Why I Blog and You Should, Too

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Posted by Jewel Loreeon January 15, 2014

It was the first night of TCC (Tableau Customer Conference) 2013. I had just grabbed a large glass of red wine and set out to find someone I could talk viz with. Across the room I locked eyes with a face I recognized, despite only ever seeing a 50 by 50 pixel Twitter profile picture of it. I cautiously approached…

“Excuse me… are you Peter?”
“Yes… are you Jewel?”

And that’s how Peter Gilks and I (and Carl Allchin) became TCC BFFs: a mutual admiration for each other’s blogs. Having a popular blog at TCC is kind of like being Kathy Griffin at the opening of a trendy Hollywood restaurant. Most people aren’t completely star-struck when you walk by, the way they are when Christian Chabot does, but a few loyal fans will come up and discuss some of your work.

Aren't they a couple of charming chaps?

Blogging has always been something that I’ve wanted to do, but I had a hard time carving out the right corner of the internet for myself. I tried making a food blog exclusively about cooking with instant ramen noodles, a blog of my emo poetry (it was high school… don’t judge), and a blog about knitting and beer which I kind of want to resurrect because it had such a good name (Crafts and Domestics). But it wasn’t until I started at Tableau and needed a place to host all of my vizzes that I really found a community that I fit into.

I started my blog just shy of a year ago. I already had a domain, so I started posting vizzes on my personal website, jewelloree.com. Looking over all my posts, I can’t believe how far I’ve come from my first viz.

When I started my blog, I didn’t do a whole lot of promotion for it. I just didn’t think I was ready. I was still learning the product, still making rookie mistakes. But I was floored at the response the first time I really made an effort to share and promote a blog post. With so many great authors out there, I thought my meager offering of vizzes would really get overlooked. But instead, the community encouraged me, gave me ideas, and helped me improve. Flipping through my blog posts over the past year, you can start to see hints of Anya A’Hearn, Kelly Martin, Ryan Sleeper, and all of my other viz idols. And I would’ve never gotten to know them and grow through them if I didn’t take that first leap and share something.

That’s a really emotional account on why I love data blogging. But there are a lot of practical reasons for doing it as well.

  1. Having a blog with viz examples is the fastest way to explain to my family and friends what I do for work. They don’t always understand what Tableau is when I explain it to them, but when I show them a recent blog post, they always get it.
  2. It’s a great way to get people interested in data storytelling. I often share links to my blog on Reddit and I love getting messages from people along the lines of “I came for the Pokemon visualization, but stayed for all of the really cool data I discovered from your dashboards.”
  3. It’s a living portfolio. If I ever need to convince someone of my analytical prowess, all I need to do is send them to my blog.
  4. I have a lot of signature tips that people ask me how to do all the time. Having a blog is a great way of dispersing this information and being able to fire off a quick link instead of answering the same question over and over again.
  5. So much of my knowledge about Tableau comes from following the blogs I do. By participating in the community and sharing my vizzes and tips, I feel like I’m paying it forward and helping to inspire a whole new generation of viz addicts.

But enough about me, how about you? Do you have data stories to tell? Insight to share? How can you get started in this fun, lively community?

Don't get ahead of yourself, Winston.

First, you need to determine what kind of blog you want to have. There are basically three types of data blogs:

  1. Topical. A good example of this style of blog is Ramon Martinez’s Health Intelligence blog. Ramon explores topics related to public health using Tableau.
  2. Tutorial. Just as the name implies, a tutorial blog is one that focuses on tips and tricks. Sure, you may build vizzes and showcase them, but you also give some background on how you made it. Jonathan Drummey's Drawing with Numbers blog is full of these kinds of tutorials
  3. Commentary. Being a data enthusiast is about more than just vizzing and tutorials. If you want to share thoughts and ideas about data visualization, a blog focused on commentary, like Steve Wexler’s Data Revelations, would be a good fit for you.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to just one of these. Mixing up all of these styles allows for a lot of content to create and a wider audience to reach.

Next, get yourself out there. Take to Twitter and start interacting with the community. The more active you are in the community, the more likely people are to check out your work. Post your blog entries on Reddit. Send them to us for Viz of the Day. Don’t get disheartened if your blog isn’t an overnight success. It takes a bit of work to get yourself out there, but it'll be worth it.

Most importantly, make good content. While there is something to be said for frequent posting, ask yourself what a person is getting out of your blog. Are they learning something? Did you tell them an interesting story? Give them food for thought? You don’t always need to post jaw-droppingly beautiful vizzes. Sometimes the best stories come in really simple packages.

This viz was created by a team of new Tableau Public users at our TCC event, Fanalytics. With only 20 minutes to explore a dataset, there wasn't a lot of time to add too many design elements, but the story is clear and fascinating.

If you don’t have a data blog yet, stay tuned to Tableau Public this month as we share tips on everything to how to choose a CMS to promoting your blog. And if you do have a blog, be sure to add it to our list!


I definitely have to check out Tableau Public!

I found Tableau as part of my research for blog posts I write for Mind Commerce (I even referred to Tableau in this one: Can Small Business Really Afford Big Data?). What I love most about researching and writing about Big Data, et al is that I am learning so much about what's going on "out there."

Now I have to go learn what "vizzing" is!!