Groceries made easy using Google Sheets

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Have you ever wanted to help out more around the house, but not have it take up a lot of your time or metal load? If so, then keep reading… I’ll give a bit of context below, but if you want the Google Sheets template immediately…

Context: doing groceries sucks…

… but it doesn’t have to. My wife and I are going to be first time parents soon and I wanted to help more around the house. One of the things we agreed that I could take over was the weekly grocery ordering. She uses her memory to remember every item that needs to be ordered and the criteria for reordering them.

Unfortunately my memory is terrible at that kind of thing and it would take a great amount of cognitive load to store and process that info. It sounds silly, but if you forget to order a critical item that is needed for a recipe that day, the disruption and relationship friction it can cause is not worth leaving things up to chance or an imperfect system (my memory).

Rather than use that as an excuse to not do the task, I took it upon myself to create a system that plays to my strengths and takes on the majority of the cognitive load I would normally take on. This is how I created the Google Sheet Inventory template – I no longer have to remember what items to look for and their varying criteria for reordering.

With the system, I can just focus on looking for the items, list the ones that need reordering and then reorder them. Nothing more, nothing less. The small time investment to set it up will save you a load of time and stress in the long run.

Google Sheet Inventory template

This template is designed to take the mental load of out your weekly shopping task. It can be used when shopping at a physical or online store, to ensure you do not miss any of the regular items you need for your home.

There is an initial first step you and your partner need to do when setting up your own version of the shopping list from this template. Then after that, you will just repeat the second step each week when you do the groceries.

Step 1 – “Program” the shopping list

This first step is a one-time setup; you will not need to do this step each week. On the first tab called (1) Stock take, you’ll need to fill out the list of items you want to check if you need to buy each week. It can take a little while to do, but it’s totally worth the time investment. If you look at it another way, you would need to do this from scratch, in your head, each week – that is a large amount of unnecessary cognitive load for you, which also has a high chance for human error e.g. missing items, ordering the wrong things etc. There are only 3 columns you need to fill out;

Creating your grocery inventory list for the first time
  1. Location
    • This helps you know where to roughly look for the item, so you don’t waste time trying to find it in another location
    • It is also handy to sort by this column, so you can focus your stock taking on one area at a time, instead of rushing back and forth to each area multiple times
      • e.g. fridge, freezer; bathroom, laundry, spice rack, cupboard etc.
  2. Name
    • The name of the item, so you know what to look for and order
    • If you like a specific brand, definitely include that here
    • You could also add a quantity if that’s useful
      • e.g. 8x apples, 1ltr tub, 200g etc.
  3. Notes
    • Typically this column would be used to state the criteria for reordering the item (as you may need to reorder items before they completely run out)
    • This is also a place to add additional details for this item if needed
      • e.g. reorder when 20% left, reorder when only 2 left, if out of stock at the store get red onions instead etc.

When your list is complete, in column D, copy or drag down the checkboxes so there is a checkbox next to every completed row.

I suggest you create this list together with your partner. This way you are both 100% clear on what needs to be ordered and when. If an item is missed, it can be easily fixed for next time either; by adding it to the stock list as a new row or by adjusting the criteria for when it needs to be reordered.

Minimising human error:
The other reason for an item being missed is human error i.e. you overlooked an item on the list. It’s ok, I did that a few times when I started to use this inventory template – you just need to figure out why you missed (or keep missing) an item, and then make it easy to mitigate that risk in the future. e.g. I kept missing the frozen vegetables we cut up and stored in the freezer as they all looked the same to me. Now we write what each item is on the freezer bags, so I can quickly see what each one is and not miss them.

Step 2 – Using the list each week

Check the items that need ordering that week

(1) Stock Take tab:
Now with the initial stock take list completed, this will form the basis for your weekly stock taking. Using your phone or iPad, open up the Google Sheets file, go to the (1) Stock Take tab and go around to each location you need to check. When you encounter an item you need to reorder, simply tap that item’s checkbox in column D.

By the end, you would have just focussed on checking every item you needed to and confidently know if you need to reorder it. This eliminates the cognitive load for you to remember every item in your house that needs reordering and also for you to remember what needs reordering that week. It sounds silly, but that mental load can add up, massively increasing the chances for making mistakes and taking up precious brain power you could use for more important things (and the time to fix the mistake).

Check off the items as you order them

(2) To Order list tab:
Now move over to the (2) To Order list tab. Using some spreadsheet wizardry, you will automatically have a finalised list of all of the items you need to order that week. Now when you are ordering the items, in store or online, you can tick those items off using the checkboxes in column C.

