Inspiring Ingenuity

Alteryx, Bicycles and Teaching Kids Programming.

Alteryx: It Takes a Village

I get a lot of the credit for Alteryx – the product. Having been the original author and still the lead architect that makes sense, but there are a whole host of people who deserve the credit as much or more than I do. Some of the people are the fantastic programmers you have met every year at Inspire, like Linda or Rob among many others who have contributed hugely. Others are the team of product managers, like the original Alteryx product manager: Tara. More recently there has been an influx of new energy from people like George, Dan, Geoff, Ben and many others helping to take the product to the next level. Obviously my co-founders Libby & Dean have had at least as much impact on the product as I have as well. There are just so many people who have made such a huge impact on the product and the users of it that it would be impossible to name them all.

A less known contributor was Darren Weiner, who has had a few positions in the company over the years and unfortunately left the company last week. Darren has never been a programmer or a product manager at Alteryx. His influence was solely based on his role as a user and his willingness to challenge us developers and product managers. Below are just a few of the many features, some of the most original in the product, that Darren has helped inspire, invent or design:

Analytic Apps (ne Wizards)

In a long ago version of the software, Darren was doing a project for a customer where he wanted them to be able to change a few parameters, but not mess with a very complicated module. When I first saw his solution, I expect I was a little appalled until I realized the genius of it. He had 1 tool visible at the top of the canvas with a big text box of instructions next to it. Underneath was a giant text box and that was it. It took me a little while to figure out what he had done – he had hidden all the complexities underneath the text box. The user could click on the one tool and change the input file or whatever it was that needed to be changed and be blissfully unaware that there were another 100+ tools hidden below. Once I realized the genius of it, I quickly starting planning for Wizards. The product managers all thought I was crazy – and I would have thought I was too – except for I had seen it working already.

Multi-Row Formula

I think the multi-row formula is one of the coolest, and most original, features of Alteryx. Darren had a much more SQL oriented background than I do, so he was accustomed to using things like cursors. While cursors in SQL work, they require a shift from functional to procedural programming and back that is far from intuitive. He drove me to create a feature to allow computations involving multiple rows of data. After seeing the tool, it seems obvious that it would be built the way that it is, but it was far from obvious at the time. He and I spent many hours brainstorming that tool together. It probably took more time to conceive and design than it took to write.

Alteryx Service

Darren had been tasked with the operations of the Alteryx Gallery. The architecture of the gallery involves a front end written in C# and a C++ back end shared by the scheduler. Through managing the day to day operations of a very complicated site, he has driven us developers to improve all aspects of stability and logging. When customers get their hands on an on premise version of the site, the ease of deployment and stability will be largely credit to Darren’s continuing pushing to make it better.

It really does take a village to build a great product. We hope you will be part of our village!  Only with your help can the product continue to grow.

Thanks for reading,

Ned.

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