from Jira. Maybe I can connect into it? And so, I'll Google that." I Googled it and I found Power Query. I was like, "This is going to save me time. Let's have a look at this." And so, I learned how to do Power Query and connect into the Jira database, hit refresh, and do a report on that data. I saved myself a bunch of time.
Kerry Kolosko (09:53): That impressed a few people within the organization as well. And then, I got a tap on the shoulder to come into another role, which was a reporting analyst role in a management office. They're like, "Have you used Power BI before?" I'm like, "Yes." Because I had just that day seen Power BI in my Office software. Downloaded it to take a look at it. I was like, "I wonder what this does?" I had just that day connected it to an Excel data sheet. So I said, "Yes."
Rob Collie (10:25): Well, I think there's a degree of savvy behind that answer. Some questions you have to consider the person who's asking it as you make your answer. For example, if someone from Stanford University asks me, "Do you do data science?" I'm going to say, "No." Because they have a basket of very specific things they're thinking about. And I don't do those things.
Rob Collie (10:48): But if someone randomly on the street asks me if I do data science, there's a reasonably good chance that they're saying, "Data science," as a plug-in noun for a million other things. "Do you analyze data?" And so, the right answer to their question might be, "Yes." Even though, the right answer was no to the same question to someone else. A little bit of a bluff, but I think you've got to give yourself credit. I think you read the room a little bit when you gave that answer. And so, "Yes, I have used Power BI. Ha-ha."
Kerry Kolosko (11:21): Yes. I have used Power BI for two minutes. I got an opportunity to do a reporting role, and then to leverage Power BI with that. And I just absolutely took off. I loved the problem solving. I loved learning. I loved doing the data analysis. I loved doing the data visualization. It was my jam. It was that perfect mix of things that I enjoyed, which is your statistics and your research. All of that quantitative analysis.
Kerry Kolosko (11:48): Mixed in with some of the stuff that I learned with my psychology degree as well, which is that psychology of perception, the visual perception foundations that I learned. But also, utilizing those communication and people management skills I had as well. I had also done a graduate certificate in business as well, with change management and project management. And so, all of those skills rolled into one.
Rob Collie (12:09): I want to back up for a moment and just point out the lovely irony of being a technophobe and array formulas. I actually think that array formulas are the single hardest, most technical thing in Excel. Even harder than macros, because it requires this degree of abstract thought. You have to visualize what's going on behind the scenes in a way.
Rob Collie (12:38): Array formulas are ... You really can't step through and debug them. You press step, step, and then the answer appears. You really have to think in this hyperspace abstract zone, that's not visual, in order to succeed with array formulas. That in a way is a great predictor of whether or not you're going to be good at DAX. DAX requires a lot of that same ...
Kerry Kolosko (13:02): Yes, it does. Because you have to picture your data going down columns in your head. And it's quite convoluted. I enjoy DAX.
Rob Collie (13:12): I do too.
Kerry Kolosko (13:13): It's not getting an awful lot of love though at the moment. Where has the love gone?
Rob Collie (13:17): There you go. Let's talk about that. Without me leading the witness. Why are you thinking that DAX isn't getting a lot of love these days? Actually, let's not get to the root causes yet. What is it that you're seeing in the community today that indicates DAX isn't getting a lot of love? Are people complaining about it? Are people saying it sucks? What's the indication that DAX isn't getting a lot of love? I agree with you, by the way.
Kerry Kolosko (13:41): It's very hard for newer users to use. And then, it's quite abstract and buggy in a way sometimes.
Rob Collie (13:50): I started a blog in 2009. Ultimately, six months later, it was all about DAX. We didn't have Power Query at all. It didn't exist yet. We didn't have Power BI. It was just Power Pivot. Power Pivot really was just DAX and the VertiPaq Engine and relationships and modeling. That's all we had. And so, the contents of my blog for the next five years ... One point, I was doing two posts a week and sustaining it for years and years.
Kerry Kolosko (14:15): Wow.
Rob Collie (14:15): All about DAX. It was all about DAX.
Kerry Kolosko (14:16): Wow. That is mega.
Rob Collie (14:18): It's so old. Most people who are using Power BI today have no idea. For the longest time, that was the blog. Our website, it used to be the blog was the homepage. Over time, it morphed more and more into a company. The blog went further and further back. But if you go to the resources tab on our menu and go to blog, there's well over 1,000 articles. Most of the time that it existed, we didn't have Power Query. This was mostly about DAX.
Rob Collie (14:44): Now, when you said you were a technophobe, I'm like, "My people." I, too, am a technophobe working in this tech space. I worked at Microsoft for over a decade. I didn't understand for a long time why I wasn't like most of the people there. I play games with my friends and the games have customizable UI. My friends are performing IT projects on the UI of their game.
