Why your governance team should be excited about Microsoft Fabric

Microsoft Fabric has only been in preview for a week, and I’ve already written one post that covers data governance – do we really need another one already?

I think we do.

Over the weekend I got this reply via Mastodon.

Dave’s excellent question and comment[1] got me thinking about why OneLake feels so important to him (and to me) even though Fabric is so much more than any one part – even a part as central as OneLake. The more I thought about it, the more the pieces fell into place in my mind, and the more I found myself thinking about one of my favorite quotes[2]:

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work.

Please take a minute to reflect on this quote. Ask yourself if Fabric is a complex system that works, what is the simple system that works? We’ll come back to that.

One of the most underappreciated benefits of Power BI as a managed SaaS data platform has been the “managed” part. When you create a report, dataset, dataflow, or other item in Power BI, the Power BI service knows everything about it. Power BI is the authoritative system for all items it contains, which means that Power BI can answer questions related to lineage (where does the data used by this report come from?) and impact analysis (where is the data in this dataset used?) and compliance (who has permissions to access this report?) and more.

If you’ve ever tried to authoritatively answer questions like these for a system of any non-trivial scope, you know how hard it is. Power BI has made this information increasingly available to administrators, through logs and APIs, and the community has built a wide range of free and paid solutions to help admins turn this information into insights and action. Even more excitingly, Power BI keeps getting better and better even as the newer parts of Fabric seem to be getting all of the attention.

With Power BI, more people can work with more data in more of the right ways to make more data-driven business decisions, taking more actions that align with the goals and culture of the organization.

What what does all this have to do with Fabric and OneLake and simple systems?

For data governance and enablement, Power BI is the simple system that works. OneLake is the mechanism through which the additional complexity of Fabric builds on the success of Power BI. Before the introduction of Fabric, the scope of Power BI was typically limited to the “final mile” of the data supply chain. There is a universe of upstream complexity that includes transactional systems, ETL/ELT/data preparation systems, data warehouses, lakes, and lakehouses, and any number of related building blocks. Having accessible insights into the Power BI tenant is great, but its value is constrained by the scope of the tenant and its contents.

With Fabric, that scope of value is significantly increased. Fabric includes tools and capabilities for significantly more parts of the data supply chain, and whatever you do in Fabric is part of the same tenant, which means these insights are more readily available. In addition to what you know and love in Power BI, Fabric also includes a growing set of governance-focused capabilities that make it easier than ever to monitor and audit artifacts and activities, and to implement guardrails to help everyone achieve their business goals in ways that align with the organization’s governance strategy.

All Fabric workloads use OneLake as their default data location. OneLake represents the biggest single step forward in moving from simpler to more complex, because it is the big expansion in the SaaS foundation shared by all Fabric workloads new and old. Because of Fabric, and because OneLake is the heart of Fabric, governance teams can now get more of the things they love about Power BI for more parts of the data estate.

Why should your governance team be excited about Microsoft Fabric? They should be excited because Fabric has the potential of making their lives much easier. Just as Fabric can help eliminate the complexity of integration, it can also help reduce the complexity of governance.

[1] Yes, we have Dave to thank and/or blame for this post.

[2] This massive pearl of wisdom is from The Systems Bible by John Gall. I first encountered it in the early 90s in the introduction to an OOP textbook, and have been inspired by it ever since. This quote should be familiar to anyone who has ever heard me talk about systems and/or data culture.


Managing Power BI tenant settings just got easier in Microsoft Fabric

If you’ve read the Power BI adoption roadmap or attended any of the full-day training sessions I’ve been doing with MVP Melissa Coates[1], you know how important it is to manage settings in your Power BI tenant, both for governance and for user enablement.

This week, Microsoft made this job easier with the introduction of a new GetTenantSettings API.

DALL-E prompt “power bi tenant settings administrator” because I couldn’t think of a better image to use

Until now, there hasn’t been a way to programmatically monitor tenant settings. Administrators needed to manually review and document settings to produce user documentation or complete audits. Now the GetTenantSettings API enables administrators to get a JSON response with all tenant settings and their values. With this information you can more easily and reliably share visibility into tenant settings for all of the processes where you need them.

