Boring folders

How can you make Tableau server project folders more interesting?

With the introduction of Tableau 9, you had the ability to control the descriptions on the project folders and add some basic formatting.

Initially though, I was very disappointed with the feature as it seemed to make the folders look like large empty spaces.

Boring folders

You can see in the default folder, that the text has been changed, but who want’s to look at all of that white space and the grey image of a file?

I thought that there had to be a better way.

At first, we added text to explain what the folder was and looked at the basic editing functions available –

Commercial server format

We can see at the bottom the ability to use basic HTML formatting, but as with a few things in Tableau, it is the undocumented things which really add value.

For example, through adding the <img src/> code, we can add a picture, to make the folder more colourful, in the example below this is as simple as putting in a footer.

Commercial server preview

 

 

What about putting in a picture of a report in the project though, to show the end user an example of the content.  That works as well, brightening up the default folder.

Commercial server folder overview

 

But how about taking it a step further.  If <img src/> works for an image, can I make it work for a .gif to allow me to run a carousel of the content within the folder?

 

 

 

CommercialProjectImage

Well that looks a lot better and is more intuitive for the end user.

 

So what are the steps you need to follow to do this?

  1. You need to have admin access to the box where server is located
  2. Create a .gif (I use giphy.com) by using some screen shots of reports in the project
  3. On the server, go to this location and save the .gif                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Gif location                                                                                                                                                                               It doesn’t matter where your Tableau server files are saved, as long as it goes into the htdocs folder
  4. On the server web portal, edit the project description within the details tab                                                                                                                                                                                                       Commercial server preview
  5. Type in the following code – <img src=”filename.gif” width=”448″ align=”middle” /> Replace filename with the name you gave the .gif.  As long as it is stored in the htdocs folder you do not need to put the full path
  6. Click save and it should be working a treat

 

If after this, you only see a static image, your browser settings are probably restricting activeX controls.

 

 

The finished work should look like this

 

 

 

 

 

Data viz books

Introduction to Data visualisation

Internally at work, I run a monthly workshop introducing people to data visualisation and explaining why it is important and how we use Tableau as our tool of choice in this area.

The workshop was initially aimed at the analyst community, but as the months have gone on and the popularity of Tableau increases, I am seeing a wide variety of people attending, from our Board, to managers to people who just use Excel but want to do things better.

The workshop lasts about 90 minutes and is mostly in Prezi, before I move into showing some Tableau demonstrations and our Facebook at work pages, where people can download our colour palettes and understand some of the choices we have made.

So far, about 130 people at work have seen this and along with a few members of my team, I am writing a follow up session.

Obviously, I have not created all of this content from scratch.  A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend Stephen Few’s three day workshop in London, based around his books at the time.  It was at this event where I first met Tableau community legends Peter Gilks and Carl Allchin.

I took my leanings from that, and converted his three books and several hundred pages into a 30 page PDF that people could use as a reference.

Following this, I also attended Andy Kirk’s workshop and have several data visualisation books in our internal library including Alberto Cairo’s book the functional art, all of which I have tried to take examples from to improve our internal guidelines and best practices.

Data viz books

At the Tableau conference in Vegas #data15, I mentioned this workshop and touched on a small part of it.  A few people in the Twitter community sent me messages and asked if I would share it.  As it was internally branded, I didn’t want to do this on a wide scale level, so thought that I would create a ‘public’ version and publish it here.

The Prezi should allow you to follow through the journey, which is based around transforming information into insight.  It obviously works better when I am present to talk through it and the examples, but hopefully it gives enough of an introduction and I am happy to talk about it in more detail or come and present it.

Click on the image below to go into the Prezi.

data viz overview

I will follow this post up with some details on setting your colour palettes as well as how you can put standards in place for your Tableau dashboards.

How to prepare people for a live Tableau Viz Safety demonstration

Ok so we are all back from the Tableau Conference which was amazing and I need to complete my post on that later today.

In the meantime, I thought I would share this video excert from my #data15 presentation.

It is 90 seconds long and shows the lengths that we go to when preparing to show Live Tableau demonstrations.

