At the end of July, I had the honour of speaking at the Dublin Tableau User Group in the Groupon offices in Dublin. My aim was to talk about the wider Tableau Community and the benefits it can offer in developing Tableau expertise, improving at data visualisation and making valuable connections with like-minded people. The title of the presentation was ‘It takes a community’. When my daughter was born two years ago, I often heard the expression ‘It takes a community to raise a child’. In my experience you need the input, contribution and support of a wide range of people, as parents alone can’t do it. By the same token, there is a large community of Tableau users who offer support, advice and encouragement to others who are all striving to become better in their professional fields and at leveraging the power of Tableau. The concept of a community is an interesting one, and one that is changing as ‘digital’ becomes the norm. We connect with people using social media and are building relationships with people across the globe. In the case of the Tableau Community, we are obviously not talking about people who live in the same neighbourhood. The Tableau Community is made up of its users, your colleagues, peers and people across the world using the software. It’s full of people who truly believe in Tableau’s ability to help people see and understand their data and want to spread the word and assist others in doing just that. If you’re not availing of the support and inspiration from the generous people out there, you are missing out on a valuable resource. As the software evolves, people are continually on a journey, learning new things and sharing with people as they go. It is remarkable how willing people are to share their knowledge and expertise. Below I provide an overview of the different areas that I covered. There is a link to the full presentation deck on Tableau Public here.
Tableau Public and Twitter
Tableau Public is a free version of the software that anyone can use to publish visualisations online. You can download the public version of Tableau Desktop and then create and publish to a profile on Tableau Public, developing a portfolio of work. It can be a brilliant way to build your personal or corporate brand (see examples from Boeing and McKinsey). You can follow authors and get inspired by what people have created, scrolling through your activity feed for inspiration. In many cases you can download the work of others and it’s a great way to learn. You can reverse-engineer the visualisations that you find interesting, examining calculated fields and uncovering design tricks. You can also ‘favourite’ visualisations you like and these get stored on your profile.
Many people like to share visualisations they have created on Twitter, providing images or links to their profiles on Tableau Public. It’s a way for people to easily share ideas and connect with others. I would recommend following Tableau and Tableau Public to get the latest updates and see what people are creating. There are a few helpful hashtags below if you want to see what some of the people in the community are getting up to:
#VizForSocialGood — #MakeoverMonday
#WorkoutWednesday — #TinyTableauTip — #IronViz — #TableauTipTuesday — #DataForACause — #TakeapartTuesday
Ambassadors and Zen Masters
Ambassadors and Zen Masters are integral members of the Tableau Community and get recognised by Tableau for the massive contribution they make. They are awarded these prestigious titles for the huge efforts they make, in terms of leading the community and supporting others. There is a nice blog written by Emily Chen here which showcases some of the impressive work recently produced by some of the members of these two dynamic groups.
The Ambassadors are going to great lengths to share information and ideas across the community and get some nice perks for their efforts. You can read more about what it means to be an ambassador and see who they all are here. There are four branches of Ambassadors:
• Tableau Public Ambassadors – regularly engaging with Tableau Public and sharing tips & tricks
• Social Media Ambassadors – sharing information and ideas on social media and encouraging others online
• Tableau Community Ambassadors – going the extra mile to answer questions on the Community forum
• User Group Leader Ambassadors – supporting their local communities by leading user groups
Zen Masters are users who have developed an exceptionally high level of Tableau expertise and share this knowledge freely with others in the community. You will see them regularly sharing tutorials and blogs, which help educate and inspire the wider community. They know the software inside out and their enthusiasm for Tableau is very evident. The Tableau website has more detail here and includes a short bio for each individual. They receive the coveted Zen Master Rock and every year get to stand up on stage at the Tableau Conference as a recognition for their efforts. I have created an interactive visualisation so you can easily follow them on Tableau Public here if you wish to do so.
Blogging is a very popular way of communicating across the Tableau Community. It’s a way for people to share ideas, describe their processes, teach others and various other reasons beyond. Sometimes a 140-character tweet just isn’t enough to formulate an opinion, so it can be a great platform for formulating your thoughts and getting your voice out there. Eva Murray has written a great blog on the advantages of blogging which is the first one listed below.
