It's true: . Say what you will about that little heartless douchebag, he's fucking awesome at using Excel.
The video is meant to be in the same vein as the You Suck at Photoshop videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nbkaYsR94c
being handed someone else's excel sheet is an infuriating experience because they're also handing you whatever convoluted mental model they used
So if someone is good at exce you can easily understand what they're doing and why they did it
A lot of it is just high level stylistic suggestions, sort of like the Python style guide, though some are more specific
The strangest one I remember is: when you are summing a column, put one row in between the cell with the sum and the bottom-most number to be summed. Change the row height to something like 10% of normal cell height and in the cell in the new row, right above the cell with the sum, add a set of dashes (-------).
I don't remember why we were told to do this but definitely remember doing it, and in my next job people laughing at that habit. I think that it ensures that, when you add a new row to the column to be summed, that your sum formula automatically picks up the new row
It can absolutely be said for Software Engineers. It just can't be said of every Software Engineering Org.
You definitely have a lot of moments similar to reviewing others' code where you go "Hmmm, this doesn't seem to make sense. Am I missing something? Or did they just do this flat out wrong?" Often the answer was "yes."
There's also a radical spectrum of Excel skills (much like coding). I took a 50MB Excel report that took hours to update manually and brought it down to <1MB that refreshed when you clicked a button via web queries. There were significant savings for the agency as a result as that had to be updated weekly, simply from cleaning up a spreadsheet.
Whenever possible now, if I suspect a spreadsheet tool or report I've built is too complex to grok just by quick perusal of some formulas and clear naming conventions, I document the hell out of it in a separate sheet or our knowledgebase. The pain of deciphering those things is real, and I would never wish it on anyone.
The guy who took over for me had a nervous breakdown.
Some of them would use our software to print various reports and then manually enter those printed values in to excel.
Even worse, the software could export to a format excel could process so it wasn't necessary in the first place.
Don't expect to be disrupting banking anytime soon though. Banks are incredibly risk averse, especially when it comes to messing with expensive legacy software that has been working for decades.
At one point, one of the company's customers did an investigation to see how much it would cost to replace the software, and it was close to 9 figures, and so they decided it was more cost effective just to continue paying the multi-million dollar yearly licenses.
A bank I've worked at had a project to replace lots of bank's legacy (Mainframes and Cobol) with Java on Linux. The project's budget was over 1 billion dollars and it was estimated to take 5 years.
Both attempts cost millions, both were abandoned.
The lessons (and pain) from the first attempt were ignored because not enough of the upper management were still around, and the only people who remembered the pain were the rank and file, who were ignored by the new upper management types looking to leave their mark on the product.
Just like Zed Shaw's LPTHW tells you to type in the code from the book, and not copy-paste.
1. Someone who knows how to use two dimensional TABLE()s and vector functions.
2. Someone who can implement an imperative convergence (such as Newton/Raphson or non-plug-in goal seek)
3. Someone who can audit their dependencies and not shit out dozens of unused vars
4. Someone who knows the limit is 10 sheets and 20MB. :)
Visual Basic and shortcuts do not a pro make. VB makes Excel =less= usable, IMHO because now there is an extra dimension to debugging that requires understand each Macro and what it touches: it breaks the entire philosophy of show formulas + auditing.
Yes, this sounds like /r/iamverysmart and /r/gatekeeping, but I'll own that.
Hahaha. Isn’t that the truth.
It’s come to a point that there is only one true workflow for actual business excel work.
1) Back up your source data and then never touch it.
2) Clean source data, make sure you use tables.
3) As soon as possible, separate data from calculation.
All work, will probably be used more than once. So there is never really anything like “scratch work”. So when you open excel make it a point for it to be readable.
I’ve taken To ensuring calculated fields are at the end of the table. With a column header indicating that this is not native to the original data set.
Document your weird steps.
- Corporate inertia + familiarity + fear
Very long answer (rant warning):
- The XLS was used by multiple teams, from multiple sites, from multiple projects. It drove project-level decision making at the VP level. The person who wrote it was a genius, but there was no documentation or commenting, and over the decade after he left, it bloated Akira-style: many grubby hands had perverted it beyond its original use.