Watch out for Tom supporting the demonstration in the aisle and also my sincere apologies to the Lady just in front of Tom whose reaction is priceless (If anyone knows who she is I will send her an apologetic goody bag in the post!)

I hope you enjoy this – turn the sound up😀

VS43 image

Virgin Atlantic Flight VS43 landing gear problems – updated

In December 2014, Virgin flight VS43 from London Gatwick to Las Vegas encountered a hydraulic failure on take off.  I built a viz to show the path that the aircraft took, its holding pattern and impact on Gatwick operations specifically for easyJet.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch have just published their findings into the incident AAIB VS43 investigation and as quite a few of the UK Tableau community, including a large chunk of the Information Lab are about to fly out to the Tableau Conference #data15 in Vegas on this very flight, I thought it was a good time to revisit and improve the viz based on some feedback I got at the time, specifically from Andy Kriebel and Ben Jones.

Enhancements I have made include –

  • Using the storypoints formatting tools in 9 to change the story colours to match the corporate colours of Virgin Atlantic (the colour picker tool is fantastic for this)
  • Included some photographs of the aircraft, as well as the landing gear problem it had
  • Made the maps consistent which I used across the whole viz
  • Condensed the story points descriptions
  • Fixed a colour issue which was bugging me for the easyJet paths
  • Updated the annotations with the details from the actual AAIB investigation
  • Included a link to the final AAIB report
  • Utilised the increased number of rows in Tableau Public to 10m rows to allow me to include every Gatwick flight for the day to be followed
  • Tidied up the last storypoint where you can follow the aircraft on its journey, making the pages slider more applicable – this is still best viewed on Desktop with the full pages functionality.

Hopefully we will have a great and uneventful flight out this weekend.

Looking forward to seeing a lot of you at conference and don’t forget to come and see my presentation on Wednesday at 10:15am #easyjetdata

Click the image below to take you to the full visualisation on Tableau Public

VS43 image

IMG_4584

Tableau on an Apple Watch – Is it Possible?

For anyone who knows me, they know that I love my tech and am a very early adopter.

On a recent visit to Deloitte’s tech hub and lab where they showcase what they can do with future technology, I realised that I owned 80% of the tech they had on show, which only enhanced my early adopter status!

So when Apple announced their watch, I had to get one.  Due to making a schoolboy error during my order, I missed the launch day slot and had to wait a couple of weeks for delivery.

This didn’t stop me making daily visits to the one shop in London which had them in stock, standing in a long queue, just on the off-chance of getting one.

When I finally did get my watch, I was impressed by the crispness and quality of the screen and immediately thought how nice my Tableau dashboard would look on this.

I did some research and nobody had yet appeared to been able to get a dashboard onto the watch, so I started to look at the options available.

Could I connect to my server and view dashboards that way?  Well the short answer is no.  Not yet.  There is no web browser installed on the Apple Watch – they do not believe that it should be used that way, more as a notification device.  Was there currently an app which would allow me to try to connect?  Again, nothing which I could find.

The other question I had to answer, was how on a 42mm screen can I interact with a dashboard?  What kind of design practices would I need to follow or even compromise on to even make this work?

I kept coming back to Apples mantra of it being a notification device, hmm a notification device.

Ok so that might work.

I get daily notifications from my Tableau server, in the form of email subscriptions.  My first lands at 6:45am, whilst I am on the train, which gives me an early heads up that the incremental refresh has run on our flagship daily sales report before the subscription runs for our CEO and main board.

But how would that work and look on the Apple Watch?

Well here is the answer –

IMG_4584

And here it is again zoomed in

Apple watch zoom copy

I was blown away that the image from the subscription fills the width perfectly, obviously some clever auto resizing going on.

Now what I cannot do with this is view the quantitative data.  It is simply not possible in this default version to do that (I could create something specific but wanted to keep maintenance to a minimum).

But what I can see is the qualitative data and make some understandings from it.

My initial focus is on the seven orange / grey bullet charts.

Because this is built on an anchor date and uses an incremental refresh, if that refresh has inserted zero rows, then the top bullet would just be grey, i.e. no data for this year.  That is the visual clue I need to suspend the other subscriptions, engage IT, find the route cause of the problem and then rerun the refresh when available.

