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June 28, 2013

Chart of the Day Makeover: Samsung’s rocketing marketing expenses


Chart of the Day recently published an article on Samsung’s Insane Marketing Budget whose primary purpose was to show how Samsung’s budget has increased over time.  The article also pushes the reader towards comparing Samsung to other companies included in the chart.  To do so, COTD presented this bar chart:

Before we makeover this bar chart, let’s examine it.

  1. It’s pretty straight forward to compare the years within a single company, but the emphasis is on time, which means a line chart should be the natural first choice.
  2. But wait.  The years are in reverse chronological order, so turn your head 90 degrees to the left and look at the chart.  Without referring to the legend, one would likely assume that the most recent year was at the bottom of each set of bars.
  3. The bars are colored by year, which makes the comparisons across companies for a given year possible, but not easy.  It’s easier to compare the years if they’re grouped together.
  4. Each bar uses gradient coloring and shadowing.  Why?  What value does this add? 
  5. They’re using red and green bars together.  They’re not thinking about the color-blind folks out there.  They should be using natural, color-blind friendly colors.

To address these issues, I’ve created the following viz using Tableau.  Download a free trial here.

With this viz, you can now see:

  1. The trend for each company.  It’s much easier to see the large increase in Samsung’s budget, while all of the others in the view are relatively flat.
  2. I thought it was important to emphasize the difference between Samsung and the other companies, thus the five small line charts, which all clearly show how much more Samsung is spending.

How would you do this differently?  Download the data here and the workbook here.

June 14, 2013

The n00b taught the teacher a lesson: Changing the field on the color or size shelf without changing the shelf itself.

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If you ever think you know everything there is to know about Tableau, then I guarantee you that you are wrong.  I’ve never once thought that I know it all.  The training class I ran today in Dublin is proof that even someone with almost six years of experience using Tableau can learn from someone who has been using it for less than one hour.

Picture this.  You have a simple bar chart that shows Sales by Container colored by Profit Ratio.


But now, instead of coloring by Profit Ratio, you want to color by a different field, perhaps Discount or Customer Segment.  I was always taught to drop the field on the Color shelf to replace the existing color.  But there is another way, which the n00b taught me today.

Instead of dropping the new pill on the Color shelf, you can drop it on the color palette itself.  Like this.  Notice how I’m dropping Discount onto the color palette (it’s very faint).  Also notice how in Tableau 8, all of the places where you can drop the pill are outlined in an orange border (except the chart area).


And viola, you have your updated viz.


I’ve confirmed that this works in versions 7 & 8 as well as on both the Color and Size shelves.  This might very well be THE reason why I love teaching so much.  I truly feel that I learn more from teaching than I do from working on my own.  And this is also why I love Tableau; I learn something new every single day.

June 13, 2013

How many ways can Facebook Dublin team visualize simple data?


After an incredible Tableau conference in London, I headed to Dublin for two more days of data viz and Tableau training.  Today’s class was about brain games and data visualization, my favorite class to teach.

I end the class with a simple exercise that I want to share.


I don’t remember where I found this idea on the web, but credit to whoever came up with the idea.  (UPDATE 14-Jun: Thank you to readers Michael Cristiani and Joey for reminding me that it came from this post from Santiago Ortiz on the blog!)

It always amazes me how many different ideas people come up with.  The purpose isn’t necessarily to get them to only use what they’ve learned; it’s more of a way for them to be creative and have some fun.  Inevitably several people create pie charts, the only reason being that they know I hate them.


There were about 25 people in the class and they came up with 73 ideas in about 10 minutes.  Pretty good ROI!

June 9, 2013

My agenda for #TCCEU13. Did I mention we’re hiring?

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#TCCEU13 is now nearly upon us.  I have two primary objectives for this conference (in this order):

  1. Find a BI Engineer.  We’re actively look for a BI Engineer to work out of our Dublin office.  This person will be the first BI Engineer in our Dublin office, so you’ll have a ton of freedom to make the job what you want it to be and to build the team there.
  2. I’ll be speaking along with my colleague Namit Raisurana.  Come see our session in the Westminster Ballroom at 11:30 on Wednesday.  It looks like Tableau learned from #TCC13 in San Diego and moved Facebook to the big room.  The crowd better turn out.  We have swag to give away.

Similar to all previous Tableau conferences, it’s hard to decide which sessions to attend because there are so many great topics and speakers.  I’m shooting for:

* 9:15-10:45 – Keynote (Christian Chabot and Chris Stolte)
* 11:00-12:00 - Targeted Marketing: Turning Visa Data into Actionable Marketing Insights (Simon Gatenby, Visa)
* 12:30-1:10 – Rapid Fire Tips & Tricks (I’m debating presenting something)
* 1:15-2:15 - Show Me the Money: Data and its Visualisation, Post-Financial Crisis (David Bholat, Bank of England)
* 2:30-3:30 - Genomes, Tableau and Huge Data at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Matt Francis, Welcome Trust Sanger Institute)
* 3:40-3:50 – Rapid Fire Tips & Tricks: When is PowerPoint Tableau and When is Tableau PowerPoint (Craig Bloodworth, Zen Master, The Information Lab)
* 4:00-5:00 - Exploring Data, Generating Insight & Driving Action at Barclays (Carl Allchin, Peter Gilks and Lee Mooney, Barclays)

* 9:00-10:00 - Keynote: How Data Intake is Like Dietary Nutritional Consumption (JP Rangaswami,
* 10:15-11:15 - Getting From Data to Decisions: Decreasing Time to Capability at Cisco (Dan Murray, Interworks; Paul Laza, Cisco; Rob Higgins, Cisco)
* 11:30-12:30 - Creating a Culture of Data at Facebook (Andy Kriebel and Namit Raisurana, Facebook)
* 12:30-1:10 – Rapid Fire Tips & Tricks
* 1:45-2:45 - Keynote: Future Global Trends: A Fact-Based View (Hans Rosling)

If you’re going to the conference, come find me…especially if you’re interested in talking about coming to work at Facebook.  Find me on Facebook or Twitter and let’s grab a drink.