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April 30, 2012

Free Tableau Training Tonight – 6:30pm PT

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Tonight I will be training the LA Tableau User Group and you’re welcome to join.  I’ll be teaching them how to build this interactive viz.

We’ll cover the following techniques:

  • Effective use of colors
  • Custom shape files
  • Using parameters for dynamic visualizations
  • Effective design for effective communication including bar charts and heat maps
  • Creating simple calculated fields
  • Putting it all together in an interactive dashboard

I expect the session to last from between 60-90 minutes.

Download the shape files here and the data here.  You will need these to follow along.

Unzip the shape files to My Tableau Repository\Shapes\NBA and save the data to My Tableau Repository\Datasources.

Live Meeting Details

Attendee URL:



AT&T mobile (free): #26538


Toll free: (877) 906-9811


Local toll: (404) 381-8527


Conference code: 2561415367

April 24, 2012

Do PK decisions in the EPL even out? Fergie thinks so, but the data disagrees.

Are Premier League referees getting worse? It sure seems that way when I watch games.  And despite the opinion of Sir Alex Ferguson, the decisions do not even out.

What makes it even tougher is when the players dive all over the place with no intent other than to con the referee.  Is anyone with me on starting a campaign for retroactive suspensions for diving?  That would stop all of the diving immediately!  Guaranteed!

Ashley Young has been near criminal in two recent matches.  He’s even been mentioned for a position on Great Britain's Olympic diving team.  Refer to the video of Man U vs. Villa and Man U vs. QPR for some of the finest acting in years.  He really ought to be ashamed of himself.

But it’s not only the PKs that are called; it’s those that are not called as well.  Refer to the highlights, if you can find them, of the Man U vs. Fulham game on 26 March 2012.  The game was at Old Trafford, it was late in the game, there was a CLEAR penalty against Man U and, of course, it wasn’t called.

I’m not saying there’s a bias towards the “bigger clubs”, but looking at penalty kick data sure leans me in that direction.  All you need to do is filter the viz below to only include teams that finished 1-4 and you’ll see what I mean.

The top four teams get way more PKs called in their favor than the rest of the clubs AND they significantly more PKs called at home.  I simply can’t believe that referees are NOT intimidated by Fergie and Old Trafford?

Click on the Manchester United logo to focus on them.  Look at those startling trends that appear at the bottom.  Intimidation at its finest!

If you want to see the details behind the charts, go to the Team PK Stats tab. 
  • Look at how many PKs the top four teams have gotten over the year, both overall and at home
  • Now compare that to the relegated teams (18-20)
Maybe it’s because the top teams have the ball more and create more situations where a PK could be called. But still, should the numbers be so overwhelming?

April 20, 2012

Nielsen’s Advertising & Audiences Report – A poor infographic redesigned for simplicity


Nielsen published this infographic as part of their Advertising & Audiences Report:

Ok, Nielsen, I see that you’re trying to be cute. 

  1. You made an old fashioned TV the background image (which many young people won’t even recognize)
  2. You used blocks to represents a parts-to-whole relationship.  Maybe you used blocks so that children would be reminded of Legos.
  3. You chose background colors to remind us of how a TV would look when it had no signal way back when

But it’s all a bit too much for me.  I find myself trying to count each of the blocks.  My eyes are darting back and forth to the color legend.  The value labels sometimes don’t even line up with the associated color.

Are you getting consulting from David McCandless?  You must be! 

Simplify things.  Communicate more effectively.  Save yourself time.


This took all of 10 minutes in Tableau.  How long did it take you to create your infographic?  I bet significantly longer.

April 19, 2012

Visualizing the Remarkable Declines in U.S. Teenage Pregnancies

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We have one of those TVs in the elevators at work that flashes headlines. While these have kept me a bit more informed about current events, they’ve been detrimental to elevator conversations. 

So I’m riding the elevator the other day, talking to no one, and a headline appears about the incredible decline in teen pregnancy rate.  I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to “show” the results in Tableau.

The trend data comes from the Guttmacher Institute and the state-level data come from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  Additional context comes from the CDC.

