Overcoming the Fear to Share

In this week’s #MakeoverMonday blog review, Andy Kriebel had just one lesson: Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Work. He said that during #MakeoverMonday live from #TC17, he heard a lot of #MakeoverMonday participants say that they are intimidated to share their work to Tableau Public and Twitter. Well, for those of you who feel that way, I get it…I’ve been in your shoes. There are a lot of ultra-talented folks in the community who regularly submit the type of work you and I could only dream of putting together. Well, guess what? Dream and dream BIG, because overcoming our fear is the first step to joining those ultra-talented folks!! Here’s my journey to overcoming the fear to share.

Early Tableau Public Work

As I shared in my first blog post, I had been using Tableau at work, for a little over a year before I learned about Tableau Public. Looking back, while things haven’t unfolded particularly quickly by any means, I still feel that moment in February of 2016 was groundbreaking for me. Tableau Public allowed me to practice using the tool with data sets (mostly sports related) that were of great interest to me. So, from March-June of 2016, I created a total of seven vizzes and boy was I proud of them!! I couldn’t look at them enough. But one part was still missing…sure I was publishing my work, but who was looking at it besides me? It was easy to publish it when there was virtually no audience. Fast forward several months after some time away from the tool (we’ll explain why at a later date) and enter Twitter.

Data Viz Twitter Account

In April of 2017, yes A FULL YEAR AND TWO MONTHS after first hearing about Tableau Public and its community, I finally decided it was time to get serious about joining this community. First off, DON’T BE LIKE ME!! Don’t wait around…don’t be afraid and don’t put it off!! Just join the community and start getting involved, you will be happy you didn’t wait!! Ok, so anyway, I created a new Twitter account, @JtothaVizzo. This was intended to be used for Data Viz purposes only…no following ESPN, no ProFootballTalk, no Bill Simmons, no other distractions period. The sole purpose of the account would be to follow the community, learn about Tableau/Data Viz, share my work and eventually become more involved. So, for the next few months I mostly sat back and observed, while sharing about a dozen vizzes. Although my posts weren’t receiving much feedback or attention, I was practicing Tableau and could feel improvement with each passing week, especially since getting involved in #MakeoverMonday, on May 1. In May and June, I submitted several vizzes and continued looking on, in awe, of the talent participating in #MakeoverMonday. As the breathtaking work rolled in week after week, there was one thing I knew for sure…at some point, I wanted to be able to produce the quality of work I was seeing!! Throughout the month of July, my work began getting a bit of feedback and I was feeling more confident in myself. Then came August and #IronViz Silver Screen.

#IronViz Submission = Fear!!

By the time the third and final #IronViz 2017 feeder contest came around, I had 28 vizzes on my Tableau Public profile. Although most of them had not garnered much attention, some of my more recent ones had. Were people starting to learn who I was? If so, did they like my work or think it was lousy? If I competed in #IronViz, would people expect anything from me and who would judge it?? These thoughts were scary. I mean, this would be my first ever viz that was going to be officially judged. What if the judges think my entry is the worst one in the competition? Enter…fear!! Determined to overcome the fear and submit my first #IronViz entry, I now had another issue to deal with. What would my entry be about? The category was Silver Screen, far from a strong suit of mine. If my eyes were on a TV, it was typically one of four or five things; sports, whatever toddler show my daughter was watching before daycare in the morning, The Real Housewives of whatever city my wife was watching, HGTV, or Family Guy. Ok, so my options were limited. Would the community enjoy an #IronViz about Sid the Science Kid, Mother Goose Club or Word Party? Uh, yeah probably not. So, after some careful thought, I landed on The Simpsons. It was my favorite show as a kid and honestly I couldn’t believe it was still on the air, after all these years. Having not seen an episode in at least a decade, I was curious to see if the show was still performing well. The goal for my viz was to answer that question, while trying some cool stuff in the process.

The Fear Disappears

I remember finishing my viz, filling out the #IronViz form and then sitting there staring at the button I would click to submit it. I was scared…flat out scared. Although I felt my viz was decent work and pretty cool, it was so easy for the doubt to creep back into my mind. I took a deep breath and then remembered something. I had been so excited to be a part of this #IronViz contest, so why was I afraid now? I told myself, “screw it, what’s the worst that can happen?” I clicked the button. There was no going back now, my first ever #IronViz submission was out there. I added a post to Twitter and then steered clear of Twitter for awhile, occupying myself with whatever game was on that night. An hour or so later, I checked my Twitter feed and to my relief, saw great feedback of my viz. People liked it, I was ecstatic!! From that point on, the fear has been absent.

If I can do it, you can do it. Whether it’s #MakeoverMonday, #IronViz, or any other viz you’ve created with your own data set, listen to Andy’s great advice and Don’t Be Afraid To Share Your Work. Like me, you’ll be glad you shared it!! Oh and as if you need another reminder, DON’T WAIT A FULL YEAR AND TWO MONTHS to become involved in the Tableau community, like I did!!

#MakeoverMonday – Week 41

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After missing Week 40, I was back at it for #MakeoverMonday Week 41. Although creating my viz from #MakeoverMonday live at #TC17 would have been lovely, here’s to hoping #TC18 becomes my first conference!! Over the weekend, I came across a twitter conversation around creative outlets and where people get their artistic side that they bring into the Data Viz world. For many, naturally, the outlet was drawing or sketching, but for me the creative outlet has always been writing. In fact, for the better part of three years, I cranked out a weekly sports article for several small-town newspapers throughout the state of Minnesota. However, at the end of 2014, with a baby on the way, I decided it was time to give up this hobby. But, while writing, I enjoyed the freedom I was given to make each article my own. Tableau absolutely provides us with that same kind of freedom. On to my Week 41 viz…

When I first saw the data set, Adult Obesity in the United States, my initial thought was to find some large discrepancies within each sub-category. It was clear pretty quickly that one of the biggest would be the difference in obesity rate between those with a college education and those with less than a high school education. For design, with state being a dimension, my mind immediately went to the fact that I hadn’t yet created a hex map. This post from Matt Chambers helped me quickly put my hex map together. I also used this post from Charlie Hutcheson, so thank you to both Matt and Charlie for their excellent posts!! So now that I had my very first hex map, something struck me…”why don’t I use stars instead of hexagons, to represent the stars of the U.S. flag?” Now, I’ll be the first to admit that hexagons look much cleaner and prettier. However, this IS Tableau and with the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do, stars just seemed to work. With the map, I wanted to simply show the total 2015 Adult Obesity Rate for each state and feel that was accomplished.

As was the case in Week 39, this time I also wanted to go for simplicity, which is why I left out the Income category from the bottom part of my viz. My feeling was it ties fairly closely to Education, so seemed redundant. I chose to compare 2011, the first year of data, vs. 2015, the most recent year. Again, I didn’t want to overcomplicate things, so I left out 2012-2014. To visualize the data, I put all states on the same row for each sub-category and used a dot plot. Here’s another great post from Charlie with several links to help build one. Using a hover action from the map, your state of choice is highlighted, so you can quickly view the change from 2011 to 2015. Probably most alarming to me is the fact that in New Mexico and Mississippi, the obesity rate of both 18-24 and 25-34 year olds is higher than that of the 65+ age group!!