Welcome to a solo episode! In this special episode of the podcast, I talk about the recen Tableau Customer conference in San Diego, which drew over 9,000 participants. I reflect on various aspects of the conference, including its diverse sessions that ranged from showcasing new Tableau features and case studies to hands-on workshops and discussions on data visualization beyond Tableau. I was a presenter at TC and presented my work on the Urban Institute’s Do No Harm Project.

My review of the conference focuses just on the positives of the conference—the upcoming features in Tableau, such as allowing Tableau Public users to save work their locally, as well as some thoughts on why I—who is not a huge Tableau user—actually attends the conference. I also discuss a few of the sessions I attended, including hands-on sessions and games in Tableau.

Topics Discussed

  • Conference Overview: A recap of the Tableau Conference, highlighting its scale with over 9,000 participants and the variety of sessions that catered to both seasoned data analysts and newcomers to the field.
  • Tableau’s New Features. Significant updates to Tableau, including the ability for Tableau Public users to save work locally – a feature that potentially redefines the need for Tableau Desktop licenses. I also talk about the introduction of customizable themes, Google Fonts integration, VIS Extensions, and the leaps in AI and real-time data integration within Tableau.
  • Community and Networking: I reflect on the value of the community that Tableau fosters, especially through networking opportunities that are more crucial than ever in the post-pandemic era.


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00:02 – 00:04

Welcome back to the PolicyViz Podcast.

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I’m your host, Jon Schwabish.

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On this week’s episode of the show, you get a short episode and you get it just with me. That’s right.

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I am back from the Tableau conference in San Diego just a few weeks ago, and I thought I would

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take a few minutes to record a short episode of just myself with some reflections on the conference.

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Now if you’ve never been to the Tableau conference before, it is pretty tremendous.

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There were over 9,000 people at this year’s conference.

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I have been I think this is my 3rd or 4th time attending. It’s a great time.

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It’s really interesting, obviously, especially if you’re immersed in the Tableau community,

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of which I would say I’m not that deep in the Tableau community.

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I do use Tableau as one of my, tools to create visualizations, but I wouldn’t say I’m super

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deep or super experienced with the tool and of course when you get to the Tableau conference

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you have lots of people who are very enthusiastic about using Tableau and extending it and pushing

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the boundaries of what it can do and how it’s used.

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I wouldn’t say I go that far in my use of Tableau, but I I do enjoy the conference.

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I do enjoy seeing old friends and and making new friends.

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And so I thought I would take just just a bit of time out of your podcast listening to share

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some observations and reflections on the conference.

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Now I’m not going to talk about some of the negative pieces.

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This is just gonna be a positive podcast episode.

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There are some things that I would love to change about the conference or about how this thing

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works or that thing works.

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But I will say, overall, it’s just a great conference.

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And and kudos to, the event managers and coordinators, at Salesforce and Tableau who put it together.

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It really is just a fantastic experience, especially when it’s a tech conference and it’s, you

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know, not a music festival, although sometimes it does feel like that.

01:52 – 01:54

So I wanna talk about just, a few things.

01:54 – 01:58

So first off Jon the features, the new features of Tableau.

01:58 – 02:04

So if you’ve never been to the Tableau conference, the basically, the way it works is there’s a number.

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And when I say a number, I mean, like, hundreds of concurrent sessions.

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And the concurrent sessions run they I think there are 3 of them.

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There’s a 20 minute session, a 40 minute session, I think, a 90 minute session.

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And so there’s all these sessions going on concurrently, and it can be kind of overwhelming

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to figure out where you wanna spend your time because you have some sessions that are focused

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on Tableau features and new things that are coming out or things that people have built.

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There’s also case studies of how people and organizations are using Tableau in their work.

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And then there’s also the hands on workshops where you are actually working in Tableau.

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And and typically, although not always typically, this is an employee from Salesforce or Tableau

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giving the presentation and doing the tutorial.

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And so they might be teaching things like how to add accessibility into your dashboard, so just

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one of the, hands on sessions that I attended.