I used a couple of techniques in Tableau that I will explain after the viz.  But first, some notes from explaining the situation.

  • Despite legalized aborting in 1973, the significant increases in pregnancy rates in the the 1980s and early 1990s are explained by increased birthrates but stable abortion rates.(Guttmacher)
  • Almost all of the decline in the pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002 among 18–19-year-olds was attributable to increased contraceptive use. (Guttmacher)
  • Among women aged 15–17, about one-quarter of the decline during the same period was attributable to reduced sexual activity and three-quarters to increased contraceptive use. (Guttmacher)
  • The teen birth rate in the United States declined during 1991--2009 to its lowest level in the nearly 70 years. (CDC)

When looking at pregnancy rates what stuck out to me immediately is the clear dividing line between the north and the south.  According to the CDC, teen birth rates in the United States have declined but remain high, especially among black and Hispanic teens and in southern states.  Perhaps the higher rates are explained by race, but I wonder if the rates can be partly explained by the religious stigmas that are associated with abortion in the south.  Or perhaps sex education programs are not as strongly emphasized.  I haven’t found data to support my theories, but having lived here for almost 15 years, I notice what’s going on around me.

This blog post from Matt Stiles made me think not only the number of pregnancies, but also the rate.  The rate gives you a much more accurate comparison across states.

You might notice that I have three maps, one for the continental US and then one for each of Alaska and Hawaii.  This is done so that the map isn’t so zoomed out when looking at all of the states in one map.  Tableau does not come with a map like this so I:

  1. Created a single map of all states,
  2. Zoomed in on the continent,
  3. Pinned the map, and
  4. Hid the zoom controls.

I then:

  1. Duplicated the map twice,
  2. Changed the zoom to Alaska and Hawaii respectively, and
  3. Placed all three maps on a dashboard.

The reason I duplicated the maps instead of filtering each of the maps is because the color scale would not be accurately represented on any of the maps.  I want all states to use the same scale, therefore all states are actually on all of the maps.

I added a subtle feature you may not notice.  As you change the statistic from the drop down on the upper left, the title for the color legend changes dynamically.  Tableau doesn’t allow you to expose information from the viz in titles for the Size and Color cards like it does for captions, titles, tooltips, etc.  Here’s the technique I used to work around this limitation:

1. Create a calculated field for a label based on the statistic selected (which is a parameter)


2. Create a blank worksheet and place this calculated field on the Level of Detail shelf
3. Updated the title of the worksheet to expose this field


4. Format the worksheet so that the rows and columns are as small as possible and the gridlines are removed
5. Place the worksheet on the dashboard above the color legend
6. Change the Fit to Entire View
7. Show the title

That’s it.  I now have a dynamic title for the color legend.

April 18, 2012

Live Webinar: Atlanta Tableau User Group – April 26th 1-4pm

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This month we will be making the ATUG meeting available as a webinar.  The agenda includes:

  1. Blend This – Paul Lisborg, Newnan Utilities
  2. Parameter Madness – Andy Piper, Norfolk Southern
    • Interactive Data Blending
    • Dynamic Path Coloration
    • Dynamic Table Creation

This will be a hands-on session, so have your laptop and Tableau ready to go.

Webinar details

Meeting Number: 715 959 099
Meeting Password: atug

To join this meeting (Now from mobile devices!)

  1. Go to
  2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
  3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: atug
  4. Click "Join".
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

Audio conference information
User code 02 56 577#

April 16, 2012

When did Arsenal’s season really turn around?

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As we approach kickoff of the Arsenal vs. Wigan game this afternoon, I thought I’d take a quick look back at the Gunners’ season and when the data says the season may have turned around.

It’s well documented that Arsenal got off to one of the club’s worst starts ever, but gradually they have come back and are currently in third place.  With five games remaining, their magic number over Spurs and Newcastle stands at 11 and 8 over Chelsea.

Magic number” is a phrase we use in the States, particularly with baseball, “to indicate how close a front-running team is to clinching a season title (or third place and a Champions League automatic qualifying spot in Arsenal’s case). It represents the total of additional wins by the front-running team or additional losses (or any combination thereof) by the rival team after which it is mathematically impossible for the rival team to capture the title in the remaining games.”

