Someone once told me that every piece of business software was all about the data.  That person was right.  At any given moment you are creating data, moving data, manipulating data, or viewing data.

I started my career as a .NET developer, creating custom software solutions for various clients.  And it is always about the data.  It wasn’t long before clients wanted to see and understand their data.  I used various tools to try to help them: SSRS, Dundas, Telerik, Fusion Charts – always approaching the problem from a developer’s perspective:

  Developer Perspective


Then I was introduced to Tableau.  It’s a totally new paradigm.  It’s a game-changer.  It’s fun!

Along the way, I’ve picked up some useful tips and tricks, a few hacks, and some best practices.  My goal is to pass some of that knowledge along and also gain new insights from the Tableau community.  Let’s do some Viz Painting!


19 Responses so far.

  1. Kent Hogeland says:

    I have been a SSRS/SSIS developer for 6 years…with strong focus in both. I’ve recently started a new position where one of my key responsibilities will be to build stories with Tableau…Pretty excited for this new venture!

  2. Mark Gandy says:

    Just saw your site via Tableau’s blog – outstanding work. Now here’s the downside (on my part).

    I’m a finance professional, so I’ll probably always be stuck in Tabluea beginner mode. Then I see sites like this and think, “I never get there.”

    Regardless, keep writing and keep producing great stuff because you have one more new fan.

    Very well done.


    • Joshua Milligan says:

      Thanks for the kind words Mark! One of the things I love about Tableau is that in “beginner mode” it is so easy and powerful. I’ve never seen another tool that allows someone with little or no experience to sit down and immediately start realizing value by asking and answering questions.

      If you want to go deeper, even outside your particular field, I’d recommend a couple of things. First, check out Tableau Public — there are hundreds of outstanding examples of what others have done and you can download the workbooks (and use the free Tableau Public application if you don’t have access to Tableau Desktop outside your work). Second, get involved on the Tableau Forums. It’s an outstanding community and a great place to learn and share.

  3. Hi Yoshua, I’m a data journalist, and I have had some experience with Tableau, but I’m far from being an expert like you. One of the aspect of Tableau that keep me off from becoming better with this software, is that you can’t make responsive dashboards. Well, you have the automatic sizing, but it’s not very reliable. And if you use automatic sizing you will also lose the Float elements that in my opinion make the vizualisations look a lot better.

    So, I wanted to ask you, if in your line of work, this hasn’t been an issue with your customers? or how do you justify to them that responsive design is not the end of the world?

    Anyway, thanks for your great work on this blog. I’ll be coming back soon.

    • Joshua Milligan says:

      Great to hear from you Camilo!
      I would tend to think of responsive as more than just resizing to fit a screen resolution. I tend to design fixed sized dashboards for the reasons you pointed out (consistency and floating object issues) and I tend to find that a fixed size serves well in most circumstances. Dashboards can be made to be very responsive in terms of interactivity and actions.

      But I do think it would be great if Tableau would support multiple dashboard versions for various devices / screen resolutions. In fact, I suggested it to Tableau with this idea: http://community.tableau.com/ideas/2566

  4. Victoria says:

    Hi Joshua,

    You’re blog is awesome! It’s given me an entirely different perspective on Tableau — from just a cool data tool, to a real paradigm shift.

    Have you considered creating an online course? I would love to talk to you about potentially teaching on Udemy, and reaching 6 million students. We don’t have any courses on Tableau 9.0 yet.


  5. Sagar Kapoor says:

    Sorry for late reply.
    Thanks a lot for the awesome experience to review the Tableau learning book .I have gained a lot from reviewing the book.
    Looking forward for more engagements with you in future.


  6. JJ says:

    Following were the comment and a sample workbook posted.

    “How about a single axis, with what looks like three mark types, making use of the Path and Detail shelves and the Line mark type:

    I would very much like to learn the techniques, and I am a relatively new at Tableau.

    Would it be possible to show me step by step?


    • Joshua Milligan says:


      The sample workbook you shared is Joe Mako’s (the “original” Zen Master!) I had to download it and tear it apart to understand what he was doing. Basically he is demonstrating that with a knowledge of how Tableau works (the Path shelf, the shape of data, the number of marks, etc…) you can accomplish most anything you want to in Tableau. In this case, he changed the visualization type between a line chart, bar graph, and dots all within a single view. Typically, I would have approached this with a sheet swapping technique to swap out different views based on the parameter selection. For me, a sheet swapping approach is more approachable as a solution (and doesn’t require a custom SQL to get extra marks for the bar chart) but Joe’s demonstration is elegant and outstanding because it gives an opportunity to see how Tableau really works and how you can work with it.

  7. J Bailey says:

    I upgraded this week from Tableau 9.2.1 to 9.3. Any worksheet where I was using Parameters and Column / Row grand totals were completely messed up. When I turned off Column / Row grand totals the problem went away. The problem is, I need the column / row grand totals. Has anyone else experienced this problem

  8. John Weinshel says:

    In the last example in Learning Tableau’s section on data densification, ‘Generators, Operating on a Given Date’, you have added a First()==0 filter. I can’t figure out how. There is no field named that, or that uses any calculation like that. I cannot find a way to just add a filter. Really stuck, and would appreciate help.

    • Joshua Milligan says:


      I believe that is an ad-hoc calculation. So, I likely created it by double clicking in the blank area on the Marks card and then just typed FIRST() == 0. Then I moved it to the filters. You can create ad-hoc calculations on Marks, Rows, or Columns and then move them around like you would any other field. Hope that helps!

  9. Jen Hilburn says:

    In the book, you use a hospital database. I’d love to play around with that data. Is there any way to access that or a similar dataset?

  10. Thad Limer says:

    Have you ever used Tableau to run a stored procedure on a sql server to run a test on linked servers and returned a value to tableau?

    • Joshua Milligan says:

      I can’t say I’ve specifically done that. I have used stored procedures with Tableau with good success. One approach to do what you indicated would be to use the Initial SQL option for the connection to trigger the stored procedure and store the value in a table / temp table and use that as part of your connection definition. You can also use stored procedures that return tables in the data connection pane – so the test result could be stored in one of the columns of that table. Hope that helps!

  11. A Pillai says:

    I am a .net/Oracle developer trying to step foot into the Tableau world. I started off with your book and wanted to thank you for a wonderful resource. I loved the fact that you had pre-setup workbooks for each chapter, so that the reader could follow along as you read – that was clearly the highlight!
    As a next step, I started picking dashboards from Tableau Public in an attempt to deconstruct and learn. That hasn’t been very fruitful. I am looking for hands on exercises to practice and learn. Would you have any other suggestions? What are some other ways to improve your viz skills? Thank you!

    • Joshua Milligan says:

      A Pillai,
      Tableau has a great set of training videos, but I’m not sure there’s any hands-on material to go with it. I would recommend #MakeoverMonday and #WorkoutWednesday for some exercises – not as cut-and-dry because there’s no “right” answer – but that’s real-world! Hope that helps!

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