Friday, 28 November 2014

One small step for Tableau, one giant leap for data visualisation kind

I’ve had an idea, it came whilst I was travelling across the French and Belgium border on the Eurostar so I need to sense check this. 

Tableau offers the user in Desktop to colour the view in a number of ‘steps’. You can access this by clicking on the Colour panel of the marks card when a measure is active on colour so why not for size?

Obviously there are a few workarounds to create this by binning a measure or grouping a set of dimensions but it doesn’t have that Tableau ease of being able to do it there and then, changing the centre point of the stepping etc. 
I have found a number of times when I would like to use size on a map or scatterplot and Tableau has not computed enough differentiation between them (even when there is to me as a reader). So why not allow for a grouping of sorts but for sizes purpose? 

Has anyone else found this and how else do they get around it? Or, have a critique of my idea?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Tableau in the Wild - Catherine Rush from TD Bank

Dan Montgomery (@DanRMonty) and I caught up at the Tableau conference and decided to add something different to the Tableau community to see if it would help users to understand how to deploy and grow Tableau in their organisations. 

Our first interview is Catherine Rush (@catherinerush) from TD Bank (thanks Catherine)

Let us know your thoughts and if it's helpful.

We want to cover different industries and organisations so let us know if you have a story to tell. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, 17 October 2014

England and Wales House Prices - the continued rise despite market fall

Ever since Ben Jones created a fantastic 'Connected Scatterplot' in Tableau about baseball (see this)
and then seeing Robert Kosara speak at the Tableau Conference in Seattle highlighting the effectiveness
of a connected scatterplot to tell a story, I was hoping to stumble across a data set that was suitable -
well I found one.

Tom at The Information Lab managed to lay his hands on a dataset (using his Alteryx skills to make it
viz-able) on every house sales in England and Wales since 1995 - that's 19 million records folks.

Whilst investigating this data, I started to look at trend over time and Robert's Kosara's words came back
to me about how time doesn't have to be on the x-axis. So this is what I have come up with to look at the
overall trend of house price sales against that of my postcode district where I bought a flat two years ago.

...and yes, we really do talk about house prices in Britain more than the weather now!

So how do you make one of these beauties? Well I thought a video would be easier to follow than typing instructions so let me know if you need any other details. You can create your own titles at

You can find the video here at this link

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Seattle Tableau Conference 2014 - Day 3

John Medina keynote

The adage of you are only using 10% of your brain is completely false – it’s about 50-60%

The left-side or right-side personality is also false – “it takes two side to make a personality”

The human brain is designed to:

Solve problems, in unstable meterological conditions, outdoors, in motion – not an office!

John’s focus today is sleep

Sleep states are as important to the learning process as awake states. Although we still don’t know why it is useful. It’s not about energy – the brain is more active at night than during the day.

8 hours of unconsciousness is insane a few thousands of years ago

The bottom trunk of the brain is the generator – it powers the rest of the brain.

Gazelles sleep for 15 minutes because if they sleep for longer then they will be eaten. Humans start to wake up after 1 and a half hours and have REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep then deepens again for a similar period so you get four or five periods of REM sleep every night.

Circadian arousal system – increases throughout the day and left unchecked would cause bipolar disorder. The homeostatic sleep drive falls throughout the day. When it hits the bottom and you fall asleep. This keeps the Circadian arousal system in check. Both measures plateau at 1-4pm and it is officially when the brain wants to nap as it allows your brain to decide when it wants to sleep. You don’t have to fall asleep, just lay down horizontally. Experiments showed there is a 34% brain improvement strategy. The nap time needs to be 26 minutes at a minimum.

There are 20% of people who are more productive first thing in the morning and 20% are more productive in the evening. This is based in your genes so you can’t change this.

Around the World in 80 clicks – Craig Bloodworth and Allan Walker

Advanced mapping

Why Maps?

It’s as simple as answering where type question. 1 in 5 google searches result in map based results

By adding a map to a dashboard, you instantly get more involvement from the reader. You get past language barriers.


Marks – Points, lines, polygons

Basemaps – Types (WMS & Tile), Tableau Map Source (TMS) and Map Providers

Toolkit – Geocoding your data and generating custom background maps

Demos – Crime in Salt Lake City, Great Britain Rail

Map in Tableau has three layers – Foreground layer, Background layer, background base. Controlling the background levels is where the fun bit starts

Foreground – important to think about how your data is spread

Background – WMS server, there are free ones and very easy to add to Tableau Desktop. You can bring a WMS server inside the network. You can then control the layers of that server. So you can create heatmap layers. Open Street Map – 600GB for worldwide mapping. You can be limited in the layering order

Tile mapping is very fast. Pre-cached. You can change the layers but normally have to pay. can give you the best of both worlds

The TMS file – purposely put it in My Tableau Repository > MapSources so you can go and play with them. See Craig’s slide for the full breakdown.

After adding new TMS files, they just become part of your Tableau Map Options in the normal Map menu

Easy mapping – Alteryx gallery (creating polygons) or

More difficult – is Geofabrik downloads (rail network) or Quantum GIS (free) (for particular shops in a location / country)

Mapbox – who have just released Mapbox Studio – very configurable

Hans Rosling keynote

The Tableau conference will be in Las Vegas 2015 from October 19-23.

There is a new TED talk from Hans

By 2100, >80% of the world’s population will live in Africa (4bn) and Asia (5bn). 10% will in Europe and North America (excl. Mexico) alone.

