100 not out
This week I hit the triple figures on Tableau Public; 100 visualisations using a platform I have quickly come to cherish. Tableau Public not only gives us the opportunity to showcase and share our own visualisations, but, and in my opinion, more importantly, the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by others. I think it is fair to say that self-reflection and honesty is engrained in the Tableau Community and so, with 100 not out on the scoreboard (apologies I couldn’t resist a sporting analogy), I reflect on my journey to date; what has inspired me and what I have learnt.
It all started 18 months ago when I was fortunate enough to have Andy Cotgreave visit my workplace at the time, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. Andy wanted to learn more about our Tableau implementation; the green shoots of our Tableau Centre of Excellence. I was still relatively new to the community; I had been using Tableau just over a year but I hadn’t appreciated the generosity and support that was available to me, from people I had never even met before.
Andy offered to run a team #MakeoverMonday session which I actually declined and instead we settled on Andy sharing his outstanding, how to visualise time presentation to the team. In reality, back then, I was so engrossed in the priorities of work that I had not even contemplated the benefits of participating in community initiatives. I had enough work to last me a lifetime so why would I ever want to viz for fun or in my own time? Oh, how times have changed these days!
Well the good news is Andy’s visit sparked some curiosity in me; he spoke about the community with such heartfelt passion that it was impossible not to want to explore it and find out more. I tentatively dipped my toe in the water with a basic #MakeoverMonday attempt (shared with you later to enjoy!) and then merrily went back to my blissful ignorance (face plant moment).
It wasn’t until 2 months later that I realised the embers of curiosity were still burning in me; this time it was the enthusiasm of Tableau Conference in Las Vegas that proved infectious. The difference this time around was that I didn’t just tentatively dip my toe in the community water, I jumped in with both feet and maybe even a big old belly flop! I participated in that week’s #MakeoverMonday and the buzz got me hooked; I spent far longer than an hour on my viz but the whole process was invigorating. I was exploring techniques and ideas that I would never have contemplated using in my day to day work; it eventually dawned on me ‘so this is what Andy meant’.
The viz that got me hooked; not a treema, a sort of heat map? Either way I had such fun creating the viz. I used highlight actions to allow people to interact and explore a State in more detail. Even now I still look back fondly on this viz; you may recognise it as it forms the header on my blog site and on my Twitter page, my subtle and personal nod back to my early days of the Tableau community.
Fast forward 12 months and I am constantly inspired by the community, by the creativity, the encouragement, the willingness to share. People say taking that first step to participate in the community can be daunting; I would agree it can be, but I would also say don’t worry if you don’t instantly feel as though the community house is your home. Each of us is different and that is one of our community’s biggest strengths; find your passion, your niche, your family. Embrace and enjoy the ride, but make the ride your own.
My sources of inspiration
One constant across my Tableau Public profile is the community; many of my visualisations have been inspired by the community initiatives of #MakeoverMonday, #VizForSocialGood, #DataForACause, #SportsVizSunday and #SWDChallenge. We are incredibly fortunate to have passionate experts whom dedicate their own time to provide us with regular new challenges and inspiring data sets and visualisations.
One of the most welcoming aspects of the community initiatives is inclusivity; there is no judgement, no ranking. Instead everyone participates for personal growth and supporting their peers. I defy anyone who has ever participated in #MakeoverMonday to say they haven’t improved a visualisation due to the honest and helpful feedback of a community member; or similarly I doubt anyone has ever published a #VizForSocialGood or #DataForACause and not been overjoyed by the warmth and positivity with which it was received by the community.
The initiatives are welcoming, they are inclusive, but for me the main reason for participation is the opportunity to learn. Tableau is such an agile tool that you will never stop learning, however you only know what you know. My most powerful learning occurs when I am taken out of my comfort zone and forced to try something new. The community initiatives offer me the opportunity to visualise a data set I would never normally have access to or to consider a topic or use case that is not part of my everyday life. The initial discomfort of a new data set or new use case is quickly replaced by excitement, energy and enthusiasm as many new ideas bounce around in my mind.
And then there are the community members themselves; my Tableau idols who I regularly look to for advice and inspiration. These people are the main sources of my ‘aha’ moments; when I see a creative or new approach that expands my knowledge and understanding of what is possible in Tableau.
My approach to visualisations
Whenever I create a visualisation they usually fall into one of three categories; learning a new technique, providing in depth analysis and, finally, having fun (by which I mean light hearted visualisations that definitely couldn’t ever be described as visualisation best practice). Here are some of my favourite visualisations across the three different approaches:
Viz | My first every jump plot that I used to visualise the difference between a club's predicted finish, as per The Guardian newspaper, and their actual finish.
Inspiration and acknowledgement | Chris De Martini jump plot blog post & Sam Parsons for size method to signify direction of jump.