Rob Collie (15:12): I'm like, "No. I come to games to get away from that stuff. Gross." I have a theory about DAX, which is that the community has coalesced around a style of DAX, a dialect of DAX. It is the optimal style of DAX in a number of ways. At the same time, it is incredibly intimidating to beginners. Needlessly so.
Rob Collie (15:39): A formula that I would write in DAX will not look the formulas that you see on the internet now. Expertise has a way of self-filtering itself. You end up in a place that's ... If I put a DAX formula on the internet today, the first thing I'd be thinking about is, "What are all the experts going to think of my DAX?" It's going to be suboptimal, but my DAX would be understandable.
Kerry Kolosko (16:02): Because it would be almost human readable, in a way.
Rob Collie (16:05): That's right. That's right.
Kerry Kolosko (16:08): I do get that anxiety. With my Workout Wednesdays, I actually avoid doing beginner, intermediate DAX in my own head. There was a recent game that I created as well in both. I've created a Mastermind game and a Wordle game in Power BI. Just because that's how I learn through play.
Kerry Kolosko (16:24): That's how I get creative. That's how I learn the tool. That's how I test it, to see if I can break things and stuff like that. But I don't know how to do a DAX ... In both games, I use nested substitutes. I used four nested substitutes to get an answer that I wanted. I'm looking at that going, "Someone's going to see that and laugh at it." But it makes sense to me and it works.
Rob Collie (16:47): Yes.
Kerry Kolosko (16:47): There's no performance issues. It performs well. It doesn't slow the report down in any way, but it just looks dumb.
Rob Collie (16:53): I agree. I think that we need to start ... When I say, "We," it's not going to be me. Because I don't have time to write blog posts anymore. Unfortunately. But if I was going to start a YouTube channel today with technical content on it, for instance, I would call it Bad DAX.
Kerry Kolosko (17:09): Yes.
Rob Collie (17:09): Let's go do bad DAX. Let's make bad DAX a thing again. Right?
Kerry Kolosko (17:13): Yes.
Rob Collie (17:14): Because bad DAX is so much more accessible and it gets the job done. If you're not working with billion-row data sets and direct query and all that kind of stuff, bad DAX is going to perform indistinguishably well compared to good DAX.
Kerry Kolosko (17:30): That's why I have stayed stuck at intermediate-level DAX for so long, because my data sets are never that big. I've never needed to force myself to do that. Same with things like Tabular Editor and DAX Studio. I have never worked on big data that required me to pick up Tabular Editor.
Kerry Kolosko (17:47): This recent game that I did. The Wordle game. This is only last week. I've gone back to it, because it's just the foremost thing in my mind. I created quite a bunch of disconnected tables in designing this thing. I wanted to take the easiest path to get to my end goal. I wasn't trying to be clever or creative or anything like that. I just wanted to ...
Rob Collie (18:07): Get it working.
Kerry Kolosko (18:08): The path of least ... Not resistance.
Rob Collie (18:12): Conceptual resistance?
Kerry Kolosko (18:13): Exactly. And so, I needed a measure on each of those disconnected tables. I'm like, "How am I going to be able to do this in the most efficient way possible?" I'm like, "I know what Tabular Editor does. You can script things and create calculation groups and stuff. Tabular Editor must be able to do that for me. Maybe that's my most efficient pathway to get to the end goal." I picked it up just last week. It's the first time I've touched Tabular Editor. I went into my Google, as I do.
Rob Collie (18:43): My Google.
Kerry Kolosko (18:44): My Google.
Rob Collie (18:45): It is my Google.
Kerry Kolosko (18:46): It's mine. Definitely mine.
Rob Collie (18:49): It's a friend.
Kerry Kolosko (18:52): Read the documentation. There wasn't really enough there. But then, I saw there was a script for bulk measures. I needed to do quite a bit of funky things in it. "What does it use? What's that language? C#? Let me see if I can work out how to use C#." Using the base script, I managed to fumble something together. And I had to work out how to escape blanks. You can't double quote things. You have to do the slash things.
Kerry Kolosko (19:21): I ended up asking Daniel how to get the table name into the measure. He showed me how to do that and that was great. I managed to learn that within an hour, and then get my measures on the table. It would've probably been quicker if I had manually typed out all of those measures. I was lazy and this was a great exercise.
Rob Collie (19:43): It drives you to learn new things. Congratulations. I have still yet to use Tabular Editor. You just recently stepped off of the island. You shared. You're like, "Well, it looks dangerous out there. All 20 feet away from me." Six meters. Got to be international here.
Rob Collie (20:00): I'm going to keep hammering this joke, because it's so good. At least, to me. "I'm a technophobe, so I pick up Tabular Editor and Google it. I get into C#. I needed one little bit of help, but now I know C#." You're like Neo in the matrix. We just plug you into Google for 30 seconds and you're like, "I know kung fu."