The projection of the number of children between now and 2100 is to stay steady at 2 billion.

“The problem with the future is that we have never been there” – great summary about prediction and forecasting

World population growth is now about death rates slowing, not high birth rates. Child mortality rates falling is the reason that once families’ feel comfortable their children will survive, they have less.

83% of the children of the world’s 1 year olds are being vaccinated against measles – proof that aid works

The breaking growth of human population growth is 75 years as that is life expectancy. The only two actions that could slow down is less longer lives with medical advances or people moving out of extreme poverty faster

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Seattle Tableau Conference - 2014 Day Two

Keynote – Neil deGrasse Tyson – Science as a Way of Knowing

For the British audience Neil is an astrophysicist who is the American Brian Cox. He is the host on COSMOS on TV in the US and this is on Primetime

Pluto is still not a planet – according to Neil

The Supermoon (when the moon the moon is closest), is only 0.001 inches larger than a normal full moon. Data is useful.

Bad Maths – “Half the schools in the district are below average” (actual newspaper headline). Member of Congress “I’ve changed my view 360 degree on that issue”

There is an atlas of peculiar galaxies (interesting shapes) created in the 60s. From data, once the computing power was available, it can be modelled. 250 million years can be processed in 5 seconds and accurately modelled. Every star in the galaxies are modelled in their interaction against each other. Proves the galaxies are wrecked galaxies due to each one being influenced by the other.

LSST – Large Synoptic Survey Telescope – still fund raising. The most powerful telescope. Full image of the universe every three days. “Dim and Dark picture”. 3.2 Gigapixels – World’s largest digital camera. 30 Terabytes of data nightly. Will create the first Movie of the Universe.

Killer Asteroids – The Meteor Crater in Arizona is the remnance of a killer asteroid. The Asteriod that took out the dinosaurs was roughly the size of Mount Everest. The impact of the asteroid in Russia in 2013 was the equivalent of 25 Hiroshima bombs.

There are 1,500 asteroids that are going to cross the orbit of the Earth. In 1980 there were 9,000 asteroids that astrophysicists knew about. By 1996 it was 25,000 asteroids. 2010 there were 550,000 asteroids found (most in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter). There are a lot of asteroids been Mars and the Sun and this means they are going to collide with the Earth at some point.

Facebook Jeopardy: the Hack Edition - Andy Kriebel & Bryan Brandow

Hacks will be shared on Bryan and Andy’s blogs and are nearly impossible to capture in a few sentences so here is a clue as to what was discussed

1. My ETL was delayed today and it missed my refresh schedule?

Triggering when the data is done – using a self built tool called Trigger. The code to be posted later

2. My extract has been failing for the last few days and I haven’t noticed

A self created tool that you can sign up to extracts so you can see when they error. Emails are sent for successes as well as failures

3. Extracts are taking too long to load

Tableau Data Extract API is used to do this. The Information Lab use Alteryx for this. Facebook made a 40% saving on their server performance that you can funnel elsewhere instead by putting the loads on a separate server.

4. I like drilling down, but I hate losing context by switching tabs

Add the additional chart as a floating option. Use dashboard actions. On select and exclude all values so only by selecting it appears.

5. I want to build a waterfall chart for my 37 sheet dashboard to render

Create a scaffold and structure the data to enable it to all appear on one sheet

6. I wish I could expand my lines in a row when expanding a hierarchy

Done through floating objects that are hidden by dashboard actions

7. When my extract refreshes the data range quick filter doesn’t change the maximum date

Change the filter to use all dates. Tableau’s automatic setting is a set date range

8. My users are creating spaghetti charts! I need this to stop

Use Tableau’s SIZE() function to be less than 5. Create a COUNTD([Dimension]) that looks for 6 or more

9. Replace Data Source is Killing me. Surely there is a better way.

Sets disappear and calculated field drop. Open twb file with a text editor. Cut and replace the second data source with the first. Save as a new workbook.

10. People complain my dashboards are slow and I don’t have a way to quantify it

Using the Javascript API – look for CUSTOM_VIEW_LOAD and identify the dashboard finishing the load. You can look at browser type, server used etc

11. I took my laptop to a meeting and went to show the dashboard and it refreshed in my face

Using the Javascript API you can set up a control click to prevent refreshing and you can set up where it refreshes to. Pause automatic updates after the time your server goes to refresh.

12. Load dashboards faster

Load a static representation of the dashboard first whilst everything else loads behind the scenes use the .png image from the server

Porn, Pokemon and Pop Culture

Jewel Loree

“This conference is the only one that is like a big family reunion”

There are many reasons to have a blog – comments and response ensures you develop. It’s a friendly critique.

Subjects that are fun for people, make it easier to communicate to friends and family what you do. It’s also a great way to get recruiters attracted to your skills

If you’re engaged by a subject, then you will find others who are too

Andy Kriebel

“Friends don’t let friends use pie charts”

Andy didn’t know if anyone would read the blog, he now works at Facebook – he got noticed

The most popular content is tips more than anything else but one post about how common is your birthday has 250k views as it got picked up by the Huffington Post

Blogging has been a great way to enable him to write which he enjoys

Peter Gilks

Started blogging in 2012

The desire to have a Viz of the Day post published meant Peter got steered to having a blog

Theming creates a lot of woah to add a great feeling and impact

A CV doesn’t cut it if you are applying for Tableau jobs. Therefore the blog link really lets people see what you can do.

The IronViz contests are a great kickstart because it helps guide you on a story.

