Friday, 1 November 2013

Exquisite Viz Part 1: Introducing the game, the rules and the first workbook

Read to the bottom to see how you can take part #ExquisiteViz

Have you ever played that game where someone draws the head of a monster on a piece of paper, then folds it over and hands it to a friend who draws the body who then folds it again and hands it to the next person who draws the legs? Well that game, popular with 12 year olds and Surrealists alike, is called Exquisite Corpse and results in things that look like this

 or this 
depending on your drawing ability!

Now this came to mind when I was recently trying to think of how to create collaborative work in Tableau without leading to the paralysis by committee, or individual takeover, that often occurs when you try to do group work. I also wanted to come up with something that could be achieved without all participants needing to be in the same place at the same time.  And so sprung forth the idea of EXQUISITE VIZ!

The aim of Exquisite Viz is to incrementally build a Tableau viz in a group of four by passing the workbook on to each player in sequence, who each add content in turn without deleting existing content. The idea is that this game like approach will allow a group to work together and learn from each other, with each group member having equal input. And it should in theory be fun too….


Number of players: 4
Start with:
-        A blank Exquisite Viz template. This template has four worksheets, one for each player and a dashboard sheet split into equal quadrants each containing the aforementioned worksheets, plus a title tile along the top and a text box for including names of players. Dashboard size is set to width 1000, height 800.
-        A single dataset, or combination of linkable datasets.

Step 1: Assign each player a number between 1 and 4.

Step 2: Player 1 starts the exquisite viz by:
-        Connecting to the data source.
-        Creating a single worksheet visualisation on the worksheet named Player1
-        Adding floating or tiled dashboard objects within the same quadrant on the dashboard
-        Player1 saves as a packaged workbook and emails to Player2.
Up to one extra worksheet can be used for additional dashboard objects if required, such as a shape based legend or help icon. But no more than one worksheet containing a chart or table can be added. And all sheets and objects must fit into the single quadrant.

Step 3: Player 2 then builds upon the exquisite viz by:
-        Creating a single worksheet visualisation on the worksheet named Player2
-        Adding floating or tiled dashboard objects within either quadrant 1 or 2 on the dashboard. Player2 can also move existing floating objects, as long as they stay within the quadrants 1 and 2.
-        If appropriate, adding dashboard actions to link the worksheets together.
-        Player2 saves as a packaged workbook and emails to Player3.
Player2 can move existing floating dashboard objects and can create dashboard actions that involve the Player1 worksheet, but CANNOT alter or delete objects and worksheets produced Player1.

Steps 4 and 5: Players 3 and then 4 take their turn at creating worksheets, adding actions and objects within the expanding work space on the dashboard. At each turn only addition and movement is allowed, deletion or alteration of existing material is not allowed.

Step 6: Player4 sends the packaged workbook back to Player1 who then adds a title to the dashboard and publishes.

Note: At any point, manipulation of data fields such as creating calculated fields, grouping, creating hierarchies, creating parameters etc… is allowed. Creating ‘design’ elements such as new shapes, colours or adding titles and fonts is also allowed. Filters can be applied but cannot be deleted.

Each step must be completed within 3 days of receiving the file.


The idea of Exquisite Viz is so far just an idea, and it needs to be tested to see if it works well and to see what changes could be made to improve the experience.

The dataset we will be using is the Hollywood movie dataset that Information is Beautiful made available last year which contains info like budget, ratings, box office takings and studio for every Hollywood movie produced between 2007 and 2011. This dataset is perfect because it quite broad, allowing for multiple approaches to analysis.

I have lined up the following players to take part in the first go around of Exquisite Viz:

Player 1: Me @pgilks
Player 2: Ramon Martinez @HlthAnalysis
Player 3: Jewel Lorée @jeweloree
Player 4: Carl Allchin @datajedininja

and I’ll be posting the results of our attempts on Nov 14th.

But you can have a go too! I have published the workbook up to Tableau Public, with the first quadrant completed. So please feel free to download this workbook, find a couple of friends to play with and have a go. Or if you like, ignore my first completed quadrant and do all four, its up to you!

Here’s the link:

If you do have a go, and I really would encourage you to, please let me see what you come up with by publishing the final results to Tableau public and then tweet about it with the hashtag #ExquisiteViz. I will post all entries up here along with our finished viz on Nov 14th.



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