VizPainter: Tableau Tips and Tricks, Storytelling, and Data Visualization

Welcome!

I started blogging here in May 2014 to share Tableau tips and tricks.  Things have really taken off since then!  I continue to share tips and tricks and I still focus heavily on Tableau – the tool that allows me to have a seamless conversation with data, draw insight, ask questions, and get answers that sometimes initiate action and sometimes deeper questions.

Along the way I’ll also share some broader dataviz lessons and maybe a story or two – possibly some data storytelling and even some stories of my journey in the world of data and data visualization.

Best Regards,
Joshua Milligan

 

Here’s what I have to share…

Python strikes again! More Python scripts for Tableau Prep
I wrote previously about some very simple, but useful, Python scripts for Tableau Prep (and start with that post toRead
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Python in Tableau Prep
Python in Tableau Prep: simple useful scripts
Tableau Prep Builder 2019.3 is currently in beta and I’m loving it! (along with all the other goodies: Tableau Desktop,Read
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Parameter Actions in Tableau 2019.2 Sneak Peek
Tableau 2019.2 is currently in its second beta* which means it is getting closer and closer to release! And I’mRead
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Using Tableau Prep to track account balance history from Mint
I personally use Mint to track my personal finances (I’m not officially endorsing, but it does help me get theRead
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State of the Unions in Tableau Prep: MINUS, EXCEPT and INTERSECT
Recently I gave a “State of the Unions” address for Tableau’s Think Data Thursday (the recording is here) in whichRead
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#TC18, Data Dragons, Tableau, & Tableau Prep
I am so excited to head to NOLA for #TC18!  Tableau always puts on an amazing conference and I cannotRead
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Exploring DataRobot predictions using Tableau and Tableau Prep
I’ve been hearing about DataRobot for a while now (in fact, Teknion Data Solutions, where I’ve been a consultant forRead
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Ranking in Tableau Prep Race - First, Second, Third
Rank and Ranking in Tableau Prep
One thing I’ve submitted  an idea for Tableau Prep (and would love if you voted for it!) is the abilityRead
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Great Circles & Curved Flight Paths: Tableau & SQL Server Geospatial
How can you leverage SQL Server geospatial tools in Tableau to draw cool curved flight paths (or any great arcs)? Read
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New Periodic Files in Tableau Prep
How to handle new input files in Tableau Prep
How to handle new input files in Tableau Prep Let’s say you’ve got a situation where you get new inputRead
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How to remove duplicate records in Tableau Prep
One of the questions that comes up quite often is “How do I remove duplicate records in Tableau Prep?” orRead
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Customers and Stores with exact distance radius
Draw circles with exact distance radius on maps in Tableau
Tableau 2018.1 introduces a lot of new features, especially geospatial features that open a whole new world of data explorationRead
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Unpivot in Tableau Prep (Rows to Columns)
You know you have a great piece of software when you can use its paradigm to come up with workaroundsRead
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Cross Database Union & the other MAX/MIN functions in Tableau
Cross database joins have been available in Tableau for a while now – and I love the ability to joinRead
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A Sample Flow in Tableau Prep (Project Maestro)
I recently had the privilege of presenting a preview of Tableau’s Project Maestro (now known as Tableau Prep) to theRead
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Latest Snapshot in Tableau and Tableau Prep (Maestro)
Often, you’ll have data that looks something like this:   Every day, there are new records for projects that giveRead
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Hex Map Spatial File
I love hex maps! Especially for the United States, you can keep states in a basic geographic orientation, but eliminateRead
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Have a Maestro Christmas and Tableau New Year!
Tableau’s new data prep tool, Maestro, is now in public beta, and I’m loving it!  While the first beta doesn’tRead
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Hot Swapping Geographic Levels of Detail in a Tableau Viz
  I used to think you couldn’t hot-swap geographic levels of detail in a Tableau visualization.  And, before Tableau 10,Read
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The Need for Speed: How to build Tableau visualizations quickly
I recently competed in the Tableau Iron Viz where Tristian Guillevin, Jacob Olsufka and I raced to build a dashboardRead
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Tableau, you sunk my Battleship!
Ah, games and Tableau – two of my favorite things together! And it isn’t all just about fun and games, it’s aboutRead
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Don’t miss the miracle of Tableau: It’s more than just DataViz!
I was part of a conversation recently where something like this was said: “We need a data model that willRead
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Reshaping your data right in Tableau: Materialized Path Hierarchies
I recently came across this post by Simona Loffredo in which she describes a certain type of data structure, whyRead