If you’re a visual learner, check out this excellent video from Robert Hawker at Meloro Analytics that walks through using and understanding the API.

That’s it. That’s the post. I almost missed this important announcement with all of the other news this week – and I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it too.

[1] If you haven’t attended one of our past events, we’re both going to be in Dublin in less than two weeks, and I will be in Copenhagen in September. Given the way our schedules are looking, we don’t expect to have any more in-person appearances before the end of the year. If you’ve been waiting for an event closer to you, you’ll probably be waiting until 2024 or later.

Microsoft Fabric and OneLake: Data governance and enterprise adoption

The data internet this week is awash with news and information about Microsoft Fabric. My Introducing Microsoft Fabric post on Tuesday got just under ten thousand views in the first 24 hours, which I believe is a record for this blog.

Even more exciting than the numbers are the comments. Bike4thewin replied with this excellent comment and request:

I would love to hear your thought on how to adopt this on Enterprise level and what could be the best practices to govern the content that goes into OneLake. In real life, I’m not sure you want everyone in the organisation to be able to do all of this without compromising Data Governance and Data Quality.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so please understand that this post isn’t a comprehensive answer to all of these topics – it’s just my thoughts as requested.

In the context of enterprise adoption, all of the guidance in the Power BI adoption roadmap and my video series on building a data culture applies to Fabric and OneLake. This guidance has always been general best practices presented through the lens of Power BI, and most of it is equally applicable to the adoption of other self-service data tools. Start there, knowing that although some of the details will be different, this guidance is about the big picture more than it is about the details.

In the context of governance, let’s look at the Power BI adoption roadmap again, this time focusing on the governance article. To paraphrase this article[1], the goal of successful governance is not to prevent people from working with data. The goal should be to make it as easy as possible for people to work with data while aligning that work with the goals and culture of the organization.

Since I don’t know anything about the goals or culture that inform Bike4thewin’s question, I can’t respond to them directly.. but reading between the lines I think I see an “old school” perspective on data governance rearing its head. I think that part of this question is really “how do I keep specific users from working with specific data, beyond using security controls on the data sources?”

The short answer is you probably shouldn’t, even if you could. Although saying “no” used to work sometimes, no matter what your technology stack is, saying “yes, and” is almost always the better approach. This post on data governance and self-service BI[2] provides the longer answer.

As you’re changing the focus of your governance efforts to be more about enabling the proper use of data, Fabric and OneLake can help.

Data in OneLake can be audited and monitored using the same tools and techniques you use today for other items in your Power BI tenant. This is a key capability of Fabric as a SaaS data platform – the data in Fabric can be more reliably understood than data in general, because of the SaaS foundation.

The more you think about the “OneDrive for data” tagline for OneLake, the more it makes sense. Before OneDrive[3], people would store their documents anywhere and everywhere. Important files would be stored on users’ hard drives, or on any number of file servers that proliferated wildly. Discovering a given document was typically a combination of tribal knowledge and luck, and there were no reliable mechanisms to manage or govern the silos and the  sprawl. Today, organizations that have adopted OneDrive have largely eliminated this problem – documents get saved in OneDrive, where they can be centrally managed, governed, and secured.

To make things even more exciting, the user experience is greatly improved. People can choose to save their documents in other locations, but by default every Office application saves to OneDrive by default, and documents in OneDrive can be easily discovered, accessed, and shared by the people who need to work with them, and easily monitored and governed by the organization. People still create and use the documents they need, and there are still consistent security controls in place, but the use of a central managed SaaS service makes things better.

Using OneLake has the potential to deliver the same type of benefits for data that OneDrive delivers for documents. I believe that when we’re thinking about what users do with OneLake we shouldn’t be asking “what additional risk is involved by letting users do the things they’re already doing, but in a new tool?” Instead, we should ask “how we enable users to do the things they’re already doing using a platform that provides greater visibility to administrators?”