Kerry Kolosko (20:22): I wish. No. It's not quite as simple as that. I don't download information like that. I learn when I have a need to do it. And I can't sit down and read a book. I've bought these tech books before to try and enhance my DAX and all that kind of stuff. I just sit there.
Kerry Kolosko (20:40): I can't finish a page. I sit there and I yawn. I just can't do it. It's too dry. And so, I learn through play and through need. In SVGs, for example, there was part of this story that we tangent off as well. When you asked me, "How did I get into Deneb?" I went all the way back to my Power BI career.
Rob Collie (21:00): Which is great. We would've gone there anyway. This is going entirely according to plan.
Kerry Kolosko (21:06): Great. I'd been using Power BI for a few years. What I found was that it was fantastic. I loved it. I loved the click-y, dragging, dropping. And the time-to-insight. The automation of my reportings. In my new role, I helped the team. We worked together. It wasn't just me. Reduced the reporting cycles from two weeks down to a couple of days, which really enabled us to focus more on strategic work.
Kerry Kolosko (21:33): I put a lot of effort into learning DAX and the modeling and things like that. Got some visualizations working and looking really quite schmicking. It was really quite fun building that interactivity out and getting that first layer of insight. But then, what started to happen is that we've got that working ... Our team's got a rhythm. We've got this wonderful new information and visibility over the data that we didn't have before.
Kerry Kolosko (21:57): Now, we've got more questions with the data. We want to know more. We want to do more. I want to visualize more. I want to do more things. I started to hit a wall and I was getting quite frustrated. I couldn't do those little extra things. That was couple of years, 18 months of my life. And then, it was about in 2020 ... I started in 2017. It's 2020 now. And then, I'm on LinkedIn.
Kerry Kolosko (22:20): I wasn't very active in the community at all. I lurked on the community forums to get my questions and answers as I was learning. I didn't really know people by name or anything like that. But I had Phil on my LinkedIn, because he came down to Adelaide for a Meetup in 2019 that year. It was talking about creative aggregations. I thought, "That's cool. I like that." I connected with him on LinkedIn. So I was following him for a while.
Kerry Kolosko (22:46): Mid 2020, I think it was ... Phil shares the new HTML content visual made by Daniel Marsh-Patrick, which I was really excited about. Because the other content visual had been pulled from the market and I was really quite indignant about that. But it had measure support. I'm like, "I wanted measure support." I wanted to do these text stylings and stuff like that, but you had to use fields and columns. It was limiting for me to do it that way. I really wanted that measure support.
Kerry Kolosko (23:13): I was like, "This is fantastic." I got the visual and I took it down and I played with it. I'm like, "What else can I do with measure support? What can I do? What can I do? I'm so excited." So I started playing around and I was thinking about SVG. I'd never really done much with SVG before. Except for create some custom icons. I'd created some conditional icons with that respect.
Kerry Kolosko (23:36): I'm like, "Maybe I can make data-driven SVGs? Maybe I can make them big and small and stuff like that." So I started playing around with it. One of the first things I did was thinking about creating a flower. I went really deep, really quick. I'm like, "What if I made a flower and I can make the petals grow and change in size with this thing?"
Rob Collie (23:57): Wow.
Kerry Kolosko (23:59): And so, I drew a flower in Illustrator, turned it into an SVG, popped it into Power BI. And then, looked at the behind scenes of what this SVG was. I'm looking at the polygon parts and I'm like, "How do I pinpoint one of those polygon parts and scale it and size it to make it change shape?" I went on this massive learning curve about HTML and SVG and all that kind of stuff. Not really barely touched it before.
Kerry Kolosko (24:25): I started to get it to work. I had a play axis visual at the bottom, and I started to see that the petals were starting to grow and shape and stuff. Problem was it didn't quite work perfectly. But the flower I chose was an Iris. And so, it looked inappropriate when the petals were growing and changing sizes. I was like, "Maybe I should try something else. Maybe I should go back to basics and do something simpler."
Kerry Kolosko (24:51): I found a lies data set and I thought, I'll make a Pinocchio with these lies. So I took a Donald Trump picture, and I got Donald Trump's lies over time. And I stuck a simple polygram path over a simple rectangle element with rounded edges on the end of that and made the nose grow. I was like, "This is great." I had a lot of fun with that. And so, I went through a series of things with this.
Kerry Kolosko (25:18): I'd learned, "I'll start with length. I'll start with color. Then, I'll go to manipulating the polygon paths with angle and rotation." And then, I went into the small animations as well. I messaged Daniel and I said, "Thank you so much." This is a little bit out of the blue for me. It's not really in my character to message random people on the internet, but I was really having so much fun with this.