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Or they might be teaching you how to use, use actions or use filters or use parameters, and

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you’re actually working in, in the tool itself.

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And then there’s your sort of, other presentations, that are not necessarily focused on Tableau

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specifically, but on the broader ecosystem of data or data visualization, sort of more broadly.

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And that’s sort of where I’ve always presented at Tableau, this year, this this at this, conference,

03:23 – 03:30

I presented my work on the Urban Institute to do no harm guide around, sexual orientation and gender identity data.

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That work, that do no harm guide, project, it was funded by the Tableau Foundation, which which

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now unfortunately no longer exists, once Salesforce completed the the, the purchase of of Tableau.

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But I I did a session I did a 40 minute session on my research on, on those types of data.

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So you have all these concurrent sessions going on, and then they also have sort of the flagship keynote address.

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And the keynote address, this year was in a huge, room at the San Diego conference, conference center.

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Last year, it was in, Vegas at an arena.

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So you’ve got, you know, all 9, 10000 people in this single room.

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And you have the leaders of Salesforce and Tableau giving the talk.

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So you have the CEO of of Tableau.

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You have, the heads of different departments coming in and talking about different features and different things.

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And then what I think is kind of the most exciting part for those of us who are in the weeds

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of data and data vis and and working in the tools is what they call devs on stage.

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And devs on stage are the Tableau developers who come out and 1 by 1 sort of walk you through

04:33 – 04:36

some of the new features that are out in Tableau.

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And so that’s a pretty exciting part for those of us who are, you know, working in the tool,

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especially those who are, you know, really deep into Tableau, but also for those of us like

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myself who wanna see, you know, what the new things are.

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So from my count, there are lots of different things that they focused on.

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But from my count, there are there are kind of 3 or 4 things that I think are gonna be important.

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I don’t know about game changing, but they’re gonna be important for your average Tableau user.

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They did focus a lot as one would expect, on artificial intelligence and how AI is being used

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in Tableau and the suite of tools.

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I’m not gonna talk about that.

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I mean, I’m sure there’s lots of stuff going on behind the scenes.

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But the things that were that to me really stood out was first Jon Tableau Public.

05:23 – 05:27

You’re now gonna be able to save your workbooks and your dashboards locally.

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I mean, that is a huge a huge change for Tableau. Right?

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I mean, one of the things I’ve always told people about Tableau is you don’t have to buy it.

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You can always go get Tableau Public, but when you save your work, it saves up to their servers.

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It saves up to the cloud.

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So you never wanna use administrative data or private data.

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You might not even want to use draft data.

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You know, you want to be careful because you don’t get to hold that work the way you do when

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you use a tool like Tableau Desktop.

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But now with Tableau Public enabling you to save locally onto your machine, it’s almost the

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same thing as Tableau Desktop.

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And and what is curious to me, and I’m I’m not exactly sure how this is gonna gonna work out,

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is why would someone now purchase a license to Tableau Desktop?

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What is the value of making that purchase, which, by the way, it’s not a cheap tool, when you could use Tableau Public?

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And I’m sure there are some aspects of Tableau Desktop and Cloud and

06:28 – 06:28


06:33 – 06:37

you know, dashboard or workbook that you’re especially if you’re using it in your own company,

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if you’re using it to better understand your data with your colleagues or your manager or your

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team, maybe Tableau public is gonna be sufficient for those use cases.

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So I think that’s a that’s a big that’s a big, big change.

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And, it’ll be interesting to see, I think, how that sort of evolves, over the next, you know, year or 6 months.

06:55 – 07:01

There are, sort of another change, another, added feature, I’m gonna group these together, was

07:01 – 07:07

they’re incorporating, customized themes, and customized Google Fonts into Tableau.

07:07 – 07:10

Now I’m gonna group those together because they’re sort of that style aesthetic thing.

07:11 – 07:17

From my perspective, this has been a long time coming, the fact that, you know, not all fonts

07:17 – 07:25

sort of load, the same way on the Tableau website or when embedded as they do on Tableau Desktop on your website.

07:27 – 07:29

Now they will be pulling from Google Jon, I believe.