In addition to providing administrator capabilities for auditing and monitoring, OneLake also includes capabilities to data professionals who need to discover and understand data. The Power BI data hub[4] has been renamed the OneLake data hub in Fabric, and allows users to discover data in the lake for which they already have permissions, or which the owners have marked as discoverable.

The combination of OneLake and the OneLake data hub provide compelling benefits for data governance: it’s easier for users to discover and use trusted data without creating duplicates, and it’s easier for administrators to understand who is doing what with what data.

I’ll close with two quick additional points:

  1. Right before we announced Fabric, the Power BI team announced the preview of new admin monitoring capabilities for tenant administrators. I haven’t had the chance to explore these new capabilities, but they’re designed to make the administrative oversight easier than ever.
  2. I haven’t mentioned data quality, even though it’s part of the comment to which this post is responding. Data quality is a big and complicated topic, and I don’t think I can do it justice in a timely manner… so I’m going to take a pass on this one for now.

Thanks so much for the awesome comments and questions!

[1] And any number of posts (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |  …) on this site as well.

[2] The linked post is from exactly two years ago, as I write this new post. What are the odds?

[3] In this context I’m thinking specifically about OneDrive for Business, not the consumer OneDrive service.

[4] The data hub was originally released in preview in late 2020, and has been improving since then. It’s one of the hidden gems in Power BI, and is a powerful tool for data discovery… but I guess since I haven’t blogged about it before now, I guess I can’t complain too loudly when people don’t know it exists.

Fabric CAT sessions at Data Ceili

On Friday June 9th, Data Ceili – Ireland’s biggest Microsoft data platform event  – returns to Trinity College in Dublin!

Update 28 May 2023: Adding one more CAT session to the list, and updating session times as the schedule has changed slightly.

You already know that I’ll be there with MVP Melissa Coates on June 8th to present a full-day pre-conference training day session on Power BI adoption best practices[1]. Hopefully you’re already registered, and if not you can register today.

Today I can announce that there will be three Microsoft Fabric sessions during the main Data Ceili event on Friday. All three will be presented by members of the Fabric CAT team at Microsoft, and each will be based on deep engagement with the product team and private preview customers.

At 10:05 I’ll be presenting Introducing Microsoft Fabric.  At 11:30 Luke Moloney will present Microsoft Fabric – What it means for data engineers. At 14:40 Kasper de Jonge will be presenting Microsoft Fabric, Lakehouses and Power BI: A guide for BI developers.

The three sessions should complement each other well. I’ll be covering the basics of the topics Luke and Kasper will cover in more depth as part of a more comprehensive overview, and Kasper and Luke will recap the big-picture intro before getting into the details of their more focused technical sessions.

The full details are available on the conference schedule. This looks like it’s going to be an exciting event, and I hope to see you there!

At this point, I suspect someone might be saying “wait a minute – did you say Fabric CAT team?”

Why yes, yes I did.

Fabric CAT!
We don’t know what the team logo will be, but because of generative AI we have lots of cute examples of what it definitely won’t be.

As you know, I’ve been part of the Power BI CAT team for the last five years or so, and I’m thriving on that team. One of the reasons I love this team so much is how it periodically reinvents itself to remain aligned with the evolving needs of the customers and product teams we support. Sometimes these changes are smaller, sometimes they’re bigger, and this time the change was big enough we needed to change the team name.

The not unlike how Microsoft Fabric represents the evolution of Power BI and Synapse, Fabric CAT represents the evolution of the Power BI CAT and Synapse CSE[2] teams. We’re now a single team that’s better together, and I have one more reason to be excited about the future.

I know I can look forward to seeing you in Dublin, so I guess that should be two more reasons to be excited.

[1] Yes, the discussion during the pre-conference will include Fabric.

[2] Customer Success Engineering.

Join me in New York City May 5 and 6 for SQL Saturday NYC

May the fourth be with you, but May the fifth and sixth I hope you’ll be with me – in New York City!

Registration is now open for SQL Saturday NYC 2023, and it’s likely to fill up pretty quickly given the great schedule and exciting lineup of speakers. The event is hosted at Microsoft’s Times Square offices, and attendance is capped at 400 people.