As you do, that item’s row will turn green to help you focus on what you still need to order (again, further reducing your mental load as the system takes it on).

If you can’t find a specific item(s), this list can help you work out what is outstanding to get for another time. For me, I order online, so I make a note of the items that were unavailable and go to the local store to pick them up whenever is convenient.

Once you are finished ordering, you just need to tidy up the lists for next week. Simply uncheck the checkboxes on the (2) To order list tab in column C and then do the same for the checked checkboxes on the (1) Stock take tab in column D. Once complete, every checkbox should be empty.

Summary

Once your list is set up, each week it should take you 20 mins max to do your stock take and make the order online. By building out this easy to use system, I have taken on a household task I usually hate doing, by letting the system take on all of the mental load that I normally would. You’re now supporting your partner that little bit more and removing a common point of relationship friction – all thanks to Google Sheets!

This free Google Sheets template system is pretty flexible and can be used in other situations, such as;

  • Student share houses
    • Where you can take turns buying the shared household items from the house funds
  • Small businesses
    • If you run a small business and don’t want to spend money on a high end inventory management system, this free system can help ensure you don’t run out of the stock you need to keep your business running
      • e.g. Cooking oil, first aid kits, nails, water etc.
  • Office supplies
    • If you’re responsible for keeping the stationary and printers stocked in your office, this system can take all of the pain out of it
    • There’s nothing worse that realising you need more printer ink, pens or paper when you’re in a critical situation that requires them

I hope you find this free Google Sheets inventory system useful and that it helps out a few relationships along the way. If it helps you out or if you found a way to improve it, let me know in the comments below or on social media.

Time Saver Tool v2.0

Have you ever discovered a way to speed up a process but cannot convince others to do it? Felt like you don’t have time to do the things you want to do? Wondered how much time you spend commuting or on the toilet each year? Then do I have a tool for you!

In this article you can use the Time Saver Tool and see some real time saving examples I have found with it. I’ll write a follow up post on how I made this using Tableau Public. Even though it looks simple, there is quite a lot of complexity behind the scenes to enhance the UX and data viz for the user. So be sure to follow me on social media to see when that post is live.

Time Saver Tool v2.0

The Time Saver Tool MkII is designed to make it super easy for you to do 2 things:

  1. Calculate how much time and money can be saved each year, if a task or process can be completed quicker.
  2. Demonstrate these time savings to other people, in order to persuade them to support the new quicker process.

All you need to do is click on the edit button to bring up the input menu. From there, go through and update each input e.g. how long it takes to complete the old task, how long to do the new task, how often it is done, how many people do the task etc.

When you are happy with the values you have entered, simply close the input menu to reveal the finished data visualization. It will clearly show how much total time and money is saved in one year.

You can then download the dashboard as an image using the handy Download Image button at the bottom. This makes it easy to share on you mobile device or by adding it to a presentation slide (it’s dimensions allow you to add additional text/insights on the Slide).

If you are having trouble interacting with the viz below on mobile, click here.

Quick tip: If the time savings are too great, change the Time Saved dimension in the input menu to make them easier for people to process e.g. instead of displaying a time saving of 1,500,000 minutes, why not change the Time Saved dimension to display 12.5 working years?

Real life examples

Below are some real life examples where I have used the Time Saver Calculator, to help me or others. This is one of the defining moments for me, when I realised how powerful and effective a good data driven narrative combined with clear data visualizations could be. It cuts through to my target audience with a quick and easy way to understand to the insights and speaks their language (time and/or money).

I also learnt that by getting your audience to help input the metrics, they are more bought into the outputs, as they went on this journey with you. Compared to you just showing the end results, which can often be met with scepticism or confusion as to how you got to those numbers.

No commute this year?

In 2020 most of us had to work from home due to the global pandemic, which isn’t ideal. But to find some silver lining from that, think about how much time you have saved on your commute.

If you reduce a 60 minute commute down to 0 minutes, each way each day, you would save 500 hours of your time each year. That’s a massive time saving!

That’s a large amount of time that you could spend exercising, more time with your family or friends, learning a new skill, focussing on that promotion etc. Anything other than sitting on your butt in a car or public transport killing time.

