The Viz that Almost Wasn't

From Unpublished to Viz of the Day

Posted by David Velleca on November 4, 2018

Viz of the Day!

On Friday, November 2, I received a notification on my phone that I’d been tagged in a tweet by Tableau Public. I tapped on the alert and was super excited to see that my viz looking at the most common last names in the United States had been selected as the Viz of the Day. In addition to my excitement, I also had a bit of a “Wow, I can’t believe they chose that" moment.

On Monday when I created the viz, I published it to Public as a work in progress, unsatisfied with where I was with the view. I loved my idea to stack the thirds of the hexagon in an ordered fashion to show the 1st, 2nd and 3rd most common last names by state, but had a few hang-ups. First, I really dislike pie charts (just ask the folks I work with), and was worried that the divided hexagon would lead people to look at the size of the pieces of the hexagon as indicating a value. Secondly, the colors. Wow, there are 18 colors. That’s a lot – way more than my typical viz. I even struggled to come up with an 18 color palette that wasn’t too extreme.

So there I was, with a work in progress published, ready to hide the viz until I could work on it to the point where I was 100% happy with it. Then 2 things happened. When I went to open my viz from Tableau Public, I noticed that it had one favorite – maybe I was missing something about the viz. Also, I thought back to Fanalytics and Vince Baumel’s talk – “Done is Better than Perfect." Vince mentioned that he is a perfectionist, and sometimes would avoid publishing a viz because it was never perfect. At one point, he asked for a show of hands of people that had “unfinished vizzes" that were never published. The response was overwhelming – in addition to myself, almost everyone in the room raised their hand.

The really crazy thing was that among those people that raised their hands were several Zen Masters, and people that I look to in the community for their excellence in Tableau. Looking at my desktop right now, there are 4 Tableau workbooks with either a “WIP" or “Starter" tag in the filename (and that doesn’t include the ones I’ve deleted). Long story short, this is the moment that it clicked – maybe Vince was 100% correct. Done is better than perfect, and development (even for fun) can be an iterative process. With that, this “viz that almost wasn’t" got a new lease on life.

I did change the workbook title from what I originally published and cleaned up my tooltips, but I let that be it. I put it out there on Twitter, and when I woke up in the morning, found several positive comments. As with many things, we’re often our own worst critics, and this was definitely one of those cases. It turns out that I’m really glad that I thought back to Vince’s talk and took a chance on this viz. I think I’ll be publishing more of those vizzes that aren’t 100% perfect.

The "finished" product is below...