There is nothing wrong with creating the data yourself

Michael Lewis – In conversation with Kelly Wright

Art History Major from Princeton who is attracted to characters where data plays a central role. The characters’ disrupt their environment with a tool and that tool is often data.

Dysfunction on Wall Street was caused where data was hidden and difficult to use

Michael’s wife critiques his ability to look at one data point and see a trend

The change in professional sports is breath taking (in terms of data)

Oakland A’s had no other choice to find a competitive advantage than data (they could afford to do it). It’s a sign of market inefficiencies that the team (company) with less resources can win against those with more resources

Time in the locker room meant that he saw the players weren’t in the best condition / perfect human bodies. It’s about getting past the subjective opinions and look at the outcomes. The key question is, where else is this the case?

Oakland did not generate new insight, the ideas were out on the internet. They applied those ideas and had the courage to do it. The A’s could do it as they operated in a market where they didn’t have much to lose.

The controversial reaction to Moneyball was similar to Flash Boys. It’s just that Hedge Funds and Banks had a lot more resources to fight back. ML is still surprised by important people still lying about the situation and trying to discredit it.

Entrenched attitudes in Financial Services makes change and innovation a lot harder to make the changes.

The consistent trait of those who build change is storytelling. Being able to create Narratives is absolutely key.

Taking complexity out of the subject is key to get the point across. Michael uses the ‘would my Mother understand’ what I have just written. Michael goes out with friends to a bar to test out the narrative.

Pictures are a great way to make things simple but they are not easy to create.

ML – “if you take the chance to appear stupid by making your audience feel smart [by making it simple] then you will succeed more”.

Eliminating what isn’t necessary makes everything more simple and makes the story telling a lot easier

The hole in Moneyball is that following a sports team you love doesn’t make following just a rational approach easy to join the two experiences together

Tableau like a Sith – Darth Flashypants and Lord Jinbar

A full intro video (including dancing Stormtroopers) was amazing!

Use the techniques are the focus of the session rather than the tasks

1. How to get more

Advanced table options (you can increase to 16). To get 17 or more. Go in to .xml and change the options to as much as you want (but only after you raise the number to 16).

2. Downgrade the version of the workbook

In the .xml go and change the version number in the opening lines

3. Tableau performance recorder

In setting and performance in the Help menu, you will find the performance recorder you can start and stop this to measure your processes

4. Gauages

First you need to create a copy of the data – one with Start and one with End in the calculated field – and in End, take all the measures out

You need to use sin and cos to work out where the line of the needle is. Use a path line to create the end point of the dial. Use radians and not degrees to work out the angle. Some nice techniques to dig in to here.

5. Images

Create high and width of image. Use background images. Match the images. Use a web domain. Click on options in background images and select a filter. Open file in text editor. Search for <mapped-image/> and take that and copy in to excel. Use Excel to concatenate the data with the new image information (ie mapping the image to the customer name)

6. Exploding pie chart

Overlay two pie charts using duel axis. Have one at a deeper level of the hierarchy and then increase the size of the lower level of granularity and it appears from behind

7. Agent Ransack

Find interesting things on your server. Ie the login box – change the wording on the login screen. Find the underlying files in the server and search for the wording and alter it to what you need.

The Plot Thickens – Using Visualisation to tell stories - Robert Kosara

The connected scatterplot shows the flow of data or time really smoothly. Current examples are temporal so far. Use the label to show year for example. Requires neat annotations

The designer needs to think about implicit vs explicit time. Explicit time can be created in Storypoints to convince the user to explore a visualisation in a set pattern

Why do we tell stories?

Research shows even back to the 1920s that stories maintain attention span of individuals for longer. Good tv adverts tease a story in the first few seconds to keep viewers’ attention


are also really good at making knowledge stick for longer (it’s not currently known why)

Simplification is mentioned yet again. Simplification = Effectiveness

Exploration of data is great for a user but to make it easier you need to use ‘data scent’ to find the additional stuff – whether it is tooltips, highlight filtering, trails etc

Exploration is not a story as you are not guiding the user

Hierarchy – from bottom base needs, upwards:

1. Story

2. Annotation

3. Visualisation

Seattle Tableau Conference 2014 - Day 1 Summary

After a good amount of feedback from those who couldn’t be there (and those who could but didn’t want to take notes), I will be writing summaries and updates through the Tableau Conference 2014 (#data14)

Keynote – Christian Chabot and Chris Stolte

5,500 customers, a bunch of Zen Master and goodness knows who else are here. This conference feels significantly bigger than even last year. If you have never been to a Tableau conference then I really can’t get over the collective buzz that is generated. It feels like a sports event when the home team is about to win the championship. That’s crazy for a tech conference…

Christian starts by highlighting the great work (and breadth) of the Tableau community that is shared on the web wherever you go. Matt Francis, Ramon Martinez, Ryan Robatile and Kelly Martin’s work is all shared on the big screen.

The next big strides in the technical revolution is to ‘expand your creative potential’ of everyone. Adobe, Computer Aided Design and now other creative tools are allowing everyone to explore and create great design.

‘Data Analysis is a creative process’ – most important role in the modern business strategy

Analysts and artists are both on a mission to create something new and explore. Same human characteristics are used in both.

To create a tool that allows for a great creative experience takes four things:

1. Encourage experimentation – fast prototyping needed in any innovation process. Taking film out of cameras allows people to explore images and the quality of photos has risen and improved as a subject area.