Typically when we stop working form home, to get this kind of time saving would most likely lead to moving closer to work and an increase in rent. But now you can weigh up if that additional cost is worth it, by comparing it to how much time you lose. Chances are, it’s probably worth it…

“Give me a week and I’ll give you a year…”

Automating a process

Back in an old analyst role in Australia, I built an reporting tool in Excel that automatically generated client campaign reports from a database, in a consistent and speedy manner, by only entering in a few campaign details.

The old way involved pulling data in an ad hoc fashion, waiting for it to download, formatting it, then reporting on it. The old way took about 15 minutes (on a good day), and you had about 40 campaigns a week to report on, which when added up represented a large amount of time to complete. The new automated tool took 2 minutes – effectively saving the team of 5 just over 270 working days a year – an entire headcount!

Thanks to my Time Saver Tool, I could effectively convince my boss to take a week to focus on building out the solution, as the time return on investment was clear: “…give me a week and I’ll give you a year…”

Finding the time to do something better

You can flip this dashboard in other interesting ways, to see how cutting down on one activity can free up your time to do something else that you’ve been wanting to do.

It’s hard to make extra time to do something, as we’re all busy and set in our schedules. But finding small amounts of extra time within your existing habits can prove super effective.

For example, I probably spend 60 minutes a day watching YouTube. If I cut that down by 10 minutes to 50 minutes a day, that would free up 58 hours a year. That’s enough time to read 7 books a year, all from a small change.

Is there something you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t found the time? Maybe this viz can help you see where you could find the time by cutting back little on some other things you do.

Fixing a slow watercooler

Back in a UK office that I worked in, we had a water cooler that dispensed water veeeery slowly, around 2 minutes for a decent sized glass. Ironically, whilst my mind wandered on one of these 2 minute stints, I wondered how much time the company wasted a year if all the employees were getting water.

I crunched the numbers in seconds using the Time Saver Tool and realised; that if we could speed up the water flow to be twice as fast, we’d save just over a 1.5 years worth of work hours. I was ballsy enough to send it to our sales director with a monetary value attached to this (remember, speak your audience’s language), and funnily enough within 2 days technicians arrived and fixed the water flow. You had to really hold onto your cup then, due to the pressure and speed the water would now blast out at!

I plan on updating this tool so it can show collective time losses when new inefficient processes are brought in. Just as saving 5 minutes here and there can add up to a large amount, the same can be said for the “it just takes 5 extra minutes” argument when a new inefficient process is introduced. You can technically do it now in the viz, but it’s not formatted to render negative time losses properly yet. When it is updated I’ll let everyone know – which is a great excuse for you to follow me on social media, to stay up to date on all of my content!

I hope you find this tool as useful as I have to help people see how small time savings can build up into massive time savings in a year. It will help others spend their saved time in more productive ways and also help demonstrate your impact if you are the one building the efficiencies. If this tool does help you out or if you have any suggestions to improve this, let me know on social media or in the comments below.

SG Tableau User Group Oct 2020

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The SG Tableau User Group just wrapped up it’s October virtual livestream event, which you can now watch on YouTube here. It was a great session that focussed on using Tableau to build clear and effective CVs and resumes. Below you will find a summary of the different sections covered along with their Livestream timestamps URLs in the title headers to make it easier for you to watch them.

Jia’s Tableau CV tips

Jia show us his Tableau Public CV and broke down how he made the main parts of it. He covered how to:

  • Structure the underlying data that feeds the Tableau CV
  • Make rounded bar charts
  • Show your career history with an innovative way using a semi-circle timeline
  • Use Custom Shapes to create clickable ‘contact me’ buttons for email, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
  • Think about the dimensions of your dashboard CV i.e. A4 for easy printing

It was clearly presented and had lots of cool techniques that can hopefully inspire people to make or improve their CVs using Tableau. He even shared his Tableau Public CV for you to download and backwards engineer the techniques used.

Sarah’s Tableau CV & tips

Sarah shared her Tableau Public CV too, which was clear, concise and had lots of user friendly functionality built in, so the reader could get the information they wanted when they needed it (as opposed to it all being present all at once, creating a lot of cognitive load). Sarah’s CV contained a few elements similar to Jia’s such as clickable custom shapes and A4 dimensions (great minds think alike, plus it’s great to see them both align on data viz best practice techniques!), but also covered how to:

  • Create a lollipop timeline chart to convey career history
    • That also factored in having multiple jobs within the same company to make the data easier to read and reduce the height of the chart
  • She also added a dashboard filter action to make extra information appear for each role when you click on it
    • Plus the clicked on role’s ‘node’ changes colour and changes shape size, using pre-attentive attributes to draw the readers eye to current selection (clever stuff!)
  • Improve the quality of the Tooltips beyond the defaults

It was a great demo and Sarah also shared her Tableau Public CV with everyone, so they can learn from it and use it in their CVs.

