A Tableau walkthough: Seasonal chart

So my workplace uses Tableau quite a bit, and I know it is becoming pretty popular for crime analysis units as well. So I was interested in trying to pick some up. It can be quite daunting though. I’ve tried to sit through a few general tutorials, but they make my head spin.

Students of mine when I teach ArcGIS have said it is so many buttons it can be overwhelming, and Tableau is much the same way. I can see the appeal of it though, in particular for analysts who exclusively use Excel. The drag/drop you can somewhat intuitively build more detailed charts that are difficult to put together in Excel. And of course out of the box it produces interactive charts you can share, which is really the kicker that differentiates Tableau from other tools.

So instead of sitting through more tutorials I figured I would just jump in and make a few interactive graphics. And along the way I will do tutorials, same as for my other crime analysis labs, for others to follow along.

And I’ve finished/posted my first tutorial, making a seasonal chart. It is too big to fit into a blog post (over 30 screenshots!). But shows how to make a monthly seasonal chart, which is a nice interactive to have for Compstat like meetings.

Here is the final interactive version, and here is a screenshot of the end result:

And you can find the full walkthrough with screenshots here:

TABLEAU SEAONAL CHART TUTORIAL/WALKTHROUGH

Some Things Crime Analysts Should Consider When Using Tableau

So first, I built this using the free version of Tableau. I don’t think the free version will cut it though for most crime analysts.

One of the big things I see Tableau as being convenient is a visualization layer on top of a database. It can connect to the live database, and so automatically update. You cannot do this though with the free version. (And likely you will need some SQL chops to get views for data in formats you can’t figure out how to coerce Tableau functions.)

So if you go through the above tutorial and say that is alot of work, well it is, but you can set it up once on a live data stream, and it just works going forward.

The licensing isn’t crazy though, and if you are doing this for data that can be shared with the public, I think that can make sense for crime analysts. For detailed report info that cannot be shared with the public, it is a bit more tricky though (and I definitely cannot help with the details for doing your own on prem server).

There are other totally free interactive dashboard like options as well, such as Shiny in R, plotly libraries (in R and python), and python has a few other interactive ones as well. The hardest part really is the server portion for any of them (making it so others can see the interactive graphic). Tableau is nice and reactive though in my experience, even when hooked up to a live data stream (but not crazy big data).

I hope to expand to my example Poisson z-score charts with error bands, and then maybe see if I can build a dashboard with some good cross-linking between panes with geo data.

For this example I am almost 100% happy with the end result. One thing I would like is for the hover behavior to select the entire line (but the tooltips still be individual months). Also would like the point at the very end to be larger, and not show the label. But these are very minor things in the end.