Thursday, April 25, 2013

North American SQL Saturdays in GeoFlow

I was asked earlier this week to break out my US SQL Saturdays GeoFlow chart by year. While I was at it, I added in the 5 events from Canada and Mexico. The results are below.

North American SQL Saturdays through April 2013

GeoFlow Tour VIDEO here

I thought this GeoFlow tour would be a good chance to show off various GeoFlow themes and chart types.

Zoom In on Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana with a different theme

Contiguous United States and Canada with Bubble Chart

Dataset Excerpt (blue fields were used by the GeoFlow Tour)

I had fun putting together these charts for Karla Landrum. During this process, however, I did run into some issues with GeoFlow.

GeoFlow Issue Encountered

I added the Event Type by Year and Country fields to my Excel table in order to do the breakdown by year and to include Canada and Mexico. Unfortunately, the GeoFlow tour was not acknowledging Country as a possible field to select as a geography field. Closing Excel and re-opening did not solve this problem. Trying to create a new GeoFlow Tour within the Excel spreadsheet did not work either. My solution ended up being to copy/paste the entire table into a brand new spreadsheet and create a new GeoFlow Tour. At that point Country became available as a Geography field.

Minus these kinds of issues, I've been enjoying working with GeoFlow. I would welcome the opportunity to hear your GeoFlow questions or hear about your GeoFlow experiences in the comments section.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

GeoFlow Viewer Please

Over the past week or so, I've seen a lot of people ask the following:

How can I provide my GeoFlow Tour for consumption in

  • PowerPoint
  • SharePoint
  • My website
  • A tablet
  • Any mobile device?
I think it's great that people are asking these questions. It suggests that people want to use GeoFlow. The problem, is that currently there isn't a way, that I know of, to present GeoFlow tours in those above formats minus a tablet running Windows 8 (non-RT) with Excel 2013 Professional or certain versions of Office 365.

There are a lot of discussions about Microsoft needing a mobile BI strategy, and I agree. When I was at Dallas Day of Dot Net in February, I heard a presenter talking about how the PC era is dying and mobile is taking over. From my perspective, software developers not learning about mobile software development may find themselves not nearly as marketable as they used to be. I say this as someone with a lot of software development industry experience and not someone looking in from the outside.

Now back to BI, and GeoFlow specifically, what are some options for making GeoFlow consumable from the aforementioned devices and software? Let's consider Office 365. Office Mobile Viewers are already supported on iPhone, Android and Windows phones. GeoFlow, however, is not.  

Here are some ideas for the future:
  • GeoFlow mobile viewer that works with Office 365. Thanks to Jen Stirrup for bringing to our attention that Office 365 may be a great direction for Microsoft to go with their mobile BI strategy. Jen's feedback was provided via comment on a blog post here.
  • GeoFlow SharePoint web part for displaying GeoFlow tours
  • Save to Animation option within GeoFlow. This should provide a good option for presenting GeoFlow data within a PowerPoint Presentation.

There were several people on-line that also mentioned wanting to see GeoFlow merged in with Power View and then providing a Power View Viewer. At least one person mentioned wanting to be able to build GeoFlow tours using mobile. The primary message, though, was GeoFlow consumption beyond Excel 2013 on a PC. Hopefully, Microsoft will be able to take some of our GeoFlow ideas and put them into reality.

Update: GeoFlow has been renamed to Power Map and is scheduled to be part of Power BI for Office 365!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Using GeoFlow to create SQL Saturday Emergence Video

On Thursday evening, I downloaded the Community Preview of GeoFlow. I just had to try out GeoFlow the first day it was available. That resulted in me creating a map of the past 1.5 years of U.S. based SQL Saturdays and tweeting a picture of that map here.

This afternoon my goal was to make a video showing the emergence of all U.S. based SQL Saturdays which may be seen here.

GeoFlow is a free add-on to Excel 2013. You'll need Office Professional Plus 2013, Office 365 ProPlus, or the Midsize, E3, or E4 versions of Office 365.

I liked how easy GeoFlow was to start using once I had installed both Excel 2013 and GeoFlow. I did, however, have an initial issue of the GeoFlow button being greyed out. This appears to have been an issue for some others, as well. I've heard at least one person say that disabling and re-enabling the add-on worked for them. In my case I un-installed my no longer needed Office 2007, and that fixed the issue for me.

In order to use GeoFlow you'll need to put data into an Excel table and then select Insert--> Map-->Launch GeoFlow-->New Tour

Much of what you need to know to get started may be found by downloading the sample Excel data sets available on the site containing the Community Preview. The sample data set I downloaded included instructions on how to build an initial tour.

Having worked with the tool beyond those tutorials, though, I have found GeoFlow powerful but sometimes hard to navigate. For example, the below option to set the time length I found by clicking Play Tour and then exiting the tour. There's probably an easier way to find the setting, but I wasn't able to quickly find it. (Update: To get to the below setting, with Tour Editor on, click on the Scene and then click on the cog/wheel icon on the scene.)

The following items are things I would like to see in a future version, assuming they are not hidden somewhere in the CP. (Update: Added a few items and clarified a few others.)

  • Capability to align the Title text in a textbox.
  • Capability to change the colors being used for items in a legend, minus changing Themes. For example, if I have two event types like SQL Saturday and SQL Rally, I would like to be able to pick the color attached to each item. Update: This feature became available in the September preview release.
  • Provide an optional window for a second portion of the map, like for Hawaii and Alaska which do not show up in a zoomed in map of the U.S. (In my video I scrolled the map over to Hawaii at the end)
  • Capability to save the animation of a tour to video file format. I used Camtasia to screen grab my tour's video. Update: This feature became available in the September preview release.
  • Capability to embed an actual interactive GeoFlow tour into a PowerPoint presentation. Even if the machine had to have Excel 2013, this would be nice.
  • An option for the values in the optional 2D chart to grow as time passes in the animation. Currently, the values appear static in the 2D chart.
  • An optional 2D rolling total for the measurement regardless of geo-spatial location. For example, if 67 SQL Saturdays have appeared by date X, then 67 would show as the total.
Below are a few of the things I really like.

Once I went through one of the tutorials, it was very easy to get my first map screenshot ready. I had one tweeted on day 1.

When playing a tour, you can stop it at any time and hover over an item in the map to see the data as of the point in time when the video was stopped.  This screenshot was from me stopping at the 10/27/2008 point in time. Orlando has had several more SQL Saturdays since October 2008.

Overall I've enjoyed trying out GeoFlow and look forward to seeing more of GeoFlow's potential.