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 :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Suicide Gap - Reviz Project

Matt started the first month of the Reviz Project with the sobering topic of Gun Deaths in America.  The thing that touched me about Matt’s story was that fact that over 60% of gun deaths in America are the result of suicide.  It was also moving to note that approximately 30,000 lives are cut short by guns each year.  I think about what would have happened to those people if they’d been able to keep on living.  What would they have done with the rest of their lives? 

I choose to focus this visualization on suicide for a couple of reasons.  As Matt pointed out, this is the majority of gun deaths, yet we’re not talking about it.  Our silence allows us to pretend that it’s not happening.  Suicide is devastating.  It destroys families, friendship, and communities.  It robs loved ones of a life that is extinguished too soon and creates a gap through events that never happen and experiences never made.

I know this because, as a freshman in high school, I went through it.  A senior, with a full ride sports scholarship in the same sport I loved, and I guy that I’d grown up looking up to in my neighborhood, committed suicide over winter break using a gun.  The school was in shock, and we began the year with grief counselors.  I wondered – how could anyone, even just a few years older than me, think they had the power to take their own life?  There was such much love for him now that he was gone – why couldn’t he feel that before he left?

These questions changed me, and each year I played I wrote a quote in the bill of my hat in remembrance of him: “If there were no tomorrow, how hard would you play today?”
To a certain extent I still live this way.  I chance more than others think is wise.  I take on enough for a 30 hour day.  I tell my boys I love them until they roll their eyes.  I remember that life is sacred and precious.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow – so how should we live today?

Those that lose their life to suicide create a loss that the rest of the world has to life with.  I think about my friend – he never graduated high school, never took that scholarship, never got married, never had a son to play catch with in the back yard, never retired to sit on the front porch in a rocking chair….  There were lives he never touched, because he wasn’t there to touch them.

That’s the story I wanted to tell.  I wanted to show the volume of the years never lived, stolen by our own hands as the result of a firearm suicide.  I wanted to remind us all that those gun shots often echo for decades, creating gaps that last a lifetime. 

One of my father’s favorite movies is ‘A Wonderful Life’ where George Bailey, in the moment he’s considering suicide, is given the opportunity to pause and see the impact of his life.  This is done by experiencing the world as if he’d never lived.  This alternative world is a shadow of reality, so painful that he begs to go back a face his troubles, realizing that he really does live ‘A Wonderful Life’.  I wish the stuff of movies would actually happen.  I wish those considering suicide had a chance to pause and reflect on the void they leave behind.

So I submit The Suicide Gap to show the lasting effects that tragedy leaves behind as its wake.  May it be a sobering reminder to us all that we never know the impact of an encouraging word, or continuing on with a friendship that’s hanging on by a thread.   

Many thanks -

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Reviz Project: Why & How

“One dataset. Three views. One conversation with multiple talking points.

“This should be our communal goal with all data visualization. Humans are social creatures. We learn through conversations. Our opinions sway and change with the ebb and flow of these conversations. Imagine being able to have this conversation with data. We needn't be content with one static chart or one interactive dashboard; we should start with a chart that asks a question and evokes a response.”
- Andy Cotgreave, October 2014
(Why a Chart Should Start, Not End, a Conversation
Why and How – for me, answering these questions has brought about the moments where things changed and perspective shifted. Focusing on these questions has brought about some of my most impactful work and has truly changed the way I see the world in the day-to-day.

Why do we get out of bed in the morning? Why do we do what we do? Why does it matter? It has become apparent to me that the answer to this questions is that we are called to have an impact. Anyone can do it, but few take the opportunity to attempt to change the world. The more I interact with it and the more time I see it, the more I begin to think that telling stories with data truly can change the world.
The story is the why.

How do we tell the stories? How do we make an impact? How do we grow ourselves and the community? Nothing gets done without intention and we don’t grow ourselves or the community by standing still. Therefore, we must be compelled to take on new challenges and be willing to fail in order to push the ball forward.

As we begin this new year I want to be more intentional about creating opportunities to have an impact by telling stories. I want to grow many ways this year, but professionally, storytelling with data is going to be my focus and to that end, I join with Alex Duke and Matt Chambers to announce the Reviz Project.

The Reviz Project
The quote from Andy Cotgreave above comes from a series of events where three different people took the same data set and told three different stories through data visualizations. The data had been seen thousands of times, but by looking at it with a different perspective it was turned on its head and the stories told had a tremendous impact in three unique ways.

The Reviz Project seeks to do the same thing - take a public data set, and have its story told in at least three different ways. The goal is to change the way we look at the world and the way we look at data, and to see the humanity in both. It is not our intent for us to be the only ones involved in this project, rather we invite the community to join with us and tell their own story.

The Details
Each month one of the three of us will take the lead (the leader).
In the first week of the month, the leader will find a publicly available data source.
In the second week of the month, the lead creates a viz that tells a story & publishes it to Tableau Public.
In the third week of the month, the other two (the follow-ups) will take that same data set and create new visualizations that tell new stories. Also, at the end of the third week the data will be posted on the Reviz Project blog site.
In the fourth week of the month, the community will have an opportunity to take that data set and tell their own story. Those completing their viz by the end of the fourth week can fill out a form and we will host their viz on the Reviz Project Community page.
Blogging about the vizzes is not mandatory, but it is encouraged.
The follow-ups and the community are allowed to enhance the data with complementary data sources, but the original data source should remain the primary focus of any visualization.
The three of us are committing to doing this for at least three months.

We’re already off and running right now! Matt Chambers is taking the lead in this first month of January. Stay tuned to this blog or follow MattAlex, or me on Twitter to hear about the steps as they happen each month. Also, please use the hashtag #RevizProjecton Twitter.

This is an exciting opportunity for all of us that we’ve been looking forward to taking on for a few months now. We look forward to your support and hope you’ll decide to get involved. Who knows - you might just tell a story that changes the world.

Nelson Davis