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October 27, 2010

National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior

FlowingData is running a visualization contest this month based on data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior study. You can find the data here. Here is my entry:

Note that I concatenated Sex & Behavior to determine which acts are the most frequent and by whom. I chose a red-blue pallet since our sexual activity goes hot and cold. Displaying the data in the manner, I was able to quickly identify that:
  1. Men masturbate their whole lives
  2. The age ranges from 20-39 are clearly the peak sexual activity periods, with 25-29 standing out the most
  3. There is very little woman on woman and man on man oral sex
  4. We run out of steam in our 70s
Contest entries are due today, October 27, but if you don't make the deadline, feel free to leave a link as a comment to this post. And, as Nathan said, keep it tasteful.

Download the workbook from Tableau Public here.

Poverty in America - A Visualization

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I first saw the visualization below on the Chart Porn blog, which linked to the original article on The Huffington Post. This is an excellent visualization that effectively uses colors to emphasizes the highest poverty rates and provides information in a user-friendly format when you mouse over the map. The only thing I wish it would do is allow you to click on a state and drill down into the county-level data.

Immediately popping out to me are the poverty rates around the lower Mississippi River and Eastern Kentucky/Central Appalachia regions. A quick Google search turned up a documentary by Diane Sawyer that aired on ABC's 20/20 in February 2009.
    The oldest mountains in America are rich in natural beauty with their raging creeks, steep hollows and old pines. They are also one of the poorest, most disadvantaged regions in America. Central Appalachia has up to three times the national poverty rate, an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the shortest life span in the nation, toothlessness, cancer and chronic depression.

From The Huffington Post:
    In 2009, poverty among Americans reached its highest level in 51 years. The states hardest hit include Louisiana, Mississippi and District of Columbia. States with the lowest poverty statistics include, Wyoming, Hawaii, New Jersey and Minnesota.

Roll over each state to see its poverty rate.

October 26, 2010

Improving on the Blogger Stats Dashboard

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Recently Google added the Stats feature to Blogger blogs. It's basically a dashboard very similar to Google Analytics, just stripped down (like Tableau Public vs. Tableau Desktop). There are four tabs, three of which are well done (Overview, Posts and Traffic Sources). However, the Audience dashboard is poorly designed.

This is the Google version of my blog stats from May 2010 - October 2010:

The map is well done, as you would expect, though it's tough to see the light green on the countries with less pageviews. I like the table below the map as a reference.

My issue is with the pie charts on the right. The tables are sufficient for my needs, especially since it has the total pageviews as well as the % of total. The pie charts are shown in descending order, but you have to work to find the starting point; as I've said in the past, pie charts should always start at the 0 degree mark when used.

If I were to visualize this dashboard, I would create it like this.

I've made the following changes/improvements:
  1. The left half of the dashboard the same, except that I was limited to bubbles on the map since I built this with Tableau's standard features. I prefer the filled in countries, and I know there are workarounds in Tableau, but I think this map makes the variance easier to see since I used an orange-brown color pallet.
  2. I did not change the reference table below the map.
  3. On the right, I have combined the pie charts and tables into a single view. The bar charts are listed in descending order by % of total pageviews and labeled with the # of pageviews. It's much easier to make sense of the bar charts than the pie charts.
I'm fairly certain at some point in the near future that Google will begin following visualization best practices. They certainly have the money to pay for the expertise (hint, hint).

October 25, 2010

November Atlanta Tableau User Group Meeting

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The next ATUG meeting will be November 30 @ 1PM ET

Who - All ATUG members and guests

What – The November in person hands on meeting

Where - Norfolk Southern building located at 1200 Peachtree St NE. Atlanta, GA 30309 -Peachtree room


  1. The Greatest Show on Earth - Tableau 6.0
  2. Team project – If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!
  3. Open discussion – 2011 plans

-- This will be a hands on session - Bring your laptop and Tableau with you --


October 23, 2010

Party like it's 1999

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Have you heard of the Tea Party? Interested to know how many people in your area are members?

The Tableau Public blog focused recently on a map of Tea Party membership created by IREHR. Find the original post here.

Naturally when I see a map like this the first thing I do is zoom into my area. However, the IREHR visualization makes it difficult to do so quickly. The city and state data are already available, so I put it to use.

  1. The map is slow to load and update. I suspect this is due to number of points the map is drawing.
  2. The IREHR viz did not include Alaska, Hawaii and Guam, while it did included lots of members that did not have a location listed. I have filtered out the unknown locations and grouped the rest of the data more logically.
I made the following changes/improvements in my visualization:

  • Added filtering by Region, State or City to allow you to quickly zoom into an area of interest
  • Removed the size legend and replaced it with a caption on the map
  • Add a link to the data source instead of just listing it
  • Changed the membership numbers you see when you hover over a point to a whole number
  • Changed the Faction filter to a slider instead of a single select option (saves space)
  • Washed out the Faction color legend so that it's easier to see overlapping points

Which visualization is easier for you to use? I think it is easier and quicker to find what you need in my viz, but then again, I'm biased.

October 21, 2010

Proved Natural Gas Reserves: My Take

I read a post today by Russian Sphinx in which she used Tableau Public to visualize proved natural gas reserves. For this post, I thought I would create my own take on her visualization.
Improvements made include:
  • Making the views interactive -- You can filter each of the views or use the radio button to select a region. You can also use the highlighting feature of Tableau.
  • Changing the diamonds used to represent the countries to circles and colored them by region -- To me, the circles are "softer" to the eye.
  • Replaced the pie chart by region with a bar chart by region by country -- I also corrected the hierarchy in the data set.
  • Changed the color pallet for the regions to Tableau's standard color pallet
  • Added a note to the bottom to define "proved reserves"
I like how she included a link to the data source. I used that as well...thanks for the idea!