Kerry Kolosko (25:41): I connected with him on LinkedIn and I said, "Thanks. This visual is great. Thanks for putting it out there. I really enjoy the flexibility that I have." And so, Daniel said, "It'd be great if you could share." I was like, "Okay." I shared my Dropbox. And then, I heard nothing after that. It was just crickets. I'm like, "Share. Right. As in share my stuff on LinkedIn. On social media. Like everybody else does."
Rob Collie (26:04): That kind. Yeah.
Kerry Kolosko (26:06): That kind of sharing. I'm like, "Okay." So I did. I shared a rotating turbine on LinkedIn. And then, it got the attention of a few people. I got contacted by Alice Drummond. She's like, "This is really interesting. Did you want to come and speak in our Meetup group, which is an environmental Meetup group, about this?" I'm like, "Well, maybe."
Rob Collie (26:28): This is the moment in the movie when the superheroes reach out and say, "Hey. You're one of us. Come with us." And the protagonist is hesitant.
Kerry Kolosko (26:38): Yes. I um-ed and ah-ed about it. I'm not very good with public speaking ... That's a lie. I do like speaking, but I like speaking in front of people. Small audiences. People I know. I can laugh and I can make jokes, and I can engage with the audience and things like that. But speaking online to people I can't see?
Rob Collie (26:59): I completely understand what you're saying. I'm the same way.
Kerry Kolosko (27:01): I thought about it and I thought about it. I think I took a while to get back to her. I was like, "Sure. I'll come and talk." I went onto the Meetup group and Daniel was presenting at the same time. He was demoing an alpha version of Deneb. I was in this user group and I was watching him create these graphs. And then, he had his JSON. He changed a little bit of line of the JSON, and the visual changed.
Kerry Kolosko (27:24): And then, he showed me a heat map. And then, he showed me all these other visuals that I couldn't ordinarily get in Power BI. I was getting really excited, obviously. And I could see that it wasn't an awful lot of work. They didn't look like complex hard code as I was watching him. I'm like, "This is great. I'm getting really excited. I want to know more about this."
Kerry Kolosko (27:49): After the session, I messaged him. You only have 15 minutes to talk, so he sort of rambled his way through it really quickly. I'm like, "I didn't quite catch what was going on. Do you have a video or a blog with more information on the visual?" He's like, "I can show you." I went, "Yes. Please." He called me and he walked me through this visual. I was super excited.
Kerry Kolosko (28:09): I could see all of the things that I wanted completely unblocked with this visual. I was thinking, "This is amazing. Not just what I can get out of it, but what the whole community can get out of it. How can I help you get this out there?" Out of alpha into AppSource. If this gets into AppSource and it gets certified, I will kiss your feet. That's where that started.
Kerry Kolosko (28:36): A couple of months after that, I joined Twitter and was playing around with the XKCD visual that Daniel had created quite a while ago. Created a Power BI comic or a meme out of that. Posted that on Twitter. I think that was my first Twitter post. And then, we connected again. And then, Daniel invited me to join a Slack testing group for Deneb. That's where that went.
Rob Collie (28:59): This is going to absolutely convey my ignorance on all this. Did Daniel invent Deneb?
Rob Collie (29:15): Remember. I identify as technophobe a little bit. Here's the difference. When it gets to C#, I'm just going to say, "No. I'm out." I can do C#. I can absolutely learn it. I really just don't want to.
Kerry Kolosko (29:27): No. I don't want to either. And I haven't learned it. I just managed to string together quite a couple of scripts.
Rob Collie (29:34): Maybe if I thought it was like find and replace. If it's a copy paste type of thing. All right. I'm in. But I do not want to go learn any new primitives in a new programming language or whatever.
Kerry Kolosko (29:45): No. I can't. My brain can't take it anymore.
Rob Collie (29:50): The person who got into SVG and the person who is, "Look. Deneb and Vega and JSON and all ..." You're an odd technophobe. I completely believe you. To be that way ... Of course, I'm committed to thinking it's cool to be that way. Because that's the way I am.
Rob Collie (30:09): But then, to also have these moments where you do step off of the island, because you see something that's appealing there. So Daniel definitely was the person pushing this. We have the Deneb custom visual today, because of Daniel's efforts. Is that true?
Kerry Kolosko (30:25): Yes. He built the custom visual.
Rob Collie (30:29): Okay.
Kerry Kolosko (30:29): The Vega and the Vega-Lite languages are open source.
Rob Collie (30:33): Who made Vega?
Kerry Kolosko (30:35): A guy called Bostock, I think.
Rob Collie (30:37): Bostock. I'm going to imagine that's just his whole name. It's not a last name. It's not a first name. It's Bostock. This is fundamentally though not a Microsoft thing.
Kerry Kolosko (30:49): No.
Rob Collie (30:50): This comes from the web world.
Kerry Kolosko (30:53): This is the web world. It's kind of like R and Python and their visualization tools. It's like D3. Vega and Vega-Lite sit on top of D3. It's bringing that into Power BI. Going to your AppSource visuals, there's a D3 visual.