07:29 – 07:33

I mean, that’s that’s a huge change as well. That’ll allow more customization.

07:33 – 07:38

And, obviously, themes is a big thing where you can create your customized theme for your team or your organization.

07:38 – 07:40

I mean, that that’s also a big one.

07:40 – 07:46

I’m sure lots of people have worked around the fact that there isn’t sort of a built in theme

07:46 – 07:51

already, where you, you know, sort of create a template for your Tableau dashboards.

07:51 – 07:57

But that you could have one already sort of built into the tool the way you can and lots of

07:57 – 08:03

other tools, you know, even Excel and and Data, and Flourish and and lots of other tools, especially

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R is a great example of building a theme that you just load.

08:07 – 08:14

This seems like a long time coming, and I think it’ll be a good, addition to the tool going forward. Okay.

08:15 – 08:20

Another big one, big announcement at the Tableau conference was, VIS Extensions.

08:21 – 08:26

And VIS Extensions are essentially like Microsoft Office add ins. Right?

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So if you for example, the one that I have in in my Microsoft package is the noun project.

08:30 – 08:36

If you buy an annual subscription to the noun project, so if you like icons, highly recommend the noun project.

08:36 – 08:43

If you buy the annual subscription, which I do, and it’s, like, $40 for the year, unlimited icons, totally worth it.

08:43 – 08:48

If you buy the subscription, you can buy a little add in for Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint,

08:48 – 08:53

where the tool is just integrated right into into those two tools.

08:53 – 09:00

And so what these viz extensions are going to be as as it appears at least, is that these are

09:00 – 09:07

third party created apps, essentially, that will enable you to extend the capabilities of Tableau.

09:07 – 09:13

And so one of the great ones that I saw is from Tristan Guillivan over at, La Data.

09:14 – 09:19

If if you don’t know about Tristan’s work, I did interview him, several months ago about some

09:19 – 09:24

of the online Tableau work he’s been doing where you could, you know, create a network diagram

09:24 – 09:26

on his site and then download the Tableau workbook.

09:27 – 09:30

That’s gonna be built directly now into Tableau.

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And so I think that’s that’s gonna be amazing.

09:32 – 09:36

I didn’t see any discussion, and it probably wasn’t the right forum for it.

09:36 – 09:42

But I didn’t see any discussion of how they are going to vet those extensions, who’s gonna be

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allowed to enter that marketplace, how payment works on those.

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So that’ll be kind of interesting to see how that shakes out.

09:49 – 09:54

But at least with Tristan’s work, I haven’t explored the other extensions.

09:54 – 09:59

My my understanding right now is that there are 3 companies, that have extensions in the Tableau tool.

09:59 – 10:05

At least in Tristan’s work, he’s data, an extension that’ll enable you to create, things like

10:05 – 10:09

a Sankey diagram and a network diagram directly into Tableau.

10:09 – 10:14

And so you’ll just load your data in the way you create any Tableau dashboard, and it’ll just

10:14 – 10:15

be built in in that Viz extension.

10:15 – 10:20

You just sort of click the button and you’ll get yourself a network diagram, which is a great,

10:20 – 10:21

great addition to the tool.

10:21 – 10:26

I think expands the capabilities, obviously, of what you can do in Tableau and makes in such

10:26 – 10:31

a way that you don’t have to, you know, for example, go to Tristan’s site, do something there,

10:31 – 10:33

download it, and and move it into Tableau.

10:33 – 10:38

It’ll built be built directly into into that one tool, which I that that I think is a great, addition.

10:38 – 10:45

So for me, those are the 3 big things that I saw, the, ability to download and and use Tableau

10:45 – 10:51

Public on your desktop, on your site, or Jon your computer locally, the addition of of new themes

10:51 – 10:53

and integrated fonts, on the web.

10:53 – 10:54

I think those are that’s big.

10:54 – 10:59

And then I think this big this extensions, thing is going to also be big because it’s gonna

10:59 – 11:02

enable us to create different types of visualizations.