The second detail I can take away is the position of the bars in the bullet, especially for the bottom one which relates to yesterdays performance.  Orange outside grey equals better than last year, inside grey equals worse.

I can also from the map clearly see the distribution of this if not the detail.

It reinforces that our internal design standards and best practices really do translate, whether presenting on a 100″ touchscreen monitor, a laptop, iPad or Apple watch.

It also shows me that like a Treemap, if I don’t need to know the exact detail, I can still assimilate enough information from this tiny screen.

I have also tried it with a couple of other daily reports, looking at on time performance by route, base and Country.

IMG_4587 IMG_4588

Again zoomed in we get this –

delay 1

This shows me the delay by base and route, compared to the target and average, I can clearly see what they are.

delay 2

This shows Geographic performance, Orange best, Blue worst and the size of the bubble the worst in relation to number of flights, again I can clearly see where the problems are, whilst looking at my wrist.

In fact the quality is very, very good, trying to take a decent photograph of this is not quite so easy I am afraid, but if you are at the @Tableau #data15 conference, come and see me and I will be happy to show you more, I will also be demoing this during my presentation which can be found here – A single shade of Orange at easyJet

So in summary, can you currently view your server dashboards on an Apple Watch?  No.

Can you interact with Tableau dashboards on an Apple watch?  No.

But if you want to understand your qualitative data at a glance, on your wrist, and have designed a dashboard well enough to do this on a normal screen, then the answer, through email subscriptions, is a resounding YES.

Virgin Atlantic VS43 Landing gear problems and the subsequent effect on Gatwick airport

On Monday 29th September at 11:44am, a Virgin 747 took off from London Gatwick for Las Vegas.  Shortly after departure the crew discovered a problem with the landing gear, and spend several hours dumping fuel, flying past the tower for visual checks, talking to engineering and trying to troubleshoot the problem.

At 15:45 after four hours in the air, the aircraft landed successfully back on the runway at Gatwick after discovering that one of the landing gear bogey’s had not deployed.

The passengers were disembarked on the runway and the aircraft was eventually towed away, however the incident had resulted in the closure of the worlds busiest single runway for almost three and a half hours.

This viz attempts to show that story, what happened to the VS43 and also the impact on Gatwick and easyJet, the airports biggest airline.

I could not have created this visualisation without the data from the chaps at www.planefinder.net and the help and support of www.theinformationlab.co.uk and in particular Matthew Reeve, who created a similar viz recently when the UK ATC systems went down, so I have used his base as a template for this *doffs cap*.

Here is a link to the interactive viz:

VS43 screen

Destination data

Prelude to #data14: how the Tableau community enriched my conference experience

Welcome to my first ever blog post.

I have to pay thanks to @paulbanoub and @emily1852 for finally persuading me to put my thoughts down on paper and share them with you. I am going to start, with my thoughts and review of the Tableau customer conference #data14 which took place during September 2014 in Tableau’s hometown of Seattle.

Firstly though, who am I?

Well in a follow up blog, I will go into this in detail, but in my current role I lead a BI centre of excellence, focussing on our Tableau enterprise deployment whilst educating our business on visualisation rules, guidelines and providing best practices.

Now the reason for the prelude.

