What are my data visualisation goals for 2018?

I’ve just gone and added the words “data visualisation” to the title – nobody here knows that I need to eat less and exercise more (though it’s true). I’ve decided to think about my goals because (a) it gives me a focus to look back on to see if the year, and my progression in data visualisation, is on the track I was hoping it might be on; and (b) there might be some good, or at least interesting ideas for your own progression. So here is the third of my three “recap” posts:

1. Teach/Learn

I’d like to be involved in teaching data visualisation in some way. I don’t mean technical training as such (so I’m not talking about running Tableau training courses, for example, here), but more on the fundamentals of data visualisation. I know of many people who do this or have the opportunity, though in my case I’m not sure where this opportunity might come from. But with so many talented data professionals coming through (whether early career professionals or current students), it would be great to evangelise about data visualisation to give people a good grounding.

I’d love advice on this – are there classes I can give, places I can approach? It might be that the best approach I can take is to really learn up and study more of the academic work behind data visualisation. Read and get more immersed in the books I have on my shelves rather than leave them as decoration or occasional reference points.

As a follow-up, I feel I need to keep learning. I probably signed up for 15-20 webinars and sessions over the last six months, as well as bookmarked many conference talks which I intended to catch up with. Now, I have caught up with *some* of these, but probably no more than a quarter. There are so many people discussing and documenting theory and best practices. I’d like to immerse myself in that some more. My very real goal is to do this – as I type I’m listening to Alicia Bembenek’s talk from the Tableau Fringe Festival 2017 – her talk on social psychology in data visualisation and the need for a call to action is inspiring me to go back to my social research links and rethink some of my practices. Here’s her talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7CNLJivF1w 

This might not be a SMART objective as such, but it’s an avenue I’d like to start thinking about this year. If anyone would like to offer advice on this, or contact me about it, either great sources of learning or opportunities to teach or train, please do!

2. Tableau Conference 2018

It’s a goal to get there next year in New Orleans. Having been lucky enough to be at the 2016 conference, a one year gap is long enough for me to want to return in 2018. Everyone who raves about Tableau will enthuse about how great the conferences are. Everyone who doesn’t will probably, understandably, be rolling their eyes at this point. So why make this a goal? Why not just turn up?

The answer is one of common sense (and cost!). It’s a huge outlay for a week in a conference hotel, costs of the conference and international flights. Working in the UK-facing Higher Education industry means that being sent through work is highly unlikely, so my incentive (and hence my goal) is to be invited. This probably means applying to talk, and being accepted: something which will take a great amount of thought, work and preparation. So there’s my incentive: in other words, I’d like to present at Tableau 2018 Conference. As a corollary to this – I’ve mentioned before that I do enjoy presenting, so if other opportunities arise at conferences or user groups, once again I’d jump at the chance.

3. Make a difference / Be selective!

A lot of people will include things in their blogs such as increasing participation in Makeover Monday. For 2018 I’m considering the opposite. Be selective! I will take part in some initiatives such as Viz for Social Good when the timing, topic and style of required visualisation suits me. But I have friends and contacts who would like me to visualise data on certain themes – publicising an issue or a dataset they are passionate about. It would be so much better to focus on these things without worrying whether I was taking part in every feeder competition or weekly makeover that comes my way: I don’t want to just plough in and keep working on visualisations for the sake of it. Perhaps it’s time to sit back and forge my own path in the creations I come up with. Essentially I’d like to focus on quality over quantity.

The header image for this blog post is a fast turnaround visualisation (following on from some of the world tile map work I’ve done) which visualises educational data around the world for UNICEF. I don’t know if they will use this or not, but if so then I’d love to stay involved. I’m already delighted to be involved with the United Nations and World Resources Institute (the viz below has recently been selected for WRI to use in 2018)

Dashboard 1-117

I’ll still do daft stuff like album cover visualisations though. Data visualisation is my job but also my hobby. So expect more of the same – if I consider it fun then I’ll continue to produce it, especially if I continue to learn by doing so.

4. Keep blogging

This blog! I really want to keep this going at a good rate – the time it takes to immerse myself in a long post is both a blessing and a disguise. I have five blog posts in draft (several of which didn’t make it past the first paragraph) which now won’t see the light of day unless resurrected. Andy Kriebel recently proudly announced his 500th blog post – one bit of advice he had was to never leave anything unpublished. Good incentive to see every idea through.

If you have any questions you would like featured, let me know! I’m sure there could even be room for guest posts too …

5. Centres of Excellence

This goal is a work/professional based goal. Recently Simon Beaumont gave a fantastic talk about running a Centre of Excellence within the NHS in the UK, and Paul Banoub has also given fantastic advice about the kind of things to consider when he spoke at the Tableau Conference in 2017 (in the interests of full disclosure, see (1) above, Paul’s talk is one I have still to see but I’ve heard nothing but praise for it).

I don’t work in a large department where I can adapt this in my own professional sphere, but there are certainly ideas I can implement and a basis for pushing for larger, more productive and involved teams and how I would love to see them run. There may be great opportunities to develop talent in my organisation and I’d like to be the one who helps do this. I’m not saying there’ll be a fully-fledged centre of excellence. But I’ll cagily suggest that I have loads of ideas for progression that I’d love to implement, using many of the ideas and principles that Simon (and no doubt Paul, sorry!) recommend.

6. Certification

Finally, an achievable and measurable goal. I’d like to take exams to be Tableau Certified.  I’ve worked using Tableau for long enough, and I think I’m good enough! But this will really help fill in gaps in my knowledge and take me onto another level as I learn and prepare for it.

There are other things – I’d like a Viz of the Day again! I can’t make it a goal because it’s out of my hands. But I continue to produce public work to be noticed and enjoyed, so it’s a great recognition if you’re lucky and privileged enough for it to happen. And I’d like to revisit d3.js. Having dabbled briefly before taking up Tableau, I’d really like to get back into using open source methods for data visualisation. It might be one goal too far, as I have a busy life and career using Tableau, but I may just do this if the opportunity presents itself.

That’s all for now – thank you all for reading throughout the year and Happy New Year for 2018, one and all!

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