Today's topic is about vizzing in public. Sounds like a lewd act you might be arrested for. As an aside, I think we have more safety monitors than viz police. I'll come back to this in a bit.
I've been talking Tableau with folks the last couple of weeks at the AARP TUG (oh hai, Brittne) and on Think Data Thursday (high five to my TDT partner in crime Ravi Mistry)! In both talks, I advocated for projects like Makeover Monday (MM), which I obviously dig. Ahem... Em, do you even MM?
I believe we need to respect how we individually use Makeover Monday and the vizzes we post to our Tableau Public profiles or Twitter (or name your forum). I think a really good example of this is this recent viz from Rody Zakovich. He visualized a recent MM data set on the U.S. Presidential election. He had a dream about how he wanted it to look and set out to make it so.
This viz generated a lot of discussion on Twitter (yay)! I added to the conversation that there is a challenge with looking at vizzes in a tweet or on someone’s Tableau Public profile because you might not have the context around the viz, their ideas, and their thought process. How are we to know they're for fun or for creativity or a way to demonstrate best practices or created to learn a new skill?
I've seen some MM vizzes that are beautiful and informative and best practices. I’ve seen some that are cool and fun and some that are just… well, exploding pie charts.
When we post our work in public, we need to be prepared for folks to ask questions and make comments. I am concerned that, to some extent, a new person to data viz/Tableau sees all of these vizzes from MM (arguably the biggest Tableau/Public community project) and think these are examples of what they should do. Further, I think there's a bit of danger when Zen Masters publish these fun, creative pieces. As a Tableau Community we hold these folks in high regard. At the end of the day, they are not the end all, be all and they have their own objectives as well.
Just because a Zen Master publishes a viz or makes a statement, that does not make it a viz law. I remember a time on the Tableau Wannabe Podcast when Andy Kriebel talked about left justifying titles. After that episode, I saw several tweets about how people needed to go back and fix their titles. That was Andy’s preference, not viz law. But when he (& other zens) speak, people listen.
Let’s go back to critical thinking and education. I know good data viz practices, and when I look at a viz like Rody’s, I'm not looking at that as good/best/better data viz practice (which he acknowledged as well). Do I respect what he did? Absolutely. Others asked questions about how to read the viz. I think that's a valid question. That's what's great (even though a bit uncomfortable) about vizzing in public…you get questions, people engage, understand thought processes, and learn!
Are people trying to be viz police? Generally I don't think so, but as with anything there's always folks out there who think they are. I believe more than anything, they're safety monitors, who in this age of data, are trying to do their part to engage so other people can learn and then apply critical thinking skills.
I suppose my point to this post is that we should respect what people do, educate ourselves (ask questions/engage in discussion), and apply critical thinking skills.
That's my perspective. Certainly I'm not the Viz Police Commissioner, and I hope you'll think about this commentary and consider how you engage, viz, and think about vizzing in public. If you’re going to #data16, you can attend MM Live and experience it for yourself. Click here for the details!