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Design technique for Tableau dashboards: semi-transparent images
Wow! I’m still stunned to have won the first IronViz feeder contest for 2017! And excited! And humbled. And honored.Read
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The Changing Shape of History: From the Colonies to the United States
I previously shared the fun I had with Tableau 10.2’s ability to connect to spatial files. In that case, I used historicRead
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Storytelling with Data Visualization
Recently, I gave a presentation on storytelling with data visualization. I described the elements of a story, how to leverageRead
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4 Dangers to Avoid in Data Storytelling
Stories are powerful. They connect an audience with people, facts, emotions and action. They help us understand difficult concepts andRead
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Navigating Hierarchies in Tableau using Self Updating Actions
The Tableau technique shown here is to use an action to update an entire dashboard, including the filter selection andRead
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Fun with spatial files in Tableau 10.2
Tableau 10.2 is almost here! And it’s time to celebrate! One thing I’ve always wanted to do in Tableau isRead
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Periodic Snapshots with Tableau Incremental Refresh
Happy New Year! Even as 2016 was winding down, I found myself with a challenge dealing with time.  And IRead
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#Data16 Presentation: Fun or Serious? How to use both to improve your dashboards
Tableau Conference 2016 is over and I’m still digesting everything I saw, giddy with excitement over the new features that wereRead
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Multiple Google Analytics accounts in one Tableau data source!
So, I previously wrote about how to use data blending to get data from multiple Google Analytics data sources intoRead
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Tableau Forum Fun: Grand totals next to columns
I really love the Tableau Community Forums.  If you haven’t ever experienced the forums, you really should!  It’s a vibrant community allRead
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Now Published: Learning Tableau 10, 2nd ed! (Chance to win a copy)
Have you noticed my blogging frequency has been down in the last few months? Have you missed me on Twitter?Read
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Learn Tableau tip that could save you hours! (something new every day)
Learn Tableau: something new every day! Years ago, one of my colleagues asked if Tableau was something that you couldRead
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Tableau 10, Where have you been?!
Tableau 10 is on the fourth beta, which means the Tableau devs are getting really close to production release (as farRead
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A “little” new formatting feature in Tableau 10.0
I’ve been blogging about some of the “little” Tableau  10.0 new features that aren’t as publicized as some of theRead
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Another “Little” Tableau 10 Feature: Data Source Screen Enhancements
Big shiny new Tableau 10 features get all the press: Data Highlighter, Custom Territories, Cross database joins… But what about theRead
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“Little” Tableau 10.0 Features: Clusters as Partitions for Table Calcs
As I’ve been beta testing Tableau 10.0 and working on a new edition of Learning Tableau, I’ve been making allRead
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Tableau Quick Tip: Create a Gap in Tabular Reports
Ever design a table in Tableau and wish you could insert a gap between columns or rows? Maybe you wantRead
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Bob Ross Mashup: The Joy of Viz Painting 2
I grew up watching Bob Ross and as I watched him mix colors and beat brushes, I knew that I couldRead
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Visualizing the long road to women’s voting rights in Tableau
Finding the Data Story Who doesn’t love politics?  The latest in the round of IronViz feeders from Tableau features thisRead
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What’s New? Webinars, Tableau 10, second edition of Learning Tableau, and more!
Summer has come in Texas!  School is out. Tableau 10 beta testing is going full steam ahead and the newRead
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Landmine Diffused!
You may recall a previous post in which I warned of some landmines in using Excel with Tableau.  Well, looks likeRead
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Where Food is Scarce…
Having never previously entered into the Tableau #IronViz feeder contests, I was eager to participate this year. The category ofRead
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Excel and Text File Landmines to Avoid in Tableau
Excel spreadsheets and flat text files can be incredible data sources for Tableau.  They are ubiquitous, easy to use, easyRead
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Upcoming Webinar: The Fun and Serious Sides of Data Visualization
On March 24, at noon CDT, I’ll be presenting a webinar that looks at the fun and serious sides ofRead
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Tableau is why I see the underlying data that matters most
#TableauIsWhy I see the underlying data that matters most… The dashboard I had been using Tableau for a few yearsRead
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Unions in Tableau 9.3: Tips and Tricks
I’ve been participating the beta testing of Tableau 9.3 and I’m loving the innovation the Tableau developers have been bringingRead
