Why Vizioneer?

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
The "Vizioneer" comes from mashing two words that have shaped my world for most of my adult life - Engineer and [data] Visualizations (or Vizes to those who know what's up). Graduating from first from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, followed by Georgia Tech with my Bachelors and Masters in Civil Engineering, all of which taught me to think through anything and everything - problem solving, "engineering" solutions, teaching to the "ah ha" moments - is what I love to do. In 2010 that investigative, engineering mindset intersected a job change and a plunge into the world of Data Analysis. In the search for the next great thing I stumbled on to a data visualization and dashboarding product called Tableau software and things just took off. So now I guess you could call me that engineer with the sweet data visualizations - or just "The Vizioneer" :)

In 2013, I joined the incredible team at Slalom, focusing on Tableau and it's been an amazing experience. Recently in 2014, I was honored and humbled to receive Tableau's highest recognition of being named a Tableau Zen Master. Follow along to see what happens next :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Effect of War and Genocide

Earlier today Adam McCann put together a fantastic that looks at Life Expectancy by country, inspired by the great Hans Rosling.

Great vizzes often lead to the discussion of "how they do that?" and the beautiful thing about Tableau Public is that you can download and reverse engineer it to see what's going on.  Being the curious fellow that I am, I did exactly that and found some interesting things.  I also thought it would be interesting to look at the data with a slightly different X-Axis, simply the countries' rank of life expectancy, which in effect creates a massive bump chart.

But it also did something else.  The lines of some of the countries had massive shifts in short amounts of time.  I began to ask myself why that would be - "What would cause a large decrease in life expectancy rapidly?"  It turns out that the answer is very sobering - Genocide and War.

When I was in school at Oglethorpe University (before my days at Georgia Tech), I read a book called "A Problem from Hell" by Samantha Power (the current United States' Ambassador to the United Nations) that examined America's role in Genocide in the 20th century.  It was one of the most moving and core-shaking books I've ever read.

And so I began to look at this data differently, and I almost fearfully clicked to find Rwanda - the story of genocide which we studied and I knew all too well.  The massive loss of life in the early 1990's lit the screen.  The loss of over 1 million people shown in a single line.

I let that image sink in to the best of my ability, but frankly it took my breath away.

I next found Bosnia, where about the same time, early 1990's,  Slobodan Milosevic was exterminating his people. 

Then the Iran - Iraq War from the early 1980's, when both countries experienced tremendous losses as they killed each other.

That was followed by the 'Soviet' people - Russia and Ukraine - losing ground over the past 50 years (even through 2011).

There's even the early effect of the Assad regime and Syrian Civil War which started in Spring 2011 and continues to spiral out of control currently at the hands of ISIS.  Future data will likely show what we already fear to be true - another genocide and civil war with devastating results. 

And there was Cambodia.  I actually was about to exclude this as I thought it was bad data.  To see that the life expectancy in 1977 was short of 20 years old, I thought there must have been something wrong.  But there wasn't.  

Today I learned about the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970's where an unimaginable 1.5M-3M people lost their lives.  It's difficult to comprehend.  But you can see it in the data.

Putting this together has been very moving and sobering.  Please have a look for yourself:

I look forward to your thoughts.  Many thanks - 

Nelson Davis 

Monday, September 22, 2014

DATA14 - It's all about people

What an amazing week at DATA14.


For me the conference this year was all about the people.  So many of you went out of your way to chat me up and share congrats.  I had one person do one of those “You’re Nelson Davis – like THE Nelson Davis!”  I laughed because I did the same thing when I meet Jonathan Drummey, Joe Mako, Anya A'Hearn, Ramon Martinez, Alan Walker (who’s Scottish btw – there’s an accent that will blow your mind when you’re not expecting it!), Peter Gilks (we’d actually never met in person though we’ve talked dozens of times), John Mathis (same story), Ben Jones, Jewel Loree, Matty Francis :), Emily, Paul B., Chappie, Francois, Andy Cotgreave, Craig Bloodworth, and (the cheery on top) Chris Stolte to name a few.  The talent and creativity on display was amazing.  These vizzes don’t make themselves.  The conference reminds us all that there’s incredible, genuine people behind this stuff.  And if I’ve created anything that people found useful, it’s only because I’ve received the same at 100 to 1.  Being named a Zen Master is an incredible honor, and very humbling.  Some of us newbies have had some soul searching moments to wonder if we really deserve to stand on the same stage with the legends.  The conference made me realize that while I’ll never get table calcs like Jonathan and Joe or design as beautifully as Anya and Kelly, I still have a place and something special to offer.  I had to remind myself that I bring passion and I live to teach to the ‘light bulb’ moment.  I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t want to talk with.  I’ve found methods to explain complicated things in ways that those just beginning their journey can easily grasp. I love to serve this community and give what I can to push the limits of what’s possible by however much.  I think the beautiful explanation of data can change the world, and I’m out to preach that gospel till the cows come home. And so are you.  So are we.

Data14 reminds us of why we are so passionate about what we do. 

I’ve sometimes called it the ‘Christopher Columbus’ moment – when we take data that’s never been brought together, breathe life into it and see things no one’s ever seen; understand that which was previously impossible. And we are those pioneers. We are the ones with vizion (see what I did there?).  It gives me goosebumps to think about it.

Tableau’s a game changer.  It’s one of the most flexible and amazing things I’ve ever seen.  And yet, like I said before, these vizzes don’t make themselves – you amazing people are everywhere, doing amazing things.  I can’t wait to see what happens by Data15.  Viz on my friends, viz on.