Excel MVP Michael Alexander of the Bacon Bits Blog at http://www.datapigtechnologies.com/blog/ discusses how his blog began and his work with Szilvia on the Excel themed cocktail book.
Rick: Talk about DataPigTechnologies and your blog?
Michael: Bacon Bits Blog is my blog I started in 2009 as a way to sell Boot Camp. I thought I would run out of ideas, but I haven’t. I try to keep it light and funny but useful. When I run out of ideas, I will eventually change it to a website.
Rick: I noticed you sell add-ins, particularly dashboard related. How did you develop those?
Mike: Yes. Dashboard Tools Add-in. Most managers want to see a beta version mockup of their dashboard. I’m a lazy guy so instead of creating mock data and charts for dashboard samples, I started creating shape driven representations of what is going to be on their dashboards. I decided to sell this kind of mockup idea. I’m the data capitalist pig!
Jordan: Why Data Pig? And why Bacon Bits? What is the inspiration for the names?
Michael: Data Pig is named for this ex-McKinsey guy I used to work for (Bruce Roberson; I don’t think he’ll mind me mentioning him.) Every time I gave him a report or analysis, he would want more and more, so we called him the Data Pig. I thought it was a funny name and I adopted the name. And Bacon Bits goes with it as I release bits of stuff.
Rick: Szilvia worked with you on the cocktail book.
Szilvia: Have you had a chance to try the drink named after you? Control B in the Mr. Excel The Forty Greatest Excel Tips of All Time book?
Michael: The Mr. Excel book is a fun coffee table book. But I am too lazy to make the drinks.
Szilvia: The Control B is a tasty drink. I tried all 12 drinks. There were many drinks that did not get published. There is no Sex on the Spreadsheet as it is kind of risqué, but there is DAX on the Beach. And one of the tips was how to lose your VB virginity.
Michael: Jordan had a section in the book too. Jordan wrote a lot of the jokes.
Jordan: Why did the chart go on an adventure?
Michael: To find its trend line?
Jordan: Because it had a legend. Jokes are a work in progress. Welcome to Excel TV! (Drum roll!) Maybe we will do an Indiegogo campaign for Control B drinks. Skinny Nerd.
Jordan: Your style in creating dashboards has changed. Have you noticed that the work you do in presenting analysis is different? Is this following your own personal taste or dashboard trends?
Michael: Yes, I noticed it’s changing. I remember looking for icons and looking back on old app icons, I notice how different they look now. At the time, they looked badass! Now they look gaudy like a picture of me in bellbottoms and an Afro. Excel 2007 looks so different. The shiny bevels are no longer in fashion. We want the flat icons. Excelsior is a product that everybody used with very shiny themes. But now, the shiny look is tacky.
Jordan: I went on a Stephen Few phase where there were no embellishments.
Szilvia: Where are you, Michael, on the Stephen Few? Who do you look to for your dashboard guidance?
Michael: I was into Steven Few, but I also look at how FEW dollars I’m getting by doing things I think are right, but the client doesn’t want. So the only FEW I listen to is I don’t want FEW dollars. So if the guy wants his logo on the top corner he gets it.
Rick: Data capitalist pig!
Michael: In all seriousness, I think a lot of what Steven Few espouses on simplicity is all good tips. I like the bullet graphs and bullet charts, but they don’t translate well and are difficult to explain. You will find that most people aren’t that smart and won’t know what they really want. You really have to guide them. You have to come up with your own perspective on what they want to look for and show it to them. So you have to get out of the Excel world and know their business. It is understanding what they are trying to achieve and guiding them in their dashboard design.
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