David’s Data Viz best practices + CV tips

I ran a session talking about some general data viz best practices that you can use to enhance your CV. These can be applied in any CV, including Tableau Public CVs. The focus was on understanding what the objective for a CV is, the context in which it sits and empathising with the audience who will read it (recruiters and hiring managers).

We briefly covered pre-attentive attributes (drawing the eye to key items) and Gestalt principles (subtly grouping items without lots of lines of visual clutter) to help you guide your audiences eye to the most important information on your CV for the role you are applying for.

Remember, recruiters and hiring managers have a lot of CVs to go through, with limited time. Help them help you, but making sure they see the information they need to make a hiring decision, and reduce the risk of your great experience and skills being lost in a “wall of text”. Find out more here about using Data Viz to enhance your CV or resume, along with a free template to get you started.

SG TUG Leadership nominations

With me stepping down as a co-lead of the SG TUG of 5+ years, the group is looking for another member for the leadership team. If you know of anyone or would like to apply, please submit nominations via this form they set up. It’s a great opportunity to increase your involvement and give back to the Tableau community. Personally, I learnt and grew a lot by being part of the SG TUG and got exposed to the many talented and awesome members of the community. So you should definitely consider applying.

Tableau Conference 2020

Lastly, Celine took everyone through the exciting line-up of content and guests for the 2020 Tableau Conference which will be held virtually this year. It was great to see how the event will be free to everyone and all of the content will be made for online consumption.

It’s also great to see them be considerate of EMEA and APAC audiences, with events that are during the friendly of their timezones (often with “global” US companies, you see a very US centric focus, especially with the timing of events that would occur in the early hours or late at night for non-US viewers).

Their speaker lineup is incredible with lots of celebrities, large clients and senior Tableau staff on hand to share their data stories and new upcoming features.

So be sure to register now, to access all of the great content they have lined up and start building out your schedule, to see what you want to see the most. I find it a bit confusing that 7 of the speakers are representing Einstein analytics, a completely different data visualisation tool that Salesforce owns… But maybe if I was Salesforce and purchased Tableau, I would want to cross sell as many of my products at every opportunity too :v

Summary

Having a good CV that represents your skills and experience is more important that ever. I’m glad the SG TUG dedicated this session to helping the community to develop their CVs and resumes more. You can watch the full livestream here and the slides that were covered are below.

Have you watched the livestream or used Tableau to create your CV? Let us know what you thought or share your CV in the comments below!

Find insights beyond the summary stats (w/ data viz)

In this video we will see how summary stats can be misleading and the importance of data viz to easily dig deeper into the numbers beneath them.

I teach data visualization to other analysts at my company, and Anscombe’s quartet is always a fun topic to cover. Often analysts (or their stakeholders), love dealing with headline and summary stats to make understanding insights easier. This is a perfectly valid approach, but as you can see with Anscombe’s quartet, sometimes great or misleading insights can be overlooked at the summary view. There is no better example than this than Anscombe’s quartet, who perfectly demonstrated how 4 wildly different sets of data can share near identical summary stats – which can only be easily seen when visualised in a graph (even in the ‘table of numbers’ format, it is hard for humans to see the patterns and trends in the data, and this example is a small data set too!).

Graphs are essential to good statistical analysis

Anscombe, F. J. (1973). “Graphs in Statistical Analysis”. American Statistician

I wanted to bring Anscombe’s quartet to life and do explaining it justice, so I put the effort into animating it into this video you are watching (going to watch) now. I hope it helps to spread the word of this small put powerful concept to more analysts and their audiences. With great tools such as Tableau, Data Studio, Excel and Sheets – there is no excuse for people to quickly go beyond the summary stats, visually, to see if there are any powerful or dangerous trends in their data sets.

Click to explore the viz for yourself
Click here to explore the viz for yourself

I also wanted to showcase Alberto Cairo’s iteration on this concept, with his Datasaurus Dozen data set. Showing again, show different data sets can share near identical summary stats, but when graphed are extremely visually different – to the point he draws various distinct shapes and even a “Datasaurus” with his data sets. On a side note, it was also nice to cheekily draw the comparison to my own Datasaurus-Rex name, which was created a good 3+ years before Alberto named his data set the Datasaurus Dozen (making SEO super fun for me!). But in all seriousness, it’s a great addition to Anscombe’s legacy, and the more people who can see it, the better.

