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It's 7 pm on Saturday, June 15th, and I discover that I've mistakenly included a paperback book in my post-Inspire load of laundry. The damage is... severe.
I've made a huge mistake.
I get a sinking feeling in the depths of my soul as I run my fingers through the carnage below. There are millions of damp pieces of paper everywhere, stuck to all of my clothing.
I rifle through the debris and pull out the cover of the book I had laundered. It's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter, a heady nonfiction work essentially about how meaning emerges from apparently meaningless bits of information and physical phenomenon.
And now, it too has reverted to meaningless bits of information. Pictured here: irony.
How did this happen?
I had been using the thick 800-page book as support for some floor-based back stretches to help me rehabilitate my upper spine after a bouldering injury. As a result, it was not with other books on a bookshelf but instead lying unceremoniously on the floor in my bedroom.
While I was at Inspire I had hardwood floors refinished in a few bedrooms. To prepare, I had removed everything out of the bedrooms the weekend before Inspire and into closets and shared spaces. In the process of doing this -well, I tossed the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize winner into my laundry hamper.
Lastly, I have a tendency to skip the step where you separate lights from darks (sorry Mom), and so I somehow didn't notice a huge book in my laundry when I dumped it into the washer earlier that day.
The floors came out great though.
Anyway, I realized I have my work cut out for me to clean up the mess I made on my clothes, my washer, and most importantly, my state-of-mind. After a few moments of processing various emotions (deep breaths), I land on a game plan:
Step 1: Take each item of clothing out, one by one, and shake it out in the washing machine to remove the larger pieces of paper.
Step 2: Clean the paper out from the inside of the washer.
Step 3: Take clothing outside and vigorously shake out as much of the paper as possible.
Step 4: Send clothes through another wash cycle to remove the remaining paper dust.
Step 5: Pizza and beer.
It was at this point that Deadpool broke the fourth wall and was like, "Aren't you forgetting something?"
I had made such a large mess and it was going to take forever to clean this up. How am I going to motivate and entertain myself for the hours of work in front of me? Maybe I could take a page out of the Gödel, Escher, Bach (literally and figuratively) and try to figure out if I could make some meaning out of this meaningless situation?
Well, I'm not sure if anyone would agree that it's a "good idea" but here we are.
Welcome to my photo-journal of Inspire Nashville, as told each day through my ruined Inspire clothes.
Inspire Day 1: Monday
Ruined item: Academy t-shirt
Same shirt, in blue (front) and black (back). Level of paper contamination: much.
Inspire got off to a great start with training classes on Monday morning. We had 13 courses to choose from on Monday, such as See the Future - Time Series Analysis, Introduction to Reporting in Alteryx, and Deep Learning with Alteryx, all three of which were sold out and at capacity.
I got the chance to help out at another sold-out course taught by friend and colleague @JordanB, Web Scraping.
People seemed to really enjoy Web Scraping despite UK-native Jordan Barker's strange "H" and "R" inflections.
It was a night full of beer, yummy food, laughter, bar trivia, and even a few awards. Pictured here: anticipation.
Congratulations to @CharlieS (Charlie Squyers), @Thableaus (Thales Silva), and @danilang (Dan Languedoc) - all of whom were recognized as Top Contributors in 2018-2019! Unfortunately, Dan was unable to make it to the event.
On the far far right in the picture below we have @joe_lipski (Joe Lipski), who accepted the User Group of the Year award on behalf of the London User Group.
Left to Right - Maddie Johannsen, Thales Silva, Leah Knowles, Charlie Squyers, Lauren Uyeno, Joe Lipski, Cat Martinez
After the event, a few of us went out for a nightcap in Nashville and ended up at a roof bar on Broadway. There I learned that ACE @dataMack is really really good at cornhole.
Jason Mack is as relentless with cornhole as he is with helping you build a beautiful workflow. Pictured: concentration.
Inspire Day 2: Tuesday
Ruined item: Alteryx socks
These are from the 5k we held during the 2016 San Diego Inspire. Pictured: before & after the incident.
Tuesday morning, I put on my Alteryx socks and helped with the triage station for that day's training. There were 25 courses on Tuesday and some of the most popular included Introduction to Regular Expressions (RegEx), Fuzzy Matching, and Supporting the Alteryx Server.
At 4 pm I headed over to the Community Hub, home base for all things Community, Alteryx for Good, Women of Analytics, User Groups, and ACEs. We also had sections devoted to user testing upcoming website changes in the online Community and the Help Documentation. The deal was that we'd give people swag if they helped us test the site and fill out a survey.
At 6 pm, the floor officially opened for business and...
The place blew up, ya'll.
