Why I’m going to Excel Summit South. (And why you should too).

At first I wasn’t going to. I live in Wellington, which is 636 km to the south. (395 miles, to those of you in the dark ages). And this being Middle Earth, to get there by road I would have had to run the gauntlet of Goblins, Orcs, and cliche tourists like Zack Barrasse likely driving on the wrong side of the road as he heads to Hobbiton behind a grin bigger than one face could safely hold:

Here’s a picture of me imagining I’m speeding around a corner only to find Zack heading the other way:

And then even if I manage to avoid Zack, there’s no avoiding the famous Auckland traffic. I still haven’t gotten over how bad it was last time I was up there:
Auckland traffiic

(Don’t get me wrong…the traffic south of Auckland is not without its own challenges):

And then there’s the whole “Paying for Excel feels a little like the concept of paying for sex…I’m good enough at it these days that I really shouldn’t have to” thing. (Excel, that is.)

But then I read the program. And there is truly something for everyone. Even me, who’s a virtual demigod at it compared to the poor suckers around me who don’t use it at all and have no desire to start now. Not to mention the outstanding cast. These guys and gals are like the Dirty Dozen:

Or at least, they would be, if there were one more of them. Oh wait, look: there’s two more of them below. Okay, so they’re like the Dirty Baker’s Dozen, then.
yigaledery_2 ben_rampsonThose two extras are a couple of guys called Yigel Edery and Ben Rampson from the Excel Project Team. These guys think they’re here to discuss the future of Excel. But I still live in the past – along with 99% of the rest of us – so I’ll make sure they find some time to answer all my tricky questions, like “How ’bout refreshing the Conditional Formatting Dialog. Have you ever had to actually use it yourselves? Huh? Huh?” …and… Where the hell are my Dynamic PivotTable References already? We’ve got ’em for Tables, but not for PivotTables. Have you ever tried to integrate PivotTables into a formula-driven spreadsheet? Huh? Huh? …and… Why does every ‘new’ Excel feature have the prefix ‘Formally Known As’? Have you ever tried to write a book about characters that kept changing their names half-way through? Huh? Huh?

Boy do I feel sorry for those guys: They’ll be dead keen to talk about the new extensions, while I’ll be dead keen to point out that the stairs that lead to them still are a little unsafe to use.  Let’s hope they’re still smiling like that when they get back on the plane.

I’ll also get to meet this guy, Ken Puls, Ken…who wrote the most useful Excel blogpost ever in the history of most useful blogposts ever on the strength of it’s excellent existential first line alone: Do you know why you are here? He’s moving on to something more future focused in his presentation: Do you know where you are going? (A little place called PowerQuery apparently, located in the hip new suburb of Get and Transform.) Can’t wait, because I know zipcode about it.

Mythbusters jon And following straight on from that, I’ll either get to meet the Myth-Buster shown left, or the Chart-Buster shown right. (Apparently speakers are provisional and may change.) At least one of those guys needs no introduction: He’s Jon Peltier, and he’s a regular addition to my Google Search Terms whenever I try to squeeze out a good chart.  And I owe him an entire beer of gratitude thanks to the best macro I never paid for. He’s going to pick up where Ken left off: Using Ken’s Powerquery data to build a Dashboard.

jelen I also finally get to meet Bill Jelen. I’m gonna ask him nicely to autograph my stack of Excel books…even the ones he didn’t write. (He didn’t write like 0.01% of them, so it won’t take him long).

The only problem is that Bill’s talk coincides with another from Ken on PowerQuery. Damn. But maybe I’ll just have to skip Ken’s sequel, because Bill’s gonna dive deep into Data Visualisations (yes, it’s spelt with an s down here), Conditional Formatting, and PivotTables.

ZackAnd of course, Zack isn’t here merely to look down Hobbits’ holes. He’s also here to talk about Tables, and perhaps to drink me under one afterwards.

charles And I’m super-excited to be meeting Charles Williams, who’s like the Phar Lap of Fast Excel. The Edmund Hillary of Excel’s capillaries. The Ernest Rutherford of Excel under-the-hood. If you’ve got spreadsheets that take about as long to open as the running time of your average installment of The Hobbit, then you need to read this, and then you need to come meet this guy.

And that’s just a select few of the wizened, Excel-scarred faces that I’ll see there. There’s a whole bunch of other international stars and local heroes coming too (including from that sleepy continent-sized Island that lies to the West of New Zealand) that I just can’t wait to INDEX and MATCH.