If you’re interested in a free day of data-centric learning with some career-focused sessions[1], please register today and block your calendar. You can register here for the free SQL Saturday event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sql-saturday-new-york-city-tickets-590028480067

If you’re interested in an extra learning day focused on organizational maturity and adoption of a data culture with Power BI, you should also consider joining me and Melissa Coates for our full day focused on “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization.” At the risk of hyperbole, this session presents the most important information that you need to succeed with Power BI, and to increase the return your organization gets on its investments in data, in business intelligence, and in you.

The most important information that you need to succeed with Power BI

The more I think about it, I honestly think the risk of hyperbole here is very low. The Power BI adoption roadmap is based on the experiences of hundreds of enterprise Power BI customer organizations. The agenda of this pre-conference session is what Melissa and Matthew believe is most important for most audiences based on our collective decades of working in this space. This is the best of the best, the most important parts of the most important subject[2].

Most sessions teach you how to drive, or teach you some interesting aspect of driving. This session gives you a map, teaches you how to read the map, teaches you how to find out where you are on the map, and then provides best practices for navigation. If you’re driving for the sheer fun of driving, maybe this session isn’t what you’re looking for. But if you actually need to get somewhere, this session is going to give you what the other sessions won’t, and it will make all of the driving sessions more valuable.

You can register for this full-day not-free pre-conference here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-hitchhikers-guide-to-adopting-power-bi-in-your-organization-tickets-576361491737

I hope to see you in New York!

[1] Including one from me, as I reprise my “Unplanned Career” presentation for the first time in 2023!

[2] I wonder if it’s too late to increase the price. It probably is. (It is.)

The Power BI Scanner API keeps getting better

Power BI includes capabilities to enable users to understand the content they own, and how different items relate to each other. Sometimes you may need a custom “big picture” view that built-in features don’t deliver, and this is where the Scanner API comes in.

No, not this kind of scanner

The Power BI Scanner API is a subset of the broader Power BI Admin API. It’s designed to be a scalable, asynchronous tool for administrators to extract metadata for the contents of their Power BI tenant[1]. For an introduction to the Scanner API, check out this blog post from when it was introduced in December 2020.

The Power BI team has been updating the Scanner API since it was released. This week they announced some significant new capabilities added to the API, so administrators can get richer and more complete metadata, including:

  • Scheduled refresh settings for datasets, dataflows, and datamarts – this will make it easier for administrators to review their refresh schedules and identify problems and hotspots that may have undesired effects.
  • Additional RDL data source properties – this will make it easier for administrators to understand paginated reports and the data sources they use.
  • Additional “sub-artifact” metadata for datasets – this will make it easier for administrators to understand table- and query-level configuration including row-level security and parameters.

There’s more to it than these highlights – check out the announcement blog post here: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/new-scanner-api-scenarios/.

The Scanner API is a vital tool for any organization that wants to deeply understand how Power BI is being used, with a goal of enabling and guiding adoption and building a data culture. These updates represent an incremental but meaningful evolution of the tool. If you’re already using the Scanner API, you may want to look at how to include this new metadata in your scenario. If you’re not yet using the Scanner API, maybe now is the time to begin…

[1] One of the key scenarios enabled by the Scanner API is integration with Microsoft Purview and third party data catalog tools like Collibra. When these tools “scan” Power BI to populate their catalogs, they’re calling this API.

Upcoming Power BI Adoption Pre-Conference Sessions

If you’re going to be near Copenhagen in September[1], Dublin in June, or New York City in May – I have exciting news for you!

On Friday May 5th, I will be joining the incredible Melissa Coates to co-present our “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization” full-day pre-conference session as part of SQL Saturday NYC.

On Thursday June 8, Melissa and I will be on the other side of the Atlantic presenting “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization” as a full-day pre-conference before the Data Ceili conference in Dublin, Ireland. I’m very excited to be returning to Dublin this year – I was scheduled to speak at Data Ceili 2020, but for some reason that trip didn’t happen as planned.

