Meet Joe, the 8-year-old Tableau viz whiz

Eight-year-old Joe Radburn spends many Mondays “doing data.” Joe is a regular participant in Makeover Monday, a weekly exercise in reimagining data visualizations.

“My dad downloads the data, and then I have like 20 minutes to kind of get happy with it. Then once I’m happy with it, my dad looks at it,” says Joe.

Joe spends the time exploring the data, says his dad, Tableau Zen Master Rob Radburn. Then Dad helps him with any final formatting touches for his viz, usually adjusting colors or enlarging fonts.

“He iterates really well. He just drags all the dimensions and measures into view and looks at them, then drags them back,” he says.

Joe finds the patterns in the data, says Rob, then asks his dad to explain their meaning.

“Like with the box plot, he saw the pattern in the data and said, ‘What does that mean?’ And I said, ‘It shows you that it’s getting more expensive to go to university in America,’” says Rob.

It all started when Joe saw his dad participating in Makeover Monday.

“Joe likes math, computers, and, hopefully, his dad. So this combines all three things. He saw me spending time doing this and wanted to join in,” says Rob.

Rob gave him a quick tour of Tableau—how to drag and drop, and how to use the Show Me box—then turned the mouse over to Joe. And Joe, who’s had a lot of practice on the computer thanks to Minecraft, picked it up pretty fast.

So far, Joe has created 18 vizzes, and he’s found his own style along the way.

“I like the treemaps with the boxes. Because then you can like compare the sizes and see which one has the most,” he says. “I also like bubble charts.”

Joe is especially fond of Comic Sans. He also likes to add his own touches, like the stars in his Women in the USA State Legislatures viz.

“I quite like that one because when you click on a star, it highlights the matching lollipop,” says Joe.

And design tricks aren’t all Joe picked up. He’s even taught his dad, a Zen Master, a tip or two about Tableau.

“Joe taught me how to remove a reference line from a worksheet by dragging and dropping, not right-click, ‘remove,’” says Rob. “I posted a GIF on Twitter. Most users hadn’t realised that.”

Rob says he never taught Joe how to iterate; Joe picked up on his own.

“I didn’t really have to. The software just allows him to do that,” he says. “It’s amazing. He’s doing interesting vizzes with just dragging and dropping, with no calculations. It shows you how you can get interesting stories out of data without actually doing too much.”

Rob suspects Joe does so well because he just focuses on the data and doesn’t worry about much else. He keeps it simple.

“He doesn’t overthink it. I’m burdened by what I’ve done in the past and by being a Zen Master, thinking, ‘oh, I’d better do something acceptable.’ He doesn’t have any of that. He just gets lost in the data,” says Rob.

Joe says he likes Makeover Monday because every week brings a different set of data and “you don’t know what kind of data you’re going to get.”

He also relishes being part of the Tableau community. Every time Joe creates a viz, he tweets it to Andy Kriebel, co-founder of the project, and Andy replies with encouragement. Joe so looks forward to these exchanges, says Rob.

“And he gets more retweets than me sometimes, which is amazing,” Rob says. “Just shows you how amazing the community is that an 8-year-old feels part of it!”

Joe is aiming to participate in at least half of this year’s Makeover Mondays.

“I quite like it. And I’m getting better at the design and learning how to do different things to make it better,” he says.

“It’s just a half an hour; we don’t spend hours on it. And it’s nice to do it together," says Rob.

For more vizzes by Joe, check out his Tableau Public profile page.

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