October 15, 2010

Many Eyes hurts my eyes

The goal of Many Eyes is to "democratize visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis." This is a fantastic goal, however, many of the options available to create visualizations are poorly used. Let's look at two examples.

The data used for these visualizations can be found here, but note that the source is unknown, so I have no idea if the data is reliable or not.

The trouble with critiquing a visualization is that sometimes there are so many problems you become overwhelmed. Here are just a few:
  • A bar chart is a much better way to display this data than a pie. chart
  • There are way too many data points in the pie chart. While pie charts should be avoided whenever possible, if you MUST use them, limit them to no more than three slices.
  • The pie does not start at the 0 degree mark.
  • The slices, while ordered descending, are shown counter clockwise. Why?
  • The interactivity (click on the slices) provides no value (i.e., chart junk).
Here is the second visualization create for this data set:

For the most part, this map is well done. Some thoughts:
  • There needs to be bit more contrast through the colors.
  • Iraq clearly stands out from the rest as it should. My focus goes immediately there.
  • I like the shading of the countries in their entirety. This one feature of Tableau that I wish they would add as a standard choice. Yes, I know there are workarounds.
  • I like the option to switch between the shaded countries and bubbles, but again, the color choice could be better.
I took this same data set (and added continent for filtering) and created this visualization with Tableau Public. You can download the Tableau Packaged Workbook here.

I had a few goals I wanted to accomplish. How did I do?
  1. Create a greater contrast between the colors in order to make those with the highest number of casualties stand out more.
  2. Convert the pie chart to a bar chart to make the comparisons easier to detect.
  3. Create a Pareto chart to highlight the most important set of factors.
  4. Make the map and bar charts interactive. If you click or lasso (i.e., select multiple) on countries, the map and bar charts automatically filter each other and the countries are highlighted on the Pareto chart.
  5. Add a filter (at the top right) for Continent so that you can easily zoom in.
I have been having three problems publishing this workbook from Tableau Desktop 5.3 that maybe you can help me with. I don't recall running into these problems with 5.2.
  1. When I first publish the workbook to Tableau Public, the blue-red color range looks exactly as I created it. However, once I interact with the Tableau Public workbook above (e.g., lasso several countries), the color range changes to red only; the blue converts to red.
  2. The axis on the Pareto chart would not display the tick marks. It looks fine in Desktop.
  3. Since the tick marks would not display, I decided to add reference lines. Again, those display perfectly in Desktop, but you can't see them in Public.
Very odd! Has anyone else run into these problems?

POST PUBLICATION NOTE: The blue-red color range has already changed to red only, even though I have yet to interact with the data.

October 12, 2010

Hans Rosling: The good news of the decade?

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About this talk
Hans Rosling reframes 10 years of UN data with his spectacular visuals, lighting up an astonishing -- mostly unreported -- piece of front-page-worthy good news: We're winning the war against child mortality. Along the way, he debunks one flawed approach to stats that blots out such vital stories.

October 11, 2010

Questions or answers

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via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 9/20/2010

You can add value in two ways:

  • You can know the answers.
  • You can offer the questions.

Relentlessly asking the right questions is a long term career, mostly because no one ever knows the right answer on a regular basis.

October 8, 2010

ATUG Project - Rapid-fire BI in Action

At the last Atlanta Tableau User Group (ATUG) meeting we had everyone participate in a team project we called "We Hate to Fly and it Shows!" We broke everyone into groups of 5 (counted off randomly so they'd have to work with people they don't know, the whole networking thing), gave them 30 minutes (they took 45) and told them: "Here is a data set. Go build a dashboard."

The primary purposes of the team exercise were:
  1. Introduce new or prospective users to Tableau
  2. Prove that you can indeed build a dashboard incredibly quickly with Tableau (as Tableau professes)even though it's unfamiliar data
  3. Demonstrate the ability to find insights very rapidly
  4. Increase the capabilities of the user group. Each group presented their dashboard and feedback was provided.
  5. Learn tips and tricks
Here is an example of a dashboard built by the team led by Deborah Chan of Rubicon. I took the liberty of resizing it so that it could be published on Tableau Public.

While this isn't a perfect dashboard, you can clearly see how much detail and quality you can build into a dashboard in just minutes with Tableau. I think this is an excellent design given the very limited amount of time.

Some of the features built into this dashboard include:
+ Filtering by airport using the drop down
+ Using the map as an action filter
+ Airports on the map are sized by the average arrival delay and colored by the % of arrivals delayed
+ Stacked bar charts to show the proportion of each type of delay to the total
You can download the workbook here.

This exercise/group activity was such a hit that the group request we do it again in our November 11th meeting. Of course, they want more time so they can really impress everyone.

I'm not going to provide the data ahead of time...I have something interesting in mind.

Tableau 6.0 Tour: Speed, Power and Style

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I believe this is the first time Tableau has done a launch party for a new version and if what I have heard from those that attended the customer conference I true, then we're all in store for an industry altering event. I have been using the beta version and have been extremely impressed and I'm sure I haven't been using it in the most efficient way.

I'm headed to the Atlanta tour stop on November 18th, hopefully with lots of my ATUG friends. It's only a 2-3 hour commitment, so I would highly recommend you make the time to attend your local tour stop.

+ 2:00 – Registration
+ 2:30 – The End of BI as You Know it
+ 3:00 – Tableau 6.0: Speed, Power and Style
+ 4:00 – Wrap-up
+ 4:30 – Reception: Cocktails, Networking and Hands-on Demos
Registration is FREE!! Click on the image below to learn more.