Rob Collie (31:12): Have you learned Vega or Vega-Lite or both?
Kerry Kolosko (31:16): I'm fairly proficient in Vega-Lite now. And I'm beginner-level, I suppose, in Vega.
Rob Collie (31:22): Don't you have a gallery of visuals or something that you've built?
Kerry Kolosko (31:27): Yeah.
Rob Collie (31:27): Okay.
Kerry Kolosko (31:27): My blog didn't start out as Deneb. It was just random stuff. I think it started out with SVGs, and talking about data literacy. My biggest wish for Power BI and talking about colors and things like that. And then, it wasn't until ... I signed up my blog in April. It wasn't until July that I posted my first Deneb blog article. But now, I have a couple of sections.
Kerry Kolosko (31:51): I have my blog section, which is just general random things that I'll type out every now and then. I have a visualization section, which is like my own personal Instagram in a way of my data business. It's kind of for me. My blog is very much for me. I like to keep track and watch my progression, and see how I'm growing with my visualizations. And then, I've got another section, which is the template section. There's a couple of people in the community out there that create these Deneb visuals.
Kerry Kolosko (32:20): The beautiful thing about Deneb, which you can't really do very well with Articulator and other custom visuals, is that you can then export a JSON template once you've created a visual ... Other people can then import, and then just plug their data and map their data into the appropriate fields. They can reuse the template. And then, they can go into their JSON, and then modify whatever they want from there. Add extra marks or layers or change the colors. Improve and tweak the visuals from there.
Rob Collie (32:51): Oh my gosh. These are so cool.
Kerry Kolosko (32:54): What are you looking at now?
Rob Collie (32:55): I just had clicked on Comics with PureViz.
Kerry Kolosko (32:58): Yes.
Rob Collie (32:59): If I did a blog this, what you'd see is a whole bunch of things that looked exactly the same. The visuals appearing on the homepage of your blog. If you just looked at them one at a time, you would not remotely believe that they came from the same person. There's a wide range here.
Kerry Kolosko (33:16): Yes.
Rob Collie (33:16): You're deliberately like, "Nope. Today, I've got to go somewhere different."
Kerry Kolosko (33:18): Exactly. That's how I live my life. I really do. I've been career homeless. I've done all sorts of jobs. I've done floristry. I've done all sorts of different industries. Even the way I dress is ... Well, I'll say, yesterday I looked like I'm from the 1960s. Tomorrow, I'll be a punk. It's just how I live my life.
Rob Collie (33:41): I like it. I like it. I've settled into a rhythm. Some of the most fun I've ever had was in my 40s. Let me just go and get my hair dyed. Just walk around with purple hair for a month. You can't even see your own hair when you're as short as mine.
Rob Collie (33:59): But the rest of the world interacts with you differently when you have purple hair. You can make the entire world different just by changing something on yourself, that you can't even really see until you look in the mirror. It's really funny.
Kerry Kolosko (34:11): That is one thing I will not do. And that would be dye my hair. I'm very precious about my red hair.
Rob Collie (34:17): Well, you've got a lot of it. For me, it's much less of a commitment. Whatever I do, it's just this layer that's going to be shed in the next two months anyway. I think if I had long hair, I wouldn't be messing around with it either. I've only done the hair dying thing three times.
Rob Collie (34:34): Can you go back to, remembering as best as you can, who you were and what you thought of things the day before you discovered that array formula? There's that person. If that person was able to get in a time machine, or you got in a time machine today. Those two versions of you. Today-you and day-before-array-formula-discovery-you, met for a conversation. What would the old you think about today you? Would old you believe that this is where she is a few years later?
Kerry Kolosko (35:10): No.
Rob Collie (35:11): Isn't that cool?
Kerry Kolosko (35:13): I never would've thought that I would be in IT ever. It's a bit of a blurred boundary as well. Because Power BI and data analysis and all that stuff can sit out in the business. It does when you've got domain knowledge and things like that. But it blurs into this business intelligence side of things. And then, you get dragged and sucked into IT. Especially, when you work out in the business, and you can translate IT-speak.
Kerry Kolosko (35:44): You get more and more sucked into these IT projects, because you can talk business and you can translate business speak. It's been an interesting journey, actually. Since coming out from being in business and into consulting, I have felt a little overwhelmed. Going from psychology and social sciences and project management and education and all that stuff, into IT and to consulting full-time has actually been a little bit overwhelming.
Kerry Kolosko (36:14): It's kind of funny. I had a conversation a few weeks ago, when I was trying to talk about gateways. I needed to find out more information about gateways. I was speaking with an infrastructure person, because that's their jam. I was asking him to explain to me a few things about gateways and I'm like, "No. You're going to have to take it down a notch." He started to talk to me again. I went, "I'm sorry. What's a VNET? You're going to have to take it down a notch." Back to the basics.