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Tweaking Views in Tableau
In a previous post I shared how even a small tweak to a dataviz can change the perspective of theRead
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Perspective: How a small dataviz tweak can tell a radically different data story
Is there a single best visualization for a given set of data?  Should you always use a bar chart whenRead
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Partial Period Panic
The Problem of Partial Periods So you built out that incredible Tableau* time series viz showing sales per week orRead
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Book your Star Wars Vacation with Tableau
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away   Wow! Star Wars and Tableau.  You can’t get muchRead
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The Assignment that Made Me Fall in Love
The Assignment When I was in junior high, my math teacher, Mrs. White gave the class an amazing assignment.  SheRead
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Some Tableau Tips & Options for Box and Whisker
  I recently tweeted that Box and Whisker plots have never been my go to DataViz type. I don’t knowRead
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Games In Tableau – Pushing the Limits with Practical Results
You may not think of Tableau as a game engine, but I’ve used it to create interactive games (such as tic-tac-toe,Read
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#Data15 Here I come!
It’s time for the Tableau Conference! (a.k.a. #data15 or TC15) If you are going, I look forward to seeing youRead
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Tableau and Cubes (OLAP)
At some point, I got labeled as a “Tableau cube expert.”  The funny thing is, when I first acquired thisRead
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Never Ending Navigation: Buttons that Deselect Themselves
Navigation buttons can make a series of dashboards easier to use.  The most common approach has been using a viewRead
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Let Them have Their Text Tables
“I need you to reproduce this report,” your boss states as he hands you a printout. “And you can useRead
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Dynamically Set Default Values for Quick Filters in Tableau
Recently, I was helping someone with a Tableau dashboard in which an action from the first view filtered a secondRead
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Star Trek: The Tableau Game
In the 1980s, my dad brought home a Tandy 1000.  I still remember him giving instructions to my mom andRead
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10 Things you didn’t know about Ad-Hoc Calculations in Tableau 9
Ad-hoc calculations are new in Tableau 9.0.  They’re quite useful.  And they are fun!  There’s so much you can doRead
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Extending LOD Calcs with Table Calcs
I’ve been following with great interest the discussion in the Tableau community surrounding various approaches to using Level of DetailRead
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The Journey of Writing a Tableau Book
A few years ago, a colleague of mine sent out an email asking if anyone was interested in serving asRead
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Life before Tableau 9 Level of Detail Calculations
Over the next few weeks, leading up to the Tableau Think Data Thursday presentation (register now!), I’ll take a lookRead
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Star Trek – To Boldly Tableau
The wait is over!  The game is now online!   You’ve seen Choose Your Own Adventure, Tic Tac Tableau, andRead
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Dates in Tableau make me want to tear my hair out!
  Actually, it’s not dates in Tableau.  Tableau does wonders with dates!  What other tool allows you to connect toRead
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Convert Tableau to PowerPoint
Today’s Tableau Tip comes from my colleague, David Baldwin.  I am privilleged to work with him at Teknion Data Solutions, aRead
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Going Off Grid – The secret way to hide something on a Tableau Dashboard
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to hide something on a Tableau Dashboard?  Something you, the designerRead
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Data Prep and the New Tableau 9 Data Interpreter
The Tableau 9 Data Interpreter and other new data prep options, such as pivot and split, open up new possibilities forRead
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Tableau Mapping Tip: Geographic Drill Down
Previously,  we saw how to capture and use Tableau’s automatically generated latitude and longitude for custom geocoding.  Now, we’ll extendRead
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Poor Man’s Custom Geocoding in Tableau (Part 2)
  Last time we looked at a simple way to implement custom geocoding in Tableau using the ability to assignRead
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One Trick to Hide Titles in Tableau
Sometimes you want to customize titles or even hide titles in Tableau.   When shown on a dashboard, titles will always appear,Read
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Tableau Tip Tuesday: Poor Man’s Custom Geocoding (Part 1)
  Tableau has outstanding built-in geocoding capabilities.  If you have countries, states, zip codes, congressional districts, statistical areas, etc… inRead
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Other Favorite New Tableau 9.0 Features
I recently blogged about my favorite Tableau 9.0 feature: LOD Calculations.  This feature really blows open the possibilities for analysisRead
