Conveying Meaning and Depth in Data-Driven Stories – a Tableau Narrative

100rpgs_dash_top

Tableau is incredibly robust and my experience at TC17 in Las Vegas showed me just how much so. My visualizations has always focused on designing for the interactive experience, and with the #data17 knowledge I acquired, I was able to merge many ideas into a more fully realized data-driven experience with my work.

There’s a data set that I picked up in the spring and worked on but then abandoned because I didn’t feel like the story I was building did justice to the subject I was passionate about: role-playing video games.

Role-playing games (RPGs) stand as giants in the world of video games. The level of immersion when playing these games is remarkable and your connection to the characters and story is much more palpable because in a sense the player controls his or her own destiny in the game.

100rpgs_dash_middle

In my Tableau work, I wanted to convey some of the impact and meaning behind these creations and help people more fully appreciate and explore video games as vehicles for art.

I was inspired by the amazing viz work of Jonni Walker to attempt this approach. He arguably sets the bar for beautiful data stories in Tableau and stretches the limits of the software’s capabilities.

There were some tradeoffs I had to make so that the dashboard retained its interactivity and the images could still play a key role in pulling the audience through the story. This was a remarkable experience building on my background in photography and writing in order to create a data-driven story.

100rpgs_dash_bottom

Here are some quick tips I learned:

  • Photo selection: Fortunately I could use the data set itself to leverage striking images of the game art. I picked images that lent an editorial message to the elements or integrated into the design of the dashboard. (I had a good conversation with Michael Mixon and we commiserated on how long it takes to find the perfect image!) Also, this viz is a type of commentary and the artwork falls under fair use.
  • Photo editing: Learn Photoshop or a similar program that offers image masking. Tableau doesn’t offer transparent backgrounds for its charts, so I had to make design decisions that ensured optimal use of interactivity and images. This was a big pain point in Tableau and took probably 3x longer than building out the charts.
  • Calculated Fields (including LODs): This is an acknowledgement that your work will go much faster and you’ll be able to approach these type of data-driven stories if you learn how to present your data using calculated fields.
  • 3000 pixels tall!: Everything floated and it was beautiful. Just keep track of all your assets on the dashboard. I did this visually since the Item Hierarchy pane still isn’t that intuitive to me.
  • Pay it forward: I was tempted, right up until this writing, not to share the downloadable file. But I have learned so much from the Tableau Public community and would not be where I am without its members and their generosity (there are so many, I can’t name them all!). I think there’s a social contract of sorts, not necessarily in always making your work available, but in making a real effort to share knowledge and elevate the whole community.

I hope you enjoy. Happy vizzing!

 

 

Worlds Collide – Cage Match 2017 Finals

UPDATE: Ragnar was unstoppable at the end. All those that challenged him were laid bloody and broken at his feet. His prowess in the cage secured him the crown but it was at the cost of his fellow fictional brothers and sisters. May his crown of destruction weigh heavy on his brow…

The Story So Far.

Tom Bombadil buried his Rd1 opponent (IT) without looking back and enjoyed the top spot among all cage match fighters for almost 10 days straight. But he fell steeply in the contest, only narrowly defeating the old god Mr. Wednesday with 50.11% of the votes in Rd3, the closest of any fight. He trailed Devi in Rd4 until the very end when he pulled off an upset .

Ragnar has clawed his way through the competition, never ranking higher than #4 until his ascent in Rd3 to edge out Kell Maresh and then trounce Georgia Mason in Rd4 to head to the finals as the #1 seed.

Our Prediction: Tom B. to take it all. Middle Earth rises again!

Click image to interact!

vis_thumb_cagematch finals

The Many Faces of the Major

gits_vis_thumb_jpreston

Click to explore different artists’ visions of the Major in all her incarnations.

Ghost in the Shell is one of the most profound pieces of fiction from any genre or culture. Period. The storytelling is intricate and powerful. The philosophical questions it poses make one consider the meaning of life and reconsider just how far technology should go. And the bad guys, well, they could be anyone or no one. There is no way to tell in this world what is real and what is not. Blink, and you might get your eyes cyber hacked.

The numerous layers of meaning in the Ghost in the Shell saga make it an unparalleled experience, whether in print or on the screen.

In five days, the live-action Ghost in the Shell movie comes to American cinemas. Certain quarters of the web have taken issue with the casting of the Major (Scarlett Johansson), but I am hopeful that the film will be faithful to the themes of the Japanese manga and anime and introduce new audiences to the acclaimed world the Major inhabits.

The West has its pop culture icons – Luke Skywalker, Batman, the Avengers, etc., etc. Major Kusanagi is one of East Asia’s.

Welcome to your newest sci-fi/cyberpunk/dystopian fix. This one has staying power.

SFF Cage Match 2017

Some of the most recognizable characters in contemporary science fiction and fantasy literature are going toe-to-toe. Unbound World’s Cage Match 2017 competition is giving authors a shot at writing how a fight, say between the queen of Dragons and a modern god, might go down.

It provides some entertaining scenarios from authors who are obviously having fun with the battle royales. Our pick to take it all home, The Martian’s Mark Watney – and who the contributing author predicted would win his round – got beat by some adolescent magician wannabe, and one that’s not even from Hogwarts.

Check out the rankings as they stand in round 2. We’ll have updates throughout the cage match. Go Daenerys!

CLICK TO INTERACT

Cage Match screen2

Battle of the Book Genres 2016 – The Definitive List of the Year’s Top Reads

EVERYONE has a list of the best reads of the year. That makes it fun – but daunting – to go through a slew of recommendations.

How are you supposed to trust your Booktube buddy’s taste even if you do both like the same genres? Easy. Just crowdsource the best books.

