Data Viz Done Right

November 13, 2013

VizCup roundup–data viz hackers unite!


Last Thursday evening, Facebook hosted 80 people for the VizCup, a data visualization competition.  We provided eight data sets two days ahead of time for the participants could choose from.  The data ranged from UFO sightings, to natural disasters, to the Premier League, to Foursquare check-ins, to stats about blogs, pages and portals.  They also had the option to supplement the data with data of their own, like corn yields to see if there’s a relationship to UFO sightings.

We allowed the participants to self-organize into teams or they could work on their own. In the end, we had 25 individuals or teams present. 

Ken Rudin, who leads all of analytics at Facebook, kicked off the evening with a few words about what it means to be an analyst and the future of analytics. Ken was followed by our three awesome judges, who came out to loud cheers and a bit of Crazy Train for intro music.  Anya A’hearn of datablick, Drew Skau of and Cole Nussbaumer of storytelling with data served as our judges.  Check out Cole’s review of the VizCup.  When the hacking began, the judges roamed the room to get a feel for what people were building.

One interesting note was that every participant, except one, chose to use Tableau to build their viz, despite being given the freedom to use whatever tool they wanted.  Personally, I think this is for two primary reasons:

  1. Tableau’s ease of use and the ability for a user to build something meaningful in an hour
  2. The enthusiasm and passion of the Tableau community.  What I mean by that is Tableau’s users look for any excuse to use Tableau on their free time.  Mike Evans, our 2nd place finisher, even flew up from LA!!  Now that’s passion!

There will be summaries of the top 3 finishers coming soon, written in their own words.  But first, here are a few pictures to give you a feel for the atmosphere (thanks to Peter Bickford of Slalom Consulting for many of the pictures).  Farther down in this post, you can see some of the entries submitted.  We’re super excited to host the event again soon!


We had plenty of comfortable places for people to sit and also several regular desks. The people working in teams tended to sit on the couches.


Our three judges (left-to-right) – Cole, Drew and Anya

Prototype Forum

After the hacking ended, we all gathered for the prototype forum.  Each participant was given 90 seconds to tell their story.


One of 3 teams from Slalom Consulting presenting their work.  They created a video about their experience, to be released soon.

Faecbook Pan_panorama

All of the participants and the Facebook team gathered for this group picture.


VizCup Champ Eric Rynerson with the judges

Here are some dashboards that were submitted.  Click on any of the images to download the workbook.  To start, here’s VizCup Champ Eric Rynerson’s red card bias analysis:



Runner-up Mike Evans created this super cool UFO sightings viz.


Finalist from Slalom Consulting created this viz which tracked my Foursquare check-ins.


Zahit Guneri and Ryan Mason from squareup were also finalists.


The team from The Climate Corporation took the opportunity to combine corn yields data with the UFO sightings data.


The team from AKQA combined the UFO data with the natural disasters data.


Another entry by a second team from Slalom Consulting.


The team from bunchball combined the UFO date with real estate prices.  Pretty funny!



  1. What was the one non-Tableau tool that was used?

    1. Jonathan, she used Tilemill ( She was trying to build a map with flames on it to shows the concentration of UFO sightings, but it stopped working on her at the last minute. It wouldn't been awesome.

  2. Inspiring stuff Andy. Glad to see such a great community focused on data!