[Imagine if someone had written the most beautiful C++ & Boost (or C & GLib) numerical methods code, and then some boner noob came along and inserted their own bubblesort because they didn't understand Boost ... yeah, that kind of perversion.]
This is how very large companies work. (Most of the time.)
All the simple formula stuff and basic data handling (using Pandas) would be incredibly easy to learn for pros at Excel.
Excel can now deal with many gigs of data thanks to PowerPivot and the addition of an in-memory database.
"Excel THINKS IT CAN DEAL with many gigs of data thanks to PowerPivot and the addition of an in-memory database."
It's so cute when I hit ctrl-downarrow on a blank sheet and Excel sends me to row 1,048,576. Wishful thinking because if I ever filled 1M cells with functions, well... lololololol... time to use JMP...
What's it called and how is it different than sheets, and when was it introduced? I was using Excel2013 up until I left the project in 2014.
Microsoft is a sleeping giant in BI self-service right now, and the things they've been "quietly" adding (only if you don't follow them) are actually very compelling. I actually run a Windows VM on my MBP just so I can run Power BI.
But yeah, it’s very powerful. It’s very sql like in the way you have to treat actions and data.
In the Power BI desktop app you can connect to standard RDBMS' like MySQL, Postgres, or SQL Server and basically it works like Tableau. The really interesting part is you can export these data sources and hook them into Excel (local or via the cloud).
> It’s very sql like
It should be, this is essentially using Excel as an GUI on top of technology designed to run an analytics RDBMS. It actually is an entirely separate interface from Excel and feels bolted on after-the-fact.
Here's an example of the PowerPivot Excel add-on screens:
Straight from the 90s (which is cool, functionally excel hasn’t really evolved since)!
Steal money from poor people? No problem, just a small fine. Steal money from rich people? Off to jail you go. I'm not saying that what Martin Shkreli did was right, i.e. he did not go to jail for raising the prices on medicine (for which he had good reasons). He went to jail for lying to investors in a sort of Ponzi scheme using new investments to pay off old debts.
The price hike was rent seeking, not stealing, it didn’t depend on any lies, and it was legal. Plus, the goal was to get the money from insurance companies, not from patients. The investment fraud required lying, it was stealing, and it was illegal.
The drug price hike may have been justified with lies, I’m not claiming there weren’t any lies, but buying the rights, hiking the price, and getting the money didn’t require any lying, and it was done in full public view.
i consider myself a good* (but not great) excel user, but she was amazing!
* having done complex financial modeling incorporating monte carlo simulation for predictive what-if analysis
But man are they fun to use once you get the hang of them.
Hmmm. This helps me realize one of the many things excel-should-be-replaced by code proponents miss.
There will be far more excel masters over time, than language masters. Simply because excel remains stable, and is not prone to flavor of the year issues.
but i'd be more weary of using excel if we were doing scientific research (R or matlab would be better there).
scenario modeling is useful when you have a set of uncertain inputs and you want to estimate the range of possible output values.
the monte carlo part is providing random sets of inputs that conform to the distributions for each input (often estimated as just a normal distribution for each). you run thousands (or more, depending on the margin of error you wish to achieve) of these random input sets to generate the mean, variance and estimated error of the output variable.
in financial modeling, the inputs are typically estimates of future revenue, costs, cost of capital, etc., and NPV (net present value) of the enterprise as the output. sometimes you even include environmental or regulatory uncertainty (as a binomial value) in the model.
He is a seriously misunderstood figure. Have watched his YouTube videos too, not just the investment class but also his working sessions. Sure his excel skills are legendary.
But I learned a lot from him about skills, learning and mastery. Merely watching him work not only motivated me. But gave me tremendous perspective on time, its utility to life and how skills and knowledge need to work in general.
This guy has legendary skills in investing world. But apart from that he was always reading a book or two. He was doing organic chemistry, chess, playing guitar, learning programming and interests in wide variety of topics in economics.
He was first genuine example of 10k hour practice I have watched live in practice.
You also get to look into the mind of this guy, and see what's at the core of it, and you see most is basically 'knowledge and practice'.
No, he doesn’t. He seems clever, but is clearly a sociopath. He has very few winners on his books, all of which were high-vol high-beta bets in a bull market, and almost wiped out his fund in a short period of time. There are so many better investing role models than Shkreli.