Finally, on Thursday September 21 I’ll be in Copenhagen, Denmark to deliver a full-day pre-conference session: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Power BI Adoption Roadmap as part of the amazing Power BI Next Step conference.

It’s unlikely that Melissa will be able to join me for Power BI Next Step. I’ll still be using the content framework she’s built, but the bottom line is that we’re less likely to stay on schedule during the day, and more likely to have slightly off-color stories to punctuate key learning topics. Depending on your learning style and priorities this could be a blessing or a curse.

If you missed our initial delivery of this session at the PASS Data Community Summit last November, please consider joining us at one of these sessions. Event details and registration links are below!

New York, NY, USA: Friday, May 5, 2023

Decorative SQL Saturday icon

Matthew and Melissa will be co-presenting at the SQL Saturday event in New York City on May 5th. This event will be held at the Microsoft office in Times Square. It’s an in-person session.

Pre-con registration: Hitchhikers Guide to Adopting Power BI – NYC May 5

Dublin, Ireland: Thursday, June 8, 2023

Matthew and Melissa will be co-presenting in Dublin, Ireland at the Data Ceili event on Ju

ne 8th. It’s held at the gorgeous Trinity College. It’s an in-person session.

Pre-con registration: Hitchhikers Guide to Adopting Power BI – Dublin June 8

Copenhagen, Denmark: Thursday, Sept 21, 2023

Decorative event icon for Power BI Next Step event

Matthew will be presenting solo at the Power BI Next Step event in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sept 21st. It’s an in-person session.

Pre-con info: Hitchhikers Guide to the Power BI Adoption Roadmap – Copenhagen Sept 21

[1] If you’ve never visited the Nordic countries in the fall, you don’t know what you’re missing. I’ll always be partial to the islands of Stockholm, but Copenhagen is a close second on my list of places I want to be in September and October.

[2] Believe me, I know how you feel. An entire day with Matthew is a lot.

[3] Shamelessly copied from Melissa’s blog post, of course.

Power BI and PowerPoint integration – “Storytelling” is now generally available

Whether you love PowerPoint or whether you hate it,[1] PowerPoint is one of the most commonly used communication tools in organizations around the world. If you want to reach an audience with information, odds are you’re going to use PowerPoint.

One of the key goals in building and sustaining a healthy data culture is to have more people working with more of the right data in more of the right ways as part of their day to day work, replacing tribal knowledge with data-driven insights and actions. To achieve this goal, you need to bring the right data to the places where people are already working – to meet them where they are today.

As often as not, people are working in PowerPoint today. This is a signal that emerged strongly from the customer conversations I’ve had since joining the Power BI CAT team – enterprise customers[2] want the ability to seamlessly include Power BI reports and visuals in their PowerPoint presentations, to increase the reach and value of their investments in data and BI.

The Power BI team announced today that the “storytelling” integration between Power BI and PowerPoint is now generally available (GA) for Power BI customers everywhere, including customers using national clouds. The GA feature includes functional improvements based on feedback during preview, including the ability to embed individual visuals and to add “smart insights” generated from Power BI and added directly to the PowerPoint slide.

If your organization uses Power BI and PowerPoint, you should take a few minutes today to check out this important new release, and look for ways to incorporate it into your work.

[1] Or like me, both love and hate it!

[2] These are the customers I work with the most. I suspect there’s a similar signal waiting to be discovered from smaller organizations as well.

Roche’s Maxim of Community

Roche’s Maxim of Community states:

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates.

I played the “maxim” card already a few months ago, I think it’s time to play it one more time, because this is another succinct formulation of a fundamental principle, general truth, or rule of conduct that I need to share[1].

An AI-generated image of a diverse group of people attending a conference

As you read this you might be thinking about the recent change in leadership at Twitter, and how the new leadership is inviting in and promoting prominent neo-Nazis, insurrectionist leaders, and other extremist, anti-democracy, and authoritarian figures, and how more and more members of the technical community are turning their backs on this now-sullied social network. I’m thinking about this too, but I’m also thinking more broadly because any maxim needs to be broadly and generally applicable.