11:03 – 11:05

I’m sure over time, there’ll be more templates.

11:05 – 11:10

There’ll be other things that’ll be built in that, you know, will enable you to to put things right into Tableau.

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And I can think of some right off the top of my head.

11:12 – 11:16

And if I knew how to build them, I would go ahead and do it, but but I’ll I’ll wait for others

11:16 – 11:19

who who know what they’re doing, before I even bother.

11:20 – 11:25

So so that was the one thing, that I wanna talk about, what, the big additions.

11:25 – 11:31

The second thing I wanna talk about was, the integration of Tableaupulse and, AI into the tool.

11:31 – 11:38

So Tableaupulse, is, kind of a real time, I’m gonna get the definition run here, but I would

11:38 – 11:39

encourage you to check it out.

11:39 – 11:42

And I’ll put the links to the show notes, on on the PolicyViz this site.

11:42 – 11:46

But Tableaupulse really is enabling you to do sort of like real time metrics.

11:46 – 11:52

And the tutorial that I sat through, the the sort of talk that I sat through was integrating

11:52 – 11:53

Tableau Pulse directly into Slack.

11:53 – 11:55

And this was really interesting. Right?

11:55 – 11:57

You could create a little visualization.

11:57 – 12:02

You can think about it like a little sparkline or a little band or a little visualization that

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integrates right into your Slack.

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And it might be pulling in, for example, real time web web metrics, on your site.

12:09 – 12:12

And so that’s pulling in right into your teams, right into your Slack workspace.

12:13 – 12:20

And then what’s also really cool is that they have their, Einstein, artificial intelligence

12:20 – 12:27

tool that is prompting you, prompting the user with questions to ask, and then it’s providing those answers.

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And I think that that, of course, is really I think at the moment where I’ve seen a lot of use

12:32 – 12:37

of of of, ChatGPT and TextAI, which is, you know, asking these prompting questions.

12:38 – 12:42

You know, you sort of get the first level sort of basic questions, and then you can dive in even further.

12:42 – 12:48

And so that was a really interesting, tutorial, a really interesting talk that I that I sat through.

12:48 – 12:51

I would say personally for me, I don’t work with real time data.

12:51 – 12:57

So didn’t have a lot of I couldn’t see any a lot of, like, immediate payoff for my work or for for my teammates.

12:57 – 13:03

But, I could see certainly if you are in that world of tracking real time data, and real time

13:03 – 13:05

can be daily data, right, or or or weekly data.

13:06 – 13:12

The social sciences move a lot slower than than a lot of folks working in business and marketing and and web analytics.

13:13 – 13:16

But I could see that having a real benefit to those folks.

13:16 – 13:21

The third thing the last thing I Jon to talk about was a question I got, while out one night.

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And as I mentioned, I’m not a huge Tableau user, right?

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I dabble, I would say.

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And I’ve tried many things and I really do like the tool, but I don’t use it for everything

13:31 – 13:36

because a lot of my work doesn’t require interactivity, doesn’t require dashboarding, require

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sort of your your your more standard one off graphs.

13:40 – 13:44

But I do love really going to the conference because there’s there’s not a lot of data visualization

13:44 – 13:46

conferences now after the pandemic.

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We’ve sort of narrowed down into just a handful.

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And so I do get to see a lot of, great friends and and and chat and hang out for for a bit.

13:53 – 13:58

But someone did ask me while we’re out why for all those reasons I just mentioned, why do I

13:58 – 14:00

go to the Tableau conference?

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If I’m not a Tableau developer or if I’m not creating dashboards all the time, if I’m not creating

14:04 – 14:08

dashboards for clients, why am I attending the Tableau conference?

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What do I get out of it?

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And I think there’s a few reasons why I go. 1 is I like to see what’s going on with the tools.

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I like to see how they’re changing, how they’re adapting to new technologies.

14:19 – 14:21

I think AI is the the obvious one there.

14:21 – 14:26

And I’d like to see how they are changing the field and responding to customers’ needs.