So yes, I’ve got my ticket. And I suggest you get yours pronto, because – as we say down here – it’s going to be O for Owesome.

You going? Give me a shout out in the comments, and we’ll CONCATENATE. You thinking of going, but haven’t quite committed? Shout out below anyway, and perhaps one of the Dirty Baker’s Dozen will drop by and talk you around.

20 thoughts on “Why I’m going to Excel Summit South. (And why you should too).

  1. “Here’s a picture of me imagining I’m speeding around a corner only to find Zack heading the other way’
    Why no change from how you normally look? :)

  2. Hey Jeff, would you do me a favor? When you ambush Yigel Edery and Ben Rampson with your questions, would you ask them one for me? My question deals with the Find and Replace dialog box… ask them if Microsoft’s Excel team would consider removing the “Options>>” button and leaving the dialog box fully opened up all of the time? It is very annoying not being able to see the two checkboxes, both of which remain set to the last value they were set to (whether manually set or set via code). I cannot tell you how many times I cursed that dialog box when doing a search or replace that failed only to click the button and find out one of the checkboxes was checked when I was anticipating it would be unchecked.

  3. This is Carlos from the Excel Team. I will be one of the “extra guys” at XLSouth as I’ll be replacing Yigal who unfortunately can’t make it. I’ll try to make my best Yigal impersonation to not disappoint. Hopefully, there is no need to ambush anyone, I do hope to still be smiling on my plane ride back to Redmond. :)

    A few quick thoughts.

    The ideas mentioned in the post and comments are all really great ideas (e.g. dynamic PT references, improvements in the find dialog, improvements in the CF dialog, etc.). As you could imagine we have no shortage of good ideas on our plate. There are plenty of things in Excel that could be improved. The tricky thing for us is to prioritize what we execute on with the resources we have available so that we create the greatest benefit across the hundreds of millions of Excel users around the world.

    As @Jan mentioned, one thing that helps us is to capture these ideas on excel.uservoice.com. Please add and vote for the ideas that you are passionate about. This is a relatively new tool we are using, and we do review these directly and try to act on the most popular ones. I did a quick search and I didn’t find anything on the structured references for PivotTables. There are a few ideas that map to improvements to the CF dialog.

    BTW – Yes, I have had to use the conditional formatting dialog several times.

    Looking forward to meeting you in person in a couple of weeks!

  4. @ Rick/Jan: It’s already on UserVoice, kinda.


    Unfortunately it’s declined. I would have given it all four of my votes, and nominated Jon Peltier as CCD (Chief Chart Designer) for starters. And I’d put Mike Alexander in charge of all Error Messages.

  5. Hi Carlos. Thanks for dropping by. Hopefully Yigal realised my post was tongue-in-cheek:
    Tongue in cheek

    I am in fact looking forward to meeting you Excel guys, and sharing my passion for your product. As well as my thoughts for improvement.

    Structured References for PivotTables is on UserVoice. It has two whole votes. Which is a far way behind Python As A Scripting Language, which has 7,215 votes.

    Methinks UserVoice isn’t representative of the User Base, most of whom would not want a dangerous snake anywhere near them. But methinks you guys know a good idea when you see it, and that this UserVoice thing isn’t a popularity contest any more than MPV Voting is. Take that how you will ;-)

    I’m just about to release a whole slew of Commercial Addins that add Structured References to Pivots, allow users to sync PivotTables on different caches, and that fix the underwhelming DV and CF dialog boxes. So I’m in no rush to upvote things in these particular areas, and my advice is take all the time in the world to improve them. :-)

  6. Looking forward to being at the Summit in Melbourne.

    My comment on “Structured References for PivotTables is on UserVoice. It has two whole votes. Which is a far way behind Python As A Scripting Language, which has 7,215 votes.” would be not to lose site of the fact that Excel is an end user tool and not a developers latest craze. Yes, I agree some of the dialog boxes could do with modification and the new MAXIFS/MINIFS functions are great.

    Yes I know people like myself earn a living out of writing code but with the introduction of Tables, which were always there if you think about it, more of my work is achieved structuring the data to work better within Excel and then writing code around the new structure.

  7. @Jan Karel: Yeah, that’s why I’ve been so quiet recently. I thought it would be simple. I thought wrong. It’s getting there though, and I should have a working prototype to show anyone interested at the upcoming Summit.

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