So let’s start with a few examples. If you’ve made it this far I hope you stick with me for the rest.[3]

I’m part of of the global Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) community. I love training and fighting with swords, and I love the camaraderie that can be found through martial arts and combat sports. When your community activities bring with them a direct risk of serious injury, it’s important to be able to trust your training partner, your sparring partner, and your tournament opponent to keep your safety in mind.

Back in 2017 I competed in a tournament organized and by a HEMA club with an established “Cobra Kai” reputation. I attended with a clubmate who is a fantastic swordsman and all-around martial artist. I was competing in open tournaments. He was competing in the advanced invitational tournament that included the head coach of the organizing club. The invitational tournament was also refereed and directed by members of that club. Yeah.

During the match between my clubmate and the coach of the club running the tournament, that coach exhibited the unsafe and unsportsmanlike behavior that earned him and his club their reputation.

I was in my clubmate’s corner both coaching and taking video. At the end of the day I shared the video[4], and it started making the rounds on HEMA groups on Facebook. Even though “sharing tournament footage so fighters and clubmates watch and learn” is pretty standard behavior, this one caused some waves and started some difficult conversations. I don’t believe that the video showed anything surprising – this was the behavior everyone knew about already, and which they talked about behind closed doors. The video simply shone light on it, and made it harder to ignore, or to pretend you didn’t know.

I started avoiding events where this club was involved. I didn’t make a big deal about it, but when people asked me why I wasn’t going back to a tournament where I’d competed the previous year, I was honest in sharing my reasons. Fast forward to the HEMA event circuit starting back up in 2021, this club is no longer involved in multiple tournaments that they previously ran. Several of their most senior and prominent members have left the club, and started their own.

I’m a pretty small part of the HEMA community, so I doubt my personal actions had that big of an impact – but I know they were part of this positive change. I saw behavior I would not tolerate and I voted with my feet. Others did the same, and the community evolved and grew.

Progressive and inclusive HEMA clubs like Valkyrie Western Martial Arts in Vancouver, BC and London Longsword Academy in London, UK demonstrate this maxim in a positive and proactive way. I’ve already written previously about the aggressive inclusivity that pervades Valkyrie’s culture, so here I’ll focus on a few aspects of London Longsword Academy[5] and their Fighters Against Racism (FAR) initiative.

As the FAR page says, Fighters Against Racism is a reaction to the “unpleasant element” in the HEMA community. If a club displays a FAR poster or banner, people who are offended by anti-racist statements will feel unwelcome – which they are. If a fighter wears a FAR t-shirt or patch to a tournament, they’re sending a clear message to everyone there what they believe, and that they are confident that this belief will be accepted and welcome at the event. My FAR t-shirt[6] is pretty successful at attracting YouTube comments, but so far I’ve never been confronted in person.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates.

If you’re reading this blog (and I have every reason to believe that you are) you’re probably more interested in data and technology than in swords. My next example is more recent, where in August of last year[7] there was an online discussion about the need for codes of conduct at conferences and community events. My tweets have since been deleted, so I’ll reproduce the thread here, starting with the same warning: foul language later on.

The phrase “doesn’t need saying” is a red flag for me when it comes to conversations about communities, events, and codes of conduct.

If it “doesn’t need saying” that certain behaviors are not acceptable, there is no need to not say it, because no one will be offended or feel targeted, right?

For example (here comes that foul language) it probably doesn’t feel necessary to have a “no shitting on the carpet” rule, because who would ever do such a thing? This just “doesn’t need saying,” does it?

But if there was ever one time when someone did shit on the carpet and no one did anything about it, you might start to reconsider. Maybe we do need to be explicit in saying “no shitting on the carpet” for the next event.

What if it wasn’t just one time? What if after your event people were talking about how someone shit on the carpet… they just weren’t talking about it in front of you because your inaction signaled that you were ok with that sort of thing? Might a code of conduct be in order?

