One problem with writing many blog articles is that it becomes hard to find things as time passes. Blogs are not great at displaying all the content stored within their confines. Since I use my blog about every day to find Alteryx and Tableau techniques I previously used, I wanted a quick way to launch my posts and to quickly show people where to find information.
The Tableau Solution
I wanted a document that could launch any of my blog posts easily, without having to go to the blog to find things or to use my Tableau public 3danim8 Blog search tool. To accomplish this, I used Tableau to produce a couple of pdf tables that have links to everything I’ve written. These tables are not necessarily beautiful (see lessons learned below) but they are functional. There are two tables I created and you can use them, too.
There are two pdf files that you can download by clicking on either the blue links or the pictures shown below as Figures 1 and 2. Each pdf file currently has 8 pages to display the 127 blog posts that I have written. Once you have downloaded the pdf file, you simply click on the big long blue hyperlink in the middle of the table and the blog post will launch. That feature is what I call a quick link to my articles.
Table 2: 3danim8_Quick Links_By Popularity
Lessons Learned In Making These Tables
I have five lessons learned to share with you that emerged from the work it took me to write this article.
1. Strange Hyperlink Behavior
One nice Tableau feature is the ability to use hyperlinks in dashboards and I use them all the time. One thing I didn’t realize is how these hyperlinks perform in pdf files. There are big differences in hyperlink functionality in a dashboard versus a pdf file. Although the links work great across all fields in a Tableau workbook as shown in Figure 1 and 2, their functionality in a pdf file can be sketchy at best.
As an example of this sketchy behavior, no matter what I do, I cannot get the hyperlink for article 109 – Top Tableau Bloggers to work in either file. This link is formatted and handled the same was all the others but for whatever reason, it will not launch in the pdf file. This link does launch the article correctly from either the Excel database or the Tableau workbook, so it isn’t a problem with the link. If you cut and paste that link and put it in the browser, it will work! It is a mysterious behavior.
On another topic, if you click one of the tables shown above in Figure 1 or 2 and it opens in a new tab in your browser, the blue hyperlinks that form the center of the table may or may not work. You generally have to right click the table to get the menu that allows you to save the pdf file to your local computer (i.e., you have to tell the computer to download the file since a browser knows how to display a pdf file and won’t automatically download it for you). Once you have that file saved and re-open it with Adobe reader or other pdf compatible readers, the links will work reliably. That is somewhat of a strange behavior.
If you are on a mobile platform such as a tablet or cell phone, the pdf files will likely directly download to your device and work as expected without having to manually save them.
2. Hyperlinks Have To Be Displayed As Single Lines
The reason I had to make the links dominate the tables is that they will only perform correctly if they are expressed as one-line strings in the pdf files. I tried to use word wrapping as shown in Figure 3, but the articles do not get launched correctly from the pdf files when the hyperlinks are wrapped. Adobe only sees the first-line content of a hyperlink when it is wrapped (as shown in Figure 3), so these are viewed by the pdf reader as incomplete hyperlinks.
One way around this limitation is to create a tiny url for your hyperlinks, which is generally about 18 to 22 characters long. With over 125 links to create, I was lazy (I was really time-limited) and decided against doing this.
Link shortening programs like TinyURL are nice (and there are many different types of them), but they do come with some issues that you need to understand before using them. Tracking algorithms and decommissioning of the link if it is not used enough over time are a couple of the issues you should be aware of. Also, some of these programs will allow batch processing of a number of links (typically 25 at a time), but these programs didn’t work for me. Therefore, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time creating all the short hyperlinks, so I sacrificed and made tables that have an ugly, but functional midpoint.
3. Early Blogging Work Goes Unnoticed
The table shown in Figure 1 taught me a lesson with respect to blogging. When you are new blogger, it takes a while for you to gain an audience. By the time your audience begins to notice you, your original work has been buried by a stack of other blog posts without too many people having read your early work.
If you look at the hits per day performance of my earlier work, it is abysmal. I believe that this outcome is not about the quality of the work, it has everything to do with when it was written and how it was presented.
In the beginning, I created a lot of videos to explain my work techniques. For example, article 3 about rainfall over lake Okeechobee has two videos that are packed full of useful techniques such as data blending, data reshaping, handling big data files, etc. The funny thing is, the article has only been read 20 times because it was one of my earliest articles and the topic is obsure.
Of the first 25 blog posts written, only 1 (article 7 – Tableau Buckets) has maintained a decent following since it was written. There are several really interesting Tableau use cases shown in articles 1-25 (see 1, 2, 4, 8, 18 and 22) as well as my favorite post about using Tableau to help the doctor save my wife and unborn baby in article 11. For whatever reason, articles like these simply do not attract attention like the technique-based articles I started writing at about number 25.
4. The YouTube Effect
I have another interesting insight to share. In the beginning of my blog, I started placing videos on YouTube rather than embedding them in the WordPress content management system. After a while, I realized that this was too much work and it was much easier to put every thing in WordPress. Also, sometimes training videos take much longer to make than simply writing the blog post.
Interestingly, those two Article 3 (rainfall over Lake O) videos are on YouTube and have been viewed 163 and 760 times, even with the blog post being read only 20 times. This tells me that i could greatly expand my reach if I were to put all my training videos on YouTube. In other words, people are finding my work outside of general internet searches using Google. There is a lot of searching going on in YouTube. Of course, placing all my work in YouTube will be time-consuming..
5. I Am Always Learning New Tableau Techniques
Finally, no matter how much I use Tableau, I am still learning new ways to use it to help me be more creative and innovative in my work. By continuing to use Tableau to investigate the performance of my blog, I continue to gain insight into world of blogging and how to most effectively present material. I guess I’m becoming a student of blogging in a some ways, and I don’t think it will ever be possible for one person to know everything about Tableau. The software is deep and ever-changing.
Thanks for reading!