Finally it was a data set that lent itself well to Tableau’s (relatively) new animation feature – so I built a Tableau Public dashboard that people can interact with, by clicking on the different data set names and seeing the data transform into their different shapes, whilst at the same time still sharing the same summary stats.

Have you encountered the pitfall of just using summary stats or if you have any topics you would like me to cover in future videos, let me know in the comments below or on social media.

Data Studio Community Livestream | Jun 2020

Welcome to the first Data Studio Community Livestream – you’ll see 4 speakers covering a wide variety of topics, which should help any and all users of Google Data Studio and even those who are still curious about what it can do.

We had me, David Murphy, show off the Data Studio feature tracker dashboard built withing Data Studio, Lee Hurst on Google’s secret connector, Rick Elliot showing both GA 1-click Dashboards and the Data Studio roadmap and Ralph Spandl showing his Custom Visualizations within the tool.

Here is the link to Slides we covered in the livestream.

A big thanks to the audience in chat asking questions and helping each other. Also thank you for the feedback – this was our first livestream and there was a lot of good comments on how we can tweak and improve things e.g. bigger screen share area, a better way to handle deep technical questions/demo requests and ensure the guests have time to share their knowledge fully.

I’m planning on doing another soon, so be sure to follow Datasaurus-Rex online to keep up to date when the next livestream is coming!

That’s a Moiré! w/ Tableau animations

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My brother runs a high end silk screen printing business in London, Make-Ready, and every time I visit the studio I learn more and more about this fascinating industry.

One such topic was around Moiré patterns; large-scale interference patterns when opaque ruled patterns with gaps are overlaid on another similar pattern.

It’s hard to explain with words, so I leveraged Tableau’s new animation feature, to help explain the effect better. Tableau excels at turning quantitative data into easy to process and understandable insights, educating it’s audience along the way. We often forget we can use Tableau to covey qualitative data as well – enhanced further in certain situations with their new animation feature. Look at this animation and you can now see and understand Moiré patterns much better than with just a written description or static images. The best thing is, this was made using Tableau Public, so anyone can achieve these results.

Click here or on the image below to play with the interactive Tableau Public dashboard I’ve built, to help explain and educate people on Moiré patters.

A big shout out to the Kevin and Ken Flerlage who helped me work out how to rotate data points around a central point using calculated fields. All 3 of the viz animations are achieved using shapes or paths withing Tableau – no custom image shapes are used. This helps keep them fast and the vizzes sharp, not blurry. If people are interested, I’ll write a follow up post on how I designed and made this viz.

Check out the Flerlage Twins post or download the Tableau Public workbook and look at the calculated fields to see how this was achieved.

Do you educate others on complex topics using Tableau? Have you found the animation feature helpful in you to achieve this? Let me know in the comments below!

What is Tableau Public Viz of the Day?

Tableau Public’s Viz of the Day (VOTD) is a great resource for anyone looking to improve their Tableau skills or to show others the potential of Tableau. But I have never found a succinct resource to explain what it is, how it can help you, how they are chosen and how you can get involved. So I decided to make this video to answer all of these questions and help the Tableau community. So the next time you need to explain what VOTD is, you can share this article or video.

Over the years I have gotten 9 VOTDs, so I like to feel I have some idea of the program. But to make sure, I had a chat with the Tableau Public team to help round out my VOTD knowledge. So if you’d like to better understand the VOTD program or help others get up to speed, keep reading.

What is it?

Tableau Public Viz of the Day is a program that showcases awesome Tableau Public vizzes every weekday on their website, Twitter and inside Tableau Desktop (Public Edition. They are looking for something that is meant to spark data conversations, showcase what’s possible in Tableau, and highlight the work in the community. It started back in 2014 so you have over 2,000 hand picked vizzes already at your finger tips!

How can it help you?

You can get a lot out of engaging with VOTD, so it’s definitely worth your time investment. Here are the 4 main benefits I’ve found:

  • Inspire
    First off, you don’t know what you don’t know – so being exposed to high quality and creative uses of Tableau can inspire you to see what is possible within the tool. Perfect for when you need to tackle a new challenge at work
  • Learn
    One you find a data viz you like, you can download the Tableau workbook, open it up and see how it was created. This is a great way to learn new Tableau techniques and skills to expand your Tableau toolbox (and impress your boss at the same time)
  • Community
    You’ll also get exposed to the people behind the VOTDs and be able to follow them on Tableau Public and social media. There are so many talented people in the Tableau Community, this is a good way to find rising stars and established data rock stars.
  • Recognition
    Lastly, you can submit your own Tableau Public vizzes for VOTD. If you’re chosen, your work will get seen by thousands of people. It’s also a nice bit of recognition to demonstrate your talent and creativity with data vizzes – which can be super useful when interviewing for jobs

How are they chosen?