Or would it be better to say “I didn’t see the shit on my carpet” or “I couldn’t smell it from where I was” or maybe even “it was just that one time, and the person who did shit on the carpet is an important member of the community”?

What if the idea of a code of conduct feels like a slippery slope? If we tell people they can’t shit on the carpet, what is next? Telling them they can’t shit on the hardwood floors? On the tiles? Telling them they can’t piss on the carpet? Where does it all end???

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. If a community organizer says “this problem isn’t important” that sends a very strong signal – and not a virtuous one. It says “this behavior is ok and I will permit it to continue.”

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. If a community organizer says “this problem doesn’t affect me, so it isn’t a real problem” that sends a strong signal too.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. If a community organizer says no, this is not ok, this is our code of conduct, and these are things that we simply will not accept, that sends a signal. A virtuous one.

This “virtue signaling” will be heard by the people who have a history of (literally or figuratively) shitting the the carpet, and they’re not going to like it. They might stop participating, and they might make trouble and noise on the way out.

Because the reality is that far too many events in far too many communities have allowed shit on the carpet for far too many years. We’ve just pretended that it’s not a problem, because the people doing the shitting are well-known for other things, and because the people who stepped in the shit generally left in disgust without saying anything. Does it really need saying that you’re not allowed to shit on the carpet? Yes. It does. Your code of conduct is an explicit statement about the behaviors you will tolerate.

You don’t need to be perfect, but being willing to change is a prerequisite to positive change. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step to solving the problem. FFS. /thread

When I wrote that thread in 2021 I was thinking about that HEMA tournament from 2017, where the community event organizers were complicit. Thankfully, the thread was in response to an announcement by the organizers of Data Grillen, DataMinutes, and New Stars of Data posting about their code of conduct. These folks (in this case it was the always incredible William Durkin) know what type of community they want to build, and they were unwilling to back down when a few dudes[8] took umbrage with the news.

Earlier this year, renowned C++ developer, consultant, and speaker Patricia Aas stood up and spoke out when her community continued to welcome an organizer and speaker who was convicted of serious sexual crimes. She made it clear that her community’s milquetoast response was intolerable to her, and she made her voice heard, even though it was likely that this would impact her ability to participate in a community she had helped grow.

Warning: There’s some additional profanity ahead.

I mention this example not because I was personally involved, but because it feels like a concrete canonical example of so many similar stories. There’s some guy. He’s been around forever, and has made serious positive contributions to the community. He’s use these contributions to build a clique, a power base, a center of social gravity and influence that’s about him, not about the community.

When it comes to light that he’s using his power and influence for ends that run contrary to the community’s stated goals and culture his clique stands up for him, often supported by the actions or inactions of those not directly harmed by the guy’s actions.

“Think about all that he’s done for the community,” comes the familiar refrain. “Think about how much good he’s done, and how much we’d lose if not for his contributions.”

Fuck that. Fuck that, fuck him, and fuck his supporters.[9]

Instead, think about how much the community has already lost and will continue to lose because of him. Everyone he has harmed, everyone he has driven away from the community, everyone who has considered joining the community but was repulsed by his behavior and the community’s acceptance of his actions. Think about what each of these people could have contributed.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. This is why codes of conduct are important.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. This is why it is important to speak up when you see someone behaving in ways that violate the community’s written or unwritten rules.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. This is why it’s important to hold the powerful to account, and to hold them to a standard that is at least as high as the one by which the powerless are judged.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. Your participation in a community is a statement of your acceptance of the behaviors taking place in that community. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t the abuser, if you weren’t directly causing harm, if you weren’t actively shitting on the carpet yourself.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. Your participation in a community is a statement of your acceptance of the behaviors taking place in that community. If you’re at a party and someone walks in wearing blackface, wearing a white hood, wearing a swastika armband, you get to choose if you leave or if you stay. But if someone wearing a swastika armband joins the party[10] and you do decide to stay because they’re not personally bothering you – congratulations, you chose to attend a Nazi party.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. What behaviors do you choose to tolerate in your community? Does your community reflect your values or is it time to leave and join/start something better before you get shit on your shoes?