Many people point to the goal below by Bacary Sagna when Arsenal were down 0-2 against Spurs on 26-Feb as the turning point in the season.  (Pardon the poor quality; it’s all I could find on YouTube.)  I must say that I love the way Sagna took the goal, followed the ball into the goal, picked it up, ran it to half field and all but said “I’m sick of this!”  The entire attitude of the team seemed to shift on this one goal.  I get the chills every time I watch it.

Again, I have no doubt about the attitude shift at this single moment, particularly after back-to-back poor results against AC Milan (Champions League) and Sunderland (FA Cup).  But looking at the data for the EPL only, one particular match stands out as the turnaround point..the 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn, whom Arsenal somehow managed to lose to during their early season swoon.

Below you will see four chart, all which highlight this 7-1 game.

  1. Points Trend – the upward trend of full-point matches clearly starts with the Blackburn match
  2. Points vs. Possible – Here, you want to see a flat green line, which indicates full points are taken from the match.  Look at that long run of results that starts with the Blackburn match.
  3. Table position – What an ugly start to the season!  There was a recovery for a few weeks 1/3 of the way into the season, but another string of poor results began with the 0-1 loss to Manchester City.  But the run of results beginning with the Blackburn match, combined with a significant dip in form by Spurs, has pole vaulted the Gunners into 3rd place.
  4. Score vs. Result – This is a simple scatterplot. The darker the bubble, the more results for that score.  Excluding the 2-8 drubbing at the hands of Manchester Units, Arsenal have lost every match, bar a 0-2 defeat by only one goals.  This indicates that they have been in every match, but haven’t been able to score late to turn the result around.  But look at our wins, the scores have been tremendous with a but more than a 4-1 average score.


Touch wood that Arsenal will hold on to third place, and please, please, please RVP, sign a new contract!

April 14, 2012

Join us for the next ATUG meeting–April 26th, 1-4pm @ Norfolk Southern


Norfolk Southern
1200 Peachtree NE, Peachtree Room - 2nd floor
Atlanta, GA 30309
Google Maps



  1. Blend This – Paul Lisborg, NetDirect
  2. Parameter Madness – Andy Piper, Newnan Utilities
    • Interactive Data Blending
    • Dynamic Path Coloration
    • Dynamic Table Creation

++ Bring your laptop with Tableau, because this will be a hands-on session. ++

For more information, please contact John Hoover.

April 4, 2012

Let your Umpire Ejection Fantasy League preparations begin!

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If you are interested in fantasy baseball, but want a slightly different take on things, I have just the game for you.  Join the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League.  I stumbled across this league as I searched for managerial ejection data, but found this umpire-specific data much more interesting.  You can download the data here.

Living here in Atlanta for the past 15 years, I’m more than aware of the historical significance of Bobby Cox’s ejections (he’s the all-time leader…or is it last place?), but I wanted to know which umpires draw the most ire from managers today (Bobby retired after the 2010 season). 

To help you with your UEFL draft, take a tour of this interactive viz.  There are filters on the right side of each sheet to assist you with your own analysis.

The Ejections Summary gives a quick overview of:

  1. The spread of ejections across innings – not surprisingly most ejections occur towards the end of the game
  2. How umpires perform as a whole at the different segments of the game – they’re correct more often at the end of the game as well, leading directly to more ejections
  3. The top 5 reasons for ejections – arguing balls and strikes is an automatic ejections, so there’s no surprise it’s #1

The 2nd sheet, Who to Argue With & When, helps you isolate the specific time when you are most likely to benefit (or not) from an argument.  In particular, I like the bar chart on the bottom right.  This chart tells you the best umpire and time to get ejected if you want to turn the game from a losing position into a winning outcome.

The last sheet, Which Umpires Eject the Most, is a simple list of the umpires most likely to eject someone and the managers most likely to get ejected.  Click on any manager or umpire to see who they get in the most arguments with.

Good luck in your draft!