EXPERT REVIEW: Tableau

What can you do with this tool?

Tableau can help users see and understand data. Think of it like a sophisticated Google Refine/Excel tool. You can clean large data sets and make them into comprehendible visualizations just like Google Refine/Excel can. The added benefit is being able to share the data sets and visualizations through the cloud in a secure settings. Also, no plugins,  it can be all done through your browser if you’d like Google Refine! So ideally, you and third parties can share and view data/visualizations projects in a protected manner.

As the administrator, you are in charge of maintenance: which includes being able to add members, view and edit existing projects and data connections, and maintaining schedules and tasks.

Each project is provided its own dashboard, which is located on the homepage. Click on the dashboard (like you would on WordPress to get access to a blog page), and then you are able to look at the data sets/visualizations on the homepage.

Once you are on the page, you can make your own edits to the preexisting data/visualizations. You are also allowed to comment as you make edits, providing your own insights. People invited can subscribe to see day-to-day changes.

How do you get started using it?

Sign up for an account with the cloud or download it to your desktop. Note, that in order to download, your computer must have the most updated computer settings—Mountain Lion+ .  I unfortunately had Snow Leopard (or 10.6) so couldn’t download it.

Once you have done that, you can download data through files/servers Tableau connects to natively. That includes excel files, Google Analytic,  HP Vertica, and a bunch of other tools I’m not familiar with (I should mention Tableau is pretty high-tech). Also you can connect live to the data (meaning you’ll have a continuous stream) or can extract (pulling only the data set once, dating the day you pulled it). Cleaning the data is very reminiscent to Google Refine/Excel, hence the earlier comparison. Though I must say that, Tableau seems more advanced, allowing consumers to do more with data sets, visually.

I recommend watching the 20 minute tutorial, provided by Tableau. It is not as overwhelming as the home page 5 minute video, especially considering our background with data analysis.

How easy or hard is it? What skills do you need to become proficient in it?

Well, it’s not easy. If Google Refine and Excel are introductory data tools, then Tableau is definitely the intermediate tool. I mean, after awhile it gets easier. But someone using it should definitely have a background in data analysis (for instance this course). Though I must say, the site supplies many, many tutorials for this very reason.

Would you recommend this to a friend? Will you consider using it for your final data story?

I would recommend it to my business friend, who loves data analytics. It’s good for finance and banking it seems, because all the filters seemed formatted with that mindset. The filtering options allow for some really insightful business questions, be it profit trends, etc.

Though, for the purpose of this class. I would say that Tableau can holds ton and tons of data sets/visualizations into one project. So if your project seems to go in that direction, and your concerned about managing them—come here. Also it’s pretty awesome at color coordinating.

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