Wow. This ended up much longer than expected. Thank you for staying with me until the end. As is the case with Roche’s Maxim of Data Transformation there’s not really anything new or unique here. I’m saying something you probably already knew, and which was completely obvious once written down – and I took 100 pages to say it. Despite this, I believe it’s important to put in writing, and important to think and talk about, especially these days.

A community is defined by the behaviors it tolerates. Why not find me on Mastodon?

[1] I also haven’t published a blog post since July. The more technical topics I’ve been fermenting aren’t quite ready to be served, and I don’t want the whole month to pass[2] without finishing something.

[2] LOL @ Past Matthew who wrote footnote 1 in August 2021 (and who wrote footnote 2 in December 2021).

[3] Each example is based largely on my personal real-world experience, but deliberately avoids any names or details that would be obvious to people who weren’t already involved. I believe there is a time and a place to “name and shame” but I don’t believe this post is the right place, and I don’t want to encourage any sort of pile-on.

[4] I’m not going to link to the video here, but if you’re motivated you can find it on my personal YouTube channel. It’s the one with the very high view count and with comments disabled.

[5] London Longsword Academy is run by my dear friend David Rawlings, who often reminds us that he is “not straight, but still a great ruler.”

[6] Yes, you can buy one too.

[7] Yes, way back when I started writing this post.

[8]  It’s always dudes, isn’t it? Do better, my dudes

[9] That was the profanity I warned you about. I’m done now. Ok, almost done.

[10] Particularly if they’re personally invited and welcomed by the host of that party.

Coming to the PASS Data Community Summit in November: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization

At the 2022 PASS Community Data Summit this November, I’m thrilled to be co-presenting a full-day pre-conference session with the one and only Melissa Coates [blog | Twitter | LinkedIn]. We’ll be presenting our all-day session live and in-person in Seattle on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

What’s the Session?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization

What’s the Session About?

The Power BI Adoption Roadmap is a collection of best practices and suggestions for getting more value from your data and your investment in Power BI. The Power BI Adoption Roadmap is freely available to everyone — but not everyone is really ready to start their journey without a guide. Melissa and I will be your guides…while you’re hitchhiking…on the road…to reach the right destination…using the roadmap. (You get it now, right?!?)

We’ll do an end-to-end tour of the Power BI Adoption Roadmap. During the session we’ll certainly talk about all of the key areas (like data culture, executive sponsorship, content ownership and management, content delivery scope, center of excellence, mentoring and user enablement, community of practice, user support, data governance, and system oversight).

Smart Power BI architecture decisions are important – but there’s so much more to a successful Power BI implementation than just the tools and technology. It’s the non-technical barriers, related to people and processes, that are often the most challenging. Self-service BI also presents constant challenges related to balancing control and oversight with freedom and flexibility. Implementing Power BI is a journey, and it takes time. Our goal is to give you plenty of ideas for how you can get more value from your data by using Power BI in the best ways.

We promise this won’t be a boring day merely regurgitating what you can read online. We’ll share lessons learned from customers, what works, what to watch out for, and why. There will be ample opportunity for Q&A, so you can get your questions answered and hear what challenges that other organizations are facing. This will be a highly informative and enjoyable day for you to attend either in-person or virtually.

Who is the Target Audience?

To get the most from this pre-conference session: You need to be familiar with the Power BI Adoption Roadmap and the Power BI Implementation Planning guidance. You should have professional experience working with Power BI (or other modern self-service BI tools), preferably at a scope larger than a specific team. Although deep technical knowledge about Power BI itself isn’t required, but the more you know about Power BI and its use, the more you’ll walk away with from this session.

We hope to see you there! More details and to register: link to the PASS Data Community web site.

Who wrote this blog post?

It was Melissa.

She wrote it and emailed it to me and I shamelessly[1] stole it, which may be why there haven’t been any footnotes[2]. I even stole the banner image[3].

[1] With her permission, of course.
[2] Until these ones.
[3] Yes, Jeff. Stealing from Melissa is a Principal-level behavior.