TC19 Resolutions: How To Stay Accountable To Your Data Viz Goals

For many, the end of the year is a time for reflection.  Even though the actual day of January 1st isn’t much different from December 31st or February 8th or June 16th, it marks the beginning of the new year, and with that comes a host of expectations, promises, and resolutions.  

At the end of the year, we take stock of the previous 12 months.  We relive our accomplishments, think about what we left unaccomplished.  We ponder what we’ve lost or what might have been.  And for so many, in the US and around the world, we create a list of resolutions for the coming year. These resolutions are milestones that we set for ourselves, usually with the goal of improving our lives or the lives of others.

Resolutions often focus on improving physical health, quitting bad habits, becoming more charitable, or learning new skills.  And while most resolutions are created right before the new year, there are other annual events that may also bring resolutions to mind.

For the data viz community, and specifically the Tableau community, the Tableau Conference holds much of the same wonder and excitement as New Year’s Eve.  It comes once a year. It’s celebrated by thousands of others in our community (our data community in this case). It brings a whole host of expectations, new experiences, learning opportunities, and lots and lots of personal reflection.  

#TC19 Resolutions

After this year’s conference in New Orleans, I saw this tweet from Vince Baumel inspiring the community to share some resolutions for the year before 2019’s Tableau Conference.

Vince Baumel tweet

The end of TC18, along with Vince’s tweet, got me thinking about my personal Tableau and data viz growth over 2018.  All in all, 2018 was a great Tableau year for me. I attended my second Tableau Conference. I passed the Certified Professional exam.  At the time of the conference, I’d posted 38 vizzes on Tableau Public for the year.

Now was the chance to create my #TC19 resolutions, or more specifically, the resolutions that would continue to grow my personal Tableau and data viz skillset and grow my online persona, while also making sure that I was giving back to the wonderful community.  With those goals in mind, here was my original #TC19Resolutions tweet:

restweet@2x
To make sure they were all clear and quantifiable, I revised them into the following list:

  1. Write 5 blog posts
  2. Attend at least 6 TUG meetings
  3. Create 3 original vizzes where I source or create the data
  4. Reach Level 15 on the Tableau Forums

Blog Posts

I had wanted to write a blog for over a year.  I’d even registered this domain right after TC17 (vizwith.me) but never actually wrote a personal (non-work related) blog post.  I had a few ideas of what I wanted to write. However I had been prioritizing creating new vizzes and participating in data viz challenges over sharing my written knowledge with the community.

There are so many wonderful blogs out there that it was easy to feel like I may not have much to contribute.  However, every time I’ve shared my knowledge and experience with the Tableau community (whether talking to people in person, sharing my knowledge at work, presenting at the Tableau Fringe Festival), the feedback has always been positive.  After TC18 I was determined to start writing, and more importantly publishing and sharing, original written content with the community.  5 blog posts sounded like a good start.  Though I’m hopeful that the initial 5 will lead to many more.

TUG Meetings

Tableau User Group (TUGs) exist all over the world and hold meetups on a semi-regular basis (both in-person and virtual).  TUGs offer the incredible experience of meeting and networking with other Tableau and data viz minded individuals, as a space for learning and sharing knowledge with others, and a great place to learn about the latest Tableau news or upcoming announcements.  

While I hate to admit this, before this year’s Tableau Conference, I’d only ever attended one Tableau User Group (TUG) meetup.  I knew that I was missing out on a great opportunity to interact with the community by not attending more. Therefore I am making it a point to attend at least 6 meetings before the next Tableau Conference.

Original Vizzes

If you’ve followed me on Twitter or seen my Tableau Public profile, you’ll know that I love to participate in data viz challenges.  If you’d like to learn more about these challenges, I encourage you to read my previous blog post: Are You Up To The Challenge?

I credit much of my personal data visualization growth, especially over the last year and a half, to the number and breadth of challenges that I’ve participated in.  Each one has provided me with an experience for improvement that I would not have had otherwise.

As most of the challenges focus on viz creation, they tend to provide a nice clean dataset at the start.  However, for anyone that works with data visualization in a professional environment, you’ll know that you are almost never handed clean and organized data.  More often than not the data is in disparate sources and formats. You may not even know where all of it is at first. This data generally requires cleaning and manipulation before you can even start to create a viz.

So, as a way of continuing to step outside my data viz comfort zone, and wholly inspired by the wonderful original work put out by the community, I resolve to create at least three original data visualizations in which I’ve either sourced the data myself or created it directly.

Tableau Forums

The forums are the most underrated and under-appreciated feature of the Tableau community.  Almost every time you search for a Tableau answer online, you are directed to a link on the forums.  If you use Tableau regularly, you will inevitably find yourself at some point researching an answer on the forums.  

Not only can you research a question there, but you can post an original question as well.  There are a host of other Tableau users in the community who regularly monitor the forums and are committed to helping others answer their questions.

Prior to TC18, I had really taken the forums for granted.  I’d searched for answers on it many times, but never posted myself, nor had I taken the time to help others answer their questions.  I’ve often been the Tableau and data viz resource for others at work, and am always happy to help with whatever questions my co-workers have.  I only made a minimal effort to expand my help beyond my office though.

I wanted to change that going forward.  To set a quantifiable goal for participating in the Tableau forums, I decided to use the point system that the forums have in place.  They have a point system (a somewhat addicting point system) that allows you to level up as you help others on the site. The highest level you can currently achieve is Level 15 – Data Monarch, which requires 7,900 points.  

My original goal was to reach Level 7 – Data Rockstar, but after I started participating in the forums and helping answer others questions, I quickly realized how much I enjoyed it.  It is very gratifying to help others in the community.  Not only that, but I have been learning a lot from my time on the forums as well.  I’m more engaged with answers posted by others.  I’ve also had the opportunity to answer questions that have really had me stretch my Tableau knowledge and have caused me to learn more in the process.

Level 7 requires 1,100 points but I quickly blew past that.  My current goal is to reach Level 15. Along the way, I’ll be helping many others with their Tableau questions and will continue learning myself as well.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have not done so yet, start participating in the forums, even just a little bit.  It will greatly improve your skills, while you give back to the community, and it’s free.  You can’t beat all of that.

Accountability

What really struck me about Vince’s #TC19Resolutions tweet was the accountability piece.  So many times we create and maybe even share resolutions, only for them to be forgotten by the end of the coming year.  How could I improve my ability to keep myself accountable? The best answer I could think of, especially for data viz related resolutions, was to create a viz about it.

Here’s my #TC19 Resolutions tracker:

https://public.tableau.com/profile/paul.wachtler#!/vizhome/TC19ResolutionTracking/TC19ResolutionTracker

#TC19 Resolution Tracker

Between writing this blog post and creating this resolution tracker, I plan to keep myself publicly accountable to my resolutions.

For any of you that posted your own TC19 Resolutions, or would like to do so now, I encourage you to share them with the community as a means of keeping yourself accountable.  Go ahead and tag me too. I’d love to see your resolutions for the coming year, and am more than happy to be your accountability partner for fulfilling your own resolutions!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you!  Wishing you all the best in 2019. Never stop learning, never stop reaching, never stop giving back.  I hope that you accomplish everything you set out to do this coming year.