Wisdom Tree – Curtis Harris

A new section to bring in light, thoughts of the Tableau experts who are an inspiration to all of us.The answers will be helpful to everyone aspiring to learn more and more in the Tableau world.Every week, we shall bring in such one personality who would share their words to the readers and motivate them to dive in deeper in this limitless ocean of knowledge and fun.

1. For how long have you been using tableau?

 Curtis – Almost 4 years to the day! I applied for a Tableau student license on 2/18/2013 and have been using Tableau almost daily ever since.

2. What is one thing in tableau that you wish every other BI tool in the market should have ?

Curtis – Every BI tool should have a “Show Me” equivalent. Using the Show Me card helped me understand how Tableau likes to work with data and accelerated my learning curve with the software. This feature is typically one of the first items I show to a new developer.

3.Tell us one feature of Tableau that you would wish was long removed ?

Curtis – Removed or improved? I can’t really think of anything that needs to hit the chopping block, but one item that I have to train on almost daily is the 6 column default setting for straight tables. I’m certain that Tableau has this restriction in place to promote visualizing data over displaying text, but in a business setting, it can be hard to break the habit.

4. What features of Tableau do you often use in your office work?

Curtis –I never go a day without using parameters for dimension/measure/sheet swapping. We have to pack a lot of elements and value into our dashboards, and having a high level of understanding when it comes to parameters is absolutely necessary.

5.Makeover Monday: Election-Data Edition work where you did not focus on the obvious data to tell a great story but found an intriguing story to win the hearts of thousands of viewers. How important is it for the readers to participate in the events like Makeover Monday to keep learning?

Curtis –Thank you – that was definitely a fun week to try something different with my viz. Since we don’t always get to be as creative in the workplace, Makeover Monday is a great way to build out your creative methods and find ways to slowly integrate them into your professional work. I can think of a handful of instances where I’ve taken a Makeover Monday workbook and reversed engineered it for application in a real world project. On that note, one doesn’t have to participate in Makeover Monday to reap the spoils. Simply following authors that produce amazing content week in and week out will make you a better Tableau developer in the long run.

6. Your #IronViz WikiBirths has a whopping – 194,420 views so far!! That’s a huge number. How does that make you feel?

Curtis –That viz accounts for nearly half of my total Tableau Public views, and it amazes me every time I see it! To this day, I have no idea where all of the views came from, as I have never been able to track down where it got picked up! In all honesty, there are a lot of things I would change about that viz if I recreated it today. My color principles weren’t 100% back then and it definitely shows by how much conflicting orange you’ll see in that viz. Ultimately, I think the viz is less about color and more about the reader. Many of the top vizzes on Tableau Public put the reader in the story, and I think my WikiBirths viz hit the mark in that category.

7.Your work – ‘The effect of Uber, Lyft on taxi ridership’ with the usage of Device Designer to make it Viz mobile-friendly as well, reigned supreme at Iron Viz 2016! Tell us about your experience there and how were your 20 minutes on the stage.

Curtis –The whole Iron Viz experience is still surreal to me. Honestly, I was simply thrilled to be there and didn’t think I had a good shot at winning, but my sous vizzer Zane was convinced that the viz/story combination was going to be hard to beat. The 20 minutes on stage are blurry in my memory, but the backstage environment is still clear… I’ll never forget having makeup put on for the first time in my life!I think the most surprising part of the event was the late scratch of Elissa Fink and the addition of Chris Stolte and Tom Walker to the judges panel. A less known fact about my viz was that it was catered to the judges that I expected to see, with Elissa out on PR business, my nerves skyrocketed because I didn’t prepare for Chris and Tom.

8. You have worked extensively on Tableau Server in your previous company – selecthealth and HealthCatalyst . For the readers who are looking to step into working with Server in the future, how has the Tableau server treated you so far?

Curtis – My Server experience is nowhere near my Desktop experience, but when I do get the opportunity to test and configure Tableau Server, I really enjoy it. First of all, if you are planning on getting into Server, keep this guide handy as it will be your lifeline. No two companies are the same, but if you can get a test server spun up, your experience will be much more enjoyable. I have a small VM ready to install the latest Beta on the day it releases. Knowing what features are coming up, and how they will impact your Server users is key. Having the test server is invaluable to me, my organization, and our future clients.

9.Your blog – is really impressive. I spent a lot of time on it analyzing how much I still have to learn. You started the blog in September 2014. How much are you able to contribute to it, given your busy schedule and how much has the blog grown since then?

Curtis – Not as much time as I’d like, that’s for sure. I’ve found myself with a bit of writer’s block for my blog lately, as many others are producing stellar content every single day. I’m hoping to use my blog to share some of my knowledge on the more technical side of Tableau, things like: server administration, security, and data modeling for Tableau. Ideally, I would like to post something on my blog 1-2 times per month, but I just don’t have as much free time anymore.

10. Lastly, kindly share some tips for our aspiring Iron Viz Champions.

Curtis – If you haven’t already, check out the blog post I wrote on this exact topic at: Shine, the 2015 winner, wrote a very similar post and he has some great tips as well: Out of all 20 tips listed in the blogs I mentioned, I think there are a few that are especially key.

  • First of all… you need to win a feeder contest, which is arguably the most difficult step of all. To win a feeder, you need to product a “better” viz than at least 40 other people (probably more like 50-60 this year). I can safely say that I spent at least 20-40 hours on each of my three feeder entries last year. Every detail matters here… you aren’t going to throw something together in a day and get on the Iron Viz stage.
  • Second… building relationships in the Tableau community is a must! It is commonly said that the winner of the main contest is more or less decided by the crowd vote. I interacted with a lot of people in 2015, and many of those interactions turned into a vote.
  • Third… build relationships with the crowd. I understand that building relationships with 15,000 people in your short time on stage is extremely difficult, but it is also extremely necessary. When I had time to scroll through my voting hashtag, most of the comments I read from people I didn’t know were in relation to the story I told on stage. Everyone in the room has one thing in common… we are all human. Bringing a human element into my story and building emotion with the crowd got me there in the end. Pay attention to detail, make some friends, and nail your story… that is how I won Iron Viz.



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