There was no way this guy could have survived, in fact Martin should have spent time learning a little politics too.
If you have the kind of skills, motivated enough, have ability to take initiatives and overall quality of human enterprise that this guy has you are bound to attract envy, spite and more importantly people just want to see the end of you for being a live anti thesis to their lives.
I have a feeling that people won't relax until they see Elon Musk meeting the same fate too.
No way. I don't know anyone that thinks that. What is your basis for thinking that?
And BTW, he's not that good at excel either.
And his ethics...
He is fast typing but I've seen spreadsheet jockeys do a lot more work much faster. They know all the shortcuts. They know all the obscure functions.
Real missed opportunity.
Or maybe he did make an error, but didn’t want to admit it to avoid damaging his “l33t excel skillz” rep. That would be the stuff of legend.
You mean the guy who wrote this? Clearly, he's a diamond in the rough /s.
'Then a letter from Mr. Shkreli came to his home, addressed to his wife.
“Your husband has stolen $1.6 million from me,” it read.
“Your pathetic excuse of a husband,” the letter added, “needs to get a real job that does not depend on fraud to succeed.”
“I hope to see you and your four children homeless,” the letter said. “I will do whatever I can to assure this. Your husband’s arrogance is infuriating, and making an enemy out of me is a mistake.”'
-NYTimes, 18 July 2017
Why not just say X?
There's no reason to couch your comment like this. He's not a heartless douchebag, and the claims of him causing medicine shortages were greatly exaggerated.
And before anybody downvotes me- please inform yourself- not a single person had to pay a penny more than what they had to pay before the price increase, except the insurance firms.
Here’s vanity fair, with their profile on him.
He went to jail for securities fraud. If he is as smart as he and others say he is, then his culpability is absolute.
I can be sympathetic, but not willfully blind to actual fault.
There's no world in which adding a middleman for a regular and ongoing service lowers the overall cost of that service.
HN is the only place I find people defending that guy. I suspect it's because this forum is full of douchebags who identify with him.
Generalizing people or groups of people over shallow associations says more about the commenter than those commented on.
Here's a fun question for you as an HN'er: what was the name of Shkreli's pharmaceutical company?
Shkreli was one of many finance types who have fully drunk the koolaid. He is not alone, and the others too would be prosecuted if people had the time and awareness to be incensed with the culture.
In his defense, shkrelli didn’t know he was a tool. On the one hand singing praises of the free market and on the other taking advantage of every loophole someone could find.
I mean the argument that “no body has to pay a dime more.” Is so patently ludicrous for someone who works in finance, that it can only be called disingenuous.
The difference between HN and New York is that finance thinks it’s ok. HN was founded by people/culture who saw Wall Street as everything they didn’t want to be. (And now a sad reminder of how money changes perception)
BTW, I could similarly make ridiculous statements about technologists or scientists.
I’ve worked number of places and can’t think of a single person out of hundreds that would think this behavior is OK.
The defense on this issue is pretty clear cut, raising the price is not illegal. If there is something illegal, then it should be in a regulation somewhere.
If he is doing something the market is open to, then it’s not a problem and he is doing a service by forcing the market or regulators to respond.
Maybe he was a douche about it, but that’s a stylistic issue, not a practical one.
He did get dinged for securities fraud, not price gouging as I recall.
No. Starts with T. Turing Pharmaceuticals.
That firm later sued him.
Turing was his second pharma firm. Made soon after his ouster/leaving.
Tidbit: Most popular questions tend to be formulas, vlookups, conditional formatting, pivots.
That being said - bookmarked. I've needed this in the past and while I may not need it right now I probably will in the future.
My honest advice would be  and it should be designed in such a way that all reviews are visible, perhaps in 3 columns, instead of a stupid carousel slider. But slowing down the slider would be more trivial - as I expect very few people are actually able to read all of the text of any of the excerpts before it changes on them.
Ill take a serious look. Theoretically, this could be a huge boon for all the small businesses I work with.
I spreadsheet on my own for fun to solve physics problems and do video games calculations. I will take my free trial for sure.
I used to sneer at such tools, considering them "not real gamedev". That was until, on one local edition of Global Game Jam, a designer in our team did in Construct in 15 minutes what took three of us coders a couple hours. This drove home the point that we were really overcomplicating things by coding a simple game from scratch (in XNA, back then).
