Fanalytics the Sequel: Keep Feeding Your Passion for Data

on September 13, 2013

Data is everywhere. Sports data, data about politics, public health, money, pets, you name it. If there’s a subject you’re passionate about, there’s data for that.

And more and more people all around the world are sharing visualizations of this data using Tableau Public. Some of them are journalists, some are researchers and some are bloggers. They’re part of a data visualization movement that is underway. Boring tables and lists – beware!

To support these laptop-wielding data sleuths, we created an event called Fanalytics. The first such event was held in London this past June, and the second was held earlier this week in Washington D.C. What do we mean by "Fanalytics?

The goal: unite passionate data-lovers to encourage the continued sharing of interactive visualizations on the web. It’s a support group, really.

These sessions present a unique opportunity for new Tableau Public users to see the work of seasoned experts first-hand, and then they get to try it themselves in a group competition. Teams of visualizers huddle together around the meeting room, feverishly racing against the clock to create something awesome from a data set they’ve never before laid eyes on.

At stake? Nothing less than cool company swag like “Data Rockstar” t-shirts and DATA trucker hats.

At the beginning of this week’s event, seasoned pros Adam McCann, Ramon Martinez and Craig Bloodworth showcased their amazing work and gave both practical tips and sage words of wisdom to the crowd of over 150. Adam provided a glimpse into the world of predictive modeling, Ramon demonstrated how to visualize variation in data, and Craig shared his own personal journey, urging the attendees to answer a question for their audience.

And then the madness began. An Excel file of over 87,000 movie ratings was passed around and teams were challenged to create something with overall appeal, superior design, and insightful findings. Some of them had never handled 87,000 rows of anything, and many had never seen Tableau in action before.

What would emerge after 45 minutes of crazy vizzing? Eight dashboards that answered eight different questions:

  1. When was the "Golden Age of Movies"?
  2. How has the % of documentaries changed over the past century?"
  3. How have movie lengths changed over time, both in the US and abroad?
  4. Are more movies better movies?
  5. How has the length of movie titles changed in comparison to the running lengths?
  6. How do ratings vary by decade and by country?
  7. Which genres are the highest rated in each country?
  8. Where to go to see a good adventure movie?

The winner? Jonathan Drummey’s group (the eighth in the list above) created a useful dashboard with a catchy title: “I Would Walk 500 Miles Just to See….” Here it is, reformatted to fit:

The key take-away: join a group that includes a Tableau Zen Master. In all seriousness, though, I find it fascinating that not one group tried to answer the same question. And I always find it gratifying to see how excited new Tableau Public users are when they see data come to life on the screen in front of them. It’s a feeling every Tableau user can recall so well.

Fanalytics the Sequel was met with rave reviews, so the show will go on again next year. It’s becoming yet another Tableau data visualization conference franchise, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Until we reunite again next year, may your passion for data drive you to create amazing visualizations, and may you share them with even your closest friends and family members. Don’t worry when they give you that funny look, you’re ahead of the curve. Stay strong, data-loving fans, stay strong.