What criteria do viz of the days have in common? These are the things I’ve noticed that past Viz of the Days have, that have probably helped them get chosen.

  • Timely or Topical:
    Does the viz contribute to a relatable trending or newsworthy topic from around the world? This can be holidays, elections, data pertaining to a developing news story, or topics that are trending in the BI community.
    A recent example is this one, looking at the air quality in New South Wales Australia, during the bushfires
  • Communicates a key insight or a story:
    Is there a key insight people can draw from the viz, facilitating conversation? Would this key insight be relatable for a broad audience?
    See how this Viz of the Day does a great job of explaining how the stock market has fared during each US presidency
  • Spotlight the diverse Tableau User Community:
    Tableau Public is for anyone, so a Viz of the Day should represent authors across industries, regions, and skill level. So no matter where you are in the world or your skill level, it seems like Tableau wants to give your talents the spotlight they deserve. Like Yuli from China’s viz or Hesham Eissa, where he got VOTD with this viz after only 6 months of using Tableau!
  • Includes a novel chart type or Tableau trick:
    Does the viz represent a novel chart type or Tableau trick that could help unlock possibilities for other users? Has the author also written a blog post to help explain the making of his/her viz? If so, this could make it a prime candidate for Viz of the Day. Like how Samo Drole created these striking radar charts in Tableau – I didn’t even know this was possible until I saw this!
  • Highlights new features:
    Does the viz use new product features (i.e., story points, viz in tooltip, density mark type, device designer) in a way others want to use? Like how I used Viz in Tooltips, to provide extra information for my food combination data viz, helping thousands of people learn to not put salt on their bananas…
  • Is visually stunning:
    Sometimes a viz can go above and beyond the best practices of simplicity, clarity and efficiency, becoming both a data visualization and a piece of art.
    Like this example that beautifully covers the history of Formula 1 racing

How to get involved

So now you know about Viz of the Day, you probably want to know how to get involved, or at the very least follow it and never miss another incredible data viz.

  • Subscribe and follow:
    Bookmark Tableau Public’s VOTD gallery website, to browse all of the VOTDs both old and new. They recently launched this Subscription page on their site, where you can sign up to get VOTD emails directly to your inbox. You can also follow them on Twitter at @tableaupublic or follow the #VOTD hashtag.
  • Submit your VOTD entries:
    If you think you’ve got a Viz of the Day ready to submit or have seen a Tableau Public viz that deserves a nomination, the best way to send it to Tableau is to use this new online form they have made.

So there you go – you now know what Tableau Public Viz of the Day is, how it can help you, how they are chosen and how to get involved! If you get a viz of the day, please share it with me in the comments below. I’d love to see what you make!

Podcast Guest Criteria & Insights

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I’ve just hit the 10 episode milestone for the Datasaurus-Rex Podcast and I wanted to share some insights about its future, how I choose the guests and some cool things I’ve learnt by running it so far.

Guest selection criteria:

As the number of episodes and guests increases, I want to be fully transparent on the 3 main criteria I use to select who comes on the podcast:

  1. The guest creates a high-quality data visualization they have shared publicly
  2. The data viz is interesting enough that the audience could learn something by better understanding its creation
  3. The guest is comfortable discussing their work over video conference and being recorded

We’ve had really good diversity so far, and I hope to keep that up – so if you know anyone who meets the criteria, please have them get in touch!