 - https://www.scirra.com/construct2 is the one I played with, but they also seem to have a web version now, for better or worse, which is available at https://www.scirra.com/
For presentation, I toss the data on Excel. Bold the headers. Change the number type (pct, $, etc) to the correct one.
I would say that it has made my life a lot easier. There is one repository where the data is held. If I mess up, I go back to the master tables. In Excel, I would usually start over. Joins are easy. Excel can do some things better. When it can, then I use it. It's not a one or the other. It's ok to use both.
assign (a value) to something by inference from the value of the products or processes to which it contributes.
Or don't, since SCMs are much better at diffing plain text than either.
> Also Excel could have formulas which might be useful somewhere and supporting formulas in config file is another level of complexity and almost certainly it'll be worse than Excel.
You'll have an easier time reimplementing Excel's formula system than basic arithmetic? I find that hard to believe.
I'm not sure you understood what the parent was saying? This seems like a non sequitur.
In a spreadsheet, derived values can be updated instantly. Say you want to upgrade a bandit from leather armor to chainmail (6 or so equipment items changed), and then verify that his total defense and modified movement speed are still within reasonable ranges for the part of the game where he appears. With a text file, you've got some arithmetic to do. With a spreadsheet, it's there at a glance.
Or say your enemies are missing too much, and you want to give them +10% accuracy across the board, for all of 50+ enemies. In a text file, that's a lot of cursoring around. In a database, you could knock together a query to do it, but that still might take a couple of minutes, depending. In a spreadsheet, I could do it in 15 seconds. (And if I screw it up, a couple of Ctrl-Zs puts everything back where it started. That's not so easy in a database.)
And, y'know, a lot of programmers really underestimate the value of good formatting. A database can spit out nice columnar tables easily, but a spreadsheet can do things like put borders between stat clusters related to different categories; automatically color-code data so you can see at a glance what the highest and lowest values in a given column are, or spot out-of-range derived values; add alternate-row shading to make it easier to scan across a long row; and on and on. That is useful. It lets you find and correlate the data you want faster with fewer errors. Not everything has to be viewed in flat text.
Both approaches have tradeoffs:
- TSV files can have so many columns that you can't really edit them in a text editor, you'll never find your place. Some of these in D2 have more than 256 columns.
- INI files don't give you a full list of configurable parameters, so you might not even know what flags the engine supports if they're mentioned only once in the entire file or not mentioned at all. Some object types in Red Alert 2 support over 700 flags, not all of them are actually used in the default config…
- two items described in a TSV file are easier to compare than two INI sections, with INI you need a second editor window and some ordering of the keys to make sense of things.
- on the other hand, diffing a TSV file for changes is a lot more challenging.
At the time, I remember thinking how a proper database would make this easier.
I have also seen a game where a \n was used as a record separator and \r was used to insert newlines into the text string within a record. Fun times when your text editor tries to "intelligently" handle and normalize line endings.
And non developer can easily write own formula to next cell whenever he feels like and don't need to wait for programmer, don't need to explain and don't need to fight if programmer happen to be stubborn.
Even seeing what depends on what is easier with right excel plugin then debugging scripting code.
Pardon my ignorance, but why aren't they using some sort of database for the data? Or at least storing the data in some sort of master database and exporting it to text files for the game to read? It would be lovely to hear the techniques and reasons from anyone in the know.
(IIRC it's for convenience in development. I doubt the game ships with an embedded Excel file.)
Any visual DB client?
> Where are the easy adhoc reports?
Isn't that just queries? Then throw it into a view to "save".
> Where are the forms?
No idea what you're looking for here, but this sounds a lot like your first question.
Forms are data entry views that save to the backing tables. Nowadays the most well-known forms are probably https://docs.google.com/forms/
If I were to learn it without any prior experience, I would just look through every template they have. See which industries I'm most familiar with. And look at how those databases are organized.
They have a really good 12 minute overview though, hitting every major concept though. https://vimeo.com/165624533
I would also learn a little bit about relational database design. This 5 minute video is a good starting point https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvrpuBAMddw
I like using databaseanswers.org as a reference resource. This is a very nice 5 minute introduction to designing a database. http://www.databaseanswers.org/data_models/5_minute_tutorial...