That’s right, instead of pouring over YouTube or Goodreads for hours on end to learn about new books, we just crunched the data and looked at what was most popular across book types. We took all 3 million votes from the Goodreads Choice Awards and found out which books and genres ended up on top in 2016. (But we still watched some YouTube videos with great book recommendations!)

Take a look at this interactive collection of the top books as voted on by the social web. Your next TBR may be only a click away! You can check out a quick tutorial here.

battle-of-book-genres-2016

Click to interact

Most Wanted Books – A Visual Guide

What books from the last 15 years are most popular with book lovers? Diving into Goodreads bookshelf data, we found that dystopian and fantasy fiction have been huge among this social reading community.

Explore the chart by hovering over sections with your mouse or tapping the screen (better on desktop). Hover over the authors’ names to light up the bubble chart like a Christmas tree or click their names for more book details.

What did we learn at a glance?

George R.R. Martin really does average five years between books in his Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series. Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games books, has a highly rated young reader fantasy series called the Underland Chronicles that she penned before her YA dystopian trilogy. And Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, though found on many bookshelves, consistently fell below the average ratings for books published in the same year. Explore and enjoy this treasure trove of book goodness. Send us feedback or questions on what other book charts you’d like to see. Happy reading!

viz_teaser_Most Wanted Books

Click to go interactive chart

What the Star Wars book reboot looks like

The Star Wars book galaxy has gotten a reboot along with the movie franchise, and there are 25 new books that have been published so far.

With less than 24 hours until Star Wars either flies again or self destructs (creatively) at the box office with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, we take a look at what the creative minds behind the books have done with the space saga. Disney has wiped the slate clean and designated official, or “canon,” books to continue the story of Star Wars (all the previous volumes of Star Wars books are now considered “legacy” or unofficial). This has created lots of debate among fans. The Internet has plenty to say on it…

vis_teaser_dirty little droid

Click to interact with R2-D2 and pick a Star Wars book.

The “canon” books are just starting to roll out. Only 24 novels (and one novella) exist (minus the movie adaptations). The majority are junior novels, putting the original works for adults at a mere eight books. I understand this to a degree – it prevents spoiling the new movies by not giving away what happens to the major characters after Return of the Jedi. Instead authors mostly focus on new/side characters and other aspects of the galaxy. I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not the Star Wars canon novels can become something great. I listened to Aftermath and loved it. It’s got fans split, but Star Wars is as American as apple pie and everyone has an opinion on where it should go.

Check out the interactive visualization on the “canon” books that are already available. Help R2-D2 get the right book for you!

Star Wars: Aftermath – Readers Hate It, Listeners Love It

The divide over Star Wars: Aftermath is fairly obvious if you visit the book’s product pages on Amazon and Audible. The ratings are almost a mirror image of each other. Take a look at this Star Wars Interactive Chart I made to see the divided fan base. It’s interesting how readers are strongly split along print and audio.

Viz teaser_Star Wars Aftermath_REIGN

Click to look at data trends, or just blow up the Death Star! (Source: Amazon and Audible)

I left the Star Wars universe a decade ago after the movie prequels concluded, disheartened by the direction the story had taken. On a family trip to Disney in October 2015, I was jolted back into Star Wars mode. Downtown Disney was jammed with gobs of Star Wars merchandise (for The Force awakens, coming that December). The R2-D2 suitcases and stormtrooper helmets were easy to ignore, but I decided to give the book a try. I really wanted to see where the Star Wars story was headed. But I was still tentative, so I picked up a copy of Aftermath from my public library.

What’s amazing about Star Wars: Aftermath (which I’ve dubbed Episode VI.I) is how author Chuck Wendig captures the feel of the original cinema saga we love but with a whole new cast of characters. Some might take issue with this statement – and many other things about the new “official” continuation of the Star Wars story – but put down the blasters and look at the data. Book ratings bear out evidence that there’s a huge love of this story. This is no Phantom Menace – there won’t be a mass exodus of fans. What we have is an interesting and polarizing reaction to this story. I’d expect no less from Star Wars fans.

The first twelve weeks of the book’s release showed a majority of Amazon print or ebook ratings were 1 Star (575), but the second highest rating was 5 star (278). Although the fans are half the number of non-fans, the fans embrace the story fully.

Surprisingly, Kindle readers split their star ratings almost evenly across the board. No single star rating dominated. The real group that took issue with the story were readers of good ol’ fashion print books.

The format obviously mattered where audiobooks are concerned. More than half of “readers” have given the book 4 or 5 stars. The 5 star ratings dominated, and when broken down by performance, story, and overall ratings, fans overwhelming loved the performance of the narration. (Hey, Shakespeare got his street cred for his writing AND the performances of his work…not that I’m comparing this to Shakespeare.)

Viz teaser_starwarsaftermath_REIGN_2

The three data sources (Amazon, Audible and Goodreads) all give a different picture of fan reactions. For myself, I picked up the audiobook because I was not willing to invest more than my work commute to experiencing this story. I was just that skeptical of Star Wars in general. But I’m glad I gave the Force a shot again. (Yes, I was going to the movie anyway!) I can say that I love this story. I love the rogue, self-interested Imperial and bounty hunter and the bruised, tired rebel heroes. I love their plight and I love their personal struggles of how to live in this galaxy in flux. I think I just might be a Star Wars fan again.

I even love Mr. Bones! Man, if the battle droids can be redeemed, that by itself deserves credit. And since every Star Wars story requires a “boy and his droid,” this is the one we should have gotten instead of that mess on Tatooine at the turn of the century.

Thank you Chuck Wendig.

-JP

Subscribe to future posts. I’m planning a followup on how Star Wars: Aftermath trends after the new movie comes out.