11 Things I’ve learnt from running the podcast:

Apple
Spotify
Google
RSS
YouTube
RadioPublic
Stitcher
  1. Audio podcasts are more popular that video podcasts
    • Despite the podcast being about data viz and us looking at a guests content, I started off with it just being for YouTube.
    • However, there was a huge demand for an audio version immediately from people. I’m already recording the audio for my videos, so it wasn’t much work to create an audio version at the same time and host it on all popular podcast services.
    • The audio listener numbers are far far higher than the YouTube ones, which is great as it means my guests can reach even more people. Plus it reinforces the notion that you should always listen to the user – or let the user listen in my case! :)
  2. The data viz community is awesome and incredibly generous
    • Every guest so far has shown a really positive trend that is endemic to the wider data viz community; they do not hoard their knowledge or skills, but actively share and use them to help others.
    • This can be in the shape of making their data vizzes available for download, writing comprehensive blog posts, making how-to videos, answering questions on Twitter or making data vizzes for charities and good causes.
    • No one pays them to spend time doing this; they do it because they care and want to help others and the community grow
  3. It’s never too late to start
    • Many of the guests that have been producing great work have only been doing it for a year or two – like Kevin Flerlage, he started using Tableau in 2018 and is already making amazing work and pushing the boundaries of the tool.
    • So you don’t have to be creating data vizzes for 5+ years to get good; just dive in, apply some creativity & best practices and you’re away!
  4. Don’t hate on the pie chart
    • 10/10 guests did not completely write off the pie chart. They definitely agree it’s uses are quite limited, and there are often far better charts to choose from, but they also advocate for not blindly dismissing an tool in your toolkit.
    • Joshua Smith and Jeffrey Shaffer cite a great example they spotted in an art gallery where a pie chart is the best option to convey the US military budget vs other countries combined.
  5. Get involved with the data viz community
    • A lot of the guests talked about how they have benefited from engaging with the data viz community.
    • The networks they’ve made have helped push and grow their skills and knowledge a great deal, and ideas can bounce around and be iterated upon that helps everyone e.g. the evolution of the Sankey diagram from the back and forth between Jeffrey Shaffer, Chris Love and Olivier Catherin
    • So this is another reason for you to get involved with the data viz community too!
  6. There are so many different resources out there to help
    • When asked, the guests always cite impressive lists of great data viz content that exists out there. No matter preference, there is going to be a medium to suit you e.g. blogs, mailing lists, podcasts, YouTube channels, Twitter follows, RSS feeds etc.
    • I will collate all of the resources they’ve referenced and share those soon, so be sure to follow us to see when that is made.
  7. Data is everywhere
    • Each of the guests tackled widely different data sets, which they either found, cleaned up or made themselves – the type data can’t restrict what you can make, which leads onto the next insight…
  8. Your imagination is your only limitation
  9. It’s ok to fail and create something terrible
    • This is part of many of the guests creative processes and their path to learning.
    • None of them envisioned and created their awesome data vizzes perfectly straight away. There were iterations built upon failed approaches, fuelled by learning what doesn’t work to discover what does work.
    • So be creative and don’t fear making bad stuff whilst building your data viz. Embracing failure is the secret to many of these great data visualizers successes!
  10. More than one approach
    • The guests also gave very different answers as to how they approached the construction of their data vizzes.
    • Some started by sketching on paper, others build straight within the data viz tool, others mock the layouts in PowerPoint.
    • There is no ‘correct’ way to design a good dashboard, just do whatever feels natural to you.
  11. Data viz community celebrities are human
    • When we see the great work people come up with online, it’s easy to put them on a pedestal and think we can never achieve the same great heights as them.
    • Excuses tend to form in our minds; “They’ve been doing this for 5+ years!”, “They studied the right mix of courses at school/university” or “They are part of an exclusive data viz club that helps each other”.
    • But after speaking to each of my guests, it was super humbling to know they’re just like you and me. They simply have a passion for data viz that has pushed them to keep practising, trying new things and to constantly improve – which we can all attain if we apply ourselves.
    • They are also all really nice and decent people, who are super approachable.

I hope following the Datasaurus-Rex Podcast can provide you with these insights and many more to come. Remember, if you like a guest or their work, they’re human just like you and me, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them online. You’ll be surprised how supportive and helpful they can be, which helps the data viz community grow stronger and stronger.

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I Gantt Even…

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Everyone will manage a project at some stage in their lives. It could be at work (launching a product), at school (organizing an event) or at home (renovations). The need to break a big task into smaller tasks, work out when each one will start and end, then manage each one to completion is critical to a project’s success.

Being able to visualize these tasks goes a long way in helping a project manager succeed; by keeping on top of and managing everything well. A Gantt chat is commonly used to visualize this project schedule data. This visualization has benefits such as being able to provide everyone with progress updates at a glance and helping the project manager identifying critical paths.