2. Speed – To iterate, you need things to be able to iterate in front of your eyes. Tableau working on performance a lot

3. Expressiveness – Great artists don’t use Paint by Numbers art sheets. Business has been tied / constrained Business Intelligence solutions. Tableau creating a canvas.

4. Control – giving people control. Something is in your mind’s eye, you need to be able to get it out. Di Vinci didn’t do his work by “filling out a painting request form”.

Tableau 200 customers by 2004, 2,000 customers 2008, 20,000 customer by 2014. Growth is funding R&D in Tableau in the next two years than the previous 10 years.

7 areas for this development is:

1. Visual Analytics

2. Performance

3. Data Prep

4. Storytelling

5. Enterprise

6. Cloud

7. Mobile

Chris Stolte - New features:

1. Visual Analytics

Now double click and type in to the column or row shelf instead of dragging pills. This is done like creating a calculate field. You can double click on a pill (existing data item) and you can run complex calculations too. You can drop blended data sources in to those calculations too. Called “Freeform Calculations”. You can drag the new fields and drop it in the dimension or measures list to create the data item.

New calculation editor is a lot more simplistic. Edit the calculated field and can interact with the view at the same time. You can drag in data from the dimension and measure lists.

There is a new side pane too – the Analytics pane. Where you currently have data lists, you can flick to analytical functions and trends.

Reference lines update with the data you are selecting on screen.

Tableau calculations – can be hard so Tableau making them easier. Views respond immediately as you flick between table calcs. Tableau highlights what is being computed.

Geographic search now built in to Tableau – so you can flick between countries, states, postcodes – just type it in and the map filters (all built in to the long / lat)

New selection tool so you can Lasso, select circular areas etc to select really what you want. Very cool and is going to be great on scatterplots!

2. Performance

Tableau can go anywhere with data in very many ways – makes performance a lot harder

Andrew Beers (VP Product Development) demos

Tooltip respond instantly as you scroll round the visualization. This is still the same Viz engine bought in in version 8.0.

8.3 is showing performance improvements of x2-4 times faster. Taking advantage of multi-core processing that is now available in most machines. Using more parallel processing is changing response times to seconds rather than minutes.

Doing more in the browser is continually requested. Tooltips are instant and maps panes appear seamlessly during panning.

Analytics at scale – persistent query caching – shared across all nodes on the server and all processors.

3. Data Preparation

In the data load window, you can now ‘Split’ one data column in to it’s parts. Split is now available when working in the visualization window too.

Poorly formatted Excel sheets are now going to be easier to clean up. Just connect and Tableau is now becoming smarter to clean those excel files. Transposing data through ‘Unpivot’ in the data load window (big reception for this). Handling survey data from agencies is going to be a lot easier

Web Services data – REST API and JSON – “Web Data Connector” now possible

4. Storytelling

Dr Jock McKinley

“The next chapter in storypoints”

View thumbnails are produced so you know what you want to drag in to the Storyboard on your list of worksheets and dashboards.

You can now format the storypoints navigator – background colour, font, style (numbers instead of word descriptions), size and position.

5. Enterprise

See Enterprise deployments as mission critical.

Scalable, Resilient and Easy to Manage – are the main aims

Secure – Kerberos, smart cards and permissions

Extensible – API improvements – Javscript, Data Extract and REST API. Publish content and assign permissions through the APIs to come.

Thumbnails of the workbooks, instant search on the server browser and all appears instantly

You can look at the Data Sources of the workbook on the details in the server (I love this little touch!)

New heatmaps for the permissions in the server so easier to see what is allowed for

6. Cloud

Tableau Online allows On Premise as well as Cloud data storage and then deploy to mobile

Tableau Online allows a live-to-live cloud base querying and connection

Tableau Data Safe – allows Tableau Online to control On Premise feeds in a secure way.

Tableau Online can embed directly in to SalesForce

7. Mobile

App performance speed increased as you scroll through the thumbnails of the viz.

Now allowing for calculations in mobile and web editing for the first time – this will be huge

Swipe through the visualizations to switch between them

Offline snapshots captured at your settings down to every 15 minutes

New tool!! – Project Elastic

From a csv attachment – you can open it in “Project Elastic” and it creates a basic visualization for you. Click and drag to filter the data. Switch categories (dimensions) by sliding your finger across the dimension title. You can change the aggregation by sliding up on measure name.

Email the new image in two taps

Date hierarchy explored by stretching the time series – stretch an individual record to see the underlying data – genius!

Alberto Cairo – The Island of Knowledge and the Shoreline of Wonder (visualization for a better world)

Professor from Miami University and Data Visualisation Author

New Book coming called ‘The Insightful Art’ (working title)

AC believes sketching with pens and papers is the most important first step of creating visualisations. Aligns to Christian Chabot’s thoughts on design.

“A visualization is a display of evidence” – convey the information in a way the listener / viewer can absorb easily.

“Information shaped as a graphic function as a cognitive aid” – what ever is on the screen aids the cognitive understanding and importantly isn’t the cognitive function, it’s just the help for that.

“Words alone are useless, but so are visualisations” – it’s the combination of the two that makes the magic happen

“Good answers lead to more good questions” and visualization can really help this process.

Learning stops when blockages / impairments add too much resistance – often happens with lies / political bias etc

With the larger Island of Knowledge, the Shoreline of Wonder grows too.

Data visualization tools that are free and open can perpetuate bad behaviours – misleading visualisations. promoted an article about creating an infographic from start to finish and it articulates the creator should decide their story and then find the data – very dangerous and likely to mislead.