Basically, if you come from an excel background, it would help if you knew a little bit about database design, and relational databases. Its not necessary, but Airtable is practically excel + microsoft-access.
Start with a template, and play around with it. I would get familiar with this page in particular though. Formula and lookups are something you'll use often in any airtable base. https://support.airtable.com/hc/en-us/articles/202576519-Gui.... This was perhaps the least obvious concept for me to pickup naturally.
If you need any help though feel free to reach out to me I have contact information on my username
That's where the "Power" suite enters the picture (Power Query, Power Pivot, etc.). Great way for non-technical people to get database data into Excel for reporting/analysis. I've trained plenty of people with only basic Excel skills to use it. The best part (for them) is that it's like a macro, so you can rerun it with new data any time.
You can even use those to pull an existing SSRS report directly into Excel.
"As a developer, you've probably, at some unfortunate point in your life (possibly several points, actually), been handed an Excel file that has been crammed full of 'data' by someone in marketing and told to 'do something with it.' "
As for job titles; Software Engineer (or Developer) of Analytics, Data Analyst, Data Scientist, or something along those lines. Probably varies by company.
Recently I worked on a contract doing some data ingestion that the resident team didn't want to deal with.
They had been provided a JSON api to get what should have been a batch file. The owner/api creator said "this is good enough we won't accommodate you." So much for sensible data transmission and batch processing.
Because I have had to deal with these sorts of things before I have a fairly robust tool chain to hammer api's with requests to get the data in a reasonable time frame. In this case my client went full tilt - and simply hammered the API till its owner gave in and started sending batch files.
repeated variable names are bloat when getting lots of data, extra formatting is the same... CSV's are great for getting these things down.
As another poster pointed out (S)FTP is the way to go when sending CSV's, and they are compressed in most cases to save storage and data transmission on both ends.
I am old enough to remember when mailing a hard disc or a tape might be a faster way to move a LOT Of data. The practice is still alive and well, but the option is now by the "truckload"
Instead the client was given an api to query and no batch processing of information was allowed.
I’ve encountered this idea somewhere, and fortunately have never had to deal with such a broken scenario. Getting piecemeal information is infuriating.
 probably an FTP server with no TLS and with the same weak username and password for everyone who connects, a setup which they won't change no matter how many times you ask
I've been thinking about this for years, ever since I first read "A Small Matter of Programming" by Bonnie Nardi: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/small-matter-programming where she explored the history of end-user programming systems, and concludes that spreadsheet and CAD software are the only examples that have had widespread and undeniable success.
ASMOP was published in 1993 and I think it is still just as relevant today.
Just as it's possible to write a terribly-architected and designed program in any language, I suspect that with the right engineering effort and insight, modern software engineering practices could bring the complexity under control.
We shouldn't expect to just take spreadsheets and stick them into production, just as you wouldn't take a hastily-written prototype written in any programming language and do the same.
Let's remember just how popular Hypercard was and what it meant for personal computing. It did not die because people weren't using it. It was allowed to wither on the vine because it never made business sense. And that's tragic.
The average "user" can't program a computer because we've been able to bring computing to a whole new population of people with neither the opportunity nor inclination to learn to use a computer at that level. You don't have to be a computer nerd to get immense value from computing, and in my mind that's a very good thing.
The counter-example is trite, but it's true: it's a very good thing that I don't need to know how a Xeon is going to reorder the instructions that v8 is going to turn my webpage into after Babel has turned my es6+whateverextensions into something node can actually execute. I can go down the stack and find out if I absolutely have to, but it's a total waste of time otherwise.
I also don't think we've stopped trying to figure it out. We see new languages, new environments coming forward fairly regularly. My instinct is that the reason it seems that way is because the computing field selected for people interested in that stuff early, and more recent incomers are a) people who don't yet have the experience to understand where the limits are; and b) as a population are less interested on the whole in asking those questions, because if they had been interested, they'd already be present. It's also dramatically harder for a single project to become ubiquitous the way Hypercard was, simply because of the size of both computer-using and software project populations. It's a statistical artefact, in other words.