Kerry Kolosko (36:41): He's like, "When you work with gateways in Power BI, what do you do?" I'm like, "I just create a report in Power BI. I upload it. It just works." He's like, "You've never played with the gateway before?" I'm like, "No. It just magically works." You should have seen the look on his face. His jaw just dropped. I spent two hours with him. He basically gave me a one-on-one on cloud and how cloud is. He was trying to explain to me what an IP address was. I'm like, "I've heard of it. I don't know what it is, how it works, or what it does."
Rob Collie (37:15): But you will now.
Kerry Kolosko (37:20): Kind of. He was explaining to me how V-networks ... It's like being off the internet, but on the internet. But you're off the internet. Which one is it?
Rob Collie (37:33): So many themes there that just came out. You wouldn't know this, but they're just ongoing themes of this show. First of all, we talk a lot on the show about the hybrids. People who are a hybrid between business and IT, and how that's really the only effective kind ... That is the most effective kind of professional in this space is the hybrid.
Rob Collie (37:58): The all-business people or the all-IT people. You need both. You have to be able to bridge that world. It's not just even being able to translate for others. That's incredibly valuable. It's also just having both of those in your own head. The things that can coalesce in your own head, when you have access to both of these domains. It's a different space of possibilities than even what happens between two people talking about things on either side of that boundary.
Rob Collie (38:25): You can do amazing things when you have the whole picture in one brain. The creativity. The possibility. It explodes. Another one is there's a quote that's attributed to Einstein, which is, "If you cannot explain something simply, you have not understood it well enough."
Kerry Kolosko (38:45): I don't know. See, I used to quote that all the time. And I don't know that I believe that.
Rob Collie (38:47): Oh, I totally do. I completely believe it.
Kerry Kolosko (38:52): I did. I did believe that. What I find is that I'm not a very articulate or verbal person. There's a lot that goes on in my head that I cannot express.
Rob Collie (39:06): Yes.
Kerry Kolosko (39:07): It's not that I don't understand it. It's I don't have the language for it.
Rob Collie (39:13): Okay. Then, I have been in exactly the form that you're describing today. And then, I had to go to work for someone named David Gainer at Microsoft. He was so frustrating, Kerry. He just wouldn't trust me. He just wouldn't trust me. I'd say, "Look. It's in here. It's in my head. It's clear to me. Let's go."
Rob Collie (39:41): He'd be like, "Rob, that's not good enough. I need to know where you're actually going." That bastard. Good friend of mine. Very impactful on my career in a positive way. Over the course of 18 months to two years, because he would not accept that intuition in my head ... Best way to describe it is intuition. It's not a psychic vibe. There is thinking going on. It's just not happening in English.
Kerry Kolosko (40:10): Yes.
Rob Collie (40:11): I totally understand. I totally understand. He made me build the muscles to extract English out of my intuitive thinking. This unlocked almost a new species of me. Now, today, someone will be explaining a problem that they're having ... My intuition game still goes the same way it always does. I do that fuzzy processing thing that I do, and I come to a conclusion.
Rob Collie (40:41): But now, I have to explain why. I have this other routine. This other part of my brain that's been built, thanks to Dave, which then goes and backtracks across all of that intuitive thinking and compiles it into English and spits it out. One thing I'll say, is that in the course of that backtracking, I also catch ... It's a form of error checking on the intuition. I actually understand it maybe 10% better in the course of backtracking it than I did before.
Kerry Kolosko (41:13): You've got blogging about something, for example. That act of getting your thoughts out onto paper. You're then checking your argument. You're checking your premises, and then your conclusion. You're going through and making sure that it makes sense, and then double checking it that this is correct. And then, you're going into the problem a little bit deeper. For sure.
Rob Collie (41:33): That's the same thing.
Kerry Kolosko (41:34): Yes.
Rob Collie (41:35): The exact same thing.
Kerry Kolosko (41:35): Exactly. Exact same thing.
Rob Collie (41:36): And so, to be effective at blogging ... I looked through some of your blog posts. You're doing this. You are explaining things simply. In the course of asking the infrastructure person to keep taking it down a notch, you were forcing him to a level of understanding that he probably doesn't have most of the time.
Rob Collie (41:54): I run to a lot of people who are not intuitive thinkers. They just learn these logical constructs and these rules. They never really think about them in any tremendous depth. It does not interfere with their ability to do their job, but that also means that they're not capable of teaching it. They can do the job, but they can't help someone else do the job.
Kerry Kolosko (42:13): Can an intuitive think or teach it? I struggle. I'm terrible at teaching people things. I can teach people and process. People and process rolls off my tongue, I can talk about that for hours. Behaviors and psychology and all that stuff. But when it comes to technical things, that doesn't come out of my head.