The Challenge of Clarity – AC argues there is a value that precedes clarity. Truth is not an absolute, it’s a continuum.

Good features a visualization should have:

1. Truthful – be honest, be aware of your own biases

2. Functionality – needs to work and smoothly

3. Beautiful – draws the audience to the work

4. Insightful – allows the viewer to learn and if possible explore further

5. Enlightening

Only a divine being can truly be truthful – hence truth is a scale. For objectivity you need to be open to argument and debate.

A habit of skeptical thinking can be transformed in to a habit of visualization design

When working you should increase BREADTH and DEPTH to fully explore what you are presenting

Data literature takes for granted the quality of data. The books do not protect individuals from lying to themselves with data

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool!” – Richard Feynman

The phrase, “It’s more complicated than that” should always be kept in mind – never feel satisfied in the quest for understanding.

Tableau - Tricks for becoming a Jedi

Marc Rueter

1. By dropping the new pill over the top of the old pill (measures) it maintains the reference lines and forecasts etc (time saver)

2. Summary card - good for calculating totals and other levels of aggregation as you change what you select on the visualisation

3. In the analysis menu, you can fix the visualisation to always use a table calc on a certain workbook. Also, the partitioning too!

4. When nesting table calc, the original set up of addressing and partitioning is carried through as a new default.

5. Tableau does some Smart Sorting when it absorbs data that just makes sense - temporal sort for days if week or month name (even when the field isn't recognised as the date). Also works for IP addresses too.

6. Trellising of small multiples done through the two calculations pictured using index and sqrt. You then have to change the table calcs to compute by region etc

7. Moving reference lines - you can action a worksheet to itself

8. You can blend on a dummy data item. Just type in "dummy" as a calc field in each data set.

9. You can highlight at different levels - ie region, state, county etc

Zen Master Tips and Tricks – Craig Bloodworth, Kelly Martin and Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson

To filter data set for a condition (but not only those items) you need to create a new field that is a Boolean looking at another new field looking at CONTAINS(product, product parameter search). Apply that Boolean to Conditionally filter the Customer name / id

You can create layers of these by working with the Context filters (google it if you don’t know what I mean by this)

Tableau calculations in filters will act after all others. Partitioning in Tableau Calcs Advanced settings is like Group By.

Craig Bloodworth

Tableau Server and REST API

API – Application Programming Interface

The Google Extension for Tableau by the Information Lab utilizes the API to give fast access to workbooks and data sources

The undocumented API (v1 – been present since Tableau v3) and it can do everything that Tableau Desktop and tabcmd

Get started:

1. Download Fiddler – captures all the interactions between Desktop and Server

2. Look at /auth.xml

3. Choose a language or tool (Alteryx, cURL, Python, Java, C#)

4. Understand the Authorisation Model

Using /datasource.xml /users.xml and /workbooks.xml to get the raw .xml response back. These are the files that The Information Labs tool is using in Alteryx

Kelly Martin

Stop users clicking certain objects by putting a textbox over the top

Use a dual axis chart to put a click filter over the top of the bars that you do let people click on. It looks like a selection mark

Use a help icon or an ‘About’ tab to explain the data where possible

Data Driven Storytelling - Ryan Sleeper

1. Know your audience – understand what they want and need

2. Smooth your Excel Transition – Tableau and Excel are very different tools. You can force things but use the right tools for the right job

3. Do you always need the number? You can still show the pattern and that give the reader the information that they need to act on

4. Leverage Colour – use neutral colour palette, limited number of colours. You are making the user work harder if you do

5. Keep it simple – strip back the dashboards as much as you can without taking away from the story

6. Use the Golden Ratio – most important things in the top left

7. Don’t Neglect the set-up

8. Don’t use pie charts – cogitatively they just don’t work. 5 slices or less just about ok. Never in a time series

9. Corporate Chart Types – Sparklines, Small Multiples, Bullet Graphs

10. Use call out numbers – make the key numbers jump out by being isolated or significantly larger

11. Allow discovery – include something for everyone (ie even the small teams for sports analysis)

12. Balance Data and Design – depends on the audience you are developing for

13. Eliminate Cart Junk but not graphics – Only a picture can carry such a volume of data in such a small space (look at Tufte’s rules

14. Tell a Story – annotations are great and makes things more easily absorbed

You can go to for full right up

...more to come

Friday, 5 September 2014

All good things come in threes...

So my world has changed somewhat as I have three developments that means whilst I will keep sharing, my work will be published elsewhere as well.

1. I have a new job. 
I'm going to be a Tableau (and Alteryx) consultant with The Information Lab. I have known the guys for a couple of years now and am really excited to be working with some of the best Tableau users in the world on a day-to-day basis for some amazing clients. Therefore, some blog posts will now be available here too -

2. I am going to be at #data14 the Tableau Global Conference. 
I have been asked to present by Ben Jones who runs Tableau Public (that's where all the embedded Tableau items in this blog is hosted) so will be doing that on Thursday at 4pm. Until then, I will be live blogging on here as well as at along with some of the other Information Labbers

3. I also have also landed a new web domain so I will be migrating the blog to soon. Not yet but soon. 

See you in Seattle!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Revisionist NBA Draft - Tableau Storyboarding

Welcome to the disclaimer. So yes, this is a slight cheat as I have already posted the basics of this before but now there is more data and a lot more story / charting. I feel like I scrapped the surface with the last dashboard so here is a deeper dive in to the data.

As a history student there are normally two standard views on any event in history - the traditional and the revisionist. Well here is the revisionist view of Bill Simmons reranking of NBA draft picks from the last six years.

For those who haven't come across the NBA draft before, it's a method to distribute the top young talent from colleges and teams across the world to the NBA teams. There is an egalitarian approach to the draft as each year, those teams who don't make the playoffs are put in the lottery to see who gets the 1st pick. The worse your record in the regular season, the higher your chances are of landing that top pick. Therefore, you would expect the top draft picks to turn in to the top elite players in the league.

Well this visualisation is a study to determine if in fact the best players go to those teams choosing first? Do some teams fair better than others?

This visualisation also acts as my entry in to the Third Tableau Iron Viz Competition for 2014 as the visualisation takes advantage of the new story points feature in Tableau Desktop version 8.2. This is a really interesting feature that allows the author to guide their audience through the story they have found in the data. But Tableau is focused on allowing the user to explore data as well and the viewer can still explore the visualisations in the story without effecting the overall flow and what is coming up.

The feature has a lot to be developed still (more formatting control, altering tooltips, creating multiple charted tabs etc) but rather than having to build multiple versions of the same chart is a massive step on if you want to show different views of it.

As always, looking forward to the feedback on whether you enjoy the work or learn anything from it.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Tableau on Tour - Day Two

Tim Harford - (Mis)Information is Beautiful keynote

- If you are a data visualisation guru you will have come across the Florence Nightingale story of visualisation many times. An innovative visualiser but she was still arguing a point and hence she used a coxcomb diagram.

- Florence had the dubious honour of creating one of the first infographics. Tim did point out she saved '000s of people but still... Have a read of - you'll thank Tim for pointing it out.

- Misinformation is an issue in infographics. Height used for icons, forgets to work out the area implications.

- Here is the link to Tim's reference to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A quick reference as to why info graphics have to be treated with care.

- Tim showed the example of the New York subway lines inequality line. Here is the London equivalent for house prices -

- Tim played Debtris by Information is Beautiful - Debtris (UK version) - YouTube. He then pulls apart some of the "costs" referenced by McCandless. Not coming apples with apples. Visualisation is becoming easy but... "You don't have to think, but I recommend it. Pro tip"

- Tim highlights it's not enough to be beautiful, it has to be sound work. He understand when someone 'smooth talks' us without substance. Not everyone has developed the ability to see the gaps being presented.

- Dazzle camouflage in military shipping is a similar analogy to info graphics.

- Be careful of:
1. People that lie with data
2. People who haven't taken care of how the are visualising
3. People who are not careful of the metrics they use

Matt Francis - Once Upon a Tableau - The How and Why of Story

- 220 slides (seriously!) of hilarity!

- Tableau Public is a great learning resource - download something that makes you go woah and you can download it to learn how it was done.

- Stories are important because they are: more Memorable, Impactful and Relatable

- Matt talks about Sequential Art - a way to transmit human experience so why not use Sequential Data Visualisation

- Data viz should be unbiased and neutral (I'd say can it be?). Data stories lead a reader in a certain direction. You are influencing through a guided tour

- You need to:
1. Consider your plot - plan out what you are going to do
2. Consider your audience - harks back to Paul Banoub's idea of present to Homer as well as Lisa Simpson

- Matt went through his thinking on creating his:
1. Sunspots visualisation -
2. The Greatest F1 driver -
3. Malaria - the global problem -

- "Hit people with the numbers and make it relatable" create an emotional impact, like the use of the school bus in the Malaria viz

- Matt's do's and don'ts:
1. Don't use it for everything. Single dashboards are effective and also multiple dashboards but question whether it is the right choice
2. Don't waste space - "each story point must earn it's place"
3. Do share the right story point - the 'Share' URL you have on your screen is for the point you are on when you click share.

The Final Keynote - Kenneth Cukier (data editor at the Economist)
- is an accessible reference for some of Kenneth's team reference

- Kenneth uses the example of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that is made up (like a lot of the financial indices) are a large number of measures. Changes to all underlying factors can now be visualised in seconds.

- "n=all" before you used to have to sample, now you can use all of the data. Data visualisation allows you to see all of the data and the trends.

- Information growth in digital sources is exponential and it's growth is unlikely to change. Even with this data growth, there is a need to show all of it.

- The use of different visualisation has allowed information never seen as data, suddenly be visualised and insight taken from it.

- By disaggregating data, you can find new uses and ways to look at this information. Fo example, employment data like this:

- New techniques are still required to tell different and more interesting stories. You have to explore the data without conceived ideas about what you are going to find. Remove Preconceived Notions! Observe first, answer afterwards.

- Kenneth still battles to get the visualisation in to the magazine that depicts the data best vs. what is easily accessible. Has "failed" multiple times with 'innovative' visualisations but hits home runs that shows you need to keep pushing the boundaries.

- The world cup has been a testbed for the media's large dataset visualisations (social media etc)

- Need to be aware of access, ethics, privacy, ownership, "data-ism" (a new alchemy that needs to be treated with care and be cautious). Need to remember the humanity behind the data. off to the London Tableau User Group. Great conference and thank you to all those who made it a special couple of days.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tableau on tour - reaches London

Ok, here is my attempt at live blogging so this page will capture my thoughts and key ideas throughout the conference (if the wifi holds up).

Opening keynote:
- 7,000 people expected in Seattle for the global conference this year. Should be epic!

- A great demonstration of Tableau Public through Paul Banoub's cup stacking viz

- Francois Ajenstat giving really good insights into the founding of Tableau. Chris, Christian and Pat had to produce multiple visualisation to describe some code - they desired to find an easy way to do this.

- Key areas for development for tableau:
1. Seamless access to data - new data load in 8.2 a key part of this
2. Analytics and statistics for everyone - sophisticated modelling in one click. Mapping the big development in 8.2. Data search to be developed in future releases.
3. Visual Analytics everywhere - Dave Story - former Lucas Films BI guru, now mobile and strategic growth VP highlights edit function on server to explore further through 'edit' functionality.
4. Storytelling - Powerpoint just isn't enough anymore! Check out my Viz of the Day in the article below to see more.
5. Enterprise - Tableau. Online and Public shows scalability. New administration functions in 8.2 to add, edit and delete users / workbooks the latest iteration.
6. Fast, easy, beautiful - Tableau want you to have a "conversation with the data so the software fades away". Subtle changes like responsive marks on maps, seamless movement around maps etc

Paul Banoub's talk on building a Tableau Centre of Excellence
- UBS using Tableau for IT, Business, Finance and HR

- It's not just about Tableau it's about Visualisation best practice.

- Design for Homer as well as Lisa Simpson - don't just build shareable work for people like you. It won't have the same benefit if not.

- Proof of concepts and communities are key ways to find who gets hooked on Tableau. Similar experience for me too apart from people who see Tableau over your shoulder and go "I want to do that"

- Virtual Hosting, Monitoring (great work by Mike Roberts formerly of Interworks that I will need to read after), Configuration all need to be considered to create the polished user experience that Tableau is designed for. Landing pages on intranet and style guides help users to get better results sooner (ref. Mark Jackson's blog

- Purchaisng and onboarding new users is cruical to the user experience. It can really put people off Tableau if you falter and are not timely. *nods*

- Monthly and Quarterly structured training sessions (including Tableau doctor sessions) have helped people excel and drive themselves further.

Bethany Lyons - data blending
- Data blending is a left outer join (everything from left (primary) and brings in just the stuff that matches in the right (secondary)). Inner joins are also possible by excluding any nulls. Can't do full outer joins through blends.

- Try to aggregate through linking fields for better performance. These will be the most common request anyway.

- The combination of highlighted link icons will create the unique combination of data points to be joined. Over selection of data links leads to data reduction (data points disappearing) if you just select everything but are actually not concerned about that unique combination of data points. - To prevent data loss then you need to pad the domain - this means adding null values to ensure there is a cross over between both data sets on all of the linking fields

- * value of doom (hopefully will be called the Death Star) - occurs when your secondary data source has a many-to-one relationship with the primary data source. This doesn't happen with joins as joins create additional rows of data but likely will duplicate the measure value.

- If you want to filter between two data sources, joins are the way to go. Because when one set is used as a filter but it has no concept of that filter in the second data source, Tableau can't filter it. - You could then join these two source abut blend in the measures to avoid duplication of values.

Jock McKinley
- Story arc - Question or problem, Logical sequence or narrative, and Conclusion or Resolution

- Three types of use of visualisation in storytelling - 1. Find, 2. Tell and 3. Explore

- Tell - Jock used a great connected Scatterplot on road fatalities in motor vehicles by Hannah Fairfield. Chart run through the story and annotation is all around. Body of text in large dead white space. Very much a tell style.

- Use "Information Scent" (highlight function in Tableau) to lead others to explore your data.

- Explore - people don't expect data views to be a place to explore. You need to show them you can and how. D3 line charts used heavily in good examples. Allows people to explore.

- Collaborate - share and you never know where someone will take your data and story too.

- This will truly create a tree of knowledge

Andy Kriebel and Dan Murray
- Dan - "Andy is the smartest dumb guy you'll ever meet" nice!

- 1st user meeting was 2009 in Atlanta, Andy Cotgrave created the 1st User Group in the UK in 2010 (a contentious point!)

- 10. Rules of running a good user group:
1. Multiple companies and leaders mean that there is a good supply of organisers and spaces to choose from
2. Make it a no sales zone - listen to what the users want
3. Make it routine - monthly or quarterly so people can get it in to their diaries
4. Central location, easy accessibility key to remove excuses not to attend
5. Webinar make it tough as you don't really get to meet people. Allow webex, but just don't promote it
6. Andy - "beer helps"
7. 3-4 hours is key duration time
8. What? Guest speaker (can be wider than Tabelau), hands on training (helps newbies, don't go too advanced), give a random data set and allow people to build.
9. You want people to get hooked to come back so the takeaway learnings need to be good
10. Always have the next meeting ready to go...

Bethany Lyons - Table Calculations
- All the major work is done within advanced settings of the table calc. Using this rather than the drop downs mean that as you change the visualisation, the table calculation will remain calculating what you want by what you want

- Difference from average - sum(sales)-window_avg(sum(sales))

- You can nest as many table calculations as you want. You'd be crazy or a zen master to do this but you could

- dayofyear - is a number of the day in the year and is used within date part calculation syntax (I've never come across it)

- Last() is the table calculation that I always forget about but saves working on date calculations

- ATTR is a way to aggregate dimensions to be used within table calcs where you are using aggregated measures

- Jittering in a box-plot - use index() and change the partition to be your dimension

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Revised NBA Draft

The NBA draft is the equivalent of Christmas for most NBA fans (except Cleveland but I will come to that). Previously for the last couple of decades, David Stern (playing the role of Santa) rocks up to the podium (read Christmas tree) and tells you which teenager you will be cheering on for the next decade.

This year Adam Silver, the new NBA Santa, will read out the names of the players in which your sporting hopes will rest. If you have been good (or your team has an awesome GM) then you will land a star player that will guide your team to championship, after championship (thanks Timmy!). If you are Cleveland or Portland then you draft a player that will leave you for a more desirable location or have fundamental health issues.

So how much does it matter if you pick first, second or sixtieth? Bill Simmons, king of Sports Satire, this week published an article looking at which order the players from the last couple of decades would those players go.

Here's the article for those who want to have a read -

Well as I was reading, I thought of only one thing - slope chart!

I hope you enjoy the new storyboarding feature in Tableau as I walk you through the last six years of the NBA draft showing there is still hope for all.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Quantified Self

I have the joy of living in London. This includes many amazing things: the history, the architecture, the museums, the beer but there is one thing that blights the London experience for me - the Tube.

That's right the London Underground is my pet hate. Don't get me wrong it's a brilliant transport system - people make 24 million journeys on it every day ( But that is the issue for a 6' 3" guy, I just don't fit in very well. So for a quantified self project I wanted to not just help myself solve this, but create something that will help others. So I came up with...

The London Runderground.

Every year about 15 million international tourists come to London and they move round primarily on the tube. But they have no other option if they want to visit the sights, right? No Wrong! Why not run between the attractions?

To prove the benefits I have tried to be as fair as possible. I didn't train for the runs, I didn't do it on a nice cool day (it was a stifling London day), I just rocked up in a pair of trainers and my iPhone (to use and ran. I have just used the website to calculate the tube journeys but these don't take in to account:

  1. The time to get from the attraction to the station
  2. The time to get down to the platform once at the station (there are a lot of escalators)
  3. Delays
  4. Line closures

Here are my results - and trust me it is a lot nicer than riding the tube for nine journeys (and cheaper!!). Plus, I made a couple of journeys faster. Oh and the biggest benefit is I could enjoy my fish and chips in the evening as I had already worn off the "treat".

Monday, 17 March 2014

Tableau's Sports Viz Contest - the Interactive Shot Chart

So Tableau have thrown down the gauntlet and it's the first data viz competition to see who gets to complete in the Iron Viz championship at the Customer Conference. I had the pleasure of watching the competition last year and it was great. Seeing three great visualisers tackle the same data set in so many different ways made me feel there is no right way - it's all about the experimentation to see what stories you can find.

This year's first challenge is to create a sports based visualisation. For me there was only every going to be one thing I was going to do and it was to create an interactive basketball shot chart. For a long time now, I have admired and followed the work of Kirk Goldsberry. For example:

Kirk's chart are simply beautiful, fun and clear. I really enjoy the comic book (graphic novel??) styling. But, I want a little more...

I want to understand: When the shot is happening? Who made the pass? What was the flow of the game at the time?

But linking the final pass to the shot tells an even more interesting story - click on the second tab to see how path analysis helps with this. Just check out Spurs dominance on the defence's right hand side after failing from the left before hand.

Therefore, I have created this as my entry in the Iron Viz competition. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

It's Tableau Sports Viz month

Anyone who knows me, knows I am basketball obsessed! 

I recently realised that I often form ideas when watching games. Who is the best 3 point shooting team? Who scores well from the three point line, but fails miserably as a foul shooter?

A while ago I created this for the 2011-2012 season (and will update shortly) but I have been watching games recently and haven't had my laptop close-by. So I'm publishing this to the blog so it is available whenever I get in to a debate about how great Kawhi Leonard is, I can prove it! 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Previously on 24...

Fate made me make the first 24 visualisation due to a conversation in the office, and it has had it's hand in this follow up entry too.

With the help of the previous entry, my blog hit 24 hundred views (2,469 to be precise) so a follow up had to be made - fate made it so!

So what else can be looked at in 24 through the eyes of adata visualiser? Deaths, thats what. I stumbled up (read googled) a great source of 24 knowledge - a wiki dedicated to 24! Click the link, its' worth it:

So did Jack Bauer stop the 'Hostiles'? Were the public safe? Use the visualisation to explore who were the killers. And this is more evidence that you can truly create a data visualisation out of anything (especially with Tableau).

Sunday, 19 January 2014

So what can you visualise?

With rumours circulating the internet about a new Season of 24 (and a movie to boot!), I thought two things:

1. It's been a while since I watched a series and the English weather is defintely condusive to this at the moment.
2. Is it worth making Series 9?

Well, instantly, young Miss Jedi Ninja stuck Series 7 on Netflix and I reached for the laptop to create a visualisation exploring viewing figures over the different series. And this led me to a conclusion, data analysis through tools like Tableau, can now measure pretty much everything and you can analyse data to understand the wider context.

Recent data visualisation highlights for me covering Pinball Machines (@paulbanoub), fantasy basketball (@dataremixed) and burning off your favourite foods in the Gym (@matt_francis) show that there really isn't any topic that it is now not possible to create a data visualisation about to aid your decision making as to whether you are: trying to make your gym trip more efficient, winning your basketball fantasy league, or, running your own Pinball Arcade business.

So google what you are interested, see if you can find some numbers and see if you can find you the underlying story in the numbers. And then let the world know because you never know who you might be helping! (just maybe not as much as saving the World like Jack Bauer)