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 -


  1. This really is a powerful viz, Nelson. I'm still studying it, deconstructing how you built it. One thing that has me absolutely stumped is how you managed to get the tool-tip to display content that does not show up when I go to Worksheet - Tooltip. I see that you have a different tool-tip for each measure pill, but for the life of me I can't figure out where that content was created. What sorcery have you employed? :-)

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