Jonni: How long have you used Tableau?
Ravi: Good question! I think my first use of it was January 2015 - I was at university and had just caught the Moneyball bug after sinking days of my life into Football Manager, and suddenly had found that data & football were a thing. After following a bunch of folks on Twitter, I took the plunge and did ‘analytics’ using Excel. Tableau came into my life in January after a legend named Neil Charles blogged about ‘How to do Football Analysis in Tableau’.
The rest, as they say, is history. A series of accidents followed (name dropping Neil, Steve Fenn, and Chris Love here) which lead me to find a job which would teach me how to use Tableau & then send me to 3 different companies to consult for them.
I think I’ve used Tableau almost every day since (if not, at least for 75% of the time since!)
Jonni: How do you use Tableau? At work? In your personal life?
Ravi: Honestly, as much as I can.
At work, it forms a crux of the problems I help our clients solve, and more recently I’ve been working with my colleague (Tableau Zen Master) Emma Whyte in helping them be more successful with their deployments. It forms the core of everything The Information Lab does, from birthday tracking to key monitoring reports right the way through to data-driven alerts to tell me when I hit consulting milestones.
In my personal life, Tableau is my tool to explore & visualise data - I’ll copy and paste a random table in, do the Tableau shuffle with the measures & dimensions, and find any patterns. Some turn into data stories, dashboards; some are tweeted; others are thrown away as I’ve done what I’ve needed to do with it. My graveyard of unfinished visualisations & workbooks is large!
Jonni: Where do you find data for your personal projects?
Ravi: I’m going to use my favourite Cotgreave-ism -"It Depends!" Where the visualisation is project lead, as in I have an idea of what I want to explore - my visualisation about how hot the London Underground gets is a good example of a hypothesis which lead to hunting for data - I go find data to match the subject. Other times, I’ll spot a dataset, or a news story or even a viral thread, and I’ll hunt the source of the data. This then inevitably helps me find the story, and pursue it further.
Being a sports analytics fan, I’m always on the lookout for great data sources - football-data.co.uk and tennis-data.co.uk are remarkably good, Github is a priceless resource & I’ve seen so many random Google Docs filled with links to open data. The data is out there, it just needs folks to get stuck in!
Jonni: What type of data interests you? How have you learned to use Tableau?
Ravi: As mentioned heavily, I’m a big fan of sports data - it helps to go beyond what we see and helps us prove or disprove our biases. I also look at economic and social data (The UK Gambling Industry and Is the EU expanding?); this harks back to my background in economics, and I’m always looking for a way to make seemingly dull information such as economic performance or social impact more accessible & meaningful.
I was very lucky in how I learned Tableau - being a part of the first Data School UK cohort meant getting taught by some of the best practitioners around. This built on my vague understanding which I had built from frantic Googling & (badly) unpicking Tableau Public dashboards. Tim Ngwena & I host a podcast, and one of the earlier episodes talks about learning Tableau from the ground up as Tim did and being taught Tableau like I was. I appreciate the privileged foundation I have, and do my best to support & direct those who haven’t had the same exposure.
Jonni: What data sources do you typically use?
Ravi: Open data mainly - I love the Google Sheets feature, which means my vizzes on Public update without me having to upload each time. I’ve used some Web Data Connectors as well - but a majority of my work is based on Excel and Sheets on Tableau Public at least. The actual data sources, as mentioned before, are around sports data & some economics and social data.
Jonni: What your favorite Tableau project you’ve ever worked on?
Ravi: There are so many!! But my absolute favourite was last summer’s World Cup visualisation. I’d had it in my mind to do a ‘beyond the box score’, analytics-based dashboard for ages. I’d never really had the right data and the right purpose… and the World Cup brought this. I talk about the struggles and the challenges I faced in more detail in this Tableau webinar, but it was a massive labour of love. Data collection was copy-and-paste, it took 20-30 minutes per game & there were a bunch of times that my viz broke because of the way it was constructed. But it’s a piece I’m super proud of.
My second favourite is probably The Colours of Vincent Van Gogh. It used a bit of specialist tools in the backend to get the data, but wow - I was proud of how it turned out, and it won a competition, so it’s now hanging in my dining room at home on canvas!
Jonni: What is your favorite feature of Tableau?
Ravi: Oh man - I can’t choose one..!
I’ve spent about a year and a half getting super deep into Tableau Server, and the richness is the repository is fantastic. I love the amount of meta-insight it provides.
