State Squaremap in a Toolip: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!

File this under the “that’s cool, but was the really needed” section of Tableau workbooks.  I built a squared US State map in Tableau using ASCII symbols and placed it in the tooltip.  Pretty cool!  I don’t actually have a use for this at the moment, but it follows a long series of authors who are doing things in the tooltips, most notably Andy Cotgreave.


The trick is to use a these two characters (which are the same width) ◆☐, and a special whitespace character “ ” twice “  ” instead of the normal space ” “ from the spacebar.  Then I ensured I used a mono-spaced font such as Consolas on all text and tooltips.!/vizhome/SuperStore_USA_Tooltip/States


State Hex Map in Tableau

In May Flowing data highlighted the Hexagon US State map published by NPR did a comparison of other maps.  Details on why the designer chose to use the hexagon US map can be found here.   I have taken the general idea and plotted the US State Hex map in Tableau for others to utilize as needed.  Below in my Tableau Public workbook you can find the data extract that will allow you to datablend the information yourself in Tableau.  I added in several additional territories.  If you’re like me, then your company probably does at least some business in the US territories and they need to be accounted for in the map.  Looking at Guam, I’m seeing Chuck E Cheese, Subways, McD’s and a host of other large companies.  Chances are you need more than the 50 states and 1 district if you’re working for a large company.

I think this is a great idea as it allows for a smaller national map that still preserves the overall location & region and maximizes overall information.  I did have two options though.  Massachusetts was originally in an odd space, so I moved it under Maine and put Connecticut where it is.  This is a more accurate direction, if a tad more awkward in appearance.  I have both options in the spreadsheet: StateHexs

My Tableau workbook is located here.

Finished Product in Tableau Desktop:


Also, I use a few rounded Hexagons.  See the attached files here:

Round_Hex_Hollow_vert Round_Hex_Hollow Round_Hex_Filled_vert Round_Hex_Filled

Convert Shapefiles to TDEs

I didn’t make this tool, but I have found it useful enough on more than one occasion and wanted to mention it.  It is a Alteryx Gallery app that converts Shapefiles to Tableau TDEs.  Craig Bloodworth is the source of this app:

Currently the US Government releases shape files of every subdivision in the country:  In  order to use these easily in Tableau they have to be transformed into a TDE or CSV. This link pointed me to a Alteryx Gallery App located here (sign-in required but it is displayed below).  Now I was only able to get it to work using 2010 shapefiles but not more current shapefiles.

Also this app contains the ability to generalize the polygon.  Checking this box (Generalize Polygon (Advaced)) will will reduce the number of points and help Tableau with performance.  Even with 0.0 mi chosen as the threshold, please note that Alteryx manages to simplify the polygon.  I have here a visual example of what the app does.

For his example I’m using traffic corridors in Georgia.




Data is the Clay of the Modern World.

So I’ve packed up the family and we’re moving to a distant shore of this continent. Naturally, packing for a large move leads you to re-evaluate some of your ‘stuff’.  Unearthed from my early college era were these fine pieces of pottery.

Two plates, both wheel thrown and glazed in western style raku.



And a flowerpot, also constructed in the same fashion.


Pottery is similar to data visualization in that it has unlimited functional applications while simultaneously containing the ability for unlimited artistic expression.  I remember a few times I would go on a Friday night, throw pottery and have a fun time.  It was good to see the work of your hands.  When I use certain data tools, I feel like I am making pottery.  Sure the techniques are different, and there are always tricks and hacks to learn, but they feel the same.  Clay provides instant visual feedback and guides the potter into making additional changes.  Nearly anything that can be imagined can be made, with some constraint by gravity and how wet the clay is.  Data visualization is the same way, nearly anything can be constructed.

First off, you start with a giant block of ugly clay that no one wants to look at.  It’s functionless and useless until you shape it into something out want.   Data sitting in a database is useless until someone or something looks at it.   You find the clay and bring it into your studio; you bring data into your database.  You typically have a goal.  In pottery it is to make a plate, or vase, or cup; in business you want to find out how product X is selling ,or who buys Y.  You typically have an idea for an object: a plate, or vase, or cup.   Then you throw the clay (or carve it for a sculpture) which is similar to bringing data into Excel, or shaping it in Tableau.   Finally you add in the finishing touches, glaze the pot, fire it in a kiln and hope it is received as well as you thought.  You email your report or put your ceramic piece on a pedestal and each time hope someone will look at it and say ‘Wow’.

Data is the Clay of the modern world. It’s impact is obvious.  It is flexible, useful, expressive, and abundant.  Just as past societies left a large number of clay fragments in their wake, future archeologist will look at our data fragments and attempt to piece our world together.