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Tableau Tip Tuesday: Always Manually Backup Tableau Server Before Upgrading
Last night I upgraded a Tableau Server for one of our clients1.  They weren’t ready to go to 8.3 yetRead
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My Favorite Tableau 9.0 Feature
Tableau 9.0 has moved from alpha to beta and I’m loving it!  There are many new features to enjoy: Improved calculationRead
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Tableau Tip Tuesday: Don’t Use Table Calcs
No, not really!  I love table calculations! They are powerful and very useful.  They are one of the best thingsRead
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Tableau Tip Tuesday: The First Question to Ask
If you are using Tableau for data analysis, there is one question you really should answer for any data source beforeRead
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Tableau Tip Tuesday: Show What Isn’t in the Data
I recently came across this post that highlights the importance of seeing what isn’t in the data: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/05/visualizing-zero-how-to-show-something-with-nothing/ In Tableau,Read
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Tableau Christmas Card Mail Merge
I love getting Christmas cards! But sending them can be a chore1. Fortunately, there is Tableau, a sophisticated-yet-intuitive-to-use rapid dataRead
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Dynamic Annotations (Part 3)
Often, there is no “right” way to accomplish something in Tableau. There are often many ways to approach a solution.Read
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Honored and Humbled – Becoming a Tableau Zen Master
First, I need to say I have the best co-workers.  They are colleagues and friends.  This was on my deskRead
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Blackjack! (Tableau deals)
Can’t wait for the Tableau conference next week year? How about playing a game of blackjack against Tableau in theRead
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The Story of the Second Punic War
I love history, but I find it difficult to remember all the details. That’s mostly the way it’s taught andRead
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Creating Tic Tac Tableau Part 2: 5 Million Records – Really?
If you missed them, see the original Tic Tac Toe Dashboard and Part 1 first. Chris Love asked if itRead
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Creating Tic Tac Tableau Part 1: Generating the Data
Once I had the idea of creating a dashboard to play Tic Tac Toe against Tableau, I had to comeRead
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Prevent Global Thermonuclear War: Play Tic Tac Toe with Tableau!
Ever since Noah Salvaterra raised the possibility that Tableau could become self aware, I’ve been unable to sleep. The thoughtRead
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Choose Your Own Adventure! Pushing the limits with Tableau
I used to read Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a child and I always wanted to writeRead
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3 Easy Tableau Tips for Confident, Clean-Shaven Maps
Wow! Tableau Tips Month is almost over and I almost missed it! (Or maybe I was just early with thisRead
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It’s Greek to Me (Literally): Textual Analysis in Tableau
By day, I design Tableau dashboards for clients. This means I’m often creating financial dashboards (some of these are mine),Read
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1 Easy Trick to get Clustered Bar Charts
What’s the difference between the two bar views below?     Both bar graphs were created relatively easily in Tableau.Read
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What Color of Uniform Should I Wear Today?
The term redshirt has come to mean any stock character who is introduced in an episode only to be killedRead
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Sheet Selection on Steroids
Sheet swapping or sheet selection is a technique used to switch out views in a dashboard. The basics approach forRead
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Slicing by Aggregate
Update: These options are good if you are using Tableau 8.3 or earlier.  But if you’re using 9.0 or later,Read
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The Joy of Viz Painting
I recently submitted a couple of 3 minute win entries (I should have blogged about it – wow I’m behind!)Read
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Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in Tableau
I was asked recently to do a small research project recently into why Tableau wasn’t recognizing certain MSAs (metropolitan statisticalRead
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Google Analytics in Tableau: Blending Data From Multiple Accounts
(This is one of the most popular blog posts here… but it was written when Cuban cigars were still underRead
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Random Numbers (Even with Extracts)
  Ever wish you could use random numbers in Tableau?  Of course, when you are connected to a data sourceRead
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Dynamic Annotations (Part 2)
Edit – This post describes one approach. But, it turns out, there is an easier way: Dynamic Annotations (Part 3)Read
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Dynamic Annotations (Part 1)
Edit – This post describes one approach. But, it turns out, there is an easier way: Dynamic Annotations (Part 3)Read
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Mapping Distances – An Alternate Approach
The Issue A common technique for calculating distances in Tableau is to use a custom SQL statement to join aRead
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8 Responses so far.