The trade-off is that projects which can make an impact across the entire ecosystem (like Hypercard did) must reach a much wider variety of minds, and that's incredibly hard today. However, I can almost guarantee that there are tools out there that have similar impacts to Hypercard within specific niches, with higher user stats than Hypercard ever had. You don't hear about them because the size of the pool has grown so much.
Because we do more with computers (adding complexity to programming as a task) and the amount of money and people involved have both increased (making that complexity hard or impossible to reduce).
The fact that there are no compelling RADs for the major platforms -- especially ones that use intuitive metaphors -- speaks volumes. I have worked on many small freelance projects for the past few years and the issues most users have are all more or less the same: they need to organize some information in a way that is useful to them and to interact with it somehow. This might involve more remote fetching than it did in the 90s, but this isn't that much more complicated.
Imagining another way has become completely unfashionable, mostly because of marketing and the stated needs of business. We no longer apply the hands-off funding and timespans for the kinds of computing research that gave us personal computers in the first place.
Things are not the way they are because of some natural law.
Excel lacks the community programmers have and also lacks the learning opportunities given by open-source software. A lot of people struggle to find answers specifically because of this lack of community around using Excel as a tool. I know I personally have floundered learning things that would have been simple to understand had there been someone to guide me, so I try to provide that same support to other people when they face the same obstacles.
Yes, its fun to cringe at people's inexperience. It is also important to recognize we all started there.
Yours, former excel guy.
In places that people don't realize it's part of their job to learn the tools, it often turns into complaints of "why they designed it that way?" going on and on with dissatisfaction of the system that doesn't read their mind. (And certainly, they will come back with the same question in few days...)
I've been there a decade ago and it was DRAINING that I was just better off not offering the help altogether.
I love talking about git workflow, and am happy to spend a half hour diagramming how your repo relates to origin, what branches mean, how pull requests and merges work, and what rebasing does. For people who don't yet grok git (or maybe just distributed source control?), this has proven to be very helpful.
I typically present this information about 2x a year. However, if I had people ask me for this kind of explanation every week, or multiple times a week, it would have a much larger impact on my productivity.
Excel is also notoriously opaque when it comes to debugging, so there often are not useful questions to ask Google if you don't already know or understand what you are looking for.
Debugging: "excel debug a spreadsheet" - quite a few decent returns on page one and two. Related searches in Google gives some more hints.
I'm willing to bet that I am not alone.
Don't be too hard on Excel - some of today's clueless spreadsheet monkeys will be real bona-fide developers in fifteen years.
I converted planning from Lotus 1-2-3 to MS Excel (for shame) and then with my smart Pentium 60 based machine, developed a nearly complete finite capacity planner for the factory - in Excel. The devil is of course in the detail but my labour plan and forecasts beat the planners most of the time - except at Easter and Christmas.
Today, I'm really not a developer 8) I grew up and became a sysadmin (oh and a managing director - but that's another story)
Warning: This is from memory quite a while ago and it was a very minor part of stuff I did at my job then.
Blame goes both ways. And the original point still stands. It is productive to teach someone to improve their own processes.
You spend time explaining on what is essentially deaf ears, and being on call all the time
They often have often accumulated bad habit, and won't listen to you because "I have been doing this way for years."
Also, it's interesting to observe that many who struggle in Excel (or many of "consumer" applications) actually are struggling in basic computing skills. (e.g. can't tell difference between left and right mouse buttons, don't know how to copy files, etc.) It often result in infuriated people, pointing out that they need to learn basics of the operating system.
It rapidly recedes from the realm of reasonable considerations once we're talking about someone providing informal Excel support to colleagues as an extracurricular activity.
Then you destroy their work area with a hammer when they come back for more help on the same thing. (obviously humor)
It's just like teaching.
Source: I'm the 'excel guy' in my service area. I tell them I'll show you twice and I'll make sure you don't have any questions. Then I'll show you youtube videos. I'm not in the business of 'doing' for anyone.
Being able to share mastery is a key part of being a master at a subject, which is a political and image advantage.
I used my excel ability to learn how to best explain vlookup and got good at it.
I did get taken advantage of early on, but I learnt how to deal with those specific types of users, and not do their work for them.
In contrast to those people, there are others who genuinely respect you for your help, and then use your training to make their life and yours better.
Not to mention, many excel problems are not that hard. If you know what you are doing, it’s an easy win/goodwill for you, and a major problem for someone else solved.
