Skip to content

4 Data Viz Blogging Lessons Learned

2012 August 30
by Ben Jones

One year ago this week, I published my first blog post – a data visualization tribute to one of the biggest heroes of my childhood: Wayne Gretzky. The next day I nearly jumped out of my chair when it was chosen by Tableau as the “Viz of the Week”.  The internets had rewarded my self-deluded boldness in putting something out there, in starting something I had wanted to start for years, but between grad school, changing diapers, and making mortgage payments, I just hadn’t had the chance to start.

That Gretzky viz went on to be one of the Top 5 Vizzes of 2011, and since then I’ve been hooked.  Hooked on data, hooked on blogging, hooked on Tableau. I feel like there is so much more to explore and learn, but I’d like to relate a few things I have learned over the course of one year of data viz blogging.

  1. Create (but go easy on the “data viz showcase”) – I went on to crank out more and more visualizations, and then fellow blogger Enrico Bertini really burst my bubble with this post about what a good data blog is all about. I want to thank him for rattling my cage and challenging me to think about better things than just “hey, look what I did!” all the time. I’m not totally sold on his “signal to noise” argument (don’t create stuff because it just increases the amount of stuff others have to filter through), but his point is valid – take it up a notch. I’ve tried to, so thanks Enrico.
  2. Relate (it’s all about the people, anyway) – I started by creating a twitter account and finding other data viz nut cases to follow, and then I read what they posted, and tried to publish respectful and insightful comments on their blogs. Whether they always saw my comments as respectful and insightful, I’m not sure, but I let their blog posts be triggers to my own posts, and made sure to mention them as my source of inspiration. I emailed them and asked for their opinion of something I had created before pushing the big red “publish” button. Then, I started reaching out to them via email and asking them to let me record a Skype conversation with them, and publish it as a podcast. Why not?  I feel like I have made great connections that way.
  3. Educate (a blog should provide others real value) – I noticed that the posts of other blogs that I liked the most were always helpful. They didn’t just give “Top 5 ways to…” link-bait mumbo jumbo, they were more like guided tutorials. I experimented with how-to videos and screen shot walk-throughs, and I felt like I actually made a small contribution that way. Getting the “thank you” comments was the best part of it all. Three of my top 5 posts thus far start with the two simple words, “How to…”  That says it all.
  4. Pontificate (if you’ve saved up some equity in the blogosphere) – the web is full of people spouting their thoughts, some genius, others….less so. I’m a practitioner, not an expert or guru, so I’ve tried to voice my opinion sparingly. If all you do on your blog is talk about what you think all the time, people will get tired of all the hot air, so I’ve really only published some of my more poignant musings. That’s what I think of them, anyway.

If you’re reading this, well then…I’d like to thank you for reading this. I hope my second year of blogging gives you many more reasons to come back!

All the best,



8 Responses leave one →
  1. August 30, 2012

    Congratulations on one year Ben, that’s a great milestone! Enjoy reading your well-considered and articulated posts and some of your Tableau work is out of this world. Here’s to year two!

    • August 31, 2012

      Thanks Andy! The first time I made your “Best of the visualisation web” monthly post I was ecstatic for a whole week! Then reality set in when I realized there was only 3 weeks left to do something worthy of the “Best of” post for the following month, so I got back to work. 😉 I appreciate all the encouragement and support.

  2. Kelly permalink
    August 31, 2012

    Congrats Ben! Your stuff is a trip – I’m always delighted when my work day is started by a new post from you. I know it’s going to be a mind bender when I open your workbooks and try to figure out how you put it all together. A treasure hunt. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Sincerely….Thank you.

  3. August 31, 2012

    Great reflection on learnings, Ben! I love your blog. Keep up the good work!

  4. September 6, 2012

    Huge congrats Ben! You made my day knowing I inspired you with that post. I wish you all the best with your blog.

    – Enrico.

    • September 6, 2012

      Thanks a lot Enrico – I know that’s why you wrote it. All the best to your blog & podcast as well!

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS