Vizzing In Public Gets Attention
I’m not sure I can adequately express how much love I have for Tableau Public, but I’m going to give it a go.
I published my first viz to Tableau Public on 12th September, 2016. I’d fiddled around with Tableau a little to that point, connecting to my own MySQL database, but not really vizzing in anger at all to that point. The week before, Pablo and I went along to the Tableau 10 Roadshow event in London, and one of the speakers (Andy Cotgreave?) referenced Makeover Monday. We’d not heard of it before that, but thought it sounded like something we could have a go at. It did, however, mean submitting a viz into Tableau Public.
Looking back, my first contribution was overwhelmingly amateur. One day I will return to that data set and turn something around that is more meaningful, but at the time it felt like quite an accomplishment. Getting that first viz out into the wider world felt like leaping into a pool, not knowing what the temperature was or whether the waters might be infested. I had literally no idea what to expect.
Quite rightly, those first few visualisations I published garnered very little attention. They’ve had a surprising number of views, but that really wasn’t the objective. Looking back now though, they’re more like the darlings I couldn’t bear to murder. Over time I developed new Tableau skills through various types of learning, added variation to my publications and, with the advent of Points Of Viz, found a platform to write about them too.
Making ‘Public’ Work For Me
I’ve just finished up with my previous employer of over five years. I wasn’t using Tableau as heavily as I’d like in work, but Tableau Public and social challenges gave me some motivation to get stuck in while at home. Publication wasn’t a means with an end in mind, other than to share what I’d created and gather feedback. Since being crazily inspired by Neil Richards’ blog at the end of last year, I definitely had an eye on finding a future role with a data visualisation bent, but wasn’t actively seeking one. So much so that when an agent called me about a role, I didn’t return his first three missed calls.
Eventually I engaged with the prospect of this new, Tableau-centric role. I spoke with the agent and the potential employer, and both referenced having having reviewed my Tableau Public profile. A later interview stage brought about a show and tell of my Tableau skills, but I sincerely doubt I’d have got even that far without having a portfolio of exercises on show to demonstrate my level of competence. More than half of those exercises were Makeover Monday contributions, and although I’m not participating as regularly, it’s often as a result of my playing with other data sets and putting more individual vizzes onto Tableau Public.
I don’t profess to be anywhere near the same league as most public vizzers, but ‘Doing It In Public’ does give you a platform – to share your work and ideas without requiring your recipient to have anything more than a web browser, to engage in social exercises and get your name out there.
Spending time within Tableau Public has dual benefits – as well as showcasing your own work, there are so many other vizzers to follow and to get inspired by, and the opportunity to curate a catalogue of great work as small or large as you like. Until recently I only followed around 10-15 other users, but spending more time in Public myself meant I had more opportunities to keep up with what everyone else was up to. I currently try to keep up with around 30 others, most of whom publish around 1-2 vizzes a week. That gives me something in the region of 50 diverse dashboards and stories to peruse and get inspired by. In what other field do you get such a rich pool of resource from which to learn directly?
I’d never claim to have a portfolio of work that others are going to look upon in amazement, but it does demonstrate my own development curve, and others have commented on more eloquently than I could.
As I look towards the end of my first year in Tableau Public, there are still plenty of ambitions to fulfill, but I recognise that I’ve come a long way so far. Without that Tableau Public profile I wouldn’t have developed my skills, I wouldn’t have engaged with an amazing community, wouldn’t have started blogging about DataViz, and wouldn’t have found a very exciting new job (starting next week!).