Viz | A visual history of European Cup and Champions League winners and my first ever radial chart.
Inspiration and acknowledgement | Michael Mixon radial chart blog.
Viz | I had always wanted to try and create a hex map and this data set, which was based on US State level data, seemed ideal. I took it one step further and dual encoded the hex map by having an inner and outer hex for each state.
Inspiration and acknowledgement | Matt Chambers hex map blog post and Nai Louza ‘Ratios of inequality viz’ for the dual axis hex map technique.
In depth analysis#SportsVizSunday - FIFA World Cup history
Viz | The June #SportsVizSunday challenge data set contained every match in the history of the World Cup. With over 1,000 matches to visualise I wanted to choose an approach that allowed people to analyse key themes and stories in a single view without the need to filter by Country or Year.Inspiration and acknowledgement | Rob Radburn’s many examples of treemap best practice; in particular for this visualisation his ‘Dementia Key Indicators’ viz.#MakeoverMonday - Black History Month MLB demographics
Viz | For Tableau’s #VisualizeDiversity campaign, in celebration of Black History Month, #MakeoverMonday provided us with a data set of baseball players historical ethnic profiles. Whilst my finished visualisation contained only 4 simple stacked bar charts, I researched key events in the ethnic history of Major League Baseball and referenced these alongside each decade’s chart.
Inspiration and acknowledgement | Mike Cisneros for taking the time to reach out and help amend the visualisation so the blue and red sectors matched up exactly to that of the MLB logo and for suggesting to display the actual value as each player’s shirt number.
Sound the visualisation best practice warning claxon! There are times when I just need a release; when I need to explore my inner child and have some data viz fun. Participating in community initiatives gives me this opportunity; creating a visualisation that is a visual representation of the theme, as opposed to providing insight or analysis. Here is my rogues gallery;
Viz | I couldn’t resist the urge to compare companies profit through a mock Apple Watch visual; using a radial treemap.
Inspiration and acknowledgement | Radial Treemap video by Kirill Eremenko.
Viz | The Economist’s Big Mac Index just screamed burger scatter plot when I downloaded the data. It definitely won't win any prizes for insight but I had such fun recreating the look of a burger using PNG images and different shapes.
Inspiration and acknowledgement | I won’t insult anyone by suggesting they inspired this one!
My first, my last, my favourite
No, don’t worry this isn’t my rendition of a Barry White song. This whole blog post was inspired by Andy Kriebel congratulating me on reaching 100 Tableau Public vizzes and suggesting I should post my first ever #MakeoverMonday visualisation. Andy is always pleading for people not to delete their old visualisations; keeping them on your Tableau Public is a great way of recognising your development and helping others to appreciate everyone has to start somewhere.
I give you my first ever #MakeoverMonday from July 2017; a focus on Chinese tourist visits to Germany.
Two highlighted bar charts and a heatmap.
OK so this is actually my 101st Tableau Public visualisation however I couldn’t write this blog post and not reference a visualisation created as a result of Cole Knaflic’s Storytelling With Data Challenge.
Cole has inspired so much of my learning by constantly reminding us to focus on the key messages of a visualisation, appropriate use of colour, maximising the impact of titles, and above all to declutter charts. Her monthly #SWDChallenge usually encourages us to create a visualisation based on a specific chart type; for my August 2018 visualisation I used a dot plot to analyse Leicester City’s Premier League title winning season, and asked how out of the blue was it?
My favourite visualisation - Phil 'The Power' Taylor
Reflecting back across my 100 visualisations, my favourite is one I created in January 2018 to celebrate the playing career of darting legend, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. I apologise to anyone not familiar with darts, now isn’t the time to explain the incredible hand eye co-ordination or physical prowess of the athletes who play it (OK, that last one may be tongue in cheek).
This viz was my first in depth attempt at a long form visualisation that really focused on design and visual appeal. I still look back fondly at remembering the enjoyment I had in matching the colour scheme with the colour of Taylor's famous electric blue darts shirt and meticulously lining up each chart and section to create the exact look I was looking for.
More importantly for me, this visualisation was the first time I properly reached out to James Smith (@SportsChord) when I asked him for feedback on the viz. For those of you who do not know James (why not?!!) he is an absolute genius when it comes to sporting visualisations; his sporting chord vizzes remain some of my all time favourite Tableau Public content. Later that month, James reached out to Spencer Baucke (@JSBaucke), another one of my visualisation idols, and suggested we start up #SportsVizSunday. Over the last 7 months I have had an absolute blast working with James and Spencer. We have such fun showcasing sports visualisations from across the data viz community and creating our own sports vizzes as part of our monthly community challenge, but above anything else I have made two amazing friends. Thank you guys and thank you to everyone in the Tableau community for your encouragement and support.