I was blown away by the continuous stream of folks who came over and helped us test out a few new things we've been working on for the community.alteryx.com. It was awesome to watch and hear their thoughts as they first looked at the stage Community site. Over the course of the conference, we received 160 survey responses from attendees, a treasure trove of information to comb over with the team once we're back to real life.
Not pictured: me geeking out about these survey results for weeks to come.
Inspire Day 3: Wednesday
Ruined item: Community shirt
On Wednesday I knew I was going to be speaking in front of people, so I thought the Alteryx Community shirt would be best. I also threw on a sports jacket to help me get into a more confident mindset. Needless to say, I looked good.
It was my first time sitting on a panel! I think I did ok but it's a bit of a blur. Pictured: me trying to think of something funny to say.
Some really cool stories came out of the session. David Wilcox told us all about Innovation Days, 3 days every quarter that engineers can tinker with creating a rapid prototype of an interesting idea or product enhancement. Caching is an example of one feature that came out of Innovation Days. Actually, it turns out that @Hollingsworth posted one of the initial caching feature requests way back in 2013, then @MacRo (Em Roach), @JPoz (Jarrod Pozarnsky), and @LindaT (Linda Thompson) refined down possible solutions over a couple of Innovation Days. Then, when I was a Product Manager I helped coordinate getting the final product into Alteryx Designer.
After this session, I floated over to help moderate a Q&A session with @MarqueeCrew (Mark Frisch) and @SeanAdams called "The ACE Guide to Enterprising your Workflow" which was about how companies can uplevel their use of Alteryx from casual and ad hoc to a smooth and stable process fit for an enterprise-scale operation. This session was a ton of fun - Mark and Sean must have fielded 30 or so questions from the audience in the 45-minute slot, and we kept on going right until the sound guy cut my mic.
Inspire Day 4: Thursday
Ruined item: "I Walk the Line" Johnny Cash shirt
Thursday was a marathon of a day, where we got to hear from all the keynote speakers, even more breakout sessions from interesting speakers, and of course, chat with a bunch of folks at the Solution Center. The Solution Center is a magical place where anything you can imagine, somebody can help you figure out how to do it with Alteryx. It's essentially like free consulting, but better, because you even get direct access to our developers and product managers. It's one of the most popular destinations for conference attendees for good reason.
Pictured: qualified expertise with a smile.
I ducked away from the Solution Center to meet up with ACE @Ken_Black before he goes on to give his breakout session Hot in Here: Examining 100M Temperature Readings to Understand Global Warming. Ken has spent years analyzing huge amounts of data about climate change, and this session did not disappoint. Using Alteryx to process the data and Tableau to visualize it, he weaved a very solid (and quite concerning) story of our climate over the last 50 years or so. Check out his blog if you're curious about Ken's research.
Unfortunately, at this point, I have been speaking continuously for 4 days and my voice sounded like a cross between Batman and trying to fold up a really sandy beach chair.
Luckily, we came up with a perfect plan and I had the guests ~interview~ each other!! Not pictured here: Alteryx employees
After recording for a few hours, I locked everything up and headed over to watch the keynote by Malcolm Gladwell (which was about the higher education system and very good), as well as the keynote by our Chief Customer Officer @LibbyD (Libby Duane Adams). Libby had a lot of exciting news to share, including the addition of six brand new ACEs to the team.
The conference wasn't over yet though! I headed back to my room to grab 30 minutes of shut-eye before suiting up for the Honky Tonk Takeover party at Jason Aldean's.
It's not really an Inspire unless the bow-tie makes an appearance.
In my opinion, this was one of the best parties I've been to at Alteryx. The venue was excellent, with multiple areas you can move through, including some out-of-the-way areas where you can get a small reprieve from being social. It was enormous. Also, the food was delicious.
Top 5 best destination for adult hide-and-seek.
Later in the night, many of us had found our way to the dance floor, but some needed a light nudge. The person that sent me the below text ended up laying down some excellent moves.
Sometimes you just gotta dance.
Inspire Day 5: Friday
Ruined item: Certification shirt
There's no rest for the wicked, so after a quick 3 hours of sleep, I grabbed my Certification t-shirt and headed back to the training rooms.
Each conference we include Certification exams for Designer Core, Advanced, and Expert. However, this year we had two new tests we were field-testing: The Spatial Master and the Automation Master exams.
I was helping out with the Automation exam, but we only had a handful of people taking it so I decided to sit down and give it a shot myself. Unfortunately, though I got everything I tried right, I ran out of time and failed the test. I was devastated.
Especially since ACE Jesse Clark completed it, checked his answers, and walked out 15 minutes early. Pictured: smug satisfaction
Well, that's all I have for Inspire! I'm going to go vacuum out my washing machine now.
Just another weekend at Alex's house.
6/17/2019 - Update
After many hours, my Inspire swag is back to its former glory. <phew>
No Inspire shirts were destroyed in the making of this blog post.