  1. Kary Tran says:

    Hello Joshua,

    I was at the User Group where you did the demo Games in Tableau at Teknion. Towards the end, you show a dashboard of Rep sales, I believe, with links to another dashboard. I remember you mentioning that you will have that on your website, but I cannot find it. Can I download it? If so, would you be able to send me a link to that dashboard?

    Thanks,
    Kary Tran

  2. Rangarajan says:

    Sir,
    This site is full of useful tips and thanking for the same. I want to learn more about the chart types that are appropriate in a storyboard. if there is any writeup here, please lead me to that.
    Thanks
    –Rangarajan

  3. pavan says:

    Hi All,

    My question is around, how can we set/change the default shape directory.

    I am currently working on to set an org structure for a company. The scenario is that people keep joining the company and I want Tableau to pick a default image in the org structure instead of default available shapes (circle, square, plus, etc).

    You can see the snapshot of the dashboard, where I do not have the image for resource3 and Tableau picked + automatically. P.S.: the above snapshot is sanitized and I used gender icons for the image instead.

    Please help me figure out either, how to add an image as default in the default folder and location of the default folder? or how can I set a different folder as default?

  4. Maxwell E says:

    Hello Joshua,

    I have been following your posts and YouTube videos and I have learned a lot from them. I have also searched the web and not found a way to show conflicting dates in a Gantt Chart.

    For instance, I am trying to visualize a set of projects in a Gantt chart and highlight conflicting dates. Below is a link to a similar question that was asked on the Tableau website:

    https://community.tableau.com/thread/156106

    If there any way to achieve this using Tableau 9?

    I would appreciate any assistance. Thanks for the good work you do.

    • benmelek_admin says:

      Great question! Let me give this some thought and I’ll get back to you (or maybe even write up a blog post!)

  5. Jeanne Jackson says:

    I ran across the photo of the men with the Unions Make Us Strong sign on Facebook. The man in the white fedora looks exactly like my father. Do you have any knowledge of when and where this photo was taken or where I could find additional information about it? Thank you.

    • Joshua Milligan says:

      Jeanne,

      That’s fascinating! The image itself came from a Google search and I remember reversing it (you can see the sign in the background says “Paint” but is a mirror image) and I replaced the text in the sign the man was holding. I don’t recall what the original text said. I’ve tried finding the original image by searching terms I might have used and also searching by image (the way it is and reversed back to the way it would have been) but cannot locate it right off. I also don’t seem to have the original image anywhere. If I do find anything or suddenly recall what I might have searched I’ll let you know!

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