Rob Collie (42:37): Here's where I decided. The moment I decided I wanted to ask you to be on the podcast is when I looked at your Twitter. I saw the headline image, "I get BI with a little help from my friend." They're walking across the Power BI emblem, but it looks the Abbey Road picture.
Kerry Kolosko (42:53): Yes.
Rob Collie (42:53): How did that come to happen?
Kerry Kolosko (42:55): I like puns. It's terrible.
Rob Collie (42:58): Good. Bring them on.
Kerry Kolosko (43:01): I get a massive amount of delight from Twitter and all the people on Twitter bringing puns. There's a few characters on Twitter that I follow just for puns, because I'm that corny. And so, sometimes I have songs in my head. Those ear worms. And then, I'll change the lyrics of the songs.
Rob Collie (43:22): Yes. This one does.
Kerry Kolosko (43:24): This is really nerdy and really geeky and a little bit embarrassing. I'm okay for you to put it on the podcast. I'll change some of the words to DAX or Power BI words in my head.
Rob Collie (43:37): I've done this.
Kerry Kolosko (43:40): One of the first ones I had in my head was a Justin Timberlake song. I was singing along and I'm singing, "I'm bringing sexy DAX."
Rob Collie (43:55): Can you sing?
Kerry Kolosko (43:57): No. No.
Rob Collie (43:57): Neither can I.
Kerry Kolosko (43:58): I wish I could.
Rob Collie (43:59): This is a whole genre. You are not alone. I started rewriting the entire ACDC song. You Shook Me All Night Long. Again, an ear worm. I'm not even going to try. "We've got some fast machines. We'll keep the models clean. We'll write the best damn measures that you've ever seen."
Kerry Kolosko (44:23): I love it. I love it so much.
Rob Collie (44:28): Yes. No doubt. In our fantasy football league, here at the company, whoever wins is required to make a gloating video. It has to be karaoke with alternate lyrics. I usually win. I'm usually the one making the video. And I'm a terrible singer. Absolutely awful. That really enhances the badness of the whole thing. Let's write some DAX and Power Query songs.
Rob Collie (44:53): We've done one Letterkenny Lampoon video. There's a scene in this show Letterkenny, where these two bro hockey players are talking about their aggressive workout regime that they're going to launch. Because they're going to get in shape. They're just going back and forth like, "We're going to do so many of this and so many of that every day. And this and that. And this and that." They're back and forth. It's all exercises like pushups and all kinds of things.
Rob Collie (45:19): And then, they go, "Leg day?" The other guy goes, "I hate leg day. We'll skip leg day." They just totally take a pass on everything. All of the leg exercises. We made a video of that with two people who are supposedly talking about doing some Power BI exercises to get in Power BI shape. We're not going to share the video, but we're going to get a live reaction to the Letterkenny video. Now, it's going to lose a little bit, because you haven't seen the original show.
Kerry Kolosko (45:46): No.
Rob Collie (45:48): But imagine two hockey dudes. Originally, they're standing in the shower shirtless. You don't see any nudity, but they're just talking back and forth to each other in the shower. You're just ripping 40 bicep curls and 40 trap pulls. There it is, Kerry. He put it in the chat here.
Kerry Kolosko (46:05): All right. Here we go.
Rob Collie (46:09): It's the same spirit. Right?
Kerry Kolosko (46:11): Yeah.
Rob Collie (46:13): Let's find an existing piece of pop culture. If it's a song, great. Swap out the transcript for something different. We have another one in the works, by the way. Letterkenny is a good show. It's worth looking into.
Speaker 5 (46:26): Just real quick, Rob.
Rob Collie (46:27): Yep?
Speaker 5 (46:27): Don't forget. I don't know if you covered DAX The Way, when you were in the mullet guy costume.
Rob Collie (46:32): That's right.
Kerry Kolosko (46:33): I saw that and I did appreciate that.
Rob Collie (46:36): DAX The Way. We used to have stickers that said, "DAX the way I like it. Uh-huh. Uh-huh." We're a goofy sort.
Kerry Kolosko (46:46): Yes. What I didn't realize when I had that Beatles ... I do like the Beatles. I stole it. There's another member in the community, a Power BI guy. That's his header on his YouTube channel.
Rob Collie (46:58): "I get BI with a little help from my friends." Does he also have the Abbey Road?
Kerry Kolosko (47:02): No. That was me.
Rob Collie (47:03): Okay.
Kerry Kolosko (47:06): I turned the Power BI logo into the crossroads, and then had the Beatles looking across it. That was me.
Rob Collie (47:11): This was an open source meme. You extended the project. You logged into the Git, and you made some contributions. This is how the world works. So little is original. But then, we iterate on the original and it just keeps going. Trust me. Sooner or later, you're going to find someone who just completely lifts your entire image and uses it without improving it. Without iterating. Without any credit.
