Friday, October 25, 2013

Design Skills to Thrill

Inspired by Tableau's Design Month, I thought it would be cool to have an Iron Viz like contest at work that focused on design. Data is super important, but it's not the only important aspect of a visualization. I think the Iron Viz and our Design Skills to Thrill contests really highlight that the data and design are important; design can draw people in (think of this year's Iron Viz Champ, Ryan Sleeper's winning viz Do Old Movies Get Better with Age?) or turn people off (like my early stuff and no, I'm not providing a visual because I don't want to make your eyes bleed).  

A few of the contestants described their Tableau skills as basic and were concerned about their abilities.  And while I think filters, actions, and parameters are total awesomeness, they aren't required to create an interesting visualization that you want to look at, so those folks were encouraged to give it a go. By the way, I love to plan and make lists (I'm making a mental list right now!), but I didn't do any of that for this contest. As a result, I hyped it up one week before it was held and hoped for the best. I think participation was good in spite of my poor planning.

So let's take a minute and chat about the data, shall we? I wanted to do something fun and not work related, so I downloaded Halloween data from the National Retail Federation website, combined it into one excel workbook, and bribed a data dude at work with a slice of cheesecake (thank you Wegman's) to give me a little help so that the data wasn't the biggest challenge. Data ranged from a yes/no as to whether folks would celebrate Halloween to economic impact, planned spending, and other fun stuff.  Contestants received the data about one day in advance to review and start to think through what story they wanted to tell and how they might present it. These five brave folks had 45 minutes to create their visualizations (no pre-built worksheets or dashboard were allowed) while their coworkers watched the magic happen before their eyes. I channeled my inner Ross and Jewel and whew! that's a tough job for one person.  I did not have the showmanship that Ross displayed while biting into the pepper, but I did supply a pumpkin dip for the audience to snack on.  And interestingly, one of the contestants brought atomic fireballs in for folks (personally, I think he was trying to buy some viz love and as a result, I now call him Fireball). All contestants were very polite towards each other, even though I thought one might have started trash talking, which I totally encouraged.

While the contestants were doing their thing, I talked to the audience, asking questions about what they wanted to get out of the contest to whether they tried the pumpkin dip (I made the deliciousness up at 10pm the night before), to probing questions as to why they didn't enter (when I know they have the skills).  I made best friends with a couple of folks who told me that I was doing a good job emceeing (Ross & Jewel would be proud). I was totally hamming it up and had fun with the audience members. I also used that time to ask folks about some of their takeaways from TCC13 since this was the first time a bunch of Tableau users were together in the same room (and here's a shameless plug for my TCC13 blog post).

The contestants were nervous I think, but they all did a fantastic job. It was cool to see the various types of visualizations, one incorporated a 'sophisticated analysis' (conclusionary) paragraph, while others brought in images from ye ole internet.   Interestingly, two of the contestants went with the same color scheme, but in the end, there could be only one winner.  Each contestant was the Flavor Flav for their viz (google hype man and public enemy and it will make sense if it doesn't already). And at the end, the winner was chosen using a decibel app on my phone by how loud the audience applauded. And the (image of the) winning viz is...

One of the items that the winner discussed was thinking about whether there was too much on the viz. That was a topic I heard discussed throughout the conference.  I call think of the accessories rule.  When putting on your accessories, take a look in the mirror and then take one accessory off, then you will look good.  It's basically the less is more/don't junk up your viz idea for those who don't accessorize (I'm not sure who that might be, but I put it out there anyway).

So the contest was a success and people want to do it again next year! The winner received a  $25 Amazon gift card and all contestants received a mini oscar trophy for being brave enough to build a viz with their bosses, friends, and coworkers watching. I told someone I was a like a mama hen, proud of her chicks.  I am proud that the contestants that weren't afraid to fail (dang, that's another takeaways from TCC13) and amazed at what people can do with the same data and the same tool.   And I am pleased that the five contestants from different areas within our organization have connected and built a network, which should better our reporting, analytics, and organization as a whole.  I totally had a blast and one of the contestants told me I reminded him of Bob Barker, to which I replied, "Don't forget to spay and neuter your pets!" (I'm taking it as a compliment and not that I look like an elderly white haired man).

So next year, I'm thinking smoke machines, music, a chest filled with items that represent the data being visualized, and a Ross to my Jewel to co-host.   Thanks to Tableau for thinking about Tableau Design Month, so that I could have a fun and educational event at work.

Friday, October 11, 2013


If my schedule allows and I have my stuff together, Momma and I try to go to Croptoberfest, which is scrap booking (digital for me), from sunrise to sunset.  I started Croptoberfest off with tweaking a poster for the Tableau Design Contest for work. Two hours later, the only thing I need is the conference room to complete the details.  Next on the agenda is working on a scrapbook for my daughter, that I started in 2011, soon after she was born. I *might* get it done by the time she graduates high school.  It doesn't help that I've taken a break from scrap booking to start this blog post.

