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Message started by Stacey Mason on Jul 20th, 2011, 9:22pm

Title: Dashboards 101: Tbx Tutorial Series Widgetron
Post by Stacey Mason on Jul 20th, 2011, 9:22pm

By now, many people have had time to DL and play with Volume 1 of the Tinderbox Tutorial Series.  In the "Example Cases" folder, we included a file called "Widgetron," which was designed to be a tutorial for creating dashboards.

Provided is a body of data from with which Tinderbox constructs graphs and calculates and displays total sales and revenues in a dashboard. The current form of the dashboard is designed to serve as a template for the eventual goal, but many of the displays do not actually draw data or are in some other way broken.  

The goal of the document is to serve as a running workbook. The idea is to figure out what is wrong with some of the utilities (like "Total Sales" and "Total Revenue" displays, the table of sales figures, and the market research percentage displays) and then we can discuss why these approaches work, what other tools we might add, and answer questions.  Everyone who has downloaded the tutorial disc can follow along and chime in with suggestions.

So let's go one problem at a time (and for sake of discussion, PLEASE don't jump ahead to the other problems. Let's discuss these one at a time so newer users can follow along).

Problem 1:

The "Total Units Sold" utility is not working. The rule of this note should be pulling the $TotalSales value from the agent "Total Sales."  This agent's rule is designed to set its own $TotalSales by adding the sum of its children's $TotalSales.  Where is the problem and how can we fix it?

I'll be back with the answer tomorrow.

Title: Re: Tinderbox Tutorial Series: Widgetron Example
Post by Stacey Mason on Jul 21st, 2011, 4:52pm

So in light of the fact that the whole world is downloading Lion, I'm going to wait one more day to give you the answer to last night's problem.

Back with the answer tomorrow!

Title: Re: Dashboards 101: Tbx Tutorial Series Widgetron
Post by Stacey Mason on Jul 22nd, 2011, 2:10pm

Thanks for your patience, all!  The answer is something we run into rather frequently when troubleshooting these kinds of problems.  

The first thing to check is that "Total Units Sold's" rule is setting the $Text the way we want it to.  Typing something in $Text is, in fact, replaced by the rule, so that's working.  This means that the problem is coming from the attribute we want the $Text to display.

The problem with the attribute could be one of two things: either the agent is not correctly setting its attribute, or the rule is not correctly grabbing it.  A quick look at the agent's $TotalSales shows us the value we expect to receive, so the only other option is that "Total Units Sold" is not picking this attribute up correctly.

Looking at the document's Outline View, we can see that "Total Sales" is the name our agent, but there is also another note with the same name.  Our rule is grabbing the $TotalSales from that note instead of the one we want.  This is easily corrected by including the $Path for the "Total Sales" agent in the rule of "Total Units Sold" rather than the $Name.

This can be corrected with the following Rule:

$Text=$TotalSales(../Total Sales)

A look at the rule for "Total Revenue" reveals the same problem.

Title: Re: Dashboards 101: Tbx Tutorial Series Widgetron
Post by Stacey Mason on Jul 22nd, 2011, 3:46pm

Problem 2:

Looking at the graph of "Total Sales," there is a mysterious dip. There are also some stray 0's in the "Sales Breakdown" table.  Let's figure out why this is happening and how to get around it.

I'll be on vacation next week, so replies to questions might be slower than usual, but I'll be sure to pop onto the forums with the answer for you on Tuesday.

Title: Re: Dashboards 101: Tbx Tutorial Series Widgetron
Post by Stacey Mason on Jul 26th, 2011, 2:59pm

Hello again!

The answer to problem 2, the strange dips and 0's comes from the queries that we're using for both of our agents.  This may seem obvious to some, but I felt that it was a point worth reminding people of: sometimes as documents evolve, we have to reevaluate our approaches to finding data that was once easy to specify.

The queries for both of the agents search for keywords in the $Name that seemed to limit the contents to the notes I was looking for.  Over time, however, the document has evolved to a point where now other notes share the same keywords in their $Name and the agent is now picking up more notes than I originally intended.

There are a couple of ways around this.  For example, if we have one or two notes that have "Sales" in the $Name, we might find it convenient to exclude them from the agents' search through the "not" command to exclude the notes we don't want:

$Name!="Random Note with Sales in the Title"

This becomes cumbersome, however, as we add more notes with "Sales" in the $Name and we have to keep adding exclusions.

We can limit the scope of the search with other designators such as children() or siblings() or descendants() and then searching for notes that meet our criteria within that subset of notes.

Or, if all else fails, we can also change the way we're searching altogether and search for notes with a $TotalSales value


I'll be on periodically to answer questions over the next couple of days. Otherwise, the next problem will be posted on Friday.

Title: Re: Dashboards 101: Tbx Tutorial Series Widgetron
Post by Stacey Mason on Jul 29th, 2011, 4:27pm

Problem 3: Aside from the random dip to 0 in the "Total Sales" display, we also notice that there seem to be more drastic peaks and valleys than what we would expect from the raw data.  How can we ensure that the graph is showing the correct sales-over-time data?

Back with the answer on Monday.

Title: Re: Dashboards 101: Tbx Tutorial Series Widgetron
Post by Stacey Mason on Aug 1st, 2011, 6:16pm

Answer to problem 3:

Since we're seeing abnormal peaks and valleys in our graphs, the first solution is to check to make sure our agent is picking up the correct notes and we're not getting any strays.  Since we covered this in problem 2, the most probable answer is that the x-axis is not displaying information in the order we expect.  This is easily corrected by adjusting the agent's "sort" under the rename dialog.

Since we want the information to display chronologically, sorting by $Created makes sense here if we've input chronological information in real time, but in other circumstances, we might use a different attribute or even create a date attribute to help the agent sort correctly.

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