A histogram with an overlaid bell curve

Jingle Bells – Adding a Normal Distribution to a Histogram in Tableau

It’s the holiday season, so why not amp you your vizzes’ holiday spirit by adding some bell curves to your histograms? Also, I just recently came across this request in a customer meeting and thereby discovered how easy that is to do. The most difficult part is wrapping your head around what a normal distribution is (please resort to Wikipedia for that), how it’s calculated (I literally stole the equation from Wikipedia) and how to translate that into a Calculated Field in Tableau. The rest is a simple dual-axis chart, a parameter and some rather basic Tableau techniques that need your attention.

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Embedding R Plots in Tableau Dashboards

“R you nuts?” is what my colleague asked me when I once proposed this little hack. He’s not completely wrong, we’ll get to that later…

The task I was presented with was to embed the graphical output from an R package in a Tableau dashboard. Of course it’s possible to run R code from within Tableau Calculated fields, you can read more about it in official Tableau resources here, here, and here and also here on my blog. But part of the game is that there is only one vector of data being returned from the R session via Rserve into a Table Calculation in Tableau. So what about some of the complex graphics R can produce? Sure, you can try to rebuild those natively in Tableau based on the data returned from the code. But what if a) you’re too lazy to do that (and also it’s all just about rapid prototyping something anyways), or b) the visualization is just too complex (think 3D brain models)?

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LEGO-ify Tableau

A number of colleagues, customers, people visiting any of my public presentations and even friends have asked in the recent past about my Windows desktop wallpaper and where to get it.

LEGO-ified Tableau logo

LEGO-ified Tableau logo

The first question I get most of the time is: “Is it real?” Well, no. Unfortunately it’s not. I’d love to have enough time to build something that awesome in real LEGO bricks, though!

So, if it’s not real, then how was it done? As is often the case with me I got the inspiration from one of the many blogs I read on a regular basis. In this case it was an article by John Nelson over on his blog Adventures in Mapping. There he showed an easy-to-follow way to LEGO-ify maps and satellite images. And I did exactly the same, just with an image of the lovely Tableau logo (Tableaugo? … maybe not) after scaling it to a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and filling the empty space with white bricks pixels. Credit where credit is due, so I won’t nastily copy & paste the how-to here but instead redirect you to John’s writings. In the meantime John and Vanni Zhang, another map and LEGO geek, even whipped up an interactive website that allows you to automagically generate LEGO-ified maps from web maps.

Give it a try, enjoy the LEGO style and take care not to break any virtual fingernails with those pesky 1×1 bricks… Also, show us what LEGO-goodness you came up with! Oh, and feel free to download my TabLEGau wallpaper. When sharing I’d be happy if you told people where you got it from.