14:26 – 14:31

I mean, I have a lot of, clients and and people who reach out to me to ask, you know, what are

14:31 – 14:33

the data visualization tools that I would recommend?

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And Tableau always comes up, but I always tell them, you know, you don’t have to pay the $1500

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or the $2,000 for a license.

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You can always get Tableau Public.

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But there’s this caveat because your data are saved up to the cloud.

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Now when it’s saved locally, that changes the calculus a little bit. Right?

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You want to create a dashboard?

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Tableau Public might be the right solution to you because, a, it’s free and, b, now you can save locally.

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So that that does change the calculus.

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So I like to see what’s going on in the field by attending a conference like Tableau.

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Again, obviously, I’ve done some work with Tableau as a the Tableau Foundation in the past,

15:08 – 15:13

And so, I think it’s important for me to sort of just stay, attached to the community.

15:14 – 15:20

And Tableau, and Salesforce as well have both been really supportive of the do no harm, equity

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work that I’ve been doing at the Urban Institute over the last 3 years.

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And so I think it’s to try, at least, to apply, to speak at the conference because I I I find

15:29 – 15:34

or I think that this content that I’ve been working on is is really important for those of us

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working in the in these different, parts of the data ecosystem, whether it be, collecting data,

15:41 – 15:45

analyzing data, and or visualizing or communicating data.

15:45 – 15:49

So, and then, of course, the third thing, as I mentioned, is I like seeing people.

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I like seeing people I haven’t seen, especially after the pandemic.

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I haven’t seen them in a long time.

15:53 – 15:57

It’s great to connect and see them and hear what’s going on in different sectors. Right?

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You know, I I think with all as all of us do, we sort of get stuck in our little bubble.

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And when I say bubble, I don’t mean a political bubble.

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I mean our work bubble. Right?

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I’m working in the social sciences.

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The data move more slowly than in marketing or in the business sectors.

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And so I do like to see and hear how people are using it in other areas.

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I attended a really interesting session on building games in Tableau.

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I talked to a bunch of people working in Tableau for education.

16:26 – 16:31

And so there’s a lot of use cases in Tableau, and and I think there’s obviously a conversation

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to have with folks about whether Tableau is the right solution for some of their needs and some of their tasks.

16:38 – 16:43

But having these conversations is how we help determine what’s the best way and the best technology

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to do these different data visualization and these data communication tasks.

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And I think you learn a lot by having these conversations in person.

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And as I said, we’ve lost since the pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of our data visualization conferences.

16:57 – 17:04

Molofier Infographics Summit is is done. Visualize This I’m sorry.

17:04 – 17:06

The Visualize conference is is gone.

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That that hasn’t come back.

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Info Plus is every other year.

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So, the the Tapestry conference that that Tableau used to run is isn’t happening anymore.

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So there are a lot of, conferences that are sort of gone by the wayside, which is which is,

17:21 – 17:26

you know, part of what’s great about the data visualization field is, you know, being part of

17:26 – 17:28

that community and connecting with folks.

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So to that question of why I go, even though I’m not a, you know, kind of hardcore Tableau user

17:35 – 17:42

because I do use a lot of tools, in my work, I think it’s it’s worth, being in an environment

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to see how different people in different sectors, in different areas of the world are using

17:47 – 17:48

these tools in different use cases.

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And I think it’s just a a value to have and to connect with folks and to network with folks.

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So this is just a short podcast for the week.

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Just gonna slip it right in there between, different, a different podcast on the regular cadence.

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I hope you found this interesting.

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I’m gonna put links to a bunch of the things that I talked about, including the Tableau conference

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where you can go and check out some of the videos from some of the talks presented.

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And, of course, if you’d like to check out, the do no harm guide work that I’ve been doing,

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I’ll put a link there as well and would encourage you to check it out.

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Before you go, if you could just take a minute, rate or review the show on your favorite podcast

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provider, just click that little 5 star button. We’d really appreciate it.

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Really helps me find other guests, broaden the reach a little bit of the show.

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So that’s all I’ve got. Until next time.

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This has been the PolicyViz Podcast.

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Thanks so much for listening.