I have an ambitious analytics goal that is composed of two parts. You will have to read this article to find out what part one represents. Part two will be explained in an upcoming article sometime in the future, once the research and computing requirements are complete.
In part one, I want to develop an encyclopedia-like tool that gives me the quantitative and visual analytics knowledge that I need, right when I need it. Since I teach people how to use Tableau, I want a fast reference tool that I can use in real-time while teaching a class. I am now working on building this tool to make that goal come true.
In version 1.0 of this tool, I focused on collecting Tableau information and articles. Ultimately this tool will contain information on Alteryx and Tableau, as well as other important tools and information.
What is Tableaupedia?
Tableaupedia is my initial database and article viewer (powered by Tableau, of course) that currently contains information on about 1,800 unique articles focused on Tableau. I have not included any Alteryx-focused articles in this version. Those articles will be included soon.
Figure 1 shows what this interface looks like. This simple Tableau dashboard can change the way you learn if you give it a try. Pick a topic that you want to study, like “filters”. Type the word filters into the search box and see what you get. Navigate between the articles simply by clicking on the blue titles. You will quickly see how much focused information comes streaming at you without ever leaving the dashboard.
How Was Tableaupedia Built?
Alteryx was used to tokenize html data and import io and other web scraping utilities were used to access and download information. The details of how this actually happened is beyond the scope of this article. However, I will say that building a tool like this requires time, patience, and an attention to detail. There is plenty that can go wrong when collecting this type of data, so it is important to take your time to get the details correct. Correcting author names, mispellings, and the removal of duplicate information is time consuming.
There is a lot of work left for me to do to capture information from additional key data sources (i.e., awesome bloggers). The research needed to fulfill my goal will take me many months to complete, When it is done, this tool will be even more valuable. Until that time comes, you can find links to a wide array of other great Tableau bloggers by searching on “blogger” in the Tableaupedia dashboard, as shown in Figure 2, and then reading that article.
How to Use Tableaupedia
The video shown below explains the different ways you can use this tool. The interface I built for it is intentionally simple and the functionality is very focused on rapidly finding information. I didn’t intend for this tool to be fancy. This is the first part of a real-time, learning, problem solving and research tool.
After I made the video, I decided to add the Author filter so that you can quickly see all the work by any author, without worrying about the data source that the information originated.
Click here to access the current version of Tableaupedia.
A Key Lesson Learned From An Apparent Tableau Public Malfunction
The best way to use Tableaupedia is to download the workbook from my Tableau Public site and use it from your Tableau Desktop. The Tableau Public version is likely to have problems displaying certain links, as described below. If you are not interested in tech details, skip the rest of this section.
When I first published Tableaupedia to the Tableau Public website, it seemed to be malfunctioning because the dashboard worked perfectly in Tableau Desktop. Video 2 shows what I call this apparent malfunctioning behavior.
A partial solution to this problem was identified by Daniel Hom of Tableau. He recognized that the articles from my blog (3danim8) that displayed properly had https:// in their link, whereas the non-functioning articles had http://.
This means that the WordPress server is now running in a secure mode and requires the use of https:// to properly handshake with Tableau Public (Tableau Public uses https:// because passwords and other sensitive information is passed in that platform). My earlier articles were published on a WordPress server that didn’t use https://, so some of my articles had http:// and some had https://. The requirement of using https:// only manifests itself in Tableau Public because all of my articles loaded perfectly in Tableau Desktop using either http:// or https://.
The lesson learned is that if you are going to use Tableau Public to view hyperlink-based data, make sure that the server you are pulling from is secure and uses https://. Otherwise, you will get errors that occur while using Tableau Public. Figure 3 shows what that error looks like when you try to load articles from an http:// server (Tableau Knowledgebase artilces) using an https:// prefix. It also doesn’t work when trying the link with http://! Figure 4 shows what the error looks like if you paste the same type of mis-matched link into a browser window.
A Nice Partial Fix
Daniel fixed this problem in my original publication with a clever calculated field. This calculation is one of the reasons I left this section in this article after the problem was identified:
He placed Calculation 1 on the Detail shelf and this fixed the problem for my blog articles and other blog articles that were coming off of WordPress servers. I never would have thought of such a clever solution. However, this implementation broke other articles there are coming off of less-secure servers and don’t require the use of https://! Yikes.
Before I understood the requirements of the secure (https://) versus less-secure (http://) server, I simply changed all the source links to https://. Well, that broke all the articles that were not running in secure mode! A good example of that is the server that holds the Tableau Knowledge Base articles. When I try to launch them with https://, I get a handshaking error. Now I have changed them back to http://.
So, if an article doesn’t launch for you in Tableau Public, you should just download the workbook and run it in Tableau Desktop. The issues described here do not seemed to be happening in Desktop. You can also cut the link and manually paste it into a browser.
In anyone wants their work to be included in this database, you can just send me your articles stored in an Excel file in this format. I’ll be happy to include your work as a new data source!
Many thanks to Jeff Shafer and Ramon Martinez for their superb work in assembling and publishing such great lists of significant Tableau articles. Their websites are tremendous resources and their personal Tableau applications are among the finest and most creative work being conducted anywhere. Finally, much thanks to one of the most determined and knowledgeable Tableau masters – Mr. Jonathan Drummey. His blog is simply is a masterpiece and his Tableau reverse-engineering work is as insightful and detailed as anyone produces.