Why Tableau Public?

Beyond the tool...

Posted by David Velleca on January 20, 2019

100 Tableau Public Vizzes - Why?!?

On Thursday of this week, I published my 100th (visible) Tableau Public visualization. Over the course of creating these vizzes, I’m sure I’ve invested well over 300 hours of effort. That leads to the question of why – “Why Tableau Public?”

The morning after publishing my 100th viz, I was scheduled to present at a corporate Tableau User Group about Tableau Public. I’d originally planned to focus mainly on what Tableau Public was, with a small focus on the why. Reaching the century mark made me reevaluate and shift the focus a bit more heavily to the why. Unfortunately, I had very little time to modify my presentation, but was still able to cover most of my points. I’ll try to recap those, and add to what I wasn’t able to discuss here. The Tableau workbook I presented is embeded at the bottom of the post, or click here to view it!


Even after deciding that I wanted to put more focus on the why, I think that to drive my point home, it is important to have a good grasp on the what. Tableau Public really is what you make of it, but I tend to break it down into three basic parts – the tool, the community and a portfolio.

The Tool

Tableau Public is a free version of Tableau Desktop. Sure, it doesn’t have all of the data connections and only allows saving to Tableau Public online, but it’s free! Plus, if you have your own Hadoop Data Lake or SQL Server instance that you want to connect to, you should probably go ahead and set up a Tableau Server to sit alongside those.

The Community

One of the big perks of using Tableau Public is the ability to engage with the community. I really appreciate that the community is so diverse: made up of individuals of all skill levels, different industries and different professional backgrounds. Tableau’s focus on making self-service analytics available to all has pushed this diversity, and the community is healthier because of it. Regardless of the background, I think it’s safe to say that all of the users are working towards the same end goal – improving their data visualization skills. More on the community in the Why section below…

An Online Portfolio

Professionals in many creative fields maintain a portfolio of their work. While this could potentially be difficult for individuals working with proprietary data, the combination of Tableau Public and the wealth of data readily available on the internet makes that issue moot. Note that your mileage here may vary, but investing in diverse subject matter and varied visualization types will likely provide the most benefit.


Now that we’ve got the what covered, let’s focus on the why. For me, there’s a three part answer.

Practice Makes Perfect

This old adage definitely applies to Tableau. Always get caught out by level of detail calculations, confused by ‘calculate by’ on table calcs or can’t get that Gannt chart to look just right? If you only try to tackle these when you absolutely need them, you’re more likely to end up frustrated than an expert in the concept. Instead, take advantage of Tableau Public and a dataset that you enjoy to get past those hurdles. You’re more apt to learn something when you identify with and enjoy the material.

Unfortunately, ineffective viz types (crosstabs, pie charts, etc.) are pervasive across the corporate landscape. Because of this, some individuals don’t have the time in the work day to explore different viz types. However, using Tableau Public to work on a personal project where you explore other types of visualizations could pay dividends at work. Explore how different vizzes may more effectively tell your data story, then share that with your colleagues. Get people excited about your Tableau Public vizzes and it may pave the way for you to implement some of what you’ve learned into your work.

If you look at my Tableau Public profile, there are several vizzes that would fall into the “non-standard” category. My favorite of these is the graphing calculator viz below where I explored parametric equations. I’ve still not found the right time to use a Fibonacci Spiral at work, but I’d argue that I’ve still benefitted from creating that viz. Creating the calculations for this viz in particular gave me exposure to data densification, calculation logic and trigonmetric functions (it had been a really long time…). The point here is that while the viz might not be transferrable, the skills you gain creating the viz and the calculations could be.

The Community

I love how open the Tableau Community is. Many times, I’ve reached out to Zen Masters, Tableau Ambassadors and everyday users regarding questions I had or about how they did something in the tool. Every time, the response was incredible. From a thorough explanation of how a viz was created, to ideas on how to tackle a particular problem I was having, the response has always been helpful. I also appreciate that I can count on constructive feedback from the community.

Last point on the community – as with most things, “you get what you give” – meaning that whatever effort you put in to becoming a part of the community will likely be proportional to the benefit that you receive. If you’re only using the community as a means to self-promote, you’ll likely miss out on some of the bigger benefits. However, when you take the time to get involved in thoughtful conversation, or sharing what you’ve learned, you’re more likely to reap additional benefits.

Challenge Yourself

If you’re in one of those ineffective viz situations I mentioned above, take the opportunity to push yourself to the next level. Publish to Tableau Public on your own schedule, whether your take a month or a couple days to create your viz, you’re still going to reap the benefits of Public. The key here is being engaged.

Why not try something new and do a bit of experimentation. Even if you’re viz doesn’t turn out exactly how you planned, maybe you’ve learned something or maybe you’ve stumbled across something even better. There’s no penalty for a viz that doesn’t work out – on the contrary, it might just give you that opportunity to work more closely with someone in the community.


Here are some pretty simple, straight forward directions – it doesn’t get much easier than this…

  1. Download the tool – https://public.tableau.com
  2. Find some interesting data – not sure where to start? Check out some of these social dataviz projects:
  3. Publish your first viz – keep in mind that “done is better than perfect.” Get your viz out there and start leveraging the community for feedback.
  4. Let everyone know about your viz! Show your work to your colleagues, share with your professional network on LinkedIn, or get involved with the Tableau #DataFam on Twitter.
  5. Build your network. Don’t be shy – connect via social media!
  6. Repeat steps 2 through 5!

Do it in (Tableau) Public

The presentation was really well received. Similar to the diverse Tableau Public community, the audience was comprised of folks from the business and IT, and I could definitely tell that I’d gotten people interested in what Tableau Public really is, and why it is worth leveraging.