Rob Collie (47:38): You are going to contribute in ways that you don't even really want to. That image of the Abbey Road walkers across the Power BI emblem. I was like, "I've got to talk to this person." I knew nothing about you other than that at that moment. And I'm like, "Put this person on the list. I want to meet her."
Kerry Kolosko (47:59): That's cool. I like that. That's a great introduction. I think I commented on one of your posts about having a not suitable for work podcast.
Rob Collie (48:09): That sounds familiar.
Kerry Kolosko (48:09): I was like, "Tag me in that. Will you?" I thought that was the catalyst, but obviously not.
Rob Collie (48:18): Well, I've discovered that these three different people that I was aware of are the same person. There's this person with this gallery of visuals on her blog. There's this person with the Twitter. I'm really just not that tuned into the community anymore. Everyone's just going so fast in so many different directions.
Rob Collie (48:37): I've got a company that I help run. I've got other things I'm doing. There's no way I can keep up with everything. I just get these little snippets. I'm like a submarine that puts the periscope out into the community every few days. Just takes a quick snapshot. And then, I re-submerge.
Rob Collie (48:54): And so, all these separate pictures that I get like, "Look. These pictures are all the same person. Oh my gosh." No. I didn't make that connection. I do remember the exchange about the not safe work podcast, but I did not know that was you.
Kerry Kolosko (49:09): Cool. Interesting.
Rob Collie (49:11): The Twitter homepage image. That's more than enough. The person who makes that is a little bit different from what you expect from the tech community. Those are the people that I'm always really interested in talking to. That intuition paid off.
Kerry Kolosko (49:26): Excellent.
Rob Collie (49:27): Now, do I go back ... Should I decompose that intuition for you?
Kerry Kolosko (49:31): Yeah.
Rob Collie (49:32): Okay. This person that makes this image has made a connection. I assume that ... Whether you came up with it yourself or it came from someone else. The words came first. "I get BI with a little help from my friends." That was the inspiration.
Kerry Kolosko (49:47): Okay.
Rob Collie (49:48): Now, you want an image that goes with it. The first instinct would be have friends and some help. Or whatever. And that's not going to lead anywhere interesting. Is it? It's a dead end. But then, you lean into, "This is the Beatles. What could I do that was an iconic Beatles image, but have it be a BI flavor?" You go through the process of, "What are the iconic Beatles ..."
Rob Collie (50:09): There aren't that many. One of them is the bars across the crosswalk. And then, you make this creative connection between those bars and the bars in a chart. Or maybe we went straight to the bars in the Power BI icon. And then, you had the ability to go and make it real. You had to go into some art program and make it real. Another tool I'd like to turn you onto, if you're not aware of it, is paint.net.
Kerry Kolosko (50:36): All right.
Rob Collie (50:36): Paint.net and PowerPoint. It's like Archimedes. "Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I'll move the earth." Give me PowerPoint and paint.net, and I'll make a cartoon. Even though, I'm not artistically talented. I use paint.net to devastating effect. All day, every day. There is not a day that I don't use paint.net. It's a free Photoshop.
Rob Collie (50:59): I think a lot of people use something called GIMP as their graphics tool. GIMP is more intimidating than paint.net. Paint.net is like Microsoft Paint, but with more capabilities. I found it to be one of those places where I could step off of the island. I could learn layers really easily.
Rob Collie (51:16): I could learn the magic wand select, and I could learn sensitivity of color fill, and sensitivity of color replacement. Add transparency, layers, and things like that. Do anti-aliasing and do outlines of shapes. When it's time to chop up an existing image, which is what I do mostly, paint.net is the weapon I use.
Kerry Kolosko (51:36): It looks like Paint, but it's better than Paint.
Rob Collie (51:40): Because it introduces a lot of the professional tools like layers, magic wand, region select. It's got a lot of advanced selection tools. You can do things like select the inverse of what you've currently selected. By the way, it also has add-ons that you can download. There is an add-ons community.
Rob Collie (51:58): Paint.net. I think you can get it for free if you download it directly, but you've got to go through all kinds of ad prompts and things that are trying to get you install all kinds of other software. Or you can just pay a dollar or something really cheap through the Windows Store. I recommend doing it through the Windows Store, but paint.net has been big for me. You edit SVGs. Why would you need such things?
Rob Collie (52:19): Well, Kerry, listen. It's like two in the morning for you. First of all, we kept you up late. You're sleepy. And now, we've talked about so many exciting things that now you probably can't sleep. We've completely ruined your night. All right. Hey, thank you so much for making the time and taking a chance on this. You knew nothing about us really and what it was going to be like. I appreciate you putting yourself out there. I really enjoyed this.
Kerry Kolosko (52:46): Awesome.
Announcer 2 (52:47): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive Podcast. Let the experts at P3 Adaptive help your business. Just go to p3adaptive.com. Have a data day.
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