* purely intrinsic ("doing cool work" vs. "de facto IT guy")
* purely extrinsic (the year-end perf review won't give me kudos for helping with excel documents)
* a mixture (I want this organization to succeed, the best way for me to do that is by doing X, and instead I'm helping debug excel sheets).
Often it's a mixture since people often enjoy doing what brings the most value. I do volunteer stuff for a charity. A lot of the stuff I do is very interesting and challenging and valuable to the charity's core mission. But I'm also expected to help other volunteers with mundane helpdesk stuff like connecting to the wireless network. I don't enjoy it and also it distracts from a much more valuable use of my time.
I feel the same way about technology questions. I'm really glad to help when someone asks something that they have looked into ahead of time, or if they're interested in learning a skill that they know I have rather than just getting me to do their work. It really annoys me when someone has just not put in enough effort and would rather have me expend the effort in solving their problem.
You, sir, have not been the victim of help vampires.
> A lot of people struggle to find answers specifically because of this lack of community around using Excel as a tool
I am unaware of this lack of information. Perhaps I am not doing the really, really, really exotic stuff but every question I have ever had on Excel has been answerable via Google.
There’s crap tons of excel help, and the amount of excel queries+answers will easily put other languages to shame.
The difference is that excel is not usually treated as an engineering tool, with the various rituals that go with it.
In contrast, take a look at how financial analysts learn excel - a field where excel IS an engineering tool.
It’s the differences between being a home cook and a professional chef.
This is a good point. I've seen C# & Python devs who read the release notes and adopt new features of C#\Python with alacrity while at the same time their Excel development work, which they spend considerable time on, evolves not at all. E.g., still using IF(ISERROR(...)) rather than IFERROR; VLOOKUP rather than INDEX(MATCH()); slow & brittle array functions rather than SUMIFS; employing many intermediate columns to clean out errors rather than using AGGREGATE(); doing things in VBA that they would never do in their primary programming language (v = Worksheets("pnl").Range("N22:N77").Value).
There is no GitHub for Excel workbooks where people build and extend generalized solutions that people can read, understand, and learn from. There is also a total lack of comments in Excel formulas (short of VBA custom functions) so good luck deciphering the 5 line SUMIF in the 10 year old model you inherited.
It’s not couched in engineering terms, but effectively a body of work and reference does exist to help people use excel - I’ve constantly used it to improve myself.
It is definitely not made by engineers and coders, but by normal people and excel jockeys.
I agree, but the flaw in your assumption is that the people who want help from "the office Excel guy" want to learn more. Much like being the "family computer guy", the person asking for help is really asking for you to just fix the problem.
When other devs come to me for help, they generally want to learn, and I’m happy to teach them. Most devs are really into learning technical skills. Same goes for MOST product managers, sales people, etc. But there are definitely SOME people on the business side who actively DON’T want to learn technical skills. They have some report they have to do, it involves Excel, and they just want me to do it for them, they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves. Generally I’ll help these people once or twice, but after that it’s “Google it.”
Not to pile on or anything, because that phrase seems to have touched a nerve - but, I don't mind helping other people at all. I do mind when I spend 8 hours at work helping other people, and don't have time to complete the work that I was actually supposed to be doing, and then get criticized for not getting the work I was assigned to do done. It doesn't help to err in the other direction, either, though - once everybody knows that you know how to do "x", even if you're swamped with other work, you can't turn them away, or it'll haunt you on your next performance review. Hence the article's original advice: never let anybody know you're good at "x".
Source: am manager who deals with this every day.
Edit: I understand this advice is worthless if your manager is a dolt. In that case run for the hills.
I love helping people, but I also want them to become self sufficient. My first question when someone asks me for help is "have you typed into Google exactly what you just said?"
Asks you to do the work for them, instead of asking for help solving the problem.
Asks for the same answer to the same problem over and over again to the point where any person would have pattern recognition.
Uses imprecise language even after being provided it to diagnose and troubleshoot an issue.
While there's plenty of people who are well meaning and want to learn, being the "thing" guy is not that - its a slow death to the choking off of your job description by others using your time and resources to do their jobs.
They may think that the difficulty and expertise are gratuitous -- if software were written right, it wouldn't need an expert.