I actually started thinking about how natural it is for me to be drawn more to the visual side of Tableau, given I got super excited as a kid for pens and paper, drawing, and then makeup (by the way, my outfit is not complete until the makeup decision is made), or how I had a banker once tell me that I didn't dress like an examiner (because I wore lavender, rose, royal blue instead of navy, gray, and black suits).

So I think there are a lot of parallels between scrap booking and designing reports.  I could just put a title and a picture on a page and call it a day, but I take a little more time to add some extra touches like shadows, mats, color choice...similar type of work that really makes a dashboard go from being ho hum to being emotive. This weekend is about looking at old photos, spending time with my mom, and building on my design skills, which will hopefully make me a better scrap booker and report designer.

Stay tuned for more Croptoberfest updates!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Look Back at TCC13

Attending the Tableau Customer Conference is a few fun-filled, high energy days where I get to focus on all things Tableau. It's great to have the energy and passion for helping people see well as the tool to do it. For some reason, I approached this year's conference with a slightly different perspective. This year, it was about networking, where I tried to achieve a balance between topics that I wanted to learn about and supporting the folks in the Tableau community that I've come to know over twitter (shameless plug for you to follow me @emily1852 where you get to see musings in full effect for everything from makeup (love my girl Jessica & my boy Matt at the Annapolis Sephora) to data visualization to fitness to football (#HTTR).

I think the biggest thing that struck me from this conference was how beautiful and polished these visualizations can be. This Fireworks Injuries visualization is so cool and not all charty. It was this visualization that caused me to be evangelistic when I got back to the office and was chatting with someone who is not Tableau's #1 fan.
Me: Look at this viz (showing pictures from my phone of the iron viz challenge), there aren't all charty, they looks so professional! We have to aspire to this level, otherwise, we are going to publish visualizations that look all charty, and not harnessing the beauty.
Her: <Speechless>
Me: It really depends on the skill level as to how good it looks, It will look like a plain bar chart if that's all the person knows, but if you know the visual aspect and really know how to use the tool, it can be something really beautiful.
Her:'s that way with Excel too.
Me: Oh yeah, I think we need a reference guide as to using the most appropriate tool.
And with that, we ended that conversation.

A few other things that stuck with me...I love the way that Andy from Facebook has really established a good culture for Tableau usage..the office hours, the hackathons, and the marketing. I think it sets a good Tableau foundation, which is what I want to establish and communicate at work.

I also really appreciated the way that Anya brought emotion to her dashboards and how awesome they look. And the way that Kelly Martin has a great perspective and thought that she brings to her visualizations.  Oh, and I can't forget a person I discovered at the conference (that's known to many), Ryan Sleeper, who also puts great thought into his work and makes it seem so effortless.   I can't forget the random dude in the audience of one of the sessions who had an idea to record a tutorial and embed in the visualization.

There were so many great things I learned and people I met in person and for the first time, it really help build my network of Tableau peeps.  So I ended the week energized and resolved. I resolved to up my Tableau visibility and publish at least one viz on Tableau Public (and we'll see where it goes from there).  Big props in advance to Matt Francis for helping me expand my network! I'm also resolved to better understand and apply design concepts to make data beautiful and something that folks want to see. 

So all in all, I think the Tableau Customer Conference was pretty successful for me. Now to catch up on some of the sessions that I wanted but didn't have the chance to attend.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pay Equality--Not just a lady issue

I read HuffPo's article yesterday about Marsha Blackburn's comments on pay equality. In one sense, I totally agree with her. I do want companies to pay based on merit and have that pay be equal to what a man with the same or very similar credentials. And ideally, I don't want a law to force that issue. But here's the thing, companies en masse aren't doing that. If that were the case, we wouldn't have a huge gap. Yay for us that the gap is closing. The Institute for Women's Policy Research tracks this annually and what I found astonishing is that if we continue at the same pace, women will finally have equal pay in about 50 years! Say what? That's just crazy. Did I validate that study? Nope. In one sense, I don't need to. I think women earned about 59% of what men did when Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in '63. In that time (50 years), that gap has been reduced by a little more than half (gap goes from 41 to 19). 

So, it would be totally awesome if employers had this great aha moment and decided to pay women the same as men (when the actual difference is due to only to gender and not rationalized to something else). Why do we need to help companies with pay equality? Two reasons come to my mind...

1) Robb Base had it right. It takes two...salaries that is, to have a decent quality of life (I do realize that's subjective). Here's my context, daycare costs us $2,186 per month and we live in the 'burbs. And we aren't extravagant. More women are the breadwinners now than before, so when women aren't paid the same as men, it becomes a significant issue for the family's income. We aren't in the 50's where the guys get home and the little ladies have dinner waiting on the table. Now for a significant number of families, men and women are actually equals...gasp!!  So tell me again why I'm trying to justify that women need to be paid the same? Oh and by the way, if the woman happens to belong to another minority group (ie African American), the pay gap increases. 