Before I talk about this year’s conference, I need to set the scene by going back 12 months, to #TCC13, which took place in Washington.  Now that conference also took place in September and my organisation had purchased our first Tableau licence in May 2013.  This mean’t that I firstly didn’t have a lot of time to explore the tool and even less time to persuade my senior management of the merits of attending a software conference on the other side of the Atlantic.  Because of the work we were able to achieve with Tableau in such a short space of time, they were very receptive to the benefits of trying to accelerate our learning as well as understand from the Customer stories what other users were able to do, especially those within the same field as my organisation. Now originally, we planned on sending four people to attend in 2013.  Upon reviewing the agenda, speakers and schedule, I realised what a tough job selecting sessions would be and in the end after the equivalent of two days solid, came up with a plan for all of us, which was a mix of technical, leadership and customer stories for us all to attend. Then, in August, the decision was made to just send me.  So again I had to revisit the agenda and try and cherry pick what I thought would be the best sessions to attend which would allow me to answer my organisations questions. So with ticket booked, I realised that I would be attending a conference (my first in any field) in which over 2,000 customers would be attending, 3,500 miles away from home where I knew nobody. As part of our BI programme, we work with one of the big four consulting firms.  Now they have their BI HIVE (Highly Immersive Visual Environment) in Washington and arranged for me to visit this, as well as put me in touch with a few of their guys who were running the stand in the expo hall.  So that was at least one contact I had.  Our BI data architect also used to work for a large Bank, and put me in touch with their crack Tableau team, whom I had briefly met at a Stephen Few data visualisation workshop earlier in the year (I will cover this in a follow up blog post).  So I emailed the guys and asked if we could perhaps meet for lunch or dinner to talk through our various experiences.  Finally, our Tableau sales rep was able to set up a meeting with a similar business from the States, who I could meet with at the conference and share experiences. So that was two definite meetings and a couple of guys with an email address! The other person who I knew was going was @_tombrown_, owner of theinformationlab, who were Tableau’s partner of the year in 2013.  We had one of his consultants in to support us with building initial dashboards and had also spoken about further licence purchases. Now how was I going to try and engage with the remaining 1,996 attendees?  Well, social media sprang to mind.  When I went on our honeymoon, I really engaged with our resort prior to going through Twitter, which helped me to meet some other couple who were there at the same time as us, as well as get some extras and freebies from the resort, which seemed like a win to me. Twitter wasn’t a platform I used much though.  I rarely posted and mainly followed celebrities to see what they were up to.  But through using tweet deck and and having a search for Tableau and the conference hashtag #tcc13, I was able to find a few people that seemed to be posting a lot and also going to the conference. So when I arrived, I was in this big town and decided to go for a burger in the hotel sports bar and thought I would see who was about by tweeting my view. IMG_0652

Within minutes, I had people responding on both twitter and walking up to the table, where minutes before it was empty, I soon had Andy Cotgreave, Tableau’s social media manager, Susan Baier owner of Audience Audit and the aforementioned Tom Brown and some of his team.  After a few beers and a few additions to the table (well tables as we started overflowing!) a young quiet chap came and sat next to me, Andy said have a chat as he was British as well, and this turned out to be the infamous Matt Francis who was also at his first US conference and told me he was a little star struck to be sitting at a table with so many Tableau Zens and legends.  I had no idea what he was going on about and to be honest thought he was a bit nuts, putting these ‘data geeks’ up on a level with celebrities (what would I know fast forwarding 12 months), but it turned out with had Michael Cristiani, Greg (the Lewandog) Lewandowski, Chuck Hooper and Craig Bloodworth to name but a few sitting around the table.  What we discussed and I learned that night, helped to shape the conference and also start to formulate an understanding of the Tableau community and how I wanted to become a part of it as well as discover how much these guys wanted to share – at absolutely no cost, just through the joys of giving stuff back. The conference turned out to be a personal triumph.  I learned a lot.  I watched how other customers used Tableau, especially those in my organisation’s field, and took that back to help develop our Tableau programme. I briefly got to meet the other two guys  – who also appeared bonkers, presenting on stage in High Viz jackets and Hard Hats!  I thought this was supposed to be a software conference? IMG_0699 These turned out to be Peter Gilks and Carl Allchin, a couple of guys I would end up interacting with a lot and taking influence from their blogs.

 Most of the week was spent with the people I mentioned above, I also used the twitter feed a lot, to see what was going on and also to feed the competitive nature in me to try and work my way up the leaderboard – although Matt Francis had the lead on that one.

 tcc

This was also my view for the keynote – something I had never experienced before, fast forward 12 months and my view was very different.  I live tweeted and gained a lot of followers and when I returned, I changed my twitter focus, deleting most of the people I followed and using it instead to help with my Tableau and data visualisation journey.  Do not underestimate how powerful this can be in making contacts and understanding what is hot – the challenging part can be finding the time to read all the updates from people you are following.

My next post will be all about this years conference and will be up within the next week.