Here are some individual blog posts I’d recommend:
- The Benefits of Blogging – Eva Murray
- Great examples of Level of Detail calculations in Tableau – Bethany Lyons
- Book recommendations – Andy Kriebel
- A blog with other useful blogs – Andy Cotgreave
- A great milestone for Tableau Public – Ben Jones
Here is a selection of some great blog sites:
Leveraging Community Projects
There are many great initiatives on the go, some of which are included in the list of hashtags above. I focused on two:
This is a fantastic initiative run by Chloe Tseng and involves linking up Non-profit organisations with people who are passionate about data visualisation. Volunteers create data visualisations and infographics and share them on Twitter with the hashtag #VizForSocialGood. A select few are chosen and used to raise awareness and promote the Non-profit’s agenda across their various channels. Here is a link to a visualisation created by Brit Cava for UNICEF, with a compelling call for action at the end.
This is a weekly project run by Andy Kriebel and Eva Murray who work tirelessly to support all those who participate. They present a challenge to do a makeover of a visualisation that has previously been published and make the data accessible on the site (normally every Sunday). People share their work on Twitter with the hashtag #MakeoverMonday. This was a pivotal point for me in terms of engaging with the Tableau Community and sharing my work publicly. It makes up approximately two thirds of the workbooks on my profile. I devoted a full slide to this project and will be writing a more in-depth blog on this separately as I think it’s warranted. If you want to improve your Tableau skills, learn more about data visualisation in general and connect with a group of passionate people, then I’d highly recommend you check it out. Below is a selection of the work that has been created across different weeks and captures the variety of work produced from week to week (authors below include Mike Cisneros, Lindsey Poulter, Michael Mixon, Athan Mavrantonis, Pooja Gandhi, Neil Richards and David A Krupp). From slick, corporate style dashboards to beautifully designed works of art and fantastic examples of data journalism, there is something to inspire everyone. It’s important to add that there is no requirement to produce something elaborate. On a regular basis, visualisaions that are simple but very effective are highlighted for their merit. People of all skill levels are encouraged to participate. There are now weekly webinars as a way for Andy and Eva to provide feedback to people who participate and request it. They also write a weekly recap blog.
I provided three examples where I’ve found inspiration from the work of others and learned something new as a result. The three different areas I looked at are below. I have included images for examples 1 -3 but lease refer to the full presentation deck if you want to get a better view.
1. Tile Maps
These are like geographical maps, but don’t reflect the exact locations, rather each state/county/country is represented by a shape on a grid. A benefit is that each location has equal real estate, so it allows you to see patterns more clearly. Below I have visualisations by Brittany Fong, Matt Chambers and Neil Richards.
To read more, why not check these out:
2. Marginal Histograms/Graphs
These are worksheets/graphs that are aligned against the margins of other views to visually summarise the data contained within. Histograms, or bar graphs, can work really well to give supplementary information to heat maps or highlight tables in Tableau. Below I show visualisations by Sarah Bartlett, Pablo Saenz de Tejada and Rodrigo Calloni.
To read more, why not check these out:
3. Line graphs with gaps
The example below shows a visualisation created by Adam Crahen with some Tour de France figures dating back to the start of the 20th century. There are gaps for World War I and World War II. The default in Tableau would be to join the lines so that the gap wouldn’t be apparent. Eva Murray had mentioned in a blog that Adam had taken this approach, which brought it to my attention. I then downloaded Adam’s workbook to examine how he did it.
Books – In addition to learning from blogs, it’s hard to beat a good book when it comes to expanding your knowledge and awareness, and stimulating your mind. I shared the three books I’m currently dipping in and out of and am really enjoying:
Podcast – I also love listening to Tableau Ambassadors Emily Kund and Matt Francis on the Tableau Wannabe podcast. It’s a great way to keep up-to-date with some of the activities in the Tableau Community and hear from Tableau employees and influential community members.
I highlighted a few tips that I’ve found useful when approaching data visualisation and publishing online:
- Give thought to chart type and understand limitations associated with some options
- Consider your audience
- Think about strong titles, tooltips and annotations
- Be deliberate about your use of colour
- Note data sources and give credit
Below are some useful links if you want to deepen your expertise in the area of data visualisation and best practise:
- Tableau Course on Visual Best Practise
- Whitepaper on Visual Analysis Best Practises
- Colour Choices for Presenting Data
It was really great to chat to some of the community members in Dublin and I’m looking forward to the next group meetup!