2) Why do we raise girls to believe that they can do anything but yet, companies won't treat them the same when it comes to paying them. That just doesn't work for me. I recently was involved with recommending a salary for a new hire. I felt devalued because I make less than the next comparable person who is a guy (I'm working on that by the way). The point is, salary is one way of indicating value. So my organization theoretically is willing to spend more on that dude than they are for me. Not cool. And do I want my daughter to deal with this? Nope. I want her to be paid her worth... and she's worth the same as a guy with a comparable guy. So here's a radical thought, all the way from the 60's...organizations should pay comparable men and women the same.  Because that's only fair. And when something is unfair and we can do something about it, we should.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pondering Paleo

My husband has really cleaned up his diet and mentioned about a week or so ago that he wanted to do Paleo. Caveman! That's what came to mind. What do you have to give up? Is this just another name for Adkins? I tried that and got sick. So I started where any thirtysomething would start: ye ole Internet. And I found some awesome blogs (my two faves so far: PaleOMG & Cleaneatingwithadirtymind). When I looked at some of the dishes, I thought I could eat somewhat like this.

Now, two things to know about me, I'm about the flavor and I like structure but not rules. So if you tell me I cannot have half & half, I will give you a look so fierce you will cower! Cower, I say! Okay, do m a favor & pretend like you are cowering. But how do these two pieces of info factor into my Paleo pondering? Well, I tried coconut milk in my coffee & methinks I need to find the coconut milk creamer. Too bad So Delicious creamer is like a ghost, you've seen it on the Internet but haven't actually seen it yourself. So until I can find it, I'm using organic half & half. Now I'm sure all of the Paleo purists are gasping or cursing me. I'm more of a dip my toe into the pool kinda girl so I'm not doing's more like a hybrid of clean eating and paleo...Cleaneo, which sounds like a generic cleaning product you'd see on an infomercial or a rapper from the 90s (Coolio anyone?)

Anywho, before I go off on a tangent, I'm including high quality dairy, I'm having my daily dose of chocolate (Unreal is so tasty & doesn't include red#47 or whatever it is that will kill you!!) and I'm still counting calories (structure) which I think are the biggest differences. Oh, and I'm supporting my local wineries with a glass each weekend night. So today it's Cleaneo. Maybe in a month, it will start sounding more like Paleo (Pleaneo? Claleo?).

Now to sound like my mom & dad...
Did you do your best? Did you try? Then that's all you can do.

I think it applies. Happy Monday y'all!

Enjoy this picture of some Paleo bread I made.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Turn over a new leaf?

Now that spring is within reach, I have my annual "this is gonna be the year that I grow ______." And every year, I end up with wilted plants that must be thrown away. So this year, I'll try again. Maybe it will be different. Our son is older and he could help. I'm more environmental minded; maybe that will help. If I don't succeed this year, least I'll have browns for my compost & supported the economy (silver lining?). May my thumb be ever green.

Until next time...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

BB Creams...Useful or overhyped?

I've tried a couple of beauty balm (BB) creams and I've come to the conclusion that I'm over it. I don't feel like it's doing anything & I want more coverage (I'm a but red in the cheeks). Even Too Faced's new air buffed BB creme is so-so. Not enough coverage even though it says full coverage. Now I hear there's Color Correction/Control (CC) cream. For more info on CC creams, click this link. Knowing me, I'll probably buy one, but not to use as my everything. Perhaps under foundation. I've been told to focus on one thing & do it well. Maybe that really holds true for makeup/skin care too. But maybe I'm biased. I love my Caudalie Beauty Elixir (so refreshing!) & my Ole Hendrickson Truth Serum. So maybe I just need to buy a good tinted moisturizer and I'll have my weekend beauty routine. We'll see how it goes.

On a side note: I will be buying Murad's Redness Therapy Moisturizer soon & will review that as well. I really want the gel, but after making a hefty purchase at Sephora this month (made VIB already!), like my skin, I need to calm it down.

So while I'm not into the BB creams, I do like what I think BB should stand for: Be Be Beautiful.

Until next time...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bras, Beauty, and Badassery

Since I've lost a bit of weight over the last few months, my sister has the fortune of going through the clothes that don't fit.  She took home quite a bounty. Later that evening, she sent me a text saying that I need to go to BA, Bras Anonymous, since she took 21 bras from me. Sure it sounds like a lot on the surface, but consider that the 21 bras span 2 sizes. So really, 10 bras per size is reasonable, right?  Or am I rationalizing my behavior?  Having worked at Victoria's Secret when I was in college may also be a contributing factor in my love of pretty girly things. I'd like to think that 10 is reasonable though.

Since last weekend, I bought a few more pretty little things (total is at nine, i believe) and some awesome makeup (Urban Decay's Naked2 palette, anyone? Buxom Lip Gloss?) So, since I love bras, beauty, and baking, let's not call it bras anonymous, let's label it Bad Ass & then I'm totally in.

I'll try to be more timely and not wait two months before another post.  I couldn't help it though...I was at the mall.

Now to get some sleep so that I can bake tomorrow.

Until next time...