For Desktop, copy-pasting data is baller and I’m also a huge advocate of the ability to simply create. Create a static viz? Great, go for it. Want more interactivity? Actions. Even more control? Parameters, Sets, Calculations. Flexibility is at the heart of Tableau, and it really helps you make the data what you want it to be
Jonni: What do you want to learn more about?
Ravi: I’ve not gone deep into Prep yet, (probably because I’ve been deep in the awesomeness happening with Server) so I’d probably want to learn more about Prep. Desktop side, I’d want to dig into Set & Parameter Actions more. Marc Reid has been killing the game with this combination, building & improving on the awesome content Bethany Lyons and Lindsey Poulter put out on Set Actions.
Jonni: What’s your biggest feature request?
Ravi: Profiles! Or using measure names/measure values in calculations.
Profiles are my grand idea of linking preferences, format choices, Tableau Server subscriptions, data credentials, permissions… all into one layer that feeds everything. Want to start a web-edit session with the same defaults as Desktop? Easy, owned by the profile layer. Want to copy someone’s default permissions, landing page & corporate style? Sure, profile layer. Currently, so many preferences, permissions, and customization are governed in different places - by IT etc… imagine if it was all owned by Tableau Server.
Measure names/measure values does what it says on the tin… No idea if this is possible though! I have faith in the Tableau Development team.
Now onto Community questions:
Jonni: How did you discover the Tableau Community?
Ravi: Google! Searching for help on Tableau was so easy - the community has a goldmine of information, and Tableau often has pushed common questions into Knowledge Base articles.
Ravi: That it’s not just online - I love that there are pockets of the community who aren’t in the front & centre - those who use it, enjoy it but perhaps aren’t those who we see daily on the regular social media channels. I love that the community isn’t just those folks, it’s everyone else who are all doing great work across the board. It always fascinates me to see & speak to folks who understand the product and can support me to learn more
Jonni: What does being a Tableau ambassador mean to you?
Ravi: It’s an honour! Being recognised as part of the first set of Tableau Public Ambassadors was amazing, and being here to share my learnings & experiences, build on my own knowledge of the practitioners in our field and be closer to a product that I love is amazing. I really appreciate what the programme does to champion those who are so passionate about it.
Jonni: What advice do you have for new members of Tableau? Of the Community?
Ravi: New members shouldn’t feel obliged to shout the loudest, but to continue to learn from the collective, share their experiences and support one another. The community is a shared consciousness built upon learning, and this learning is driven by passion. Embrace and do your best to embody this, and that’s the best advice I can give!
Jonni: You seem to enjoy being creative with Tableau, is there anyone in the community you have worked with closely, or is there someone that inspires you?
Ravi: I have so much to thank Andy Kriebel for, his passion, drive & curiosity was transferred to so many of us in the Data School. Jonathan MacDonald, for taking me under his wing and sharing his Tableau Server knowledge with me; Bridget Cogley I admire from afar for her thoughts, ideas & approaches. Rody Zakovich & Tim Ngwena were early folks I looked up to for design. Beyond the Tableau Community, Lisa Charlotte Rost, Giorgia Lupi & Elijah Meeks are folks I admire for their endless curiosity & drive to push us forward.
Again, I could go on - the whole The Information Lab & Data School team are supporters, mentors & collaborators who I cannot thank enough.
Finally, some personal questions:
Jonni: Where are you from?
Ravi: I’m from Ipswich, England! It’s a town on the east coast of England, and home of the football team I support, Ipswich Town FC.
Jonni: What is your favorite hobby outside of work?
Ravi: Being able to get on my bike and be in the countryside within 5 minutes is one of the things I love about Suffolk - and fundamentally why I don’t feel like I’d want to live in London! I’m a big follower in all things technology, enjoy TV & film (trying to think of something to do with my IMDB watchlist which I keep religiously up to date) and probably don’t read as much as I wish I could.
Jonni: Anything else you want to share?
Ravi: Thank you to Tableau for creating something which is simply fun. It’s a delight to use the product and exciting to see where it’s going. I’m always happy to help folks, so be sure to reach out on Twitter @Scribblr_42 - also tune into the podcast I run with Tim! The Datum Podcast: – The Datum Podcast: 2 Business Intelligence Professionals talk Data & Technology.
If you would like to connect with Ravi or follow his work check out his profile on Tableau Public and give him a follow on Twitter. If you would like to learn more about the Tableau Ambassador Program, please visit this page on our site: Tableau Ambassadors | Tableau Software You can also follow all our ambassadors on Twitter through this link: @tableau/Tableau Ambassadors on Twitter.