The Problem

The main problems with people creating and maintaining these Gantt charts usually falls into two main groups:

  1. Too expensive or hard – Project management software is prohibitively expensive and/or complicated to use
  2. Too time consuming – Most spreadsheet based solutions are incredibly fiddly and time consuming to set up and maintain – eating away at any benefits or time savings they create

After years of searching for my own free spreadsheet based solution, I was inspired by a post from Trevor Fox who used the Sparkline function in Google Sheets to create Gantt charts.

The Solution

Building on top of this, I have created my own template with some quality and easy of use enhancements, which I’m sharing with you all here!

It’s designed to be super easy to use and update – all you need to focus on is the editing of these task details per row:

  1. Task Name: What is the name of each task?
  2. Task Duration: How many days will it take to complete each one?
  3. Start Date: What date do they start on?
  4. Status: Are they in progress or been completed?

About The Template

With these fundamentals in mind, here are some other things to consider to get the most out of this template:

  1. A white vertical line will indicate today’s date in the Gantt chartGreat to seeing where you are at in relation to the overall project and if any Tasks need to be started soon.
  2. The bars of the chart dynamically change colorThese are based on the State of each task; Safe, Working on, Late and Done – these are different to a Tasks Statuse.g. if the tasks Status is Upcoming, and it’s start date is in the past, the bar will turn red as it’s State is Late – this draws your attention to a task that should have started by now
    • You can change these State colors in the Options section of the Gantt Chart
  3. The end date equations skip weekends by defaultThat is why you’ll see some tasks bars look longer on the Gantt chart than what you might expect
    • You can include weekends by using the dropdown menu in the Options section of the Gantt Chart
  4. You can link duration and start date cell values to other cell values, to automate task dependenciese.g. if one task can only start when another task finishes, simply make it’s start date cell equal the end date cell of the previous task
    • So if the previous task gets delayed, it will automatically push back the following task
  5. You can add more rowsThe template actually has 100 task rows, but 75 are hidden by default
    • Click on the + symbol next to the row numbers to expand – you might get a warning message, but you can ignore this
    • Fill in the extra Task row details and hide the rows you don’t need

Now you know how to use it, make a copy of this Sheet and use it for your next project! I hope this simple and easy to use Gantt Chart Google Sheets template helps you out with your next project. If it does help you or if you have feature requests, get in touch here.

Game of Thrones Interactive Viz MkIII

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With the Game of Thrones TV show ending, I thought it was about time to complete my death viz that I started a while back. Before we go on, there will be obvious spoilers for the final seasons. 

If you are unfamiliar with my project, I decided to track every on screen death that happened in the show. If you read to the end you will see this data visualized and even be able to download a copy of the data for yourself! It started out as mere curiosity but ended up being an interesting data visualisation project, showing how making your own data sources can be fun and rewarding. If you’d like to know about about the process, check out this Tableau Blog post I made.

Due to 38% of the deaths occurring in the second to last episode, it blew out the scale and design of my previous dashboard. So once I completed collecting the data, I made an updated version to account for this.

The top section let’s you explore an individual character’s data; their cumulative kill counts through the seasons, total kills and the details of each one by hovering your mouse over the individual bubbles. The bottom section looks at the overall stats of the show; top killers ranked, most popular methods for dispatching people and the trends by episode. Clicking on any of these 3 charts will filter the other 2 for extra exploration.

I had to set a few rules when counting the on screen deaths, to keep things simple and consistent. So if my numbers don’t match up with your expectations, these could be the reasons why:

  • The kill has to happen on screen. Dead bodies being seen don’t count. This also helps us avoid the messy and inaccurate realm of estimating battle casualties.
  • The undead were not counted. It’s a grey area to know if they were alive (again) in the first place and whether or not they were killed or just incapacitated. It was a can of worms I didn’t want to open.
  • Animals counting as weapons. My view is, without a character commanding an animal to kill, they wouldn’t have done so. The animal is an extension of the character, much like any other weapon. Plus it allows the main characters to be featured in the data more, as some heavily rely on animals to do their killing (dracarys!).

Up until now I’ve protected the data, making it unavailable for download, as it represented a considerable time investment for me to collect it all. But with the show finally over and my data viz complete, I’ve decided to share the data with everyone. Since I started running my own podcast on data visualization, I’ve been humbled and inspired by the data viz community all over again. I’m excited to share it with everyone and see what awesome creations and insights people come up with!

Click here to download the data @ data.world

If you create something from this data, please get in touch and share your creations with me on social media. I’d love to see and showcase them! Do you have any suggestions for other interesting data sets I could create? Did you find an interesting insight in the dashboard? Let me know in the comments below.

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