The power of a word: Ludovic's IronViz "weather memories.."

A perhaps blasphemous confession: I wasn't all that excited to watch the Iron Viz at Tableau Conference. It was my first conference, so I was already overwhelmed. I'm not a big fan of watching sports or people playing video games. I hate timed-based performance and large crowds. Add in the fact that, due to a health illness, my diet was restricted to the granola bars I'd brought (New Orleans culinary arts fit pretty squarely on my "do not touch list"), and I was tired and a wee bit grumpy. I really just wanted to go back to my hotel and sleep before I had to face a crowd of 17,000 in the Superdome that night. 

But I'd really fallen in love with Ludovic's work over the last few months, and he seemed like such a genuine person online that I wanted to be there and cheer him on, if just in spirit. (Disclaimer: by no means am I trying to make a comparison to the other Iron Viz contestants - they did fantastic work and also seem like great people. I just had mor…

Art Talks: Tableau Conference 2018

Art talks. Art is a vehicle for discussion of and reaction to other arts. For example, Richard Prince, in 1977, sparked a conversation about the role of photography in art by rephotographing a famous photograph. By itself, the photo just looks like an imitation - but art history provides a much bigger context around the way Prince's piece Untitled (Cowboy) served as a critique on what makes a photograph different from the thing being photographed (FYI, Time lists the imitation as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Images of All Time). By itself, the art looks like nothing more than a cheap ripoff - but it's the conversation the artist - and the art piece - is having that is important. 

One of my favorite books is The Last Avant Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets. This book is about a movement in poetry epitomized by five poets: John Ashbury, Barbara Guest, Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch. The interesting aspect of this book is how each poet influe…

Data art: the critical shift in your role in data visualization

Recently, my father-in-law asked a question all too familiar to those of us working with data: "So what exactly is it that you do, again?" (I've been married for 7 years, so he's heard it a number of times already). When I told him my title is "Creative Director, Analytics", he replied, "Well, that seems like an oxymoron". 

(Warning: hyperlink overload below - but I encourage you to explore all the articles, videos, and resources. There's a ton of great information in there)

But the world of data visualization has moved beyond the realm of an analyst just building a quick bar chart (or exploding 3D pie chart) in Excel or PowerPoint. That still exists, for sure - but the boundaries of what we do have significantly expanded into spaces typically reserved for more traditional arts like poetry, painting, photography, dance, etc. It's a later paradigm shift in this industry that really excites me, and something I spoke about in my recent talk at …

Know the rules! (so you can break them)

There was a common teaching theme in all my creative writing and photography workshops: "Know the rules, so you can break them". The idea is that there are rules (we might call them best practices in our work), things like grammar and syntax in writing, and exposure and contrast in photography. Every art has their rules, and these rules help ensure good work.
But the great work breaks these rules.
For example, take e.e. cummings, a poet that appeared to have a broken shift or caps lock key, and his punctuation looks like typos - but he uses these things to create a rhythm, a cadence, and a voice. Or the photographer Weegee, whose works are often a blend of too-dark backgrounds and overexposed foregrounds - but his photographs accomplish a very creepy and powerful feel.

Note that it isn't that these artists didn't follow the rules; that's too passive. They knew the rules, and broke them intentionally. The broken rules are what makes their art great. They are what …

Tableau how-to: Minimalist graphics that blend into your background

This will be the first "how-to" post on this site - my strengths are less in the tech realm. However, I was recently asked a "how-to" question, and it's a bit of a hack I've developed to accomplish a trick really quick. So, I'm going to step a bit out of my comfort zone and share this.

The question was based off this viz on Tableau Public:

The question was about the two images (top right and bottom right corners) - how did I get them to blend into the background? 

Of course, powerful photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP can allow us to tweak the different layers of an image, but unless I'm doing something really complicated I typically use a quick hack I've found in Microsoft PowerPoint, and it usually takes about five minutes. 

Step 1: Find your image. This may seem obvious, but not many photos actually work well for this style. You want something with a high amount of contrast and a background that isn't too busy. I tested out f…

The artist's eye: seeing the world a bit differently [with data]

**Quick update: I'll be giving a short, 20 minute talk at the digital Tableau Fringe Festival conference on "The Art of Data". The conference is listed in Australian Eastern Standard Time - so for those of you in the US, I'll be presenting at 8:30 PM on August 16th (so technically the day before the conference, which is weird...). Register or find more details here.**

I've been getting a lot of eye-rolls lately, with co-workers, friends, and my wife saying "You would". You see, we're going to Iceland, and when people ask what I hope to do there, I show them this (the online version is interactive): 

That's right, to prepare for my trip to Iceland, I made a dashboard. Or rather, I might say, I explored Iceland through data. The dashboard above is meant to guide my day trips while I'm there, because I really want to see a [slightly] active volcano - but, this only represents a little bit of the data I've played with; I've visually explor…

Tableau on Twitter: the value of artistic communities

So there I am, sitting outside Pulp (a smoothie shop) with Zen Master Bridget Cogley. After a short discussion about her story and her journey to Zen Mastery, she said (paraphrased): "You've got to get on Twitter".

In retrospect, my reply was more begging than insistent: "No". I explained that I avoided the bullying on social media, and shared [comical] horror stories of political wars between grandmothers and sisters-in-law. 
But Bridget didn't budge. "That's where the Tableau community has decided to live. You want to be part of that community, that's where you've got to go." 
I walked back to my car, smoothie in hand, both irritated by her charge and inspired by her story. 
My college (and grad school) poetry workshopsLet's rewind to sometime in 2009. I was an undergraduate seated at a giant table with a bunch of other amateur, wannabe poets, clutching my